La Meije

La Meije

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  • IGN - 3436ET - Meije - Pelvoux - Parc national des Écrins



elevation: 3983 m

waypoint_type: summit

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The altitude was set at 3700m so that routes appear associated to the correct minor summits. The correct altitude of the Meije is that of the Grand Pic: 3983m.


S face of the Meije
S face of the Meije

The Meije is a group of summits on the NW edge of the Écrins Massif. It has three main summits:

  • the Grand Pic de la Meije at 3983m, the second major summit of the Écrins after the Barre/Dôme des Écrins (4102m),
  • the Doigt de Dieu, also known as Pic Central de la Meije (3973m), which oversees the S face,
  • the Meije orientale (3891m), a large snowy shoulder, and the easiest summit to reach.

Although not quite reaching 4000m, the Meije does not stand in the shadow of its taller neighbour the Barre des Écrins.



The word Meije comes from meidjo which in provençal means “midday” and labels the South.

Villagers from La Grave used to name the mountain South of their village the oeille de la meidjour, which could be translated as Midday Needle (= aiguille du midi).
The current French version of the name was established in 1832 and 1866.


The Meije was one of the last of the notable summits of the Alps to be conquered. The first to reach its summit were by Frenchmen Emmanuel Boileau de Castelnau, Pierre Gaspard and his sons when most other first ascents were made by British visitors.

They climbed the Arête du Promontoire, the current normal route and descended by the same route, leaving part of their ropes behind. Only later would abseiling be invented!

J.-H. Gibson, U. Almer and F. Boss completed the first traverse of the summit ridge in 1891, going W to E. This is now the usual way of the mountain after climbing the normal route.


As is the case on the Pic Sans Nom, granit and gneiss coexist on the Meije. The limit between the two types of rock is the Glacier Carré with granit below and gneiss above.


Normal routes and ridge traverse

The Promontoire ridge
The Promontoire ridge
Grand Pic
  • Promontoire ridge, up and down: the normal route, that of the first ascent. Climbers generally couple the ascent with the ridge traverse.
  • Promontoire ridge and ridge traverse, a mythical and major route. It sees a lot of traffic in summer.
  • W ridge, which joins the normal route at the Pas du Chat. For those who fear the crowds, this is a nice alternative to the normal route. It deserves to be better known.
Doigt de Dieu (pic central)
  • NE face (normal route), a beautiful snow climb, with a nice rocky finish, in an extraordinary setting. It offers a nice introduction to the ridge traverse.
Pic Oriental

S face

S Face
S Face

The S face of the Meije is a magnificent wall where numerous lines offer many alternatives to alpine rock enthusiasts.

Older routes
Modern routes

See also the topo of S face routes by Pierre Chapoutot.

N face

La Meije – N face
La Meije – N face

- The Z, a classic line in that grade. It is the most frequently climbed line on the N face.
- N face direct, a major line. It is also the 100th line in Rebuffat’s book.
- N face: Diagonal Pilar of Girod-Sandoz, one of the few rock routes in the N face.
- Grand Pic: [[???|Gravelotte couloir]], an beautiful and obvious line. It was skied by Tardivel in 1997.
- Petit Doigt du Glacier Carré: western couloir, a somewhat forgotten couloir.
- The Corridors, a beautiful couloir which is sometimes skiable.
- N face of the summit ridge - Biju-Duval route, a very interesting ice route on the prestigious N face of the Meije.

See also the topo of the N face by Pierre Chapoutot.

Ski: Tours and traverses

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