Our Cogne ice climbing weeks are located in Italy’s beautiful Gran Paradiso National Park, at one of the biggest centres for ice climbing in the Alps. With a friendly welcome guaranteed, there is climbing suitable for all levels of ability and experience. There is an amazing variety of climbing on offer, much of it within 20-60 mins walk from the car, situated in high alpine valleys that hold cold air and make Cogne a very reliable venue throughout the season.
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.
Climbing In Cogne
For those just starting out there is an emphasis on teaching basic skills and improving technique, with plenty of routes at WI grade 3. For the more experienced, the area boasts numerous sought after big classics at WI4, with continued coaching in technical and movement skills, and for experienced climbers we can deliver a demanding week tackling some of the areas big classics at WI5 and above. Teams will formed of similar ability/aspirations each week – please enquire for your chosen date.
This trip is suitable for all levels from introductory to advanced level. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 or above and Tech Level 2 or above (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). We aim to team you up with a suitably experienced partner on each course, but some variation in experience can usually be differentiated by lead coaching if appropriate. At introductory level, you need no previous ice experience but should have climbed on rock previously – ie be able to tie on and belay safely. At intermediate level you need some previous snow or ice experience (in Scotland or the Alps) to get the most out of the week, and at advanced level you should have previously climbed Scottish grade IV/V to enjoy the course.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 5 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 5 nights accommodation including breakfast and evening meals (travel home on late Friday flight, or extra hotel night in Chamonix – booked separately if required)
- Travel during the trip in guides vehicle
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers from Geneva to Chamonix
- Equipment hire
Our course base is the friendly and comfortable Hotel La Barme in Valnontey, just 5 mins from the alpine village of Cogne, and within walking distance of many classic ice lines: just put on your boots after breakfast and walk to your route! The hotel is an excellent self-contained base with good food, heated underground parking, drying room, wifi access, bar and sauna etc. It’s a local hub for ice climbers and cross country skiers and a great place to exchange info on route conditions and general climbing chat. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but If you wish to book a single room please let us know at the time of booking and we will confirm availability. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
If you wish to stay in Chamonix for an extra night at the end of your trip, we’ll happily make a recommendation or help you book a room.
You should arrange outward travel on Sunday, arriving in Chamonix by 5-6pm latest in time to meet your guide, and travel onwards to Cogne. 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. PM Overnight in the valley.
Warm up Day – teaching axe/crampon skills and basic movement, or refresher for those who have climbed before.
A good route choice for day 1 is Cascade du Lillaz (3), an excellent 6 pitch climb with easy pitches separated by big snowy platforms – perfect for finding some space and learning the ropes.
Tuesday – Thursday
Classic icefall climbs of the Cogne valley, with ascents and skills training tailored to your requirements. Lots of route choice at all grades, with many routes within 30 mins walk of the hotel. Good examples include:
- Lillaz Gully (4) – a superb mountaineering route up a deep couloir with many interesting and varied pitches.
- Candelabro del Coyote (4+) – a steep cascade style route
- Sentiero del Troll (3) – a long gully with many easy pitches
- Tuborg (4+) – steep columns!
Final Day – we may visit a neighbouring valley en route to Chamonix, eg Val Savaranche, for one of the excellent routes here, such as Rovenaud (4).
Return to Chamonix PM. If you choose to depart on Friday night, please leave plenty of time for repacking and airport transfer. You will typically be back in Chamonix by 4-5pm at the latest, so choose a flight departing after 9-10pm.
Our meeting point for this week is the easily accessed, famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. From Chamonix you will travel with your guide to the village of Cogne – Cogne makes a perfect base for exploring the many spectacular icefalls in this region, with cafes, bars and a good bakery etc.
The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley (must be booked in advance). You should arrange outward travel on Sunday, arriving at Chamonix train station (arrange airport transfer to there) by 5-6pm latest in time to meet your guide. There are a couple of good bars next to the station if you arrive early – Chambre Neuf and Elevation. From Chamonix you will travel in the guides vehicle through to Cogne (1 hr 20 mins drive), arriving in time for the evening meal at your hotel. Return travel should be arranged from Chamonix train station on Friday night, after your final days climbing. You will typically arrive in Chamonix (in guides vehicle) by 4-5pm at the latest, so choose a flight departing Geneva after 9-10pm.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines, for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner 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 Chamonix train station. 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).
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 to 5 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing). Trips are tailored to the ability of the team.
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.
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.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Alpine Ice Kit List
Equipment can take a real hammering in winter-time, so a substantial hardshell is preferred, rather than lightweight summer waterproofs.
- Waterproof Jacket – full weight breathable model preferred
- Waterproof trousers – durable model with 3/4 or full length side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material
- Wicking thermal baselayer tops – synthetic not cotton!
- 2 fleeces – or equivalent insulating mid-layers
- Belay jacket – down or synthetic insulation
- Powerstretch tights or warm mountain trousers – should fit comfortably under your waterproof trousers
- Thin inner gloves
- Warm mountain gloves – Goretex or equivalent water/windproof model
- Second pair of mountain gloves as above – one pair will often get wet
- Hat or balaclava – must fit under a helmet.
- Spare mittens – especially if you suffer from cold hands
- 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+
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
- Rucsac 40-50l – to handle extra winter kit
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch icefall routes (optional)
- *Rigid 4 season mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Technical ice axe and ice hammer
- Crampons – vertically orientated front points are best, or sharp new mountaineering crampons are also fine
- Snowshoes or ski mountaineering equipment for Winter Couloirs/Norwegian ice climbing trips – please contact us for advice
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 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 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.