Guided Trekking in the French Alps
Ailefroide village is mainly a large campsite with a mix of forest pitches and open fields, There are two small general stores, two gear shops which stock a maps, guide books and a limited range of climbing clothing and equipment and there are a couple of restaurants and cafes. There are larger supermarkets in Briancon and l’Argentiere la Bessee.
Ailefroide, second only to Chamonix as a centre for mountaineering and there is a range of activities possible nearby including trekking, climbing, mountaineering and there are some nearby via ferratas.
- Tete de la Draye, 3 to 4 hours return trip, 600m ascent, 5km, level of difficulty medium
An ideal introductory trek to become familiar with the area around Ailefroide. The trail leads steadily upwards above some of the climbing crags and on to a great view point at 2080m. The return journey is by the same path and ends in the village just beside the ice cream shop!
- Lac de l’Eychauda, 5 to 7 hour return trip, 945m ascent, 12.3 km, level of difficulty medium
A lovely trek starting from Pelvoux or from Ailefroide partly following the GR54 Tour de l’Oisans long distance trail then heading up through the summer pastures in to the glacial landscape of the mountains. There is a great variety of alpine plants and flowers, bird life and possibly marmots too! The return is by the same route but with views over towards Mont Pelvoux.
- Refuge Glacier Blanc, 4 to 5 hours return trip, 843m ascent, 9.4km, level of difficulty medium
This trek starts from the car park at the top of the valley, Pre du Madame Carle then treks up the steep and stony path to cross below the snout of the White Glacier. Beyond the views open up over towards Mont Pelvoux. The area is important too in the mountaineering history of the Alps and the trail passes by an old mountain hut, the Refuge Tuckett built in 1886 to provide shelter for the first alpinists. The trek can be continued above the hut to look over the glacier to Barre des ecrins, the highest peak in the National Park at 4102m and first climbed in 1864.
Mountain refuges are excellent places to stop and enjoy a coffee and “tarte myrtille”!
- Refuge du Pelvoux, 7 hours return trip, 1254m ascent, 14.3km, level of difficulty hard
Starting from Ailefroide, the track to the Refuge du Pelvoux follows the Celse Niere river up the valley through the larch forest then turns away from the main valley to climb up a steep zigzagging track before finishing on grassy slopes and gently sloping rock to arrive at the Refuge which only comes in to view at the very last minute. Red deer and chamois can often be spotted and the change from the forest cover in to mountainous is very marked.
The refuge is situated at 2686m and this trip could be done over two days with a night spent at the hut.
- Refuge du Sele, 7 hours return trip, 1057m ascent, 13.2km, level of difficulty hard
A challenging trek up to a high mountain hut starting from Ailefroide through the forest following the Celse Niere river to the head of the valley. There are some exposed sections on this path which are equipped with cables for assistance however this is not a via ferrata. It is the alpinist’s starting point for L’Ailefroide, les Pointe des Boeufs and Pic du Sele.
The refuge is situated at 2504m and this trip could be done over two days with a night spent at the hut.
- Aiguille du Goleon, 2 day bivouac trip, 1600m ascent, 11km, level of difficulty medium/hard
This trip takes place on the other side of the mountains from Ailefroide so does involve a drive to get there however it provides amazing views over to La Meije and the Barre des Ecrins from a different perspective. The trail leads up to the Vallon and Lac du Goleon, a glacial outwash plain and one of the most representative of its kind in France and many rare plants are found here, relics of the last ice age. The cirque or corrie below the peak provides an excellent and atmospheric bivi spot with the option of exploring higher into the cirque on the second day before descending back down to the valley.
This could also be done as a hut trip suitable for families as there is a refuge near to the lake.
The BMC Participation Statement says that:
Flights from many UK airports to Turin, Marseilles or Geneva
Marseille to Ailefroide 3 hours approx. driving time
Turin to Ailefroide 2 hours approx. driving time
Geneva to Ailefroide 4 hours approx driving time