FATMAP by Strava

Ecrins Haute Route: Adele Planchard Hut to the l’Alpe de Villar d’Arène Hut


Ascent of la Grande Ruine before a huge descent

Ski Touring Severe

10 km
674 m
1.8 km
4-5 hrs
Low Point
2 km
High Point
3.7 km
Ecrins Haute Route: Adele Planchard Hut to the l’Alpe de Villar d’Arène Hut Map

If you have taken in the summit of the Grande Ruine the day before you can leapfrog this day, and head straight on to the following day to the Ecrins Hut. The disadvantage of this is that the descent from the Adele Planchard Hut is not likely to be in great condition first thing, but you could always have a slow start. Equally if you were really fast the day before, you could combine both yesterday and today into one really big day, staying the Chamoussière Hut and missing out the Adele Planchard altogether. If you do that you wouldn't need to traverse the Col des Neiges, but could descend straight from the Col de la Casse Deserte.


From the Adele Planchard Hut the climb up la Grande Ruine is about 600 vertical metres on reasonably steady slopes. You reverse your tracks from yesterday, but instead of going over the Col des Neiges, you continue on up to the obvious peak above. It steepens up towards the end, where the easiest way up is to bootpack up a couloir to the ridge, with an easy scramble to the top. Axe and crampons may be useful for the couloir. There is a wicked view in all directions, particularly of la Meije. Descend the couloir to your skis, then you have a choice of 2 descents.

I have marked the way down past the hut again, this has the advantage of being able to go lighter in the morning as you will be returning to the hut. The other is to recross the Col des Neiges and descend more gently, down the Glacier de la Casse Deserte. Apart from the crossing of the Col des Neiges this is an easier descent. Assuming you return to the hut, don't delay too long as you have a long, steep and sunny descent below the hut to gain the flat glacier below. This is often fantastic spring snow and takes a sneaky line between rocks low down, before opening out onto the huge glacier below. Follow the valley floor downwards for several kilometres to the Refuge de l’Alpe de Villar d’Arène.



Steep skiing at 38-45 degrees. This requires very good technique and the risk of falling has serious consequences.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between March and April


  • Alpine
  • Couloir
  • Single Descent
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area