Whilst Chamonix is the capital of world mountaineering, you do not need to be a great climber to enjoy its vast mountain attractions. On the contrary, one of Chamonix’s real assets is that it has peaks and climbs suitable for all levels of challenge and for every step along the path to Becoming an Alpinist. This training course is designed for those who are new to alpine mountaineering and want to either develop their skills to become independent alpine climbers or complete further climbs with a Guide. It would also be suitable for folk wishing to climb Mont Blanc after the course or with future plans for introductory expeditions in other high mountain ranges around the world.
In 2020 we also have a Chamonix Alpine Intro+ Course running with the plus indicating a slightly more technical itinerary for those with a little more experience and wanting to progress to more alpine scrambling terrain. We also often have a Climb Mont Blanc extension starting after a rest day at the end of these courses…
During 5 action packed mountain days, this course aims to provide you with high quality training in all the alpine essentials whilst completing some fine peaks and fun routes along the way. This blend of mountaineering, training and climbing will give you a sound understanding of the essential practical skills of alpinism and a suitable context in which to use & develop those skills. The course will also be a fun & sociable week completing some great mountain journeys with a like minded team.
There are four Cornerstones to Alpine Mountaineering…
Which those experienced in smaller and non-glaciated hills may not be familiar with…These four themes will drive the content of the training throughout the week.
- Good movement skills on all terrain from walking to steep climbing and from rock to ice (sound cramponing is a key element of this)
- Always roping together members of the team on a snow covered glacier
- Sticking to guide book time for the route – the need to be efficient and how to achieve this
- An awareness of objective hazards and how to mitigate against them
Mountaineering Skills Covered During the Course
- Crampon and ice-axe training / skills
- Personal movement skills on a variety of types of terrain
- Safe, simple and efficient glacier travel protocol & techniques
- Efficient use of the rope on mountaineering terrain
- Crevasse rescue techniques, keeping it simple and effective
- Selecting appropriate equipment to be safe but also light and effective
- Using mountain huts
- The use of alpine maps and guide books and selecting appropriate routes
- Alpine navigation including altimeter, GPS and mobile phone applications
Alpine Intro Course Programme
Please note: This itinerary is flexible and may change according to weather, conditions & team fitness & aspirations.
Day 1 – Course Intro & final equipment checks followed by an ascent to the famous ‘Mer de Glace’, France’s largest Glacier, accessed via the historic Montenvers mountain railway. This is a great place to offer training in the essential mountaineering skills of tying in to the rope, moving together as an alpine team on both rocky & glacial terrain and, crucially, training good crampon & ice-axe techniques. There should also be the opportunity to try some steeper ice climbing.
Day 2 – Drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to the upper Val d’Aosta and ascend the superb Skyway Monte Bianco lift to access Punta Hellbronner and the high snowy glaciers of the Italian side of Monte Bianco. Enjoy a glacier journey, climb a 3500m peak via a mixed rocky scramble and practise glacier travel & crevasse rescue techniques.
Day 3 – An enjoyable intro to alpine rock climbing & general climbing ropework techniques. This is a lower altitude day with no crampons & ice axes. A more relaxing walk in trainers gives us access to some of the fine lower altitude and valley crags around the Mt Blanc Range. Here we can enjoy some single pitch rock climbing, abseiling & general rope work training as well as an alpine ice cream and briefing for the final hut & expedition phase.
Days 4 & 5 – Classic Alpine Expedition! After our 3 initial days training it’s time to embark on climbing a big peak with an overnight stay at a mountain hut. Depending on the time of year the course is running we usually either climb the Pigne d’Arolla in the Swiss Valais Alps or the Gran Paradiso in the Italian Val d’Aosta. Both are great high mountain journeys with classic alpine huts and no lifts and thus both present fine physical alpine ascents from the valley.
The Gran Paradiso ascent is described via this page link just above and the Pigne ascent here…..After a quality Swiss café and any final shopping in the high alpine village of Arolla we enjoy the long & scenic ascent to the Dix Hut (2928m). En route, some further scrambling / rock climbing can be enjoyed around the crossing of the Pas de Chevre. The hut is a hospitable place to stay, enjoy a hearty dinner and be well placed for a pre-dawn alpine start the next morning. The glacial & snowy high mountain traverse of the Pigne d’Arolla (3790m) gives a superb alpine journey with stunning views of the Matterhorn & many other high peaks of the Swiss, French & Italian Alps. We return to Arolla for lunch & on to Chamonix by late afternoon to relax & celebrate the action packed week.
Alpine Intro+ Course Programme
Please note: This itinerary is flexible and may change according to weather, conditions & team fitness & aspirations.
The Intro+ title refers to this course being run at a guiding ratio of 1:3 instead of our classic Intro course which is 1:4. This allows for slightly more technical terrain to be undertaken and overall for a better progression for those who have already done a little mountaineering and are looking to build skills and enjoy some more high alpine scrambling terrain.
Plan A itinerary for this Intro+ Course
- Approach to Albert Premier Hut and glacier mountaineering / ice climbing training day on Tour Glacier – Night at Albert Premier Hut (c. 2700m)
- Alpine start for to summit the Aiguille du Tour & continue on the Swiss side to the Trient Hut (c. 3100m)
- Return across the Trient Glacier and back in to France! Ascent of Tete Blanche and Petit Fourche. Some enjoyable mixed scrambling on all these peaks. Return to Chamonix via cakes at the Albert Premier Hut on the descent!
- Rocky day – either scrambling in the Aiguilles Rouges or rock climbing day – including multi pitch options eg at Les Cheserys in the Aiguilles Rouges
- Italy day – Punta Hellbronner glacier journey and scramble eg Aiguilles Marbrees or Aiguilles d’Entreves SW summit. Return to Chamonix mid afternoon on this last day.
Whilst it not essential to have any background of rock climbing or winter mountaineering any climbing experience, even at a climbing wall will be useful, as will any general hill walking and scrambling eperience. A good fitness level is required for successive alpine mountaineering days 6 – 8 hours in duration and you should be well prepared for around 8 hours on the go at high altitude. This course would also be suitable for climbers with some technical experience who are keen to receive alpine specific training and develop their personal skills with a view to climbing independently after the course.
Suggested Course Progression
After completing & enjoying our Intro Alpine Course there are many appealing options available. A fine alpine progression would be to Climb the Gran Paradiso and then the Weissmies. These enjoyable and contrasting Italian & Swiss 4000m peaks would set you up well for Climbing Mont Blanc. After that our series of Chamonix mountaineering courses forms a logical progression in the following order; ‘Becoming an Alpinist’ followed by Chamonix Alpinist & then Chamonix private guiding for harder / longer routes & north faces as well as our Climb the Eiger & Matterhorn courses.
An alpine mountaineering equipment list is given here. In addition to good quality warm hill walking gear you will need technical equipment like; alpine mountaineering boots, crampons, ice-axe, harness and helmet. All this gear can be easily hired from us or in Chamonix. Check our Chamonix mountaineering equipment hire section.
Course Dates & Prices
Our intro alpine courses are open to all individuals & small groups who meet the course pre-requirements. They include 5 full climbing / guided days on the dates given below. If you have a private team and would like to arrange your own dates then please get in touch to discuss arranging your own programme.
Our Alpine Intro courses are often scheduled just before Gran Paradiso, Weissmeis, Bishorn & Mont Blanc courses, so that you can continue your progression and attempt a bigger peak with your hard won acclimatisation after the intro course.
Alpine Intro Price – £895
Maximum Ratio of 1 Guide To 4 Guests.
Alpine Intro+ Price – £1245
Maximum Ratio of 1 Guide To 3 Guests.
What’s Included in the Price?
Our courses are priced on a ‘guiding only’ basis which means you pay the exact cost price for all other expenses like hotels, mountain huts and lift passes.
- 5 full days mountain guiding with an IFMGA Mountain Guide
- Transport during the course including travel in the Chamonix valley and across to the Italian / Swiss Alps
- Management of the trip / itinerary and booking of all mountain huts
- Discounted equipment hire prices
What’s not Included & Other Additional Expenses?
- Mountain Lifts: Day 1, Montenvers return C. 30 euros. Day 2, Hellbronner C. 52 euros.
- Chamonix accommodation. Prices start from camping at C.12 euros per night, Bunkhouse for C.25 euros per night and hotel accommodation from around 50 euros upwards. Please see our Chamonix Accommodation notes.
- Mountain Hut for you and the Guide. Allow about 75 euros per night for dinner, bed & breakfast and your part share in the same for the Guide (at a heavily reduced rate). The best way to deal with these expenses is to make a communal group ‘kitty’ which you contribute to and all expenses are paid out of.
- Additional snacks, drinks, lunch etc
- Transfers to Chamonix (C. 35 euros for a single journey from Geneva Airport)
- Mountaineering equipment. Check the kit list above
- Insurance suitable for alpine mountaineering in Europe
- Any other expenses
- Based on 4 nights in a 2* hotel half board single room (110€ per night) with 1 hut night and lifts as outlined additional costs will be about 580€. This excludes your share of the guides hut expenses, which can vary depending on the number of participants.
Kate & Kacee, Intro To Alpine Mountaineering Course, Chamonix Sept 2018
Kate and I are now back in Ireland. I just want to thank you and especially Phil for the wonderful experience that we had. I for one will definitely cherish the experience. I learned and took a lot from the alpine intro course. We are now ready to face new challenges and climb more mountains. We will see you next year to join another course that will guarantee us of our independence in the mountain.
Alpine Intro ‘Weekends’
In addition to our full 5 day classic alpine intro week as described above, we also offer 2-3 day Chamonix based alpine intro courses. These include an 0830 meeting with the team & guide on day 1 followed by an alpine hut walk and then mountaineering & glacier travel training on a glacier near the hut. This is a great way to get some quality training, start acclimatising for your trip or just brush up on rusty mountaineering skills.
After an atmospheric evening & night in the mountain hut (usually the Albert Premier Hut at the eastern end of the Mont Blanc Range) the team takes a pre-dawn breakfast and alpine start across the glacier with the aim of climbing one of the celebrated intro 3500m peaks on the French / Swiss Alpine border. This is a great journey and fine acclimatisation for forthcoming alpine projects.
Our 2 day programme descends back to the hut and to finish down in the Chamonix Valley that afternoon whilst the 3 day programme continues from the peak over to another hut (usually the Trient Hut, 3170m on the Swiss side of the Trient Glacial plateau). Here a classic hearty Swiss Rösti can be enjoyed for lunch before an afternoon scramble (or siesta) and another night in the hut, this time above 3000m.
The final day of the 3 day programme traverses the Trient Glacier and climbs another one of the 3500m peaks on the Swiss / French border like the Aiguille du Tour, Tete Blanche or Petite Fourche, before descending back across the French Tour Glacier, past the Albert Premier Hut and back down to finish in the Chamonix Valley after a rewarding 3 days in the high mountains.
The course pre-requirements & kit list are the same as for our classic 5 day alpine course as per the descriptions above.