The powerful ridge of Les Bans, overlooking the tormented Pilatte glacier, provides an extraordinary backdrop for this classic Oisans climb. The many crevasses in the glacier make it tricky, but the climbing is still very pleasant on this solid rock face.
About : Les Bans – 3669 m
From the Refuge de la Pilatte, located at an altitude of 2577 m, walk up the glacier (cables provided). Head for a rocky outcrop and then veer left to join a flatter section. Climb south up the main slope to the Col des Bans (3351 m). From there, walk onto the ridge leading towards the west Col des Bans (and easy mix of snow and rocks).
From the west Col, follow the top of the ridge to the foot of a large gendarme. Walk around the left-hand side of the gendarme and continue along the ridge on purple rocks. Climb up a steeper face (3b, 2 pitons) and then head for a easily visible gap via a slab (3B, two pitons). Reach the summit through a couloir. Descend via the same route, carefully noting the position of the two rappels. Go round the right-hand side of the gendarme, allowing three hours the top back to the hut.
1st ascent: Christian Almer, father and son with William Coolidge, 1878.
Map: IGN 3436 ET Meije Pelvoux
Guide du Haut Dauphiné, Massif des Ecrins, Volume III, F.Labande.
Difficulty: IV, PD+
Day 1: Car park to hut: 3 hours
Des 2: Hut to summit and back to hut: 11 hours
Portrait: Swiss guide Christian Almer
Almer was already working as a guide in Zermatt when he first met Whymper, the famous English mountaineer and watercolour artist. They made many climbs and first ascents together, including the Aiguille Verte in 1865. His encounter with Coolidge marked the start of a 17-year mountaineering partnership and friendship. In 1874, Almer was the first to climb the Jungfrau in winter (January), a real exploit for the time considering the equipment available.
In 1885, Alma suffered from frostbite in his feet during a winter climb, marking the end of his prodigious career as a guide. As Whyper stated, "There is no heart more loyal and foot more firm in the Alps"
From 01/06 to 30/09 : open daily.
Take the RN 91 towards Briançon and turn right onto the D530 and along to the end of the road at La Bérarde. Walk up to the Refuge de la Pilatte (2577m) on the path that starts at the end of the car park.