Our level 3 Technical Alpine Climbing Course in Chamonix is ideal for established UK rock and ice climbers, or those who have tried classic alpine mountaineering and now want to refine their skills and take on bigger objectives. The aim of the week is to develop your existing climbing skills, focusing on alpine specific techniques for moving efficiently over rock, ice and mixed terrain. A low 2:1 ratio all week gives flexibility to tailor each course to suit ability, aspirations and prevailing mountain conditions. **Free climbing equipment rental is included with this course**
Who is this course for?
This is a level 3 (advanced level) skills course. It’s suitable if you either have prior alpine experience, or have climbed at least Scottish II/III in winter and Severe/VS on rock in the UK (or equivalent). If you’re not sure which course to choose – read our choosing an alpine climbing course article, or just drop us a line and we’ll give you some advice!
On this course we will develop your existing skills to allow you to climb quickly and efficiently on longer alpine routes and more technical terrain. Therefore, you need good fitness and sufficient prior experience: to take part you should be at Tech Level 3 and Fitness Level 2/3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You either need to have prior alpine experience, or have climbed at least Scottish II/III in winter and Severe/VS on rock in the UK (or equivalent). This course makes an ideal follow on to our level 2 courses and intermediate level alpine climbing holidays.
The course has been planned to include one day looking at each alpine discipline: multi-pitch rock, snow/ice climbing, and classical alpine ridge terrain on rock/snow/mixed terrain. The week combines a mixture of student lead days, where you are encouraged to work as an independent team with the guide supervising and guide lead days, which allow you to gain valuable experience on longer and more involved alpine climbs. Important areas such as multi pitch abseiling, route planning and advanced crevasse rescue are also covered during the week. Typical routes climbed are in the range PD to D depending on conditions and ability.
- Full 6 day program
- Develop your alpine climbing skills
- Gain experience on longer/harder climbs
- Tick off some classics in the Mont Blanc Range!
- Valley Accommodation Options
- Equipment hire included
Valley Accommodation Options
This course is available with or without valley accommodation – so you can either choose to stay with us at the excellent Chalet Tissieres (course price £1895), or choose your own hotel/gite/camp to suit your budget (course price £1520).
- All guides fess, expenses, local course travel and your hut fees are included in both course options.
NB If you choose to arrange your own valley accommodation, then please read the notes on our factsheet carefully about course briefings and daily pickups before you book accommodation, as you need to be able to meet up easily with the guide and other course members each day – the Chamonix Valley is several miles long!
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding and instruction
- All guides expenses
- With valley accommodation option – 5 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals**
- 2 nights accommodation in mountain hut, 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. **The chef has one night off each week – this day will include bed and breakfast only, but the chalet will recommend an alternative local restaurant. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
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.
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 a detailed discussion of everyones aims and goals for the course, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our tailored 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. Overnight in the valley.
Long Alpine Rock Route
We start the week with a guide led teaching day in order to get you onto a longer, more involved route, so you can really see what it’s all about. The focus for the day is on developing fast and efficient style and learning time saving techniques, on a technical route with an alpine approach and descent.
These core skills are best taught on rock, but apply equally to ice and mixed terrain, so are a good foundation for bigger routes later in the week. We’ll be looking at topics such as stance management, runners, direct belaying, personal climbing style and multi pitch abseiling – covering techniques to save time and energy on longer routes. A number of these are described in our alpine ninja article elsewhere on the site. We also introduce taking in coils and moving together in order to make our approach and descent from the climb – these skills are looked at constantly throughout the week, so it’s important to introduce this topic on day 1.
A typical objective for this day is Lepidopteres in the Chamonix Aiguilles, which is accessed from the mid station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. The route has an intricate approach involving moving together on snow and rock, route finding and short pitching. This leads to an excellent multi pitch rock climb, which tops out on the famous Papillons Arete. Finally, the descent involves abseils, moving together, more route finding and a snow slope to reach easy ground.
Covering such a wide variety of alpine terrain requires good ropework, movement skills and efficient changes of technique throughout the day.
Overnight in the valley.
Student Lead Climbing Day – in the Aiguilles Rouges.
The focus of day 2 allowing you to practice and apply the skills learned on day 1, whilst leading a multi pitch route yourself.
We’ll take either the Brevent or Flegere cable cars out of the valley and head up into the Aiguilles Rouges. Here, the guide will choose an appropriate multi pitch climbing objective, with plenty of varied terrain to cover and a wide variety of techniques required throughout the day. We always choose climbs within your leading grade, that are varied and without excessive time pressure – so that you can practice, learn and try things out.
Typical objectives for the day are the Clocher Clochetons Traverse or the Aiguille de L’Index, both of which are amongst the 100 finest climbs in the Mont Blanc Range.
Overnight in the valley.
Glacier Travel, Moving on Snow and Crevasse Rescue Training
Student leading and training day focused 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 Helbronner 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 make a traverse of either La Vierge South Ridge and/or the Flambeau North Ridge. These linked training climbs offer 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 training session. 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 – only once you’ve exhausted 1 and 2 do you go on to 3!
During this session we will look at how to carry out a simple group hall, before covering advanced crevasse rescue techniques using snow anchors and pulley systems, before heading to the Torino Hut for the night.
Evening Briefing – 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 Wednesday’s climb.
Alpine Ice Climbing Day
On day 4 the plan is to climb an alpine ice route. Typical objectives from the Torino Hut include the Calotte de la Brenva, Tour Ronde – Gervasutti Couloir or North Face, Aig du Toule NW Couloir etc.
We look at key skills related to ice climbing, including ice belays, ice protection and where appropriate, simu climbing. This is a guide leading day, due to the length and serious of the routes.
If conditions aren’t suitable for ice climbing, then we will climb a mixed ridge route, or a longer climb to a major alpine summit such as the Tour Ronde. We are as flexible as possible with our itineraries, in order make best use of conditions – so regularly swap days around in order to get an ice climb done whenever possible.
Overnight at the Torino Hut.
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
Client Leading Day on Alpine Ridge Terrain
From the Torino Hut, today’s objective is to make a traverse of the Aiguille Marbrees. This is a fun alpine ridge traverse with a glacier approach and a wide variety of terrain to negotiate – including easier sections where we move together or simuclimb, short trickier pitches and an abseil descent back to the glacier. Skill areas covered include:
- route finding and navigation
- moving together on rock and mixed terrain
- short pitching and direct belaying
- abseil descending
During the day you will be practicing different ropework and protection techniques and applying them in as many different situations as possible – the guide will be climbing alongside, coaching and supervising and may come into and out of the rope system at different parts of the day.
PM Return to Chamonix. Overnight in valley.
Final Big Alpine Climbing Day
The final day of the course is left more open, being lead by your interests and aspirations. As a team we discuss the weather, current climbing conditions and different options for the day – then come out with a plan.
The idea is to round off the week on a high and to get you thinking and planning more independently for the future, by climbing a technically interesting route with a variety of challenges to deal with. You may decide to get stuck into a big challenge like the Perrons Traverse, take the lead on a route such as the Cosmiques Arete, or push yourself on a harder pitched climb with the guide leading.
Whatever route we climb, the focus is on smooth and efficient climbing style, moving quickly and safely, judging conditions and changing between different techniques as the terrain changes under foot.
Fri PM – course debrief and advice for the future.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation (early departures: if you choose to depart on Friday night, please leave plenty of time for repacking and airport transfer. You will typically be back at the hotel by 4-5pm at the latest, so choose a flight departing after 9-10pm).
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.
Alpine Mountaineering is an endurance sport – ie to get to the summit involves climbing uphill for several hours. Therefore, your fitness and power to weight ratio are very important factors for success. Another important factor is altitude, which people react to in different ways and finally, you need the appropriate technical climbing ability for the trip – please check that you have the correct fitness and tech levels for your trip using the Tech Level and Fitness Level descriptions below.
This is a key factor – you must be at the minimum Fitness Level quoted for your course (see descriptions below). However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly between climbs during the week.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Your personal acclimatization rate
All of our alpine trips involve an acclimatization climb at the start of the week, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on a previous alpine trip, Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training advice page.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
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.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+ or WI5 / alpine routes at grade D and above. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
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.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
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.
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable 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)
- Wicking thermal tops – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- 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 boots – 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 Ilkley offer an excellent mountain 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 the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. 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.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.