The unspoilt mountain village of La Grave lies in the southern French Alps and is renowned as one of the ice climbing Meccas of France. It’s possible to check out conditions from the hotel window, as the icefalls are so close to town! On our La Grave Ice Climbing Course, we start on the local icefalls around La Grave, then later in the week we usually travel to other top venues around the region such as the Vallon du Diable, Fournel and Ceillac in the Queyras National Park. Short approaches and comfortable accommodation in the hotel Edelweiss, combined with the great variety of climbing on offer, make this an excellent venue for an alpine ice climbing holiday.
For novices 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 e.g. Grand Clot (WI5+) and Erection (WI5).
Trip Reports >> Report 1
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 below). We aim to team you up with a suitably experienced partner on each course, but some variation in experience can usually differentiated by lead coaching the stronger member if appropriate. For intro level courses, 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 before starting the course.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 5 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 6 nights accommodation including breakfast and evening meals
- Local travel in guides vehicle to complete course itinerary
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers to resort
- Equipment hire
Our course base and meeting point is the friendly and comfortable Hotel Edelweiss in La Grave, run by British/Dutch couple Robin and Marlon. The Edelweiss is an excellent base with very good food (and a huge wine list!), drying room, wifi access, a sauna/spa, and a cosy bar – a great place to relax after a day on the ice. Situated in the centre of the village, it’s close to some bakeries, supermarkets and a couple of equipment shops, and there’s a good range of routes available right from the hotel door. 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.
You should arrange outward travel on Sunday, arriving by 6-7pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will discuss plans for the week and check equipment.
Monday to Friday
Classic icefall climbs of the Oisans region, with ascents and skills training tailored to your requirements. Typical coaching areas include:
- Front pointing
- Axe Technique
- Winter Belaying
- Ice screws and protection
- Stance organisation
- Abolakov anchors
- Descending safely
- Lead coaching
- Maximising protection
- Leashless climbing etc
Fri PM – course debrief and advice for the future.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Your course base is La Grave on the northern edge of the Ecrins National Park. This tiny village sits amongst spectacular scenery below the north face of La Meije and is built around the mountain road between Grenoble and Briancon to the east.
The most common way to reach La Grave is to fly to either Grenoble Isere Airport on a Saturday or Turin Airport on a Saturday/Sunday and then take a transfer bus from the airport to La Grave.
Flights and transfers
*** NB All Travel Times are Subject to Confirmation – whilst we await 2021 Timetable Updates ***
- Fly to Grenoble:
- There are 4 transfer buses to La Grave each Saturday, leaving the airport at 9.45, 12.35, 13.55,17.10 to connect with flights scheduled to land at up to 16.25 – book tickets on the Bensbus website – https://www.bensbus.co.uk/ For flights arriving later than this, you can take a Bensbus transfer to Lac du Chambon, then a taxi to La Grave (see details below)
- Four Saturday return Bensbuses run from La Grave back to Grenoble airport (05.10, 8.10, 10.40, 16.00).
- For Sunday flights, it’s possible to get a Bensbus transfer to Lac du Chambon, then arrange a taxi pick up with Taxi de la Meije – http://www.taxidelameije.com/home/ (tel: +33 679 53 45 67)
- For travelling on other days of the week it’s possible to get a bus into Grenoble, then another one on to La Grave – but these are also time restricted.
- Fly to Turin: https://www.skyscanner.net/
- 7 transfer buses run each Saturday to La Grave from Turin airport and 4 run on Sundays – visit the Linkbus website: https://www.linkbus-alps.com/en/ for times and to buy tickets.
- Likewise there are 7 return buses back to Turin airport from La Grave on Saturday and 4 on a Sunday.
- Fly to Lyon: https://www.skyscanner.net/
- There is a direct bus service from Lyon Airport to La Grave for a limited part of the season – each Saturday between 8th Feb and 7th March there are 3 Linkbus buses to La Grave, leaving the airport mid morning, mid afternoon and tea time. Visit the Linkbus website: https://www.linkbus-alps.com/en/ to download timetables and buy tickets. Likewise, Linkbus run return direct buses from La Grave to Lyon Airport on the same dates.
- For all other dates of the season, take a Bensbus transfer to Lac du Chambon – https://www.bensbus.co.uk/ (4 buses on a Saturday, 1 on Sundays and midweek days), then arrange a taxi pick up with Taxi de la Meije – http://www.taxidelameije.com/home/ (tel: +33 679 53 45 67)
- Fly to Geneva.
- Bus from Geneva Airport to Grenoble GR (6 buses a day, travel time ~2hrs): www.aerocar.fr
- Bus from Grenoble GR to La Grave.
Alternatively, hire a car from any airport – driving times to La Grave are 1.45hrs from Grenoble airport, 2.30hrs from Lyon airport and 3 hours from Geneva airport. NB you must hire a car with winter tyres or snow chains – as you will be crossing high mountain passes in winter, where special equipment is compulsory.
Other travel options
- Driving from the UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-12 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 90 Euros each way in tolls).
- Euroline coach: www.eurolines.co.uk/en
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train/bus as above: www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.
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 climbing experience.
Tech Level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking, trekking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons.
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 or equivalent alpine terrain / familiar with multipitch abseil descents.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 or equivalent alpine terrain. 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+/WI5 or equivalent alpine terrain. 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.
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 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.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.