Alpine Essential Skills

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Introduction

Do you want to learn the skills needed to travel safely across glaciers?

Have you ever wondered how to secure yourself on a ridge walk?

Our Alpine Essential Skills course is one of our original and most popular courses. We designed it to teach you all the fundamental skills for climbing in the Alps. This will help you to become more independent in the mountains. We still remember what it felt like way back at the beginning, when the mountains were also unknown territory to us!

During this 5 day course we will start with alpine rock climbs and scrambles while we acclimatise. We will then learn appropriate ropework and belaying skills on the way.

The second part of the week we spend in the high glaciated mountains of the Mont Blanc massif. We will take in two quality peaks while we learn appropriate crampon, rope and crevasse rescue techniques.

Have a look at our blog for a teaser of what to expect.

Clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button opposite, will open a new tab/window in your browser and direct you to our online tour booking system. Here you can check the course dates and availability.

Course Details

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Location

We run the Alpine Essential Skills course from our base in Chamonix, France. Chamonix is an exciting destination for any adventure enthusiast, it is the capital of alpinism and an incredibly inspiring town to visit. Chamonix is easy to access via Geneva International airport which is serviced by most of the major airlines.
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Further Information.

What's included
  • Mountain huts at full-board
  • Guides expenses
  • Guiding fees
  • In resort transport
  • Chalet accommodation (BnB with packed lunch)
What's not included
  • Transport to/from Chamonix
  • Uplifts according to itinerary
  • Equipment rental
  • Travel insurance
  • Evening meals when in Chamonix
  • Snacks, Bottled water, beers, drinks in huts
Who is this for?
A perfect week for alpine first timers or old hands looking for a great week’s climbing, while brushing up their skills. A good level of fitness and previous hill walking and / or scrambling experience is all you need for this course. Previous rock climbing experience is a bonus, but not necessary.
Accommodation and huts

Our Alpine Essential Skills courses are based in our central Chalet Pele – see summer holidays for the listings. Rooms are normally on a twin shared basis with shared bathrooms. The chalet has a fun atmosphere and there are often other like minded people staying in the chalets who are on various other courses. Chamonix town is a short 5 minutes walk away with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes.

What to expect from mountain huts

They are basic but comfortable. They can cater for vegetarians. Food is usually on a set menu basis (3 course in the evening, hot drink and bread/jam/cereal for breakfast). Often there is no running water and you have to buy water to drink and wash with (no showers). You can usually buy tea, coffee, wine, beer, soft drinks, chocolate bars and snacks.

Sleeping arrangements are normally dormitory style bunkbeds (eg 6 people on the bottom, 6 on the top) with blankets or duvets. No sleeping bags are needed, rather a ‘sheet sleeping bag’ should be brought. The huts provide slippers for wearing around the hut. On this course we ask the hut guardians to provide a packed lunch for the team each day.

Typical Itinerary

We meet on Sunday evening to go through the weather/conditions and plan for the week.

Day 1:
Multipitch rock climbing and abseiling techniques in Chamonix valley. Stay in Chamonix.

Day 2:
Traverse of the Clocher-Clochetons or Aig Crochue in the Aig Rouges, stay in Chamonix. A day looking at scrambling and ‘short roping’ skills.

Day 3:
Traverse the glacial Vallee blanche from the Aig du Midi to Pt Helbronner. Overnight in the
Torino hut. A day looking at glacier travel skills and crevasse rescue.

Day 4:
Climb the Tour Ronde and overnight in the Cosmiques hut. Putting all the skills in practice!

Day 5:
Climb Mt Blanc du Tacul and return to Chamonix. A final day polishing your new skills.

Day 6:
Departure

Training

Good fitness will make it more fun! Although this is an introductory course, and we will tailor the course to your ability, we definitely recommend getting as fit as possible before you start. The process of training for your goal will help you focus on your goal – and having a goal will help you focus on your training. So all in all training is good!

Mountaineering is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 12 hours) and your training should reflect this. Probably the best training is going on long days hill walking as this simulates the real thing as closely as possible and prepares the mind (exercising for long periods in poor weather requires mental strength!).

However not everyone has the opportunity to do this and so alternatives such as jogging, cycling and gym workouts are good.
The focus should be on training Cardiovascular Endurance for long days in the mountains, and upper body strength for climbing.
For cardio cycling/running/rowing machines are much better than weight training. Try and exercise for up to a couple of hours at a time, 4 times a week. For climbing, core stability, flexibility and balance are as important as strong arms and shoulders. Don’t just lift weights!

Try yoga, swimming, pilates etc too. Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury.

Try and choose an activity that you enjoy and keep a note of what you do and your times – this really helps with keeping the motivation up. If you are not used to training then your local gym will be able to advise you on a plan and schedule to help you achieve your goals.

Training does not work overnight! The fittest athletes train as part of their lifestyles and have been doing it for years. Consider training for a good couple of months before coming out to the Alps.

The Effects of Altitude

As one climbs higher the air gets thinner and so there is less oxygen in each breath we take. The higher we go the less oxygen there is. This makes exercising much harder work than at sea level and so we have to slow down to help compensate. Because we have slowed down, we may feel colder.

Because there is less oxygen in the air as we get higher, this can lead to ‘altitude sickness’ or Acute Mountain Sickness which is like the worst hangover you have ever had (headache, nausea, weakness, fatigue, dizziness) and can develop into a very serious and even fatal (in extreme cases) problem.

To avoid these problems, enjoy the climbing and increase our chances of summiting we need to acclimatise by spending several days and nights at progressively higher altitudes, so our bodies can adapt. This is a very important part of our preparation.

Kit List

Pre-Book with Adventure Base:
Black Diamond Saber-tooth crampon rental 6 days €45.00
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe rental 6 days €35.00
Black Diamond climbing harness rental 6 days €30.00
Black Diamond Half Dome helmet rental 6 days €25.00

Select which extras you would like to pre-book at check-out. Please note we have limited stock so pre-booking is advised.

1.Ice axe – for general mountaineering (at least 50cm long)

2. Crampons – 12 point crampons for general mountaineering with anti-balling plates. Whether strap on or clip on models they must fit your boots well. When buying crampons bring your boots to the shop so they can fit them for you – that way you can avoid buying incompatible ones!

3.Helmet – standard hard plastic climbing helmet.

4. Trekking Poles – optional

5. Boots – these must fit and be comfortable. They should either be ‘plastic’ or high-end insulated leather (not fabric) and must be compatible with your crampons. Your boots should be stiff-soled (also known as B2 or B3 grade boots in the retail world). If your boots are not stiff enough not only will it compromise your comfort when walking/kicking steps in hard snow but also compromise your safety as crampons are more likely to fall off or even break. When buying or renting boots bring your crampons to the shop to make sure they fit well.

6. Rucksack – 20-30L

7. Waterbottle 1L

8. Harness (adjustable so that it is comfortable over all your layers), 2 screw gate karabiners, belay device, 1 8-foot sling.

9. Sunglasses (cat 4), goggles, sunhat, sunscreen, lip salve/block 10. 3 sets socks and light coloured thermal tops.

11. Lightweight gore-tex hooded top and bottoms – make sure pockets are accessible even when wearing a harness.

12. warm hat, thick gloves (eg ski gloves), thin gloves.

13. Insulating layers.

14. Trousers – there are many brands of fairly windproof/shower resistant trousers for hillwalking/mountaineering. ‘Schoeller’ fabric garments are great but there lots of other good ones too.

15. Personal first aid – blister kit, ibuprofen.

16. Head torch and gaiters.

17. Book/iPod for spare time in huts and earplugs (there is always someone snoring at night!)

18. Sleeping bag liner (you don’t need a sleeping bag as duvets/blankets are provided in huts)

19. Cash (euros) for extra drinks / snacks in huts.

Remember kit should be lightweight but functional – you have to carry it! We can help with equipment rental in Chamonix.

Booking info

To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, please get in touch through the website or by phone on +33 (0)845 527 58 12.

We take a 20% deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.

Insurance

We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue.

Make sure that it covers glaciated mountaineering and climbing. We recommend the Dogtag (www.dogtag.co.uk) – they have comprehensive policies and a good reputation.

Confirming bookings

We need a minimum of three climbers to confirm this course. Your booking will remain pending if you are the first to book onto a course and we will send you a confirmation as soon as a hte course is confirmed. We recommend not booking flights till the course is confirmed. We will confirm the course at the latest 6 weeks before the start date.

Getting to Chamonix

It is best to book flights and airport transfers well in advance of your departure.

Easyjet have many cheap flights to Geneva from all over the UK. Swiss Air have cheap and convenient flights from London to Geneva.

Booking a place on a minibus airport transfer service is by far the best way to get from Geneva airport to Chamonix (it takes about an hour or so, is cost effective and is a door to door service). We can book your airport transfers at a competitive rate – just email us with your flight details…

Guy Willett

“The perfect course for all budding alpinists – one of our original and most popular courses”
Guy Willett, Founding director and IFMGA Guide

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