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 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 beautiful limestone peaks above Leysin provide an ideal venue to practise and perfect basic rope and climbing techniques. We cover everything from tying in, through belay set-ups and belaying techniques, movement over rock, abseiling and prussiking, to the taking of coils and shortening of the rope for moving together on alpine terrain. The multitude of friendly climbs here gives plenty of scope for introducing the complete novice, as well as coaching and improving the technique of those with previous climbing experience. We return to the hotel for dinner.
We travel to the Moiry glacier, an excellent and easily accessible venue to learn the basics of movement on ice and glacial terrain.We cover crampon and ice axe techniques on different angles of ice, the use of ice screws for protection and belays and good rope technique for safe travel over glaciated terrain.
At the end of the day, we carry on up the glacier a short distance to the Moiry hut, where we spend the night. An evening session at the hut covers the use and interpretation of map and guidebook, relating it to the terrain around us.
We make an early start in the morning to climb one of the peaks above the hut – normally the Pigne de la Lé (3396m). The mixed climbing on the summit ridge provides excellent ground for practicing short rope technique, and participants have the opportunity to lead the rope during the ascent and descent of the peak. From the summit, we descend to the upper Moiry glacier where there is an excellent spot for us to stop and teach the basics of crevasse rescue techniques after which we then head back to the Moiry hut late afternoon, where we spend a second night.
Another early start from the Moiry hut with either an ascent of the Points de Mourti (3563m) to consolidate the learning with another glacial approach and mixed climbing up the NE ridge or an involved descent of the Moiry Glacier developing further the groups glacial travel, crampon and ice axe techniques. Both days culminate in the group descending from the Moiry Hut and back to the vehicles, where we then drive back down to the Rhone valley and head around to Saas Grund where we spend the night in valley based accommodation.
We head up out of the valley on foot to the Almageller hut, which is the starting point for our ascent of the Weissmies (4023m). The approach takes about 4 hours up a good track and has spectacular views of the Mischabel chain, including the Täschhorn, Dom and Monte Rosa. The hut is set beneath the rugged Dri Hornli (3207m), which has many excellent training climbs. Hugo the hut guardian is very welcoming, and the hut itself is as comfortable as any hut in the Alps. If time allows, we head over to the Dri Hornli to climb and to refresh the skills needed for our ascent of the Weissmies next day.
We make another ‘alpine start’, leaving the hut before dawn in order to make our ascent while the snow is still well frozen. We head up to the Zwishenbergen pass and from there climb a snow and ice slope to gain the rocky south ridge. Excellent scrambling and short pitches lead on to the fore-summit, from which an airy snow/ice ridge leads to the top. Again, you can have the opportunity to lead the rope for yourself with the guides giving instruction as necessary. From the summit, we complete the traverse of the peak by descending the impressive glacial North West flank of the mountain down to the Weissmies hut. We continue to descend to the valley via the Hohsass lift system and travel back to the Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin. All the ISM courses meet back here on Friday with most people heading to the Top Pub for the evening to tell tales of the week’s adventures and plan for the future!
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.