All tour information is user generated and although we try our best, we cannot guarantee its correctness. Always consult people with knowledge about the area and get a proper map. If in doubt, hire a guide!
To get to Vallon des Etançons, several solutions are possible. In two days from the La Grace tram, traverse Col de la Lauze (3512m) and Col du Replat (3335m) to sleep at the Chatellerêt refuge (2232m). The route described here, which offers the most beautiful descent with the least HD and without car shuttle.
You can also reach this refuge from Bérarde (1713m) but this approach is tiresome in the winter because the road is closed beyond Champhorent (1598m), which adds 7km of slight slope (exposed to avalanches) to reach Bérarde and a car shuttle to return.
Another possible access with more HD but a very short shuttle: from Villard d'Arène(1667m) via the passes of Chamois (3280m) or Casse Déserte (3483m). You can sleep at Pavé refuge (2841m) and cross Col du Pavé (3554m) to reach Vallon des Etançons at the altitude of 2900m, under Promontoire refuge.
In one day from La Grave, take the first La Grave tram and traverse Col de la Girose (3514m) or Col de la Lauze (3512m) and the Brêche du Rateau (3235m). Descend the eastern slope until Vallon des Etançons (2500m) or, faster but more complex, traverse towards the north to the altitude of 3000m to reach the Meije glacier, on the side above ravines and rock barriers.
To reach Brêche de la Meije. From the Chatellerêt refuge, go up Vallon des Etançons towards the north, on the right bank of the moraine until the altitude of 2900m, under Promontoire refuge. Turn to the left (northwest) to take foot on the Meije glacier (steep, crevasses) and go up it towards the north until the foot of the Brêche, on the right bank (west). Skis on the back-pack, climb 100m of snow or vertical ice (45°).
Descent via Enfetchores A the Brêche, place a rappel or a handrail safety rope (45m) to descend the snow covered rocks and cross the bergschrund. Descend the broad slopes of the Meije glacier heading northwest. At the altitude of 3000m penetrate the glacier arm which descends between the two rock ridges of Enfetchores. Leave it on the right bank (east) at the altitude of 2850m to reach a system of northwest facing snow covered ledges, intersected with rock barriers. Be careful, this part is very exposed. A fall could be fatal, in particular on the last slopes of the Meije glacier (risk of sequence in ice), which dominates a serac fall. The slope varies between 30 and 35°.
Descend this system of ledges and of rock barriers as best as possible (complex zigzag route, hard to find) until the altitude of 2400m. Then traverse again towards the west under the main part of the glacier and take foot on the moraine. From here it is easy to reach the classic route of Vallons de la Meije (right bank) around 2100m. From there, depending on the snow cover, either stay on the right bank to reach La Grave via the Chal Vachère chalets (1844m), or traverse towards the left (north) in the forest to the altitude of 2050m to reach the first pylon (P1, 1720m).