The Ecrin is home to the International Ice Climbing Festival and for good reason. There are hundreds of cascades and goulottes reliably in condition from December through till February.

The area is a National park and is without the cable cars and lifts of other resorts which give it a really wild and remote feel. The high mountains here in winter demand respect. You’ll be staying in unguarded refuges and may have to access with skis. The rewards are exponentially higher however! The mountain routes can be climbed from February – June.

Sample itinerary

Day 1. We start at the popular ski de fond area of Ceillac in the Queyras. Reliable ice is found here and it is a good venue when others are avalanche prone. We climb Les Formes du Chaos 4 or the nearby Sombre Heros 4+

Day 2. Freissinieres is world famous and for good reason. There are somewhere in the region of 150 routes in this valley alone and you could climb a life time here. Novices could start on the classic Fracastorus 3+ or experts head straight to Cascade des Viollins 5+.

Day 3. Vallon du Fournel is almost as famous as Freissinieres. The approach road can be closed here but it is still worth walking in. There is so much to go at but Capitaine Courageux 4+ and Damocles 4 are classics.

Day 4. La Grave is also known for its off piste only skiing. The locals here opposed modernisation of their mountains and they famously sabotaged the lift when it was first built. Today it has kept its charm and refused to modernise (the lift is something else!). We climb La Croupe de la Poufiasse 4 after a pleasant 30 minute approach.

Day 5.Back to Freissinieres to climb Gramusat Direct 5+ This 320 m fall is a fitting finale to the week!