Many superb peaks in the Alps (and perhaps the majority of the best routes!) fall short of the 4000m contour, and whilst we are happy to include a 4000m summit on this course, the emphasis will be on climbing the finest routes and peaks in our chosen areas at the right level of difficulty for course participants.
- A guided climbing course giving the participant a great week of classic alpine mountaineering
- Expert guiding and instruction from experienced ISM Guides
- Price includes all food, vehicle transport and accommodation (excludes mechanical uplift*)
Is This Course For Me?
The course is aimed at people with some previous alpine experience (e.g. our introductory Summits & Skills course), but it is also open to people with experience in winter walking and summer UK scrambling. We normally tackle climbs around the grades of PD/PD+, a standard that typically involves moderate snow climbing with a single ice axe and easy rock scrambling.
To give you a varied climbing week we like to visit two different areas on this course (freshening up with a valley night half way). The plan will take into account your experience and any peaks climbed previously (using information supplied on the Booking Form).We ensure that we climb in areas that are new to you, and will take your aspirations and preferences into account. We head off to enjoy a week of alpine mountaineering based at two of the many fantastic alpine centres in the Swiss Valais and the Swiss side of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Selection of sub-4000m peaks and routes often climbed on this course
- Mont Blanc de Cheilon (PD) - Classic ascent (normal route) from the Dix hut culminating in an exposed rocky crest.
- L'Evêque either by the excellent normal route (PD) or by the W-E Traverse (PD+) – Several pitches of snow and ice climbing to a fine granite crest, which is traversed over two summits.
- Aiguille de la Tsa (Grade III) – Striking spire of rock giving a spectacular yet relatively easy rock climb.
- Petit Mont Collon (PD) – Snow and ice to an excellent rocky ridge leading to an airy summit.
- Mont Brulé (PD+) – gradual ascent along an exciting snow and ice crest forming the top of the north face.
- Arête de la Gouille, Mont Vélan (PD+) - Interesting route to a remote summit in a very secluded part of the Alps.
- Combin de Corbassière and Petit Combin (PD) - Snow climbing to a long and scenic rock ridge which gives one of the finest ‘scrambles’ around!
- Dent de Rosses (PD) - Well situated granite pyramid climbed independently or as part of a traverse from the Pointe de Mourti.
- Fletschhorn (PD) - Classic summit just below 4000m, a steep snow/ice traverse followed by a rocky ridge.
Mont Blanc massif
- Aiguille du Tour Traverse (PD) - Delightful traverse over two summits.
- Table de Roc Couloir, Aiguille du Tour (PD) - Mixed snow and rock route over the famous granite 'Table'.
- Aiguille du Chardonnet (PD+) - Ascent by the normal route up an impressive glacial slope and long couloir.
- Aiguille d'Argentière (PD-) - Normal route via the Milieu Glacier, culminating in a steep snow/ice slope.
- Grande Lui (PD) - Snow and Ice climb on the North face to a remote summit.
*Please note that this course normally runs without taking mechanical uplift and is priced accordingly. If uplift is taken (with agreement of course participants) it is charged as an extra.
This is a sample program as different alpine valleys offer many combinations of peaks and climbs – we will make the selection that best suits course participants.
The course starts with participants and guides meeting at 7.00pm at Le Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin. This is the chance for the guides to give a thorough briefing and discuss the detailed plan for the week with you - and for you to ask any questions that you may have!
After breakfast, we check and issue any climbing equipment needed by course participants. We then travel by minibus, up the Rhone valley then the Val d’Hérens, to Arolla. From the village a good walking track takes us up to the Pas de Chèvres. From this col, a steep (and dramatic) ladder leads down onto the Cheilon glacier, which is crossed easily to the comfortable and very friendly Dix hut, underneath the spectacular North face of the Mont Blanc de Cheilon. The approach to the hut takes 3 to 4 hours and leaves time for a session on the glacier for a review of crampon and axe techniques (or other techniques, as necessary).
We leave the hut at dawn to start our ascent of the Cheilon. A vague track crosses the moraine slopes onto the glacier and a short steep section at the top of this leads to the Col de Cheilon at 3243m. From here, we follow the rocky ridge with some excellent scrambling and short pitches. When the ridge ends we continue up some steep snow slopes until just below 3800m these slopes level out somewhat and we reach the final rocky ridge. This leads quickly (with some exposed climbing and scrambling) to the summit at 3870m. We are rewarded with a stupendous view back down the North face to the hut, as well as a fantastic panorama of mountains all around us. We reverse our route of ascent back to the Dix hut.
We plan to traverse across to the Vignettes hut, taking in the technically easier peak of the Pigne d’Arolla (3796m) on the way. The ascent is all on snow and ice and mostly straightforward, although the first section above the hut has become steadily steeper and more broken as the glacier has receded in recent years. Sometimes it is necessary to detour around and climb the rocks on the side. Above this the going is easier again and the summit itself is another fantastic viewpoint. We descend by the east face to the Vignettes hut with a short steeper section on ice or rocks towards the bottom.
We make a dawn start again to climb the classic route on L'Evêque. From the hut, we drop down onto the head of the Otemma glacier and cross this heading towards the peak. Eventually the snow slopes start to steepen and there are often big crevasses in this region that have to be crossed or bypassed. We reach a flattish area just under the Mitre de l’Evêque and then climb a steeper ice slope to the rocks below the ridge. A short pitch up these leads to the col between the two summits of the Evêque. Some great scrambling on the exposed crest of the ridge lets us climb both of these summits. We descend by scrambling back down to the col and make a short abseil onto the glacier. From here, we reverse our route back to the Vignettes hut and continue down to Arolla for a well-deserved break back in the valley. We stay in a comfortable hotel in Arolla and discuss our plans for the final couple of days over dinner.
We decide on a change of venue and the more remote Mont Vélan as our objective for the end of the week. A drive of about an hour and a half takes us back down into the Rhone valley and then up the Grand St. Bernard pass to Bourg St. Pierre and the start of the walk to the Vélan hut. A very scenic walk up the Valsorey gets us to the hut in 3-4 hours.
We make a very early start again, heading up over moraine onto the Tseudet glacier and climbing this to the Col de la Gouille. A chain helps on the final rocks up to the col. From here, we follow the excellent rocky crest of the arête up towards the summit. The rocks eventually run out and easier snow slopes lead on up to the wide and flat glacial summit. We take an easier route back down on the Valsorey glacier, crossing back over the Col de la Gouille and down to the hut. We continue down and return to our hotel in Leysin in the afternoon.
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.