Our level 2 Alpine Apprenticeship Course allows you to develop your Alpine climbing skills and tackle a diverse range of peaks in two contrasting areas of the Alps. Aimed at climbers with existing UK winter and summer experience, or those who have climbed in the Alps before, this trip will build on your skills and knowledge and allow you to break into the PD/AD grade range – where technical climbing skills become a necessity for safe progression. Climbing at a low 3:1 ratio all week allows us to tackle more technical terrain and opens up a range of exciting summits, including a classic Swiss 4000m peak in the second half of the trip.
Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
Who is this course for?
If you have already have some basic climbing experience gained either in the UK or the Alps, and you’re keen to tackle some more exciting Alpine peaks, then this is the course for you!
Important areas covered include glacier travel, moving together, crevasse rescue, rock climbing and anchor selection, route choice and planning, navigation, weather and hazard evaluation. The program has been carefully planned to maximise climbing time, and also to showcase 2 very different mountain areas, providing variety and helping to expand your knowledge of the Alps. Firstly, Chamonix is a perfect base to facilitate our training, with its superb variety of granite peaks and rapid cablecar access, allowing us to pack each day with summits and skills. Then, in the second half of the week, we visit the Saas Valley in Switzerland, with its fantastic collection of 4000m peaks. Here, we put everything into practice by making an ascent of the SE Ridge of the Weissmiess, which is a memorable route on a classic Swiss 4000er. This is a perfect long route to find your rhythm, practicing route-finding and Alpine rope skills over enjoyable scrambling terrain, finishing with a majestic final snow ridge to the summit.
To take part you should be at Tech Level 2 and Fitness Level 2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need good general fitness and previous experience using an axe/crampons (eg Scottish grade I/II climbs or snowy alpine terrain), and also rock climbing experience to around V Diff standard, including sound belaying skills. This course makes a perfect follow on to our Level 1 Alpine Mountaineering Course. If you’d like to practice some skills in the UK before the trip, then take a look at our Lake District rock climbing weekend and North Wales rock climbing weekend, which both make for an ideal warm up.
- Full 6 day program
- Develop your alpine climbing skills
- Explore two contrasting areas of the Alps
- Valley accommodation options
- Equipment hire included
- Climb a classic Swiss 4000er!
Read our choosing an alpine climbing course article for help choosing the right skills course.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 3 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding/instruction
- All guides expenses
- With valley accommodation option – 4 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meal
- 3 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal
- Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary
- Equipment hire: ice axe, crampons, helmet, harness and belay kit
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Cable cars
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
Our meeting point and Chamonix valley base is Chalet Tissieres in Les Bossons, just 5 mins by car/bus from Chamonix centre. The chalet stands in its own 2000m2 alpine garden with stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the entire Chamonix valley. It offers simple but comfortable shared rooms, a large lounge/dining area, honesty bar, and a huge balcony for al fresco dining on warm summer evenings: a great place to relax after a big day in the mountains. The chalet serves a buffet breakfast and varied 3-course evening meal, with special diets catered for upon request. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
This course is also available without valley accommodation – so you can choose your own hotel/gite/camp to suit your budget (course price £1595, including guide fees/expenses, local travel and hut fees).
For overnights in the high mountains, we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
Please Note: there are numerous different huts in the region and we frequently vary our itineraries to suit conditions and hut opening times etc – eg we may start the week based at the Orny, Trient or Moiry Huts instead of the Torino Hut, then move on to the Almageller Hut on Wednesday as described below. We cover the same skills and training on each course.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment for the week, before we go on to discuss everyones’ aims and ambitions for the course, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our course planning.
We’ll have maps and guidebooks of the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the valley.
Core alpine skills training – at the Aiguille du Brevent.
The course starts with a shakedown and skills development day in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix. We start with a cable car ride to the top of the Aiguile du Brevent, then descend or a few minutes to an excellent training ground of rocky buttresses and interesting terrain.
The exact program followed depends on everyones’ skills at the start of the week – but generally we start by refreshing core ropework and climbing skills, then move on to taking in coils and moving together on a shortened rope. Techniques such as short pitching and direct belaying are also introduced, as we make our way up the mountainside to a good spot for practicing and refreshing abseiling skills. These are all fundamental techniques that we’ll use and develop each day through the rest of the course.
Key skills covered:
- core skills refresher – ropework and moving on rock
- tying on and taking in coils – for glacier travel and moving together
- introducing moving together – on a protected training climb
- abseiling practice and training
PM Return to Chamonix. Overnight in the valley.
Petit Flambeau North Ridge – and crevasse rescue training
Skills training focussing on moving together on snowy alpine terrain and crevasse rescue training. The day starts with a drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, in order to use the Hellbronner Cable Car on the Italian side of the range to access the Torino Hut.
After dropping off overnight kit at the hut, we rope up and cross the glacier, in order to climb the Petit Flambeau North Ridge. This is a great little training climb, with a mixture of scrambling and short pitches on rock, followed by a steepening snowy ridge/face that leads us to the summit.
Skills covered include:
- glacier travel
- moving together on snow
- alpine hazard awareness
From the top, we make a short descent to a large wind scoop, which makes a perfect location for practicing crevasse rescue training:
Crevasse Rescue Training
In the afternoon we do a crevasse rescue session, covering skills appropriate to your ability and experience.
If someone on your rope falls into a crevasse, then get down on the ground immediately and dig your axe and crampons in to hold the fall. If they can’t simply climb out with the aid of a tight rope, then you have three rescue options:
- A Group Haul – this is a safe, simple solution with 3 or more rescuers.
- Self Rescue by Prussicking – the victim prussicks up the rope to escape the crevasse.
- A full blown Crevasse Rescue – 0nly once you’ve exhausted 1 and 2 do you go on to 3!
During this session, we start by practicing a group haul. We should also have time to cover use of ices screws and/or making snow belays. For those with experience building snow and ice belays, we may alternatively cover more advanced crevasse rescue skills if appropriate.
Finally, we head to the Torino Hut for the night. After a communal evening meal in the hut, our evening briefing looks at using alpine huts, alpine weather forecasts and alpine route planning – preparing for the climb on Tuesday.
Traverse of Aiguilles Marbrees
From the Torino Hut – skill areas covered include:
- route finding and navigation
- moving together on rock and mixed terrain
- short pitching and direct belaying
- abseil descending
During coaching and training sessions, you will be practicing different ropework and protection techniques and applying them in as many different situations as possible – in order to develop sound judgement and decision making skills in real alpine terrain. If you have rock leading experience, then we’ll also look at short pitching and direct belaying techniques during the day.
PM Return to Chamonix. Overnight in valley.
Hut Approach and crevasse self rescue (prussicking training)
A change of country today! In the morning we make a 2hr drive across to Saas Almagel in Switzerland and walk up to the Almageller Hut. The approach starts with a short chairlift ride, followed by an idyllic 2.5hr walk up via Almageller Alp. We’ll stop for a picnic lunch en route and arrive at the hut mid afternoon.
After checking in to the hut, we’ll then head out to a nearby training crag and do a prussicking session. This is an important skill for getting yourself out of a crevasse…
PM Briefing – short talk on alpine rescue, using guidebooks and how to obtain reliable and up to date climbing conditions information. Preparing for the climb on Thursday
Ascent of the Weissmies – via the classic SE Ridge.
After a pre dawn ‘alpine start’, we make our way up to the Zwischbergenpass and then turn left to approach the SE Ridge of the Weissmies via a series of snow slopes. Once on the ridge, the climbing is varied and interesting with a succession of short scrambly pitches – depending on how much snow there is on the route, we’ll decide whether or not to wear crampons along this section. The ridge gains height to a flatter snowy section at 3900m, where finally a classic alpine snow crest leads to the summit. Here we enjoy some amazing views and a welcome rest, before starting the long descent.
If weather conditions prevent us from making an ascent of the Weissmies on Thursday, we’ll swap the final two days around in order to use our best weather window for the ascent. Alternatively, we’ll tweak the program and attempt one of the following other 4000m peaks instead: Allalinhorn, Breithorn, Gran Paradiso, Castor, Pyramide Vincente.
PM Return to the Almageller Hut for the night.
Evening Briefing – preparing for the climb on Friday.
Mittelruck South Ridge – or Dri Horlini Traverse
We finish the week with a more technical alpine route, featuring a mixture of pitched climbing and moving together. The focus is on decision making and efficient changes of technique to match the evolving terrain. The South Ridge of Mittelruck is a quality climb on good rock and is always very quiet.
With an experienced trad leading team, we may alternatively climb the Dri Horlini, which is slightly harder and a classic rocky ridge traverse overlooking the hut.
Fri PM. Descend to the valley in the afternoon and drive back to Chamonix – course debrief and advice for the future.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
(Due to the drive back from Switzerland on the final day, it isn’t a good idea to plan on flying directly home on Friday night following the end of this course – as there is a risk you could miss your flight!)
We base ourselves for the week in the famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Chamonix is one of the most famous Alpine centres in the world, with an unparalleled range of quality climbing across all grades and styles, and much of it with convenient cablecar access. The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley – transfers will drop off at the destination of your choice, but must be booked in advance.
Flight and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Tech Level 2 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
Tech Level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Wicking thermal top – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Softshell Jacket – mid weight, wind resistant, light insulating layer (or a mid weight fleece jacket)
- Spare warm layer – lightweight synthetic/down jacket or other warm layer
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock climbing shoes – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for climbing and mountaineering activities as outlined in the course itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.