The highlight of our 2018 Meets Calendar and perhaps the boldest part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations was SMC’s three week Alpine trip to the Ecrins in the Summer of 2018. This area of the French Alps was selected by the club members as it offered something for everyone, from mountain walking, 4,000m peaks, hundreds of other peaks above 3,000m to single pitch sport routes, long multi-pitch rock routes and Via Ferrata routes.
The club made the village of Vallouise their home throughout the three-week period, staying in two beautiful chalets situated in the village centre. SMC members and their friends were able to book for whatever period they liked. The meet was thrown open to other clubs too. We were delighted to welcome Louise Bullock and Adam Butler from the Mercian Club who attended during the first week of the trip. Special congratulations also goes to the Meet’s two youngest attendees, Chloe, aged 13 and Sianna aged 8, who came along with their Dad, Andrew. The girls managed to keep their Dad on his toes throughout the week!
The planning for this event took place over many months and thanks has to go to our Meets Secretary Mark Hodson for all his hard work in organizing and promoting the trip. All who attended deemed the trip to be a great success. As Mark Hodson summarized:
‘Great location, good accommodation and good weather. A broad range of activities took place including climbing, walking, glacial walking, alpine walking, Via Ferratta and white water rafting.’
Below are some comments from some who took part in the trip and it is easy to see they all had a fabulous time. Plus the photos give us a snap shot of what a beautiful area of Europe the Ecrins is.
Andrew Sutton, SMC member, who joined the club in 2018:
‘I brought my daughters, Chloe (13) and Sianna (8) to Ecrins for their first experience of Alpine mountains, and we enjoyed it immensely. We tried Via Ferratta (where the girls predictably left their old man way behind!), hiked up to the Glacier Blanc and Le Lac De L’Eychauda and white water rafted down the River Durance. The chalet was fantastically comfortable, with great company to spend enjoying the plentiful evening sunshine.’
Donna Montford, SMC member
‘Thank you to Mark for organizing a fantastic trip in an amazing location. I felt a week wasn’t long enough to even scratch the surface of the options available, the multi pitch sports climbs were fantastic, the Via Ferrata were great fun. So much rock and so little time! When can we go back?’
Adam Butler, Mercian Club.
‘Having been to the Ecrins 4 years ago we knew what to expect from the area, classic multi pitch routes, impressive scenery and a relaxed atmosphere. Last time we camped for 2 weeks in Ailefrode and only climbed within walking distance of the tent. This time we ventured out of the valley, to do some of the highly recommended Via Ferrata in the surrounding area. Also on the cards was a repeat ascent of my favourite climb in the valley, Remonte Pente Directe, with its never ending flake traverse, an outstanding pitch.’
Louise Bullock, Mercian Club.
‘Breathtaking views, friends old and new, red wine, tartiflette, via ferrata and sport climbing. A bientot Vallouise’
Mike Gunner, SMC member
‘We spent the week doing mostly walking and found the mountains around Vallouise to be a stunning backdrop to our adventure.’
Ian Wyatt SMC member and Club Chair 2015 – 2018
‘A week in the Ecrins is simply not enough, but then again I doubt that two, three, four weeks or more would be enough. It is a beautiful, fabulous place; in case you hadn’t guessed I’m quite smitten.
Dave, Paul and I had a great time, spending our first couple of days doing sizeable multi-pitch sport routes in the valley before heading up to the heights. We bivvied by a little museum near the Glacier Blanc, a lovely night under the stars. 4am start to head up to the Col du Monetier en route to Montagne des Agneaux. However, the hanging glacier no longer exists and so we had a horrible trudge up scree and moraine to get to the col. Only to be confronted by a vertical mudslide down the other side, so we opted to solo up the peak on the col, Pic Tuckett. This would have been a good idea if it had been even close to solid. Alas, this could only be described as mount gravel it was so loose. We were quite near the top and not able to go up and over or around, so we then spent time digging out solid ab’ points to get back down to the col. So, no objectives reached but a great adventure had by all (apart Dave’s injured knee on the descent).
Back in the valley we spent the last couple days enjoying the single pitch sport offerings. Vallouise is a lovely and well placed spot to stay in, it even has a bar that sells proper beer! The villa was grand and all in all it was a great trip to celebrate the club’s 60th anniversary. Here’s to more big SMC trips.
Thanks to Mark for putting it all together.’
Paul Howie, friend of Ian W.
‘Vallouise is an excellent base and the surrounding area is not only a climbing Mecca, but also offers great road cycling, mountain biking and trail running. The place holds great memories going back 18 years, however for me on this trip it was about enjoying this stunning area with good friends, fun bivouac at 2400m a little adventure up to 3500m and some great multi and single pitch climbing. I would like to thank everyone from the club for making me so welcome; lovely people and what a great club!’
Mark Hodson, SMC Member, Meets Secretary and Trip Organizer
‘The trip was all about climbing the long multi-pitch routes at Ailefroide. They were great, fun and adventurous and I still can’t believe I climbed 2 weeks on slabs and thoroughly enjoyed myself!’
So, as Donna asks, ‘when can we go back?’ Well, there is talk amongst some club members of a return trip in the summer of 2019, so watch this space!