La Gouile Copy

Ice Climbing Skills

This course is designed to give a very thorough and enjoyable introduction to ice climbing, blending instruction in all the important skills with climbing on the magical frozen cascades of the Valais Alps and the Alpes Vaudoises.

Level 1 Instruction & Coaching

5 days, 6 nights

Ratio: 3:1

Price: £1245*

* Fully inclusive price

 Course Dates

We start on single pitch ice climbs where skills and techniques can be taught in a less pressured environment, then throughout the week we progress (at a pace which is right for course participants) to more challenging and longer, multi-pitch ice climbs.


The course begins in the Val d'Arolla where there are quiet, reliable icefalls which are easy to access, and then we tackle some more adventurous ice climbs in the Val d'Herens and the Alpes Vaudoise.

The Val d'Arolla is a well-known alpine resort, but it is much quieter in winter than other alpine resorts as it has limited uplift for skiing. This gives a tranquillity and old world charm to the valley, making it a very attractive venue for a winter climbing trip.

The Val d'Herens is also home to some impressive 4000m peaks such as the Dent Blanche and the Dent d'Herens.

Is This Course For Me?

The course is suitable for beginners to ice climbing and for people with experience of using ice axe and crampons in the Alps in summer (or Scottish gullies in winter). The course will also suit people who have some experience of climbing steep ice with two ice tools but who would like a more solid foundation in all the skills and techniques demanded by ice climbing. These include personal climbing skills, the use of various technical axes, ice climbing rope work and all the important safety aspects of the sport. We also give a solid foundation in Avalanche avoidance - a vital consideration for any ice climbing whether in the Alps or elsewhere.

Experience and Fitness. Some rock climbing experience (both indoor and outdoor) is useful for the course, and the better your knowledge of climbing rope work the more you will be able to focus on specific ice climbing skills. Good general fitness is required for any mountain activity, and for ice climbing upper body fitness is also important. Activities such as indoor or outdoor rock climbing will be found very beneficial for ice climbing.

Sample Programme

Day 1
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.

Day 2
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.

Day 3
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.

Day 4
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.

Day 5
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.

Day 6
Breakfast is included before departure on the Saturday morning.

Course Dates

Week Start Finish Price  
3 14 Jan 2018 20 Jan 2018 £1245 Full
4 21 Jan 2018 27 Jan 2018 £1245 Full
5 28 Jan 2018 3 Feb 2018 £1245 Full
6 4 Feb 2018 10 Feb 2018 £1245 Full
7 11 Feb 2018 17 Feb 2018 £1245 Full
8 18 Feb 2018 24 Feb 2018 £1245
9 25 Feb 2018 3 Mar 2018 £1245
10 4 Mar 2018 10 Mar 2018 £1245