Beginner & Intermediate Alpinism
Chamonix Mont-Blanc offers many possibilities for summit ascents from within a couple of days to a week. Below are some examples of two day and five day programs for beginner and intermediate alpinists. A five day program allows for more possibilities and a greater discovery of the area and the different skills needed. For example it may be possible to spend a day on a rock route, a day on a snow / ice route and a day on a mixed route.
For those discovering alpinism, after having met their guide and checked the equipment, the first day will be spent on a glacier practising crampon and ice axe techniques, moving together on a glacier (and eventually crevasse rescue training). The many available lifts allow the possibility of reaching a glacier in the morning. The end of the afternoon can then be used to link a mountain hut, in order to climb an easy summit on the second day.
For those who already have alpine experience and want to discover more mountains in the heart of the Mont-Blanc range, we suggest you an “a la carte” technical program, followed by a 2 day ascent later in the week.
Original example 2 day program (1 – 4 clients):
Day 1: Argentières glacier
The lift reaches an altitude of 3300m. From here it is possible to hike down on a snowy glacier to 2400m to find a place for ice skills training. Then in the middle of the afternoon, we hike up for about two hours to the Argentières hut at 2700m, which offers fantastic views of the north faces of high summits, such as Aiguille Verte and Les Droites. The dinner served from the hut-keepers means we don’t have to carry a too heavy backpack.
Day 2: Summit
An early wake-up and breakfast before starting on a path to reach the glacier and climb Pointe des Amethystes (3586m). We descend through the same way to the hut, then follow the Argentières glacier and path down to the altitude 1900m, where there is the cable-car middle station.
Original example 5 day program (1 – 2 clients):
Day 1: Snow and rock ascent in Aiguilles Rouges, such as the Glière traverse.
This route starts at the top of “Index” chair lift, around the altitude 2400m. where everyone remembers the panorama of the Mont-Blanc range while looking to the south. The first part of the morning consists of a snowy couloir ascent, steep enough to necessitate crampons. This leads to a ridge (often more snowy than rocky early in the season) followed by three different summits with different types of terrain. A climbing pitch is necessary for the highest one. The descent consists mostly of snow slopes which also offers the possibility of practising orientation for those interested in improving their alpine autonomy.
Day 2: Pure rock routes.
On this day we choose a cliff or route accessible by a short approach. This might be Les Cheserys slabs oriented south, or Vallorcine if the Chamonix temperatures become high. The aim of this day is to gain full confidence in rope techniques, anchors, moving on easy rock with mountain boots, and on more technical routes with rock shoes.
Day 3: Mixed route of snow, ice and rock.
A good place is close to the top Skyway cablecar, on the Italian boarder at an altitude of 3400m. Several summits such as the Marbrees needles provide excellent routes which make us adapt to the terrain and conditions – sometimes using an ice axe, sometimes the hands etc. – all making us focus on improving technique rather than rushing to finish a long route.
Days 4 and 5: Summit project.
Starting with pure ice techniques training at an altitude of around 2000m on the Mer de Glace, we practise on little hills made from the glacier with crampons first, then crampons and ice axe – ascents, descents and crosses. Later in the day we will directly access the hut, in order to be closer to Aiguille du Tacul (3444 m) and ready for the next day. The ascent offers a further glacier crossing, snow slopes which gradually steepen, and then a quick rock ridge at the end. This summit is at the heart of the Mont-Blanc range.