Type: Trad, 600 ft, 9 pitches, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 80 total · 4/month
Shared By: kenr on Jun 24, 2017
Admins: Euan Cameron, Luc-514

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Magnificent ridge-crest climbing
  • interesting gneiss rock, rich in holds, with good friction
  • dramatic exposure in some crux sections
  • sustained travel directly on the crest of the ridge, with big views in both directions
  • interesting pretty approach hike.

Idea is to do only the North end of the Pic du Pin ridge, focusing on the most interesting climbing and highest summits (so less than 25% of the distance of traversing the entire Crete du Pin).

The hardest pitches could be avoided, which would reduce the difficulty about one grade (to say around 5.5) - but the theme of this route is to focus on interesting climbing. If the goal is rather to "get through" and impressive traverse, see the route Traversee de la Crete du Pin N > S.

- - > Map: see GPX track linked from this route on c2c CampToCamp.

Some say this route is even better with some snow around close.

warning: Could be dangerous when wet, because some sections cross steep vegetated or dirt slopes - (so better to wait a day or two after rain or snow).

Difficulty grades -- significant differences for two key pitches between several French route descriptions versus on this page on MountainProject. See the second Comment below on this same page.

Climbing route . . .

North forepeak (N45.2299 E6.0369)

P1: From the Col de l'Aigleton about 80m, first scrambling up SE then hiking S to reach a wall.

P2: Wall with cracks on its R side. Start in cracks, finish on R edge of wall, ducking under the dragon's snout, then easy scrambling left up to summit - (5.4 fun + interesting, with positive holds if look carefully).

P3: Down S ridge, at first on E side, then cross over to W side (5.4 thoughtful + exposed, with loose rock).

. . > Breche / low break (N45.2297 E6.0369)

North summit of Pic du Pin (N45.2294 E6.0368)

P4: Up N ridge, some to its W side, to summit. (5.2, with vegetation).

P5: Down S ridge (scrambling with vegetation + loose rock).

. . > Breche / low break (N45.2292 E6.0365) - perhaps could escape down W or E side?

Central summit (highest) of Pic du Pin (N45.2289 E6.0363) . (elev 2342m)

P6: Up N gully (toward L side of face). Starts positive, gets slopier higher up, could finish to its L side, up to a "mini-col" near summit (5.5).
. . (or one French description suggests looking for a big flake with some good holds, perhaps some as underclings).

P7: Down S arete on fins and blocks. (5.4, with big exposure, positive holds, magnificent).

. . > Breche / low break (N45.22849 E6.03594)

Gendarme (N45.22842 E6.03586)

P8: scramble SE down left (E) side a bit, then up L side of steep gully in middle of E face to top. (5.6 thoughtful, sustained, with positive holds if look for them and know how to use them).

. . > variation: Avoid the gendarme below its W side, by scrambling way down SW on grassy ramp, then E up gully (5.1) to reach the next Breche.

P9: Down S ridge then SE face (5.0 on nice enough rock).

. . > Breche / low break (N45.2284 E6.0357)

South summit of Pic du Pin (N45.2282 E6.0353) - has three distinct high points N, S, W.

P10: N arete - most interesting climbing directly on the edge of the arete - (can take the lower section "à cheval" (riding the horse). Otherwise find footholds directly in the edge of the arete) - (5.4 fun + thoughtful).
. . . (or can avoid some difficulty by climbing some off the arete to E side, 5.3).

. . . To continue farther S along the crest of the ridge, see the route Traversee de la Crete du Pin N > S.

Descent . . .
From the South summit of Pic du Pin . . .

P11: down N arete (5.4, fun + thoughtful) back to the Breche / low break between the Gendarme and South summit.

P12: down NW from that Breche: first a gully (5.1), then some scrambling N + NW on vegetated slopes + ledges, then steeper lower section (5.4, with thoughtful moves + navigation, some vegetation + loose rock).

Rappel? Some parties prefer to avoid down-climbing. One good reason is if the way is wet perhaps dangerously slippery from rain or snow-fall before or during the climbing.

Might be able to avoid down-climbing at least part P11: One French descriptions suggested making a rappel of 10 meters, also suggested it might be easier down-climbing off the arete more SE - to help partway reach the Breche between the the Gendarme and the South summit - (but no suggestion that there's a rappel W down from that Breche).

To avoid further down-climbing, one French description suggests climbing up the Gendarme, then making a rappel of 10 meters down into the next breche / low point to the north (between the Central summit and the Gendarme), and then a rappel of 30 meters W from that Breche to get off the ridge down to where the slope below west gets gentle enough for hiking.

..(Also two French descriptions offer the possibility of rappeling down the N side of the Central summit, then down the West slope -- perhaps requiring two 45-meter ropes?)

Best to check the French reports + updated route desriptions + comments for more accurate and current information about rappel anchors and required rope-lengths and down-climbing conditions.

Hiking: After successfully getting down the W side of the Pic du Pin ridge to around (N45.2288 E6.0358), go N about 200m making a high traverse above the E side of the "bowl" of talus, finally crossing a short section of talus to meet the approach trail around (N45.2305 E6.0355). Turn Left (W) and go back down the trail sections used for the Approach.


Start at the North end of Pic du Pin ridge at Col de l'Aigleton.

Parking at the trailhead – GPS latitude longitude approx (N45.2245 E5.9988) . (elevation 1340m) – is about 3 km at the end of the asphalt road SE from the village of Prabert, which is usually reached by the D528 road E up from the village of Brignoud by exit 24 of the A41 motorway / interstate. (Some people say they've succeeded in driving a 2WD non-high-clearance vehicle higher on the dirt road, which continues sharp left (NW) after the trailhead for 100 meters, then sharp right (ESE) 350m up to a gate by (N45.2238 E6.0014) . (elev 1390m).

Hiking – The objective is to reach the Col de l'Aigleton. The strategy is to avoid the giant talus-filled bowl below the W side of the ridge. The method is to skirt around the W and N sides of most of the talus.

From the trailhead start up E about 220m to meet forest road with gate. Continue on forest road past gate, at first SE 100m, then E 100m, SE 100m, and up E about 1500m on dirt/gravel forest road (with several possible shortcuts) to a junction of trails (N45.2224 E6.0217) . (1725m). Total so far about +385m uphill over 2.0 km distance.
From the junction go Left (N then NW) 175m to the hut Habert d'Aiguebelle (N45.2236 E6.0209) by the "Balcon" trail. But instead turn sharp Right and start up the trail toward the Cime de la Jasse, generally NW for about 800m (with an early water-crossing). Later some switchbacks, and at (N45.2286 E6.0274) . (1950m), see a smaller trail going off Right.

This smaller trail (with entrance "marked" by a yellow X) is an unofficial "users" herd path to the Col de l'Aigleton. Steep NNE 200m, next ENE 200m at first gentler then flat through some rocks (some cairns) with a water crossing. Next bear right SE 150m horizontal across talus, finally E + ENE 500m much steep across a shoulder / mini-col to reach the Col de l'Aigleton (N45.2308 E6.0369) . (elev 2265m).

Total from trailhead about +1050m uphill over 4.8 km distance. Typical range of times 2-3 hours for fit climbers.


It is unknown how good is the protection for leading this route. Most of the fixed gear is intended for going in the opposite direction.

The one well-documented completion of the route as done solo.

For leading, it makes sense to bring several long slings for rock horns, and a light rack of Trad pieces appropriate for Belledonne gneiss.


- No Photos -
Most of the words in this route description are the same as those in the description for a route of same name on the website camptocamp.org.

That is because the same author created the routes on both websites MountainProject.com and CampToCamp.org, on the same day in June 2017. Jun 24, 2017
The difficulty grades for the route overall and for some pitches are significantly lower in some French websites and print guidebooks than on this page. Notably the S arete of the Central summit and the N arete of the South summit.

Part of the problem is that the direction of travel in the French descriptions is S > N instead of N > S. So the simplest explanation for the difference in grades for the overall route is that the S > N routes avoid some of the more difficult pitches by taking them in rappel.
. . (I suspect that the main reason the French descriptions go S > N is to avoid climbing those more difficult pitches).

Another reason might be that some sequences in outdoor climbing are more difficult (for many people) in down-climbing than when climbing up them.

Another is that some authors feel that the complete ridge traverse is a great outing, and want to make it easier for organizers to invite more people who will find that they then enjoy it.

Yet another is old traditions of mountaineering grades from before when sport climbing and French sport grades were invented. Simple rules were used to translate grades from one system and culture to another, but don't always work right decades later. There is also a well-known USA tradition of "tough" grades on old routes. No one wants to be the first to admit that they found the route harder than the traditional number grade.

So I suspect this is the main reason for the difference on some pitches: I am trying here on MountainProject to use modern USA 5.decimal equivalents to modern Euro / French sport grades as they would be used at a modern French sport crag. The French descriptions for Pic du Pin are using traditional grades rigidly translated from pre-sport grade scales and mountaineering culture.

Evidence #1: If the lower grades for those two (great) pitches were correct, why was the "South Arete of South summit" route added in French to CampToCamp.org. The key difference between that newer route and the full ridge traverse is that it stops before those pitches. Not because they're boring but surely because they're harder.

Evidence #2: Another great traverse nearby is the Aretes du Gerbier N > S in the Vercors. If the French website grades were correct for full Crete du Pin including those two pitches, then the Aretes du Gerbier route should be just as hard. But surely it's not. Jun 24, 2017