Technical Alpine Rock

An adventurous and challenging week of technical alpine rock climbing in both the Swiss Valais and further east of the Bernese Oberland.

Level 3 Guiding & Coaching

6 days, 7 nights

Ratio: 2:1

Prerequisites: Classic AlpinISM (Instructional Course) Or equivalent

Price: £2045

 Course Dates

These areas are home to many limestone faces, ridges and granite spires and this course provides the opportunity for a mid-range rock climber to unlock some of the riches of rock climbing in the Alps. You will climb some of the longer multi-pitch routes up to beautiful alpine summits in wild and rocky alpine settings. There is an abundance of excellent multi-pitch alpine rock routes at lower altitudes throughout the Swiss Alps (which is also much quieter than places such as Chamonix) and the area offers a wide range of routes and peaks for the mid-range rock climber so that we can adapt the grade and what we climb to the participants on the course.

Course Highlights

  • A guided rock climbing week on challenging technical routes in Central Switzerland
  • Price includes all food, vehicle transport and accommodation (excludes mechanical uplift*)
  • Expert guiding and instruction from experienced ISM Guides

As well as being a mecca for technical rock routes in an alpine setting (classics include the South Ridge of the Salbitschijen and the Graue Wand), peaks like the Galenstock (3583m) and the Dammastock (3630m) throw down challenging ridges which give tremendous mountaineering outings. We will enjoy both styles of climbing on this course and sample at least two different parts of the region.

Is This Course For Me?

This course will suit people who rock climb fairly regularly (either indoor or outdoor), who can follow at least grade 5 (Very Severe, American 5.7) in rock shoes and who are confident of their climbing fitness.

It essential that you bring comfortable rock shoes suitable for long multi-pitch routes, also lightweight approach shoes in addition to mountain boots. UK-based climbers needing to push up their grade/experience are recommended to climb with us in the UK first (see our UK Rock Climbing Courses page).

A basic amount of alpine climbing experience is necessary as possibly getting to the base of a climb or descending from a summit may require you wearing crampons and possibly using a walking axe. For the most part though you will be climbing in rock climbing shoes, so a compfy pair of rock shoes is essential for long multi-pitch days in the mountains.

We climb on a low 2:1 guiding ratio, which gives us flexibility to match levels of experience, climbing grade and fitness within the group - and to climb some challenging routes.

Course Content

Peaks and routes that can be climbed on this course

  • Salbitschijen (2981m),South Ridge (V/V+). One of the best routes of its grade in the Alps: perfect granite, highly photogenic and having some unforgettable pitches.
  • Galenstock (3583m). South-to-North traverse, grade III (AD), a great mountaineering day.
  • Gletschhorn (3305m), South Ridge (III). This classic mountain rock route route gives a good shorter day from the Albert Heim hut.
  • Gross Bielenhorn (3206m), SE Ridge (grade IV+). An excellent varied alpine rock route.
  • Klein Bielenhorn (2940m), South Face. Very accessible and offering a choice of routes at grade V+ and VI (British HVS & E1, American 5.8 & 5.9) climbed in rock shoes.
  • Klein Bielenhorn (2940m) West Ridge (IV). The classic route of the peak, an excellent rock ridge of wonderful granite.
  • Dammastock (3630m), East Rib (grade III, AD). The east side of the highest peak in Central Switzerland offers impressive rock and ice climbing of a serious mountaineering nature. The best route takes the E Rib which leads to the N Summit.
  • Graue Wand (3172m), classic South Face route (grade VI). Fantastic sustained climbing up a magnificent wall which is one of the showpieces of Central Switzerland.
  • Winterstock (3203m). Triple-summited peak close to the Albert Heim hut. Routes of all lengths and grades including the very challenging, 1100m-long South Ridge.

*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.

Sample Programme

(In this example we stay in the Furka area, however it is equally feasible to transfer to the Salbit hut on the Tuesday and climb the South Ridge of Salbitschijen on the Wednesday or Thursday plus other routes in this area.)

Saturday evening
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, to discuss the detailed plan for the week with you and to check any equipment needs.

We drive along the Rhone valley to the Rhone Glacier and the Furka pass. The Sidelen hut is a perfect place to start the week and is reached in 1.5 hrs walking. We climb a 'warm-up' route near the hut in the afternoon and check/refresh the alpine skills and ropework required for the course.

The South-East ridge of the Gross Bielenhorn (3206m) is an excellent first objective, being long and varied with several pitches of IV+. There are short-roping sections and the descent is quite complex with several short abseils, making this a great route for practising the full range of alpine rock skills. Overnight at Sidelen hut.

For a more technical challenge today we can choose one of several routes on the south face of the Klein Bielenhorn. This is reached in 25 mins from the Sidelen hut. Routes on the face itself are all V+ or VI and around 8 pitches. A less technical option is to traverse the peak via the West Ridge (IV) which gives an excellent mountaineering day. We descend in the afternoon and walk up to the Albert Heim hut (1.5 hours)

There is a choice of superb objectives for today. Strong rock climbers will probably want to attempt the Graue Wand (VI), the most famous route in the area taking a series of fissures up an absolutely stunning 400m granite face. If you prefer a first-class mountaineering day, then the traverse of the Galenstock from south to north (grade III rock, overall grade AD) fits the bill exactly. Either objective requires good weather, so if the forecast is better for the Thursday then plans for these two days may be juxtaposed.

The South Ridge of the Gletschhorn (3305m), grade III+, is very enjoyable indeed and gives course participants an opportunity to do some lead-climbing ( with instruction from the guide and at the guide's discretion) or simply to enjoy a less pressured day. It can be climbed entirely in mountain boots or carrying rock boots for the hardest pitches.

The Winterstock (3203m) is the closest major peak to the Albert Heim hut, rising in a series of huge towers. We will attempt a route on the First Tower, either taking the first section of the massive South Ridge (V/VI) or one of the more recent routes on the SW face. Return later in the day to Leysin and the Grand Chalet hotel for an evening meal.

Saturday morning
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.

Course Dates

Week Start Finish Price  
28 4 Jul 2020 11 Jul 2020 £2045
30 18 Jul 2020 25 Jul 2020 £2045
32 1 Aug 2020 8 Aug 2020 £2045
34 15 Aug 2020 22 Aug 2020 £2045