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, to 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.
The objective of the day is for participants to climb an alpine length rock route with instruction and feedback from the guides on the best and most efficient techniques to use on different types of ground. This could be the traverse of ‘Gais Alpin’, which involves sections of pitched climbing as well as sections where we move together with the rope. There is also an abseil descent from a pinnacle along the ridge. This combination of different types of terrain and technique make for an excellent training route and participants will have the chance to lead the rope as appropriate. For those with more experience we may choose a climb on the magnificent ‘Miroir d’Argentine’ – a classic alpine outing to a beautiful summit and a long time favourite with the ISM team. Both of these climbs are done as a ‘long day out’ from Leysin and we return to the Grand Chalet in the evening.
In the morning, we head off to a high alpine hut, where we will spend the rest of the week. One option is to head up and climb around the Almageller hut (2894m) where there a great number of routes and summits both rock and mixed in nature. If we head there then we'll drive from Leysin to Saas Almagell in the Saastal valley close to Saas Fee. It's a good walk into the Almageller hut and once there refresh some ropework skills in readiness for the next day.
After an alpine start, we leave the Amageller hut heading towards the Sonnigpass to climb and traverse the Portjengrat (3653m), which is one of the best climbs of it's type in the Saas Valley. The route involves good navigation, some pitched climbing on fantastic rock, then a variety of short roping techniques and some intricate route finding to reach the summit. From the summit an abseil, some down climbing and more route finding, leads to easier ground and then a walk back to the Almageller hut.
A more relaxed start, after the long day on the Portjengrat we plan to climb and traverse the Dri Hornli. The Dri Hornli is a more technical alpine rock route that requires both good climbing technique in big boots and also good ropework to manage this intricate route. It's a fun day out which we hope will develop those pure alpine rock techniques of ropework, leader placed protection, anchors and safe management in both ascent and descent over the many pinnacles along the ridge.
Our final day at the Almageller hut, we plan to climb the mixed alpine south ridge of the Weissmies (4017m) and descend down the steep north glacier route. It's not always possible to do this classic alpine traverse, but if conditions allow it gives a great alpine mountaineering expedition. We'll initially walk up to the Zwischbergenenpass which will allow us to connect to the mixed and rocky south ridge of the Weissmies. It's maybe a chance for you to pull together the learnt skills over the previous days and lead the rope to the summit. From the summit it's a steep and long glacial descent to Hohsaas and a lift back down to the valley. If conditions dictate that the traverse isn't possible then there are other options for this last day, whether is starting out from Hohaas and climbing the long technical and involved south ridge of the Lagginhorn (4010m) or maybe it's the involved lower ridge traversing the Jagigrat? Both are long technical alpine ascents pulling together the range to technical skills practised throughout the week
Depending on the previous experience and abilities of course participants, there are many other peaks and climbs to choose from in this area.