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Photo of the Aiguille Dibona and its surroundings

Visite Obligatoire at the Dibona

··740 words·4 mins
Blog Travel Climbing
Nicolas Lorin
Author
Nicolas Lorin

Some time ago, I went climbing with a new stranger at Murmur Pantin. We had a beer (after the climb, of course) and he told me about his plans to climb the Aiguille Dibona. We had a good feeling about it, but hadn’t had the chance to climb together again.

What is the Dibona needle?
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I’m going to paraphrase Wikipedia a little, but this is a granite needle culminating at 3131 meters in the Soreiller massif in the Ecrins. It really does have a distinctive shape, and the refuge (refuge du Soreiller) just below it makes it very accessible for climbers. All this makes it a very popular and famous spot for climbers.

Next to the refuge, at the foot of the Aiguille and after a successful ascent
Next to the refuge, at the foot of the Aiguille and after a successful ascent

The genesis of the project
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This summer, I had the opportunity to climb with this person again, and it was when he told me about the Dibona that I thought “but we’ve climbed together before, haven’t we?”. Then, a few weeks later, he wrote again, saying “September 11 weekend, hot for the Dibona?

That was all it took to motivate me. The aim was to achieve the Obligatory Visit by following the CampToCamp topo here. It’s a classic in the sector, 12 pitches for around 370m of difficulty, mainly in the 6a range.

After many days watching the weather forecasts, I decided to take my train tickets despite the persistent uncertainties. Departure from Paris on Friday lunchtime and return Sunday evening, leaving little opportunity if conditions weren’t perfect.

We did, however, have a look at the surrounding spots to serve as plan B.

The outward journey
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When Friday arrived, we called the refuge to ask about the conditions (very good according to the warden), confirm our reservation for that evening and possibly get a reservation for Saturday night. The latter was not possible, as the refuge was always full.

In terms of timing, our only option was to climb the Dibona on Saturday. A Sunday ascent would not have allowed me to get back to Paris in time.

We arrived at the parking lot in the hamlet of Les Etages at around 8pm. We decided to leave the tent and food in the car and head straight back down to the parking lot after the climb. The aim of this solution was to lighten our packs as much as possible so that we would be less tired on the ascent.

The other solution was to take the tent, comforters, etc. with us, so that we could bivouac around the refuge for the night from Saturday to Sunday.

The first stage was the climb to the refuge by headlamp. About 1300 meters of ascent in 2h10. A bit tricky for me, much less so for my climbing companion. We arrived at the refuge in our teeshirts and sweating despite the night.

We chat a bit with a few climbers eating in the common room before going to bed.

At the top of aiguille Dibona
At the top of aiguille Dibona

The big day
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On Saturday morning, after a well-deserved breakfast, we set about preparing our gear and packs. In order to lighten the load on the leader (we’ll be climbing with a reversible), we decide to share a doc bag, which we exchange at the belay station.

We reached the bottom of the route without difficulty, but hesitated about the spit line. After consulting the various topos we’d taken photos of, we opted for the ones furthest to the left. My climbing partner starts first.

The pitches follow one another in different styles, including a lot of slab. We were alone on the route, but a rope from another route joined us at the end. Some of the pitches are impressive. My favorites were pitches 8 for the pretty yellow scales and 12 for the ridge traverse with no real protection. The climb to the summit is magnificent and easy, but you mustn’t zip.

The descent
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The descent is a single abseil (okay with a 2x50m), followed by a short traverse and a path back down to the refuge. Be careful to follow the kerns and not to descend too far (which we didn’t, of course…).

We join the refuge for a snack and they tell us that places have opened up and we can sleep here tonight.

After a (poor) night’s sleep, we enjoy the scenery one last time and start our descent.