The course starts with a briefing at 6.45pm at the Tour D'AI hotel in Leysin. This is a chance for you to meet your team mates and Guide and go through the details of the course. There will also be time for you to sort out any equipment you need and for you to ask questions. Dinner will follow the briefing.
The limestone cliffs of the Leysin Tours provide a beautiful venue for you to start with a review of rock climbing skills (belay techniques and set ups, rope work and movement). It gives your Guide a chance to find out exactly ‘where you are’ with your climbing! We move on to cover technical aspects of multi-pitch climbs and descents, lead climbing skills, and to coach your movement on the rock as appropriate. We try to relate crag climbing techniques and rope work to the longer climbs of the Alps and the need for speed and efficiency. As we do throughout this course, we adapt our teaching to your level of experience. We return to the hotel in the evening.
Today we go to a high alpine hut, where we will spend the rest of the week. This is normally in the Trient region (the Swiss side of the Mt Blanc massif) which is an ideal venue as it has a range of suitable climbs for the next days. A short drive to Champex and a chair lift take you up to La Breya from where a couple of hours' walking gets you to the Orny glacier. We will stop on the glacier for a session reviewing basic crampon and ice axe techniques and roped glacier travel. We demonstrate and coach your ice climbing technique with some ‘ice bouldering’ and look at the use of ice screw and Abalakov belays, before continuing up to the Cabane d'Orny where we stay the night.
From the hut we head directly up and havie a multi-pitch rock climbing day, climbing the west ridge of the Aiguille d'Arpette. This allows us to deliver many of the elements around having a safe and fun alpine rock day. You will develop your understanding of the hazards around you, route finding, the rope work and techniques for the different types of rock terrain that you're moving over (helping efficiency in the mountains), placing traditional protection and choosing anchors. On the descent we'll also include safe abseiling techniques, thoughts around lowering and other techniques for the changing terrain to help you get down from a climb safely. It is a great area to really help develop your independence in this environment. We'll spent a second night at the Cabane d'Orny.
We make an alpine start before dawn, as it's best practise to be up on the Trient Glacier whilst everything is still frozen. Once on the glacier, we'll head across the huge Trient Plateau and climb the Tête Blanche (3421m) either via the east or north east ridge. Today we'll focus both on safe glacial travel and mixed climbing. During the day we give thought to the weather and conditions around you, route finding, and adapting the rope techniques for the terrain that you're moving over. You will have the opportunity to refresh skills, such as taking coils and techniques around moving together, short roping and short pitching. You'll be working as independent teams gaining experience around route finding, choosing safe anchors, placing traditional gear, different ice axe and crampon techniques and rope work. We descend via the Col Blanche, experiencing how to manage a steep section of glacier safely, perhaps looking at snow belays and abseiling, before heading across the Trient glacier to stay the night at the Cabane du Trient which is a fantastic hut overlooking the whole Trient glacier basin.
Today we'll look at another alpine rock objective but this time one where you have a glacial approach to get onto it. It's a great chance to consolidate the skills you have learned so far and to work independently to climb the south ridge of the Aiguille Purtscheller (3475m). This route gives classic alpine ridge climbing on perfect granite – all in a fantastic setting! The climbing is all in pitches (up to grade IV alpine) with an awkward chimney to finish and a narrow rock summit. On the awkward sections your ISM Guide will be there to coach you through any sections and to safeguard them as you move through. It's again a chance to develop your independence at this grade in this alpine environment. We descend with several abseils down the mixed ground on the North East side of the peak back onto the Trient plateau. After crossing the Trient plateau we may have some time to refresh and develop your skills and knowledge around crevasse rescue including holding a fall, snow anchors and the rope work needed to help someone safely out of a crevasse. We spend a second night at the Cabane du Trient.
This last day is a chance for you to take real ownership of any glacial travel, route finding and rope techniques needed for getting to a summit safely. Your ISM guide will coach you and give you feedback when they feel it's appropriate. We hope that this day will really help you to develop that feeling of confidence and indenpendence moving forward. In the hut the night before the ISM guide will have discussed the weather and conditions, looked at the map, chosen a suitable summit, and a plan of how the day could play out. One of the summits could be the Aiguille du Tour (3542m) which is a lovely alpine summit to finish on, sitting high above the Trient glacier with great views of all the surrounding peaks and valleys. The descent is back down one of the ridges, again giving you chance to practise different rope techniques on your way back to the Trient glacier.
After crossing the Trient plateau and descending the Orny glacier, we descend to the valley and return to the Tour D'Ai hotel in Leysin on in the late afternoon.
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.