Winter / Spring / Autumn Mountaineering in Chamonix & The Alps

There are some alpinists who consider summer to be the only ‘off-season’ period for alpine mountaineering. It is indeed often in winter, spring and autumn that the combination of snow, ice, low temperatures and quiet mountains give the winter alpinist that spark of adventure, always tempered by the tougher mountain conditions and greater commitment.

Mountain Reports From Previous Summits & Routes Climbed in Autumn, Winter & Spring

Whilst we mainly run private guiding trips for alpine mountaineering in autumn, winter and spring, we do also have a few group courses which are listed here:

Oct 02
Oct 09

Climb Mont Blanc 🇫🇷 Autumn 2022

October 9 - October 15
Oct 13

Thanks for an amazing few days. You pushed me to achieve things I didn’t think I was capable of and taught me patiently. I have learnt loads and enjoyed myself enormously. Today fully type 1 fun. Escarra definitely a bit of 1 a lot of 2 and a tiny bit of 3! But overall the best day in the hills I’ve ever had.

Simon Everett, Chamonix North Faces & Multi Pitch rock, Nov 21

The easier mixed and rocky ridges of high summer are transformed in to bigger challenges in their winter garb and often just being out on the hill is both a privilege and challenge in itself.  Some of the classic 4000m peaks including Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc can be almost at their best in the autumn months.

Simon topping out on the North Face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet, November 2021

For those of suitable experience, fitness and determination who are seeking a bigger challenge there are a fine series of North Faces ranging in size and difficulty to cater for most Winter Alpinists. From the Tete Blanche and Tour Ronde to the Chardonnet, Aiguille du Midi, Les Droites and many more. These North Faces give tough mountaineering experiences that are only suited to those prepared to embrace the concept that winter alpine mountaineering is hard work and not always ‘type 1 fun’ at the time!

Zermatt Mountaineering
High on the Breithorn Summit Ridge in autumn 2020. A very accessible 4000m peak rapidly approached from the lifts of Zermatt, which are open in autumn.

Route Approaches, Lift Access & Winter Room Huts

Fresh snow in winter takes a long time to consolidate and where a glacial approach in summer is typically associated with crampons crunching on a frozen glacier, in winter it is more likely to be wading through thigh deep soft snow! This means that the mountaineer who can ski is likely to profit most from their time in the winter alpine environment, although snow shoes can be a reasonable alternative and often neither are necessary in the earlier autumn season.

By using the big 3 lifts of the Mont Blanc massif (Aiguille du Midi from Chamonix, Grands Montets fromn Argentiere and Hellbroner from Courmayeur) rapid access to 3300m+ is gained and, in good conditions and travelling on skis, some of the classic high Chamonix Goulottes can be climbed and the ski descent to the valley completed on the same day.

Late autumn dawn departure from Albert Premier to traverse the Tour Glacier and climb the North Face of the Tête Blanche, an excellent training climb.

For those wanting to attempt the bigger faces or to spend more time up high in the magical winter alpine environment an overnight stay can be made in one of the various ‘winter rooms’ of the high mountain huts. For those who can’t ski or don’t want to carry skis over a climb, snow shoes provide the next best option and the greater times involved meant that an overnight in a mountain hut winter room is likely to be involved. This can be a fine experience in itself and give an insight in to the winter mountains outwith the times of the skiers and day visitors using the lifts.

Winter Hut stay
Dinner at the Chabod Hut winter room on our autumn Gran Paradiso course…boil in the bag!  A different experience to summer but equally rewarding, if not more so!

See Our Article On Seasonal Alpine Mountaineering Conditions

Seasonal Alpine Mountaineering Conditions

Training & Guiding

As with all our courses there is a balance to be struck between ‘just’ going climbing and enjoying some brilliant routes and adding a more structured training element to develop your skills as a winter alpinist. This balance is directed by your aspirations and we provide a bespoke course accordingly. Please check out some of the suggested suitable winter / spring / autumn climbs below and the various options for training topics to be covered. Remember that the best training for going climbing….is going climbing!

“Thanks again for a Chamonix wonder week Rob. It was a real pleasure having the opportunity to be out in the mountains with you. You did a sterling job mate and were good fun to be with. I hope we get the chance to do it again sometime. All the best, Matt”

Matt, Chamonix, Jan 2009

Chamonix ice climbing, on the Rive Gauche Argentiere Glacier

Autumn Summit Climbs

For example:

Summit of Mont Blanc and the mixture of emotions are running high. France on one side, Italy on the other. Magnificent view across the Alps, tired legs…must concentrate…must keep going for the descent. Relief? Satisfaction? Elation? Concern about the descent? Mont Blanc is a very personal challenge….
Early autumn ascent of the Gran Paradiso. Shallow fresh snow, cool temperatures, a chilly breeze and stunning views around the Alpine chain…
Good fun scrambling high on the classic South Ridge of the Weissmeis with the Almageller Hut and Dry Hornli Ridge in shade far below…

Selection of Possible Climbs

Whilst any winter alpine trip in to the mountains is likely to be a physically tough experience there are a fine variety of routes offering good quality outings from those of moderate technical ability right through to the seasoned alpinist at home on technical ground on a big face.

Mountain Guide Will Harris enjoying the first pitch of the Escarra Route

Below we offer a selection of route suggestions that form a very rough progression in terms of overall difficulty and commitment. Many of these can be tackled in a day off the high Chamonix lifts whilst the larger routes often need several days to complete the approach, climb and descent. Your course itinerary will be tailor made according to your preferences for the style and difficulty of the routes:

  • Traverse of Pointe Lachenal, PD
  • Traverse Aiguilles Marbrees, PD
Chamonix Guide
Justine on the summit of the Aiguilles Marbrees. Snowy conditions in mid October 2020
  • Petite Verte, PD
  • Cosmiques Arete, AD 4a
  • Chere Couloir, II 4, 350m
Old photo – not current conditions – Perroux Gully on left, Chere Couloir directly above the climber
  • Tour Ronde Ordinary Route, AD
  • Traverse Aiguille d’Entreves, AD
  • Pellisier Gully, II 4 M5

  • Gabarrou-Albinoni, III, 4+, 500m
  • North Face Aiguille de Toule, AD
  • Left Edge Route, AD, 350m
  • Contamine Mazeaud, AD+, 350m
  • Perroux Gully, III 4+ 5b, 350m
Old shot of one of the crux icy / mixed grooves on the Perroux next to the Chere couloir
  • Gully Variations, III, 4+
  • Midi-Plan Ridge, AD
  • Modica Noury, III 5+

  • North Face Tour Ronde, D 350m
  • Claire Chazal
  • Rebuffat Gully, II 4, 350m Tour Ronde
  • Farraon
  • Fil a Plomb

  • Aiguille du Chardonnet North Face, Migot Spur or Escarra Route
Mike Brownlow on the fine ice wall of the Escarra Route
  • Madness Tres Mince
  • Charlet Ghillini
  • Pinocchio
Brilliant mid-winter climbing on the East Face of Mont Blanc du Tacul
  • Eugster Direct
  • Lagarde Couloir
  • Supercouloir

  • Cecinel Nomine

Aravis Mixed Climbing Guide
Aravis Mixed Climbing

Training Modules

The following relevant training elements may be covered on a Chamonix winter / spring / autumn mountaineering course according to your existing knowledge and enthusiasm to learn:

  • Ice and mixed climbing techniques + good dry tooling options
  • Winter climbing protection
  • Simple and effective climbing ropework for pitching and moving together
  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques
  • Avalanche hazard awareness and decision making
  • Route selection according to current conditions
  • Navigation including the use of a GPS
  • Ski mountaineering techniques for ascent and descent to / from routes
  • Transceiver use
Dry Tooling at Servoz on the steep finish to the route Momus, M6

Pre-Requirements

Winter alpine mountaineering is not for the faint hearted and you should be fully aware before booking that every aspect of it is both physically and mentally demanding. Days can be up to 12 hours, or longer on a big North Face, and you must be prepared for this by being both very fit and determined to embrace the high mountain environment. You should also be aware that this winter / spring / autumn alpine environment contains hazards which are sometimes beyond the control of your Guide and be prepared to accept the risks associated with travel in crevassed and avalanche prone terrain and occassionaly threatened by ice / serac fall from above.

Simon below the Col du Tour en route to the Téte Blanche North Face with the North Face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet beyond.

You will have ideally practised the skills of alpinism on a summer course and be already familiar with climbing, rope and equipment techniques. However if these skills are not already in place we can use valley cascades, lower glaciers, mountains and crags and put together a suitable training package.

“Just to say a big thanks from me and Chris for a brilliant few days ice & mixed climbing over the new year. It was exactly what we were looking for. I think we have both fallen for the world of mixed climbing and will definitely be trying some more soon by ourselves. I would recommend taking a course with Rob to anyone looking to try something new in the mountains. It was a brilliant way to get a head-start into a new area of climbing for us. Thanks again, Andy.”

Andy & Chris, Feb 2010

Will enjoying the moderately technical snowed up rock on the first pitch of the Escarra Route, on the north face Aiguille du Chardonnet.

Further Details & Booking

Equipment List, please refer to our Autumn – Winter – Spring Alpine Mountaineering Equipment List and be aware that out-with the high summer season you will need warmer boots (e.g your ski boots or La Sportiva Spantiks, Scarpa 6000m or similar), warmer gloves; a warmer duvet jacket and good quality face protection e.g. neoprene face mask, buff, goggles, balaclava and good jacket hoods.

Book Private Guiding

Mountain Reports From Previous Summits & Routes Climbed in Autumn, Winter & Spring

Jan 2022 – Snow Shoe Expedition Around Grand St. Bernard Pass With Base Camp At The Monastery

13 January 2022, Grand St Bernard Snow Shoe Expedition

Dec 2021 and Jan 2022 – Mid winter Cascade Ice Climbing in Cogne…

17 January 2022, Repentance Super, Ice Climbing In Cogne

22 December 2021, Lau Bij, Cogne Ice Climbing

16 December 2021, Cogne Ice Climbing Opening Week

Aiguille du Chardonnet & Tête Blanche North Faces in November 2021

17 November 2021, Aiguille du Chardonnet & Tête Blanche North Faces

Mont Blanc ascent in early October 2021

9 October 2021, Mont Blanc Autumn Ascent

30 May 2021, Aiguille du Midi & Chamonix Mountaineering Conditions

26 March 2021, La Mamule North Face, Les Aravis

24 March 2021, Mini Couloir, Cascade EMHM, Grands Montets Ski Touring

7 March 2021, Momus, Servoz Dry Tooling

3 March 2021 Aravicimes, Fine Aravis Mixed Climbing Conditions

11 February 2021, Home Wet Home, Rive Gauche & Grands Montets Climb Ski Conditions

27 January 2021, Ice Climbing Conditions In The Aravis & Mt Blanc Massifs