With a range of easy-angled ice walls up to 70m in height, the La Gouille icefall in the Arolla valley is the perfect venue to start an ice climbing week. The icefalls are in the afternoon sun and just a short walk from the hotel (15 minutes).The main aim of the first day is to teach personal ice climbing technique to ensure that you are efficient and comfortable on the ice. Placing ice screw protection and rope work for ice climbing is also covered to give a firm foundation for a safe week's climbing. It is also important to be able to cope with the cold winter environment so we spend time on how to stay comfortable whilst on the climb.
We overnight at Pension Lac Bleu, a perfect base adjacent to the ice climbing venue.
La Gouille icefalls. Today we choose a slightly steeper cascade to build on skills of the first day and progress to more technical points that will help you to climb efficiently on steeper ice. As well as coaching your movement on the ice we practise placing and removing ice protection with the safety of a top rope. This particular cascade is a very friendly 30m ice wall with many lines to climb and with a variety of features - such as ice slabs, steep walls and icicles - demanding a range of climbing techniques.
Multi-pitch ice climbing in Val d'Arolla. The first multi-pitch ice climb of the week will be carefully chosen so that we can focus on the rope-work, stance management and safety considerations on the climb. We will choose a route which is at the right level of difficulty for course participants, giving us a very enjoyable and instructive day.
Icefall climbing above Evolene in the Val d'Herens. Today we tackle a slightly steeper and involved climb, probably involving an abseil descent. By now most of the technical/safety aspects of ice climbing will be thoroughly learned so we can enjoy focussing on the more technically difficult climbing demanded by the icefalls at this venue. In the evening we will return to the hotel in Leysin.
The Alpes Vaudoise region has many classic ice cascades within easy reach of Leysin. Depending on prevailing conditions we will choose our venue, probably travelling to Gstaad to climb one of the classic icefalls in the impressive Lauenen valley. The rock architecture here is breath-taking and there are many fine ice lines. Another option is the classic ice runnel at Gsteig which gives a very atmospheric outing.
Breakfast is included before departure on the Saturday morning.