The course starts with participants and guides meeting at 6.45pm at Le Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin. This is the chance for the guides to give you a thorough briefing on the details of the course, sort out any particular personal equipment requirements and for you to ask any questions that you may have!
The limestone cliffs of the Leysin Tours provide a beautiful venue for us to start with a review of rock climbing skills (belay techniques and setups, rope work and movement) within the context of an enjoyable climbing day. It gives the 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 the level we teach each of these things to your level of experience. We return to the Grand Chalet in Leysin in the evening.
In the morning, we head off to a high alpine hut, where we will spend the rest of the week. This is normally in the Orny/Trient region (the Swiss side of the Mt Blanc massif) as it provides the ideal venue having a very wide range of suitable climbs for the next days. A short drive to Champex and a chair lift take us up to La Breya from where a couple of hours walking gets us 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 Ablakov belays, before continuing up to the cabane d'Orny.
From the cabane d'Orny we'll head directly up from the hut and focus on having a multi-pitch rock climbing day, climbing the west ridge of the Aiguille d'Arpette. It's a great day, allowing us to deliver many of the elements around having a safe and fun alpine rock day. You'll develop your understanding of the hazards around you, route finding, the ropework 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 descent we'll also include safe abseiling techniques, thoughts around lowering and other techniques for the changing terrain to get down from a climb safely. It's a great area to really help develop peoples independence in this environment. We'll then spent a second night at the cabane d'Orny.
We make an alpine start before dawn, as it's best practice to be up on the Trient glacier while everything is still frozen. Once up on the glacier, we'll head across the huge Trient Plateau to climb the Tête Blanche (3421m) via either the east or north east ridges. Today we'll focus on both safe glacial travel and mixed climbing via one of the ridges on the Tête Blanche. It's an alpine mountaineering day where we give thought to both the weather and conditions around you, route finding, and adapting the rope techniques to the terrain that you're moving over, giving us the opportunity us to refresh skills such as taking coils and teach 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 ropework etc. We'll descend via the Col Blanche, experiencing how to manage a steep section of glacier safely maybe looking at snow belays and abseiling, before heading back 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 pull together many of the learnt skills over the past few days 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 any of the awkward sections the ISM guide will be there to either help coach you through any sections of to safeguard them as you move through. It's again a chance to develop your independence at this grade and 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'll hopefully have some time to refresh and develop peoples skills and knowledge around crevasse rescue looking at holding a fall, snow anchors and the ropework around helping someone out of a crevasse safely. We then 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 used getting to a summit safely, with the ISM guide just coaching and giving you feedback when they feel it's appropriate. We hope that this last day will really help 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 practicing different rope techniques descending safely to the Trient glacier.
After crossing the Trient plateau and descending the Orny glacier, we descend to the valley and return to the Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin later that Friday afternoon.
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.