Your first steps on a rewarding alpine climbing career. This Chamonix based course teaches the skills necessary for safe ascents of lower grade peaks, the course is designed for walkers and mountaineers seeking high-quality instruction for their first season in the Alps. Snow, ice and rock techniques are the focus and as always you will be in safe hands with our own team of IFMGA guides.
The format used is entirely practical, very much ‘learn as you climb’. Every day will provide a new mountain experience and with it a large array of new and interesting techniques. The course emphasis is on building a firm foundation of skills, enabling participants to operate independently or progress to other courses or expeditions. The highlight of the week’s climbing is the ascent of ‘Gran Paradiso’, at 4061m the highest peak entirely within Italy.
This course is suitable for hill walkers and indoor wall climbers wishing to expand their horizons and discover the magic of alpine mountaineering. General fitness and enthusiasm are the most important prerequisites. To ensure that you enjoy your climbing holiday, we always use good quality services and accommodation, with an excellent reputation for food.
This week long trip offers variety, fun and action in the heart of the Alps and a firm stepping stone for your future ambitions.
The course is based in Chamonix, the world climbing capital. Chamonix hosts some of the most famous routes in the Alps, and is a must visit for any aspiring mountaineer. The mountain environment is very accessible with several cable cars giving access to high ground, this maximises climbing time and minimises walking. The Chamonix valley allows the course to offer 6 full climbing days with a client/mountain guide ratio of 1:4 or less with 2/3 nights spent in high mountain refuges.
The huts are run by full time staff that looks after us on a half-board basis. The surroundings are basic but smart and clean with plentiful home cooking. Water, beer, wine and a picnic lunch is available at extra cost. The sleeping quarters are communal.
Mont Blanc Extension
For those who aspire to climb Mont Blanc we can offer this as a 2 or 3 day extension to this Alpine Introduction course. Contact us for further details
The course begins on Saturday evening with a welcome meeting and course briefing at around 6pm in our comfortable partner hotel. The briefing covers all essential information along with an equipment check and an opportunity to answer any questions you have
Using the Montenvers mountain railway we travel directly into the high mountains. Our destination is the Mer de Glace glacier (1900m), a spectacular viewpoint and an excellent venue to practice moving on ice and glacial terrain. The 1 hour approach to the ice includes an exciting section of Via Ferrata (iron rungs and ladders). Our principal goal is to get comfortable with using boot crampons and an ice axe. We also look at belays, rope skills and ice climbing. The night is spent back in Chamonix
This day takes us on a spectacular trek at altitude from France to Italy entirely on snow and ice. The journey takes us past crashing glaciers, deep crevasses and sharp granite spires
We take an early morning cable car from Chamonix up to the famous Aiguille du Midi (3842m). At the station we equip ourselves with harness, ropes, crampons and ice axe and make a long traverse of the heavily glaciated Vallee Blanche to reach the Helbronner station on the Italian boarder. We return via the ‘panoramic’ gondola to the Aiguille du Midi and the cable car back down to Chamonix and overnight back in the hotel. The total walking and climbing time is approximately 5 hours
In the morning we walk to the Albert Premier high mountain refuge. The varied trail begins amongst alpine meadows and forests and finishes in a high glacial landscape. The afternoon is spent on the Le Tour glacier demonstrating and practicing crevasse rescue. Stay overnight in the hut
We take a 5am breakfast and the climb begins at 6am. We start by scrambling on easy rocks and then after 30 minutes we switch our equipment in preparation for glacier travel. The way is by ascending the vast Glacier du Trient, and then back to rocky ground on the south face of the mountain, the summit tower features beautiful red granite. After the climb and descent, we return to Chamonix
The morning is spent learning rock climbing techniques at Les Gaillands. After lunch we travel through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Italy and the Gran Paradiso National Park. A 2-3 hour walk through forests and over moorland takes us to the Chabod Refuge
From an early alpine start of around 4am, we set out to climb to the summit of Gran Paradiso at 4061m. The route is varied; beginning as a straightforward trail, leading onto large crevassed glaciers and finally to an exposed rock ridge. The climb takes 4-5 hours and around 3 hours to descend. After the ascent we return to Chamonix to celebrate a successful week!
Goodbyes and departure after breakfast. Or enjoy the beautiful town of Chamonix if your flight times allow
The price includes all guiding fees & expenses, half board hotel accommodation in the valley (twin-room), half board accommodation in mountain huts, local transfers and uplift costs
The price does not include lunches, beverages, equipment hire and travel to and from the Alps
Single-room occupancy in valley hotels is subject to availability and will incur an additional cost.
The Mont Blanc extension costs £795 per person based on 2 people sharing a guide which includes the guide fees and accommodation (2 hotel nights and 1 hut night).
This list contains our recommended clothing and equipment for our Intro to Alpine Mountaineering course in Chamonix.
In the summer months, the days generally start very cold and warm up during the morning to become hot in the afternoon. It is therefore essential that you have 2-3 thin layers that you are able to put on/take off as the conditions change. Thin layers also allow better movement as opposed to one layer of bulky clothing.
If you are uncertain about kit to pack or need further information, please contact us.
• Base Layer Top and Bottoms – a few base layer tops, usually long sleeved is best, wool base layers form Smartwool or Icebreaker are good as they offer good wicking properties and dry quickly. For your legs a couple of pairs of long or ¾ length bottoms are best.
• Mid-layer fleece tops – a couple of fleece type jacket or tops that can be worn between your base layer and outer layers. The “Layering” approach offers the best heat retention and flexibility in warm and cold weather.
• Insulation Layer - a down or primalotf jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
• Lightweight softshell type trousers - you want to wear a lightweight softshell or similar material on your legs, these types of trouser offer good protection from snow/ice as well as abrasion on rock and are comfortable to move in.
• Walking shorts or pair of trousers with zip-off legs. Useful for walk-ins to huts on hot days.
• Gore-Tex Jacket - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable jacket. Best to have a lightweight jacket that can be worn in the event of wet or windy weather but is packable enough to fit in your rucksack. Your insulated ski jacket will be overkill and too hot and bulky.
• Gore-Tex Pants - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable trousers. Lightweight is important plus side zips for putting on over your boots and crampons. Used in cold, wet and windy weather.
• Sun hat and warm hat – bring a wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap plus a warm beanie style hat.
• Light, thin gloves – a thin pair of fleece or softshell gloves for warm weather are a must.
• Insulated gloves - You need to have a pair of waterproof warm gloves to wear on cold days.
• Gaiters – these are useful to wear to keep snow out of your boots.
• Socks - 3-4 pairs of medium weight socks usually mid-calf length is good.
There are 2 grades of boots for alpine trekking and mountaineering: B1 and B2
• B1 boots are usually lightweight boots offering more flexibility when walking and are usually suitable only for trekking, easy glacier walking and Via Ferrata trips.
• B2 boots are semi-rigid boots that are the best option for summer alpine mountaineering trips. There are leather and plastic/composite options. Leather boots tend to be more comfortable and breathable whereas plastic/composite boots are warmer and more waterproof.
B2 boots are compatible with C1 and C2 crampons.
Key features of a good alpine boot include Vibram soles, a reversed leather upper (which protect the best side of the leather from scuffing and abrasion and improves durability and water resistance) and ankle flex and a higher cut which give control, mobility and support.
Boots can be hired in resort but to avoid discomfort we do strongly recommend that you have your own pair which needs to be well worn-in prior to your trip.
Alpine huts supply hut slippers so that you don't need to take any other footwear apart from your boots. Boots are not allowed in the dining room or dormitories and must be left in the foyer.
• Rucksack - A simple and lightweight pack with a capacity of between 35-45 liters is recommended. You need to have one loop for carrying an ice axe on your rucksack.
• Lightweight sleeping bag liner – a silk or cotton sleeping bag liner is now compulsory in all mountain huts.
• Water bottle or Thermos – a water bottle or hydration system is needed.
• Head torch with spare batteries
• Personal first Aid Kit - Should contain:
Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.
Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen
Antiseptic cream or wipes
Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!
(Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)
• Sun Glasses - minimum category 3.
• Ski Goggles – these can be very useful if you encounter strong winds and poor weather.
• Sunscreen and Lip Protection
• Ear Plugs - For noisy huts!!
• Hold-all bag - for gear not required on trek. Will be left at first hotel and collected on return.
• Money - You will need some cash for food and drinks. There are some ATMs and most hotels, shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, but most huts still accept cash only. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 25-35 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption).
• Toiletries – Should contain:
Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal
Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene
Tissues and toilet roll
Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
(Any other essentials you need but remember there are no shower facilities and generally no running water in the huts and you have to carry everything with you!)
• Alpine club card - If you're a member.
• Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.
These items are essential for all alpine mountaineering courses
All items can be hired from Mountain Tracks or from sport shops in the Alps.
• Climbing helmet
• Ice Axe - General mountaineering / alpine pick 55-70cms long depending on your height.
• Boot crampons - with anti-balling plates.
• Climbing Harness – adjustable leg loops are useful for easy of putting on over your boots.
• Adjustable trekking pole(s)
It is possible to hire boots and the technical items needed for the Mont Blanc Climber week in Chamonix and guideline prices for 6 days hire are:
Mountaineering boots €55
Ice Axe €30
Boot crampons €35
If you wish to hire any technical kit please contact us in advance with your requirements.
The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).
Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.
As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.
Our top reasons to visit Chamonix:
Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents
Great destination for weekends and short breaks
Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports
Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski
The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure
Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe
Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May
Good range of accommodation for all budgets
Chamonix Ski Area
The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.
Off Piste runs include:
The Vallée Blanche
The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).
Pas de Chevre
Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.
Glacier du Toule
You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.
From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.
Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.
Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers. Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.
Resort Height: 1,042m
Highest Lift: 3,842m
Nearest Airport: Geneva
Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.
More about Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy
The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
You should arrange to arrive in Chamonix by late afternoon on the first day.
The most convenient airport is Geneva and from here the transfer time up to Chamonix by road is just 1 hr 15mins. To travel between the airport and Chamonix we recommend you reserve a seat on one of the many commercial shuttle buses. Mountain Tracks can book this for you and the usual prices are from £40 per person one-way. Please supply your full flight details to us so we can make the reservation.
Want to take the train to the resort? No problem – it’s possible to get to Chamonix by train from the UK using the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris, then the TGV to Bellegarde and a regional train to Chamonix. The journey can be done in 1 day. For more information and other useful train travel details look at www.snowcarbon.co.uk
At the end of the week the course finishes after breakfast on the last day and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight from lunchtime onwards to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!
All our mountaineering trips are run by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.
Maximum group size is 8 with 2 guides.
On our Alpine Introduction courses the cost of the uplift is included in the price of the holiday.
Our usual hotel in Chamonix is the Hotel Les Lanchers located in Les Praz, this is a comfortable 3* hotel with modern light and airy rooms, a great restaurant and a comfortable bar and lounge area; as well as outside seating to enjoy the sunshine and views of the mountains. We offer accommodation on a twin share basis in their standard rooms, all with en-suite showers. Their restaurant "Rendezvous" serves local and international cuisine and offers a set menu during the summer months.
Their chef can cater for any dietary requirements our guests may have. They serve a hearty breakfast and offer packed lunches for guests to purchase for their climbing days. You can view more details on the hotel here http://www.hotel-lanchers-chamonix.com/en/home
2 nights are spent in high mountain huts which have dormitory style accommodation with rooms ranging from 4 to 20 beds. All accommodation is mixed sex sharing and washing facilities are usually limited, some huts have some cold running water but typically its basic living. Toilets are septic tank type (non-flushing) in general and again mixed sex.
The Alps generally have a very pleasant climate throughout the spring, summer and autumn with warm days and cool nights, with daytime temperatures in the valley around 25 - 30°C. At high altitude the temperature often goes down below -10 and can feel even colder with wind chill.
I have no previous mountaineering experience but I am keen to learn the basics of using crampons and an ice axe and rope work. I would enjoy ascending rocky scrambles and easy angled snow and ice. I am a regular hill walker summer and winter and used to long days out, I am happy to walk for 6-8hrs per day carrying all my gear in my rucksack. For Via Ferrata trips a head for heights and some upper body strength is useful.
I have undertaken some previous rocky scrambling and short rock climbs, ice or easy alpine climbing. I am comfortable moving on rocky and snowy ridges and slopes of up to 40 degrees. I enjoy the challenge of more remote technical terrain. I would like to learn more about alpine rope work. I can improve my crampon / ice axe technique and could scramble on rock with greater efficiency.
I have previous experience climbing alpine PD+ or harder. I am undeterred by scrambling and have done some pitched climbing on rock or ice. I have a firm grasp of the rope techniques necessary for pitched climbing and crossing glaciers. I am confident when using crampons and ice axe. I relish the thought of climbing steep rock and ice or traversing an exposed ridge covered in snow and ice. I can abseil, know how to use a prussic knot and make myself safe on basic belay stances.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.