The Chamonix Classics course is a great week for anybody looking to experience first hand the best of the valley’s alpinism.
This is a flexible 6 day week which can cater for your specific ambitions according to your previous experience and prevailing conditions. We even have the option of relocating in the unlikely event that weather/conditions shut us down in Chamonix. Our low guiding ratio and flexible Chamonix accommodation allow us to make the most of the weather and climb the best routes.
This is also a great week to improve on your own mountaineering skills with the advice and the supervision of our expert guides.
It is also a great week to build experience before our Matterhorn and Eiger climbing weeks.
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.
Set dates for Summer 2016
We run the Chamonix Classics 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.
What's not included
Who is this for?
Accommodation and huts
Our Climb Mont Blanc courses are based in our central 3chalets, Chalet Iceman, Chalet Slider and Chalet Slider – see summer holidays for the listings. Rooms are normally on a twin shared basis with shared bathrooms. The chalets have a fun atmosphere, 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.
You can expect a good atmosphere and a stunning view!
The itinerary for this course is very flexible, so please let us know in advance if you have any requests, likes, dislikes, or things you’d particularly like to work on? Many people come back year after year to enjoy this course, so we try to change the itinerary regularly and make sure that we’re not repeating routes you’ve already done – just let us know and we’ll work with you.
Below is an example itinerary (please note this is just an idea – and subject to change!). Other options include the Aiguille du Peigne, Midi-Plan traverse, Papillon ridge, South face of the Midi, or classic rock routes such as the Frison Roche … the list of possibilities is almost limitless!
We meet Saturday evening at 6pm to go through the weather/conditions and the weeks plans. There should be time to pick up any hire gear youi may need.
Valley Rock climbing – Refresh your rock climbing skills with multi pitch climbing and abseiling in the beautiful Aiguilles Rouges. Stay in Chamonix
Drive to Italy and enjoy the stunning views of the Aiguille de Midi en route to the Traverse of the Entreves – an airy scramble and perfect way to get back into the swing of glacier travel, moving together on rock, and finding your feet in crampons. Stay in the Torino Hut.
An early start, leaving the Torino hut before dawn to tackle the classic Tour Ronde or Dent de Geant – both spectacular climbs from which to enjoy a stunning alpine sunrise. Make your way back towards the Aiguille de Midi to enjoy a relaxing evening and night in the Cosmiques Hut.
A more relaxed day! Climb the classic Cosmiques Arret – another mixed route with an exhilarating mix of snowy ridges, rocky scrambles, and short abseils, before arriving in style to ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ from the tourist viewing platform as you clamber over the barrier and back into the lift station. Cable car back to Chamonix for a relaxing evening in the valley.
A walk up to the Albert Premier hut is the perfect opportunity to hone your mountain safety skills, with a technical safety session on the glacier – incorporating ropework, crevasse rescue and more advanced ice axe and crampon techniques.
Another ‘alpine’ start and long, but exciting, day – finishing off your week with something special. Head up the glacier from the hut towards the Aiguille de Chardonnet, alongside which runs the spectacular Forbes Arret – a mixed climb incorporating a bit of everything you’ve practised during the week. Snowy ridges, scrambling, traverses, rock and ice.
Enjoy spectacular views from the ridge, before heading back down to Chamonix to relax and congratulate yourself on a successful week’s mountaineering!
Good fitness will make it more fun and you’ll get more out of your week! Although 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.
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.
1. Ice axe – for general mountaineering (between 50 and 70cm depending on your height)
2. Standard steel mountaineering 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! Specialised ice climbing crampons are not necessary. We can rent you crampons.
3. Helmet – standard hard plastic climbing helmet. We can rent you a helmet.
4. Trekking Poles – optional, but useful for the training days. We can rent you walking poles.
5. Boots and Gaiters – these must fit and be comfortable. If you buy boots try and make sure they are broken in before the week. 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 B3 grade boots). 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 boots bring your crampons to the shop to make sure they fit well. You can also rent boots in Chamonix.
Gaiters are essential for keeping snow out of the top of your boots and laces away from your crampons. Boots with built in gaiters work well and generally mean that you don’t need an additional pair.
6. Rucksack – 30-50L with a plastic liner (even just a thick bin bag) in case of rain.
7. Waterbottle 1L – not platypus type – they freeze and leak. A light weight thermo bottle for the summit day can be useful too.
8. Harness (adjustable so that it is comfortable over all your layers), 2 screw gate carabiners, belay device, 1 4ft sling.
9. sunglasses (cat 4), goggles, sun hat, Factor 50 High Mountain sunscreen, lip salve/block.
10. 3 sets of socks and light coloured thermal tops.
11. Lightweight GORE-TEX® hooded top & bottoms – make sure pockets are accessible even when wearing a harness.
12. Warm hat, thick gloves (e.g. ski gloves that are warm and waterproof) and a second pair of thin gloves.
13. Insulating layers. We suggest a thin ‘100’ weight fleece and a synthetic duvet jacket. I think a synthetic or down duvet jacket is perfect because you can put it over all your other layers (including GORE-TEX®) if it is really cold without taking anything off. This is very quick and very warm and practical. If you don’t have a down jacketthen make sure you have 1 or 2 thick fleece layers instead.
14. Trousers – there are many brands of fairly wind proof/water resistant trousers for hillwalking/mountaineering. ‘Schoeller’ fabric garments are great but there lots of other good ones too. Bring a pair of lightweight thermal leggings (longjons) too – it can be very chilly on summit day!
15. Personal first aid – blister kit, aspirin, or Paracetamol.
16. Head torch and spare batteries.
17. light weight Book/iPod for spare time in huts and earplugs (there is always someone snoring at night!)
18. Sleeping bag liner for huts (you don’t need a sleeping bag itself as blankets/duvets are provided)
19. Cash (euros) for extra drinks / snacks in huts (allow €20 per hut night but you may well not spend it!)
20. ID, Snack food, if you have an alpine membership card its worth bringing that too. You may also want to bring a small bag of your favourite tea bags as tea bags in the huts are often a bit weak.
Remember kit should be lightweight but functional – you have to carry it!
We can help with equipment rental once you arrive in Chamonix through our partners in resort.
We take a 20% deposit to secure your place on one of our Climb Mont Blanc courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.
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.
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…