Alpine Mountaineering Course – Level 1

Fitness level
Tech level
Number of guiding days
6
Guiding ratio
1:4

Our level 1 Chamonix Alpine Mountaineering Course is designed to give you the skills to climb safely and independently in the Alps, or will provide you with a foundation to enjoy our more technical alpine climbing holidays in the future. This premium course offers a full 6 days of training and climbing and has been carefully designed to teach the skills needed for safe travel on glaciated alpine terrain. The week builds to making an ascent of a classic first alpine 4000m peak, the Gran Paradiso, which makes a perfect climax to the trip. 

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£1050 - £1350

Need further information?

Hey guys. We had an awesome time, thanks again for a brilliant 10 days. Will be in touch soon about some of the other courses I’d like to participate in.

Jonny Briggs

We had a great week – thoroughly enjoyable. Summiting Gran Paradiso brought Sam to tears (happy ones) and the day was awesome – some of the best underfoot conditions imaginable and blue skies too…! Chalet Tissieres is lovely – would struggle to find a more perfect place and setup to use as a base for a mountaineering / climbing trip.

Jeremy Rowley

Im really glad I chose alpine guides; it was obvious to me that you really care about what you do more than just the financial side of things. I got a sense that you wanted to work with clients that actually had an interest in climbing and you worked hard to create relationships with them. I’ve come back feeling really excited about the future and with a firm feeling of what I want to go on to do. Really just want to thank you guys for a unforgettable two weeks 🙂

Ben Berisha

The accomodation, the organisation, Al’s guiding and the route choices were all top notch and I felt like the week led-up well to the Gran Paradiso. I came away feeling proficient in the ropework etc, mainly as Al encouraged us to do it ourselves where possible once we’d learned the initial skill, which is the way I learn best.

Ryan Annett

I am writing to thank you all and in particular Jonny for a truly exceptional week in the Alps. The course more than achieved my main aims of learning some of the skills required for Alpine mountaineering to be used on future trips. It also got me right in among some peaks and gave me a great experience of the Alps. What was particularly impressive was that despite the weather, Jonny managed to put together an outstanding and varied itinerary with every day adding to the experience. I will definitely be returning to the Alps in the future to take my climbing to the next level both with friends and with guides. I will be looking no further than yourselves for future guiding and I will also be fully recommending Alpine Guides to anyone looking for help in the mountains.

Nick Watson

I had a fantastic trip and thoroughly enjoyed every day. The accommodation was great, I was particularly impressed with the Trient Hut, it wasn’t as basic as I expected. Al was a brilliant guide, a font of knowledge, and made me feel safe even on the tricky routes. The itinerary was very well thought out, learning the basics on the first day and building on that through the week… I think you’ll be hearing from us in the future for another adventure…!

Pete Campbell

Firstly I’d like to say I absolutely loved the trip and it was even better than I imagined it to be – Simon was brilliant, really knowledgeable, easy to get along with and even called me out when I did things without thinking, which I actually found very useful. I’m really happy I chose to do the course and that I chose Alpine Guides to do it with.

Max Thompson

Trip overview

Our level 1 Chamonix Alpine Mountaineering Course is designed to give you the skills to climb safely and independently in the Alps, or will provide you with a foundation to enjoy our more technical alpine climbing holidays in the future. This premium course offers a full 6 days of training and climbing and has been carefully designed to teach the skills needed for safe travel on glaciated alpine terrain. The week builds to making an ascent of a classic first alpine 4000m peak, the Gran Paradiso, which makes a perfect climax to 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.

Download factsheet (PDF)

Who is this course for?

If you’d like to begin your Alpine mountaineering career, but you haven’t used an ice axe and crampons, or done any rock climbing or belaying before, then this is the trip for you!

To take part you should be at Tech Level 1 and Fitness Level 2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below) – ie you need good general fitness and experience walking in UK mountains (summer or winter).  If you want to progress onto more technical terrain during the week, then some scrambling or indoor/outdoor climbing experience is also useful, as is plenty of enthusiasm and willingness to learn some new skills!

Important training areas include ropework and rock techniques, snow and ice skills, glacier travel, moving-together, crevasse rescue, route choice and planning, navigation, weather and hazard evaluation.  The program has been carefully planned to maximise climbing time – as moving over a wide variety of alpine terrain is the best (and most enjoyable!) way to build your skills, confidence and experience.  At the end of the week, we put everything into practice by making an ascent of the Gran Paradiso, which is a great first alpine 4000m peak and excellent finale to the course.

  • Full 6 day program
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Valley accommodation options
  • Equipment hire included
  • Climb your 1st 4000m peak!

Read our choosing an alpine climbing course article for help choosing the right skills course.

Trip Reports >> Report 1, Report 2, Report 3


Guiding ratio

One IFMGA guide climbing with 4 clients.


Included in price

  • 6 days of guiding and instruction
  • All guides expenses
  • With valley accommodation option – 4 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals***
  • 3 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meals
  • 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
  • Insurance

Hotels

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.

This course is also available without valley accommodation – so you can choose your own hotel/gite/camp to suit your budget (course price £1050, including guide fees/expenses, local travel and hut fees).


Huts

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.


ABTOT Protected

This trip is protected by ABTOT – Alpine Guides Ltd, Membership Number 5394.  For further information, please visit our Financial Protection page.

Detailed Itinerary

Saturday

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 course planning. We’ll also have maps and guidebooks of the area to show you. 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.


Sunday

alpinfo-ecoledeglaceEcole de Glace – glacier training day

Essential snow and ice training, including crampon and ice axe skills, glacier travel and crevasse rescue – taught on the Glacier du Geant.

These essential snow and ice skills are best learned on an accessible glacier, so in the morning we travel through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Italy and take the Hellbronner cable car up to 3000m, where we can walk straight out onto the glacier. To start the day we look at roping up for glacier travel, practicing knots and ropework before travelling across the glacier to a suitable training venue, practicing how to negotiate crevasses and other hazards along the way.

Once there, we then do a lot of movement coaching – teaching you how to use your crampons and ice axe to best effect and improving both footwork and co-ordination skills. After lunch, we then travel on to another good location for practicing crevasse rescue training:


essentials-crevasseCrevasse 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 and 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 (prussicking self rescue comes later in the week).  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.


Monday

alpintro-hutRope Skills and Hut Approach

AM skills session, rock climbing, belaying, abseiling etc. PM Drive up to Le Tour and walk up to the Albert Premier Hut.

In the morning we head to a valley crag to look at rock climbing ropework skills and techniques; climbing movement skills, belaying, setting up anchors, abseiling etc.

In the afternoon, we then drive up to Le Tour at the head of the Chamonix Valley, take a gondola and chairlift to the Col de Balme and finally walk 2hrs up to the Albert Premier 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 Wednesday.


Tuesday

alpintro-trientTete Blanche West Ridge

The first proper ‘alpine start’! Leaving the hut at dawn we head across a rocky slope to the glacier’s edge, rope up and set off – the plan is to now put everything into practice on a good alpine route.

Starting with glacier travel, we also look at navigation, route finding and alpine hazard awareness along the way – the Le Tour Glacier has plenty of features to negotiate, so is a good place to learn these skills.

The Tete Blanche itself is a relatively short climb, following either a rocky ridge or a mix of snow and mixed terrain depending on conditions, which gives plenty of time to practice moving together on alpine terrain.

Wherever possible, we encourage more experienced climbers to take the lead and climb independently alongside the guide in order to learn most effectively.

Finally, we descend the Tete Blanche, cross the frontier into Switzerland and head to the Trient Hut for the night.

PM Briefing – short talk on alpine rescue, using guidebooks and how to obtain reliable and up to date climbing conditions information.


Wednesday

alpintro-aigtourAiguille Du Tour – from the Trient Hut

Another classic alpine summit, with spectacular views across the Mont Blanc Range from the top.

Areas covered today include route choice, hazard evaluation and moving together on rock and mixed terrain.

You may be traversing the glacier on a separate rope, or climbing alongside the guide for sections of the day, in order to develop sound judgement and decision making skills in real alpine terrain – see alpine advice article.

PM Descend to Chamonix, overnight in valley.


Thursday

alp4000s-prussikingCrevasse Self Rescue and Hut Approach

In the morning we head to a valley crag to do a session of prussicking training.  This is an important skill for getting yourself out of a crevasse and one that must be learnt and mastered in the ‘worst case scenario’ – dangling on the end of a free hanging rope!

In the afternoon we then drive across to the Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy and walk up to the Vittorio Emanuele Hut for the night.

Evening briefing – planning for the ascent of the Gran Paradiso.


Friday

mb-paradiso-towersAscent of Gran Paradiso – via the classic west flank route.

After a pre dawn ‘alpine start’, the route followed depends on conditions – when it’s snowy the glacier route is quickest, but in drier conditions the rock ridge is a better choice. At 3700m, both routes converge, then follow the same line up the glacier to the final summit rocks. Here, a 100m of trickier scrambling lead to the highest point, with geat views and a welcome rest before the long descent.

Alternative 4000m Summits – if weather or conditions prevent us from making an ascent of the Gran Paradiso, then we’ll attempt one of the following other 4000m peaks instead: Allalinhorn, Breithorn, Pyramide Vincente.

Descend to the valley in the evening and drive back to Chamonix – course debrief and advice for the future.


Saturday

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 Geneva after 9-10pm.

Location and Travel

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.


Fitness and Experience

To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Tech Level 1 (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 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.

To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.

Equipment

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.

Technical Clothing

  • 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

Personal Items

  • 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
  • Shorts
  • 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)

Technical Equipment

  • 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 bootsAxe, 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!

Purchasing Equipment
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.

Hiring Equipment
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.


Insurance

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.

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£1050 - £1350