France
   
Uk
 
 
A2

Alpine Climbing DIY Course

Perfect your safety and rope work skills to become independent when climbing over mixed terrain of snow, rock and ice. 

This is a course for those who wish to become fully independent alpine climbers. Whether you already have plenty of climbing experience or whether you are fairly new to this type of activity, this course is for you.

The course is open for a maximum of 4 people, who will be accompanied by a mountain guide throughout the week. The guide’s role is to pass on their expert knowledge whilst giving you maximum independence. You will be the one who makes decisions under the attentive supervision of the guide. The guide will always there for you in case of doubt, difficulty or to give you the benefit of their extensive experience.

During the 5 days you will experience all sorts of terrain and different conditions, developing your existing skills and learning new ones. Your will and determination will be put to the test, but you'll achieve more than you believed possible!

Due to the demanding nature of the course we do have some minimum requirements for participants, please see below for details. If this course sounds too advanced for you, you might like to consider our Introduction to Alpine Climbing course to get a thorough grounding in the basic skills of mountaineering.

Description

The goal of this week is to practice in a real environment all the rope and safety techniques needed for a safe ascent in varied alpine terrain (snow, rock, ice and mixed). You will be placing your own protection and making your own belays. You will learn how to decide the right length of a climbing pitch in accordance with the terrain, how to read the terrain and the route finding. You will learn a few escape techniques in case you have to abandon your route. You will learn how to build a safe rappel and how to descend using various techniques, prusik and the “reminder” tool. You will learn lots of “tricks” which guides acquire over years of experience and which will make your ascents more efficient and safe. Furthermore you will learn about the dynamics and spirit of the partnership on a rope. The efficiency of team work and the mutual encouragement and support known as the “mountain spirit” - a skill which is equally essential in mountains as it is in life.

Level Requirements

To sign up for this course you have to fulfil all 3 requirements listed below. 

  • You are an experienced rock climber and you are solid lead-climber of routes of minimum French grade 4.
  • You know how to use crampons and ice axes and are comfortable climbing snow and ice slopes of 50 degrees. 
  • You have done at least one alpine route (either with a mountain guide or with your friends). 

If you are not sure that you have the required level, you can sign up for 1 day of alpine climbing with us before taking the course. The Petite Aiguille Verte is a perfect alpine route to gain or refresh your crampon / ice axe techniques and check what mixed climbing is all about, or you can book a private mountain guide for the day and plan a different itinerary.

Price

1195€

Price per person for groups of minimum 2 participants.

Course Dates

Any date on demand

Included

Guide Fees

5 days of guiding and instruction by a UIAGM qualified mountain guide.

Accommodation (half-board)

1 night in a mountain hut with breakfast and dinner included.

Local Transport

Any local transport that is required during your course.

Group Equipment

Ropes, safety equipment, etc will be provided when needed by your guide.

Office Support

Our team is based at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi cable car and will be happy to help you with any questions you may have before, during or after your trip to Chamonix.

Not Included

Equipment

Please see the "Equipment" tab to find out what you will need. Anything that you do not already have can be rented here in Chamonix, if there is anything you need then please contact us and we will be happy to organise it for you.

For private customised guiding, please contact us directly to confirm your persoanlised kit list.

Insurance

We strongly recommend that you take our Search and Rescue mountain insurance - we can organise this for you on request.

Lift Passes

We will advise you on which lift passes you will need prior to your trip. If lift passes are required we can preorder them for you on request.

Food & Drink

The price does not include lunch or snacks. You can bring your own food and we can stop for a picnic, or there may be the option to buy lunch at a mountain hut. Please make sure that you are carrying sufficient water and snacks as we will be in the mountains for a number of hours.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Chamonix is not included in the price but we would be happy to advise or organise it on request.

Travel to Chamonix

The price does not include flights, airport transfers or any other travel to/from Chamonix. However, we can organise airport transfers for you on request, please contact us for details.

Alpine Climbing DIY Course Itinerary

The exact itinerary is impossible to define in advance, it will be decided on your arrival depending on the weather forecast, snow & ice conditions and the overall level and experience of the participants. The program below is an example of what can be done.

Day 1 - Rock Climbing in Chamonix

A day dedicated to refresh the basics: different rope techniques, the most used knots, how to use slings, placing protection (friends, stoppers, slings and ice screws), building “bulletproof” equalised belays. Don’t worry if the vocabulary is unfamiliar to you at this stage, your guide will take the time to explain and teach you everything - this is why you are here after all!

Day 2 - Rock Climbing in the Mountains

The first real mountain climb! We will take you to a rocky ridge with passages in maximum grade of french 4. We will learn how to apply simul climbing while placing protection on the go (over the easy sections of the climb) and fixed pitch climbing where you will build your own belays. You will set up you rappel and learn all the safety measures and tips for safe descend on rappel.

Day 3 - Glacier Safety Skills

The morning will be allocated to the glacier travel safety techniques. You will learn how to rope up, how to build belays (e.g. deadman anchor) and how to safely organise retreat should you need it. The afternoon will be dedicated to climbing in mixed terrain of medium difficulty.

Day 4 - Overnight in a Mountain Hut

Departure for two consecutive days in the mountains with one night in a mountain hut. We will hike up to the hut where we will leave equipment we don’t need for the afternoon activity. The morning will be dedicated to a mixed climb of moderate difficulty (slope of snow and ice of about 50 degrees with rock terrain of french 4). You will apply all the techniques you’ve learned so far : short and long roping, placing your protection in ice and rock, setting up belays and rappels, route finding and safe descent over steep snow and ice terrain. The afternoon will be dedicated to crevasse rescue techniques.

Day 5 - Mixed Climbing

We will choose one of the most beautiful mixed routes in Chamonix (e.g. the Cosmiques ridge) which you will climb by yourself in full independence. You will have to read the terrain and make decisions such as which way is best to go and what techniques are best for the given terrain. Congratulations, you are now an alpine climber!

Pointe Lachenal Contamines Route; climbing in Chamonix
Alpine climbing in Chamonix
Alpine climbing in Chamonix

Clothing

Mountaineering boots

Mountaineering boots

Warm hat

Warm hat

Thermal underwear

Thermal underwear

Fleece or woollen layers

Fleece or woollen layers

Light puffer jacket

Light puffer jacket

Windproof and waterproof jacket

Windproof and waterproof jacket

Windproof and waterproof trousers

Windproof and waterproof trousers

Warm gloves

Warm gloves

Thin gloves

Thin gloves

Sun hat

Sun hat

Technical gear

Harness

Harness

Climbing helmet

Climbing helmet

Screwgate carabiner

Screwgate carabiner

60 - 120 cm tape sling

60 - 120 cm tape sling

Belay device

Belay device

Ice Axe

Ice Axe

Crampons

Crampons

35 - 45 litres rucksack

35 - 45 litres rucksack

Extras

Sunglasses

Sunglasses

Water bottle (1 litre minimum)

Water bottle (1 litre minimum)

Sun cream high protection (for lips and face)

Sun cream high protection (for lips and face)

Headlamp with fresh batteries

Headlamp with fresh batteries

Sleeping bag liner

Sleeping bag liner

Food

We suggest you bring your own snacks that you can take out on the hill each day such as cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favourite hill snacks. Huts do sell snacks but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.

If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food to supplement your hut dinners. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs. The huts can provide a small basic packed lunch of bread, salami, cheese and chocolate that you can buy each day but it’s important that you don’t rely on this option only. You do need to carry some snack food for each day.

You will also generally stop for short breaks each hour where you should eat and drink something each time so you maintain your energy levels throughout the day.

Staying in Mountain Huts

The high alpine huts are one of the big attractions to mountaineering or trekking in the Alps. They allow us to enjoy the mountains with only light packs and without having to worry about meals or finding somewhere to sleep! Most huts have only very basic facilities. Sleeping arrangements are in mixed sex dormitory-style rooms with bunks; there can be up to 20 people in one room.
Washing facilities are limited and generally there is no running water in any of the huts although this may vary in some huts. There are basins in which you can use bottled water to wash the best you can and clean your teeth, but they are NOT generally in private cubicles and are mixed sex. Toilets are generally septic-tank type (so non-flushing) and again mixed sex. You need to be prepared for simple living in the huts and appreciate they are located at high altitude and in inhospitable terrain.
A 3-course evening meal and breakfast are served by the guardian and his team and food is usually nourishing and filling. Beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks are also available. All food and drink in the huts is delivered by helicopter and consequently prices will be high e.g. between 3- 5€ or 8CHF for a 1.5litre bottle of still water.

There are a few basic hut ‘rules’ that you need to follow so that you (and your fellow climbers) have a pleasant stay:

➢ On arriving at the hut you must take off your boots and leave these together with your ice-axe, crampons in the foyer. Be sure to store these carefully as the hut is likely to get very busy and you’ll need to find all your kit in the morning rush!
➢ House slippers are provided and must be worn in the hut
➢ Your guide will register you with the guardian and will assign you your bunk
➢ Follow the instructions of your guide and keep requests to the guardian and his team to a minimum – they are usually very busy sorting out groups, cooking meals, keeping the hut clean
➢ In the morning your guide will often want to leave early – be sure to have all your kit ready to go the night before. Be organized and everything will be much easier!
➢ It is recommended to bring ear-plugs for the nights – but make sure that you will get up on time!

Getting to Chamonix

Chamonix is one of the easiest alpine resorts to get to, being just over an hour's drive from Geneva international airport. Lyon, Turin and Milan airports are also all within a few hour's drive. The best way to get from Geneva airport to Chamonix is by transfer bus, either shared with other passengers or private. You will be met in the arrivals lounge by your driver and dropped at your accommodation in Chamonix, there is no extra charge for your luggage or equipment. We work only with the most reliable transfer companies in the valley and are happy to organise your journey for you, please contact us for prices and booking

Accommodation in Chamonix

If you wish to book accommodation in Chamonix we would be happy to recommend some local hotels, gites, self-catered apartments, or chalets and advise on the best locations. Please contact us if you would like help finding accommodation in Chamonix.

Chamonix Lift Passes

Please note that lift passes are not included in the price of this trip. However, we are happy to organise them for you and have them ready for you on arrival, please contact us to find out more about Chamonix lift passes.

Insurance

We highly recommend that you take out specific insurance for mountain activities. We can organise this at a cost of 8€ per day for EU citizens and 12€ per day for non-EU citizens. This will cover you for search and rescue services, evacuation by helicopter and emergency medical treatment. You should also make sure that you have adequate travel insurance that covers you for the usual things such as cancelled flights, lost luggage, hospital treatment, etc. Please contact us to organise mountain rescue insurance for your trip.

Our Guides

All Chamex mountain guides are fully qualified, highly experienced and passionate about what they do. Everyone who works as part of the Chamex team has been throughly vetting and is trusted by us to give our clients the best experience possible - you are in safe hands! If you would like to know more then you can meet the Chamex team here.

Equipment hire

Please see the list of recommended equipment on the other tab. Most technical equipment can be rented here in Chamonix, please contact us if you would like prices and advice on whatever you need. Chamonix has dozens of outdoor shops selling everything from basic headtorches to expedition standard sleeping bags, so whatever you don't already have you can find it here.

Arete des Cosmiques

Arete-des-cosmiques-morse_2328

The Cosmiques Ridge is a spectacular, varied climb that starts and ends at the Aiguille du Midi. It is the perfect introduction to alpine climbing due to the number of techniques needed to complete the climb: mixed climbing, rock climbing, traverses, ridge climbing  and rappels. It is understandably one of the most popular alpine routes in the Chamonix Valley and is an unmissable experience for any climber.

The approach to the Cosmiques Ridge is easily accessed via the Aiguille du Midi cable car from Chamonix. Stepping out at the top of the Aiguille du Midi (3842m) you will rope up, put on your crampons and make your way out the ice tunnel to enter the world of alpinists.

The Cosmiques approach begins with a steep and exposed descent from the Aiguille du Midi down a sharp snow ridge. Below this the route levels out and you will make your way beneath the south face of the Aiguille du Midi towards the start of the climb at the Refuge des Cosmiques hut. The approach takes about half an hour.

Now the climbing begins, starting with easy mixed terrain. You continue along the route winding up, over and around big rock spires. There are two short abseil sections and a short rock wall to negotiate.

The climbing becomes easy again with two great last pitches before you make your way up a rickety ladder to where the route finishes on one of the Aiguille du Midi observation terraces. You will generally have people watching you and waiting to ask to have their photo taken with you here!

Length of the technical section 300m // altitude 3842m // global rating AD // commitment grade II // free climb grade 4a

La Petite Aiguille Verte 3512m

Petite-aiguille-verte-01

La Petite Verte soars high above the village of Argentiere at the north end of the Chamonix valley. It is accessed via the Les Grand Montets cable car, where two lifts whisk you up to the top station at 3295m. From here there is a short clamber down a metal staircase onto the snow, which is where you will rope up and put on your crampons for the 30-40 minute approach walk to the beginning of the climb. The last section of the approach involves crossing a bergschrund before gaining the ridge.

The ascent is a moderately steep 45° but over easy mixed ground with nice big handholds; the Northwest ridge of the Petite Aiguille Verte involves traversing over both rock and ice, for which you will wear your crampons. The more technical sections are short and do not pose major difficulties, the climbing is easy but very exposed with spectacular views in all directions.

From the summit ridge the Mont Blanc Massif stretches out all around you, with the Aiguille du Chardonnet, Aiguille d'Argentiere and Tour Noire to the east, and Les Drus and the ridge of the Aiguille Verte to the south. Once you reach the summit you descend by the same route back to Les Grand Montets.