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Winter Alpine Course Chamonix Introduction - Level 1

Winter Introduction to Alpine Climbing in Chamonix - 5 Day Course

Chamonix is one of the best places to explore the world of winter alpinism - world-famous climbing routes and stunning high altitude terrain make the Mont Blanc Massif the dream destination for all mountaineers.

The Chamonix Experience winter alpine climbing course is designed for those with no previous winter mountaineering experience or for those who want to refresh their existing summer alpine climbing skills and get an introduction to winter climbing in the Alps.

You will learn essential mountaineering skills such as mixed alpine climbing, ice climbing, glacier travel and avalanche awareness - all amongst the spectacular peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif.

All aspects of the course will be carried out under the instruction of our fully qualified and experienced UIAGM mountain guides; they will teach you how to use equipment such as ropes, harnesses, ice axes, crampons and avalanche transceivers.

Our background in mountain rescue (PGHM Chamonix) means that safety is our highest priority and we will pass our expert knowledge on to you, teaching you how to assess your surroundings and explore the mountains safely.

Our winter alpine climbing course is run with small groups; this allows for flexibility to adjust the level to each participant as much as possible.

If 5 days is more than you are looking for then take a look at our shorter 3 day ice climbing course, or consider a day trip such as the Cosmiques Arete or the Petite Aiguille Verte - both classic Chamonix alpine routes.

More experienced climbers may be interested in our Advanced Winter Mountaineering Course - 5 days of serious ascents over all types of high alpine terrain in the Mont Blanc Massif and surrounding area.

Description

The course will focus on the following four main areas:

  • Mixed Alpine Climbing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Glacier Travel
  • Avalanche Awareness

The 5 day course starts with a skills day to introduce and refresh glacier travel techniques, ice axe technique, using crampons on steep snow and ice, crevasse rescue and avalanche awareness.

Over the next two days you will be operating in small groups and putting your new found skills to work with a day of ice climbing and a day of mixed climbing in the high mountains of the Mont Blanc Massif.

The last two days of the course will be carried out in even smaller groups, allowing us to access more technical ice climbing routes and giving you the chance to try out lead climbing.  You may also get a chance to do a longer, more technical winter route, depending on weather conditions and the decision of your mountain guide.

The locations used will be decided by your mountain guides based on where the best conditions are at the time; Chamonix is in a fantastic location right on the French/Swiss/Italian border giving us many possibilities including the Chamonix Valley, Trient in Switzerland and Cognes in Italy.

Level requirements

No previous mountaineering skills are required to join this course. Rock climbing, hill walking and summer mountaineering experience are all helpful but not required. The small ratios enable participants to progress very quickly.

You do, however, need to have a high level of fitness. To enjoy this course you need to be happy doing a 6-8 hour hike in the mountains without being destroyed the next day.  The fitter you are, the more you will get out of the course. This is a course for people who want to learn and you will be expected to show initiative - it'll be challenging but a lot of fun!

Price

1095€

Price per person for groups of minimum 2 and maximum 6 clients

Course Dates

2017
Start Date End Date Spaces
Dec 18 Dec 22 6
G
Dec 25 Dec 29 4
2018
Start Date End Date Spaces
G
Jan 01 Jan 05 5
Jan 08 Jan 12 6
Jan 15 Jan 19 6
Jan 22 Jan 26 6
Jan 29 Feb 02 6
Feb 05 Feb 09 6
G
Feb 12 Feb 16 5
G
Feb 26 Mar 02 4
Mar 05 Mar 09 6
Mar 12 Mar 16 6
Mar 19 Mar 23 6
Mar 26 Mar 30 6
Apr 02 Apr 06 6
Apr 09 Apr 13 6
Apr 16 Apr 20 6

G
  The Course is guaranteed to run


Included

Guide Fees

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

Group Equipment

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

Local Transport

Any local transport that is required during your course.

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

Accommodation

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

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.

Winter Alpine Climbing Course

This itinerary is an example of what can be achieved with good weather and the right conditions.

It may be changed at any time by your mountain guide to give you the best possible experience in the safest conditions.

Arrival Day in Chamonix

Your group will meet at our Chamonix office at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi the evening before the course begins.

Your mountain guide will check your equipment and discuss the conditions and plans for the week ahead. You will have the chance to ask any questions that you may have.

Day 1 - Crevasse Rescue & Glacier Travel

A lot of mountaineering, especially in the Alps, involves crossing glaciated terrain where there is the inherent danger of crevasses and seracs.

Today your mountain guide will take you on to the glacier to introduce and refresh the technical skills you need to keep safe in Alpine terrain.

You will learn essential skills such as crevasse rescue and how to move safely across glacial terrain using crampons and ice axes.

Day 2 - Petite Aiguille Verte (3512m)

For the next two days you have a maximum of 3 participants per guide, this allows us to advance more quickly.

Today you will take the lift up to Les Grand Montets (3450m), where we will find one of the classic Chamonix climbing routes - the Petite Aiguille Verte.

The Petite Aiguille Verte is a mixed climbing route of rock, ice and snow which is normally done by the NW Ridge and is ideal for learning on.

Day 3 - Ice Climbing

Today will be your introduction to technical ice climbing on either the frozen waterfalls at the Crèmerie in Argentiere or in the Swiss village of Trient.

Your mountain guide will decide which location has the best conditions for the day; both places are beautiful and have very nice and fairly easy ice climbing routes to start on.

Day 4 - Aiguille du Midi Cosmiques Arête

For these last two days you will have a maximum of 2 participants per guide, allowing for even greater progression and personal instruction.

Today you will take the cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi. There are many great routes accessible from here including the Cosmiques Arete and other mixed climbing routes on the Vallee Blanche.

Your mountain guide will choose a suitable route for you to do some lead climbing on, high up in the Mont Blanc Massif overlooking the Chamonix Valley.

Day 5 - Cogne Ice Fall Climbing

The goal today is to climb more ice - this time in Italy.

We will take the short drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to the village of Cognes, which is a paradise for ice climbers. There are approximately one hundred routes to choose from!

We will spend the day exploring the ice falls and then return to Chamonix. The course will end with a coffee and debriefing at our office.

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

Gaiters

Gaiters

Technical gear

Ice Axe

Ice Axe

Harness

Harness

Climbing helmet

Climbing helmet

Crampons

Crampons

Telescopic poles

Telescopic poles

Pair of technical ice axes

Pair of technical ice axes

Ice climbing crampons

Ice climbing crampons

20-30 litres rucksack

20-30 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

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.

Optional equipment

Thermos – Not essential due to weight, but it can be comforting to have a hot drink on a cold day.

Water bottle – Should be at least 1.5 litres and durable. 
Camelbak hydration systems. Good as long as they are kept clean. Not recommended for winter sports / Mont Blanc as the tube tends to freeze up.

A spare pair of warm gloves - essential!

Lot of the climbing routes are easily and quickly accessed on skis. There is no better finish of a climbing day than an amazing powder ski down to Chamonix! So if you are comfortable off piste skiing in any snow conditions, bring your skis with you! Please note that the skis will be used for approaches / descends only if all of the course participants agree to it.

Food

We suggest you bring snacks and packed lunch for each day that you are out in the mountains. Sandwiches, cereal bars, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and sweets are all good for energy and easy to carry. Don't forget to bring plenty of water - dehydration occurs much more rapidly at altitude, especially when you are burning lots of energy.

You will generally stop for short breaks every hour or so, when you should eat and drink something in order to maintain your energy levels throughout the day.

When staying in huts it's best to take supplies for however many days that you are in the mountains, the huts do sell food 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 that 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.

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.

Bespoke Private Guiding

We are always happy to organise private guiding, tailored to the needs of any sized group. We have lots of experience in organising corporate events, specialist courses and group trips for all kinds of people no matter what your age or experience. Please get in touch if you would like more information

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.

 

Lillaz Gully, Cogne

The Lillaz Gully is a superb and varied ice climb in a beautiful place. 

Access is from the village of Lillaz, with a 1 hour approach scrambling up the snow covered summer stream.

The gully offers 6 pitches of technical ice climbing up to grade 4/4+ with a tricky mixed crux. 200 meters of pleasure for this scenic climb. On a clear day you have fantastic views of Mont Blanc.

The descent is just 45 minutes through the forest on the other side.

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.

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