Whether it is mountain ice or frozen waterfalls, Chamonix ice climbing is superb. The ‘thunk,thunk’ of your axes bedding into the ice, and the beauty of the mountains in winter is hard to beat … These courses are great action packed weeks, ice climbing everyday and returning to our chalet base each evening.
We offer both Ice climbing weeks and Ice climbing weekends – get in touch for bespoke quotes.
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We run the Ice climbing 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. It is a 1h30 drive from Chamonix to Cogne in Italy, if conditions favour we will spend half the week in Cogne.
What's not included
Who is this for?
So whether you want to climb hard routes, learn to lead or this is your first introduction to the world of ice climbing this is a great week.
Accommodation and huts
Our Ice Climbing courses are based in our central 3chalets, Chalet Iceman, Chalet Slider and Chalet Viper – 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.
Sunday: We meet in Chamonix at the chalet on Sunday evening to prepare for the next 5 days of ice climbing action.
Monday – Friday: 5 days ice climbing frozen waterfalls around Chamonix at venues such as the Argentiere basin, Trient, Chatelard and if conditions dictate, in the high mountains of the Mont Blanc massif. Likewise, we often spend a day ice climbing in Cogne (1.5hrs drive) or Kandersteg (2.5hrs drive). This combination really provides some of the best ice climbing courses around!
Good fitness will make ice climbing 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!
Ice climbing is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 8 hours), with bursts of strength – and your training should reflect this. Training to mimic the real thing as closely as possible prepares your body as well as your 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.
Unfortunately we can’t recommend a specific brand and model for each item on the kit list, as what is available is constantly changing and, of course, different people are different shapes and sizes with different budgets! However, in general, we use and endorse Sherpa and Black Diamond products because in our experience they are excellent…
In short, January and February are often cold in the Alps (even down to -20!) and so you will need good winter garb, including full gore-tex, hat, warm gloves, warm layers and so on. It is also important to have appropriate boots that are warm & comfortable and stiff enough to take a climbing crampon. We provide group climbing kit (ropes, ice screws, quick draws) and
personal technical gear such as harness, crampons, ice axes, boots and helmet can be rented in Chamonix if needed.
1. Warm and rigid mountain boots that will take ice climbing crampons.
2. Ice climbing crampons.
3. 2 x technical ice climbing axes.
6. Gortex clothing (trousers & jacket)
7. Warm underlayer (thermals or leggings)
8. Warm layers (base layer, thin fleece, thick fleece)
9. Down / primaloft jacket (optional but useful – in rucksack – may be good for belaying in
11. Warm gloves
12. Spare gloves (optional but useful)
13. Thin inner gloves / liners
15. Suncream – lip salve
16. Water bottle – not platypus type – they freeze and leak.
17. 3 sets socks and thermal tops
18. Rucksack (25 to 30 litre)
19. Personal first aid – blister kit, ibuprofen.
20. Head torch (you never know!)
Remember kit should be lightweight but functional – you have to carry it! We can help with equipment rental in Chamonix.
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.
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…