Introductory Alpine Techniques - Level 1
Duration 8 Days » Grade Introductory
Alpine Introduction Photo: © Caroline Ogden
This course supersedes our “Alpine Introduction” course. The Introductory Alpine Techniques - Level 1 course introduces newcomers to the Alpine environment, teaching them the fundamental skills of alpine mountaineering. Whether your ultimate goal is to venture into the mountains on your own, climb Mont Blanc, or attempt more difficult routes with a Guide, the course provides a solid foundation for newcomers to mountaineering.
Who is it for?
The course is designed for summer hill walkers, or those who have completed an introductory winter skills course in Scotland or rock climbers who have climbed up to grade 'V Diff'. No previous climbing or mountaineering experience is necessary.
Our base is Arolla, Switzerland, which we have chosen as being the best location in the Western Alps for an introductory course. It is a quiet valley, with a variety of peaks offering routes at Alpine Grades F to PD. We have based our introductory course here since 1999, so our Guides know it well. They know what to do and when to do it, in order to take best advantage of the weather and conditions. When in the valley we stay at the superb and atmospheric Hotel Mont Collon, run by Monica Anzévui and her family. This is a very traditional Swiss hotel, where the staff do an excellent job serving our Alpinists hearty food to fuel their forays into the surrounding mountains.
After an initial day of glacier instruction, covering the basics of ice axe and crampon technique, we climb to a mountain hut and learn ropework for glacier travel, before an ascent to an Alpine summit and descent back to the valley. On Wednesday we have a technical rock climbing day, before heading back into the high mountains to learn more skills and to put these into practice on the ascent of another peak.
As there are no cable cars or mountain railways in Arolla, there are none of the additional costs associated with mountaineering in Chamonix, for example, nor the crowds. The course price includes half-board accommodation in the hotel and mountain huts all week, as well as all instructional fees with our qualified IFMGA Guides
On completion of the course, you will have learnt to:
- Consider factors affecting route selection (for example, team composition, weather and snow conditions).
- Recognise and avoid hazards in the alpine environment.
- Contribute to decision-making in the alpine environment and in an expedition context.
- Select appropriate clothing and equipment (crampons, ice axes, boots).
- Be a competent member of a rope team for travelling across a glacier.
- Take coils and move together as a roped team in a variety of terrain.
- Use ice axe and crampons.
- Indentify and place reliable snow, ice and rock anchors.
- Participate in a crevasse rescue scenario.
- Rock climb (belaying, including holding a fall).
- Use Alpine huts.
- Climb routes graded Alpine F to PD. (learn more about Alpine Grades here).
- Why not attempt Mont Blanc? Our Alpine Introduction Mont Blanc Extension is a 3-day extension to this course... [read more]
- On completion of this course, you might consider the Saas 4,000ers course to consolidate your skills.
- You could then join our Alpine Techniques - Level 2 course in Chamonix.
Possible mountain routes
Pointe de Vouassan (3,489m)
This is a good, introductory summit reached from the Aigulles Rouges Hut. The 'voie normale' via the left bank of the Aiguilles Rouges glacier valley (F) is an excellent climb for alpine novices on glaciated terrain, with a rocky summit.
Pigne d'Arolla (3,796m)
An ascent of the Pigne d'Arolla is a good introductory climb. The route via the ESE flank is on snow all the way and the summit gives wonderful views of our valley base of Arolla and, on a clear day, of the Mediterranean. This route from the Vignettes Hut takes approximately 2 hours. Alternatively, we may make a traverse of the mountain from the Dix Hut via the West Flank (F), descending the ESE flank back down to the valley.
Mont Brule (3,585m)
Mont Brule is a mass of snow and ice, which gives an easy but interesting introductory climb, graded PD-. Good positions lead along the West Ridge, undulating across a series of lesser tops until the summit is reached. The climbing is straightforward but always interesting as cornices along the ridge present special challenges that need to be negotiated with delicate climbing and sound judgement.
Tête Blanche (3,710m)
The Tête Blanche is a quick and easy peak to get "in the bag". One of a series of summits along the By-Valsorey-Velan frontier ridge which gives excellent views all around, especially of the Matterhorn.
Tête de Valpelline (3,799m)
The Tête de Valpelline was one of many peaks to fall as a first ascent to Edward Whymper in 1866. The North Side climb to the top can be attempted from the Col de Valpelline, which grades the route PD- overall. Alternatively, it can be climbed at the same grade from the Aosta Hut.
La Luette (3,548m)
Climbed from the Dix Hut, this is a popular and relatively short climb via the normal route. The south east ridge from the Upper Cheilon Glacier is graded F+ and can even be free of snow in a really dry year. There are excellent views from the summit of the Pigne D'Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon.
Aiguille de la Tsa (3,668m)
A pinnacled peak, the Aiguille de la Tsa summit is reached by rock climbing on the east flank. The rock is superb and gives excellent climbing graded PD with passages of rock graded II/III+. There are slightly harder routes to the top but the rock is less reliable.
Mont Blanc de Cheilon (3,869m)
Although the name of Mont Blanc de Cheilon indicates that you are about to climb something akin to a "milk-pail", this mountain is, without doubt, the finest rock and ice peak in the Arolla district. The summit forms a pointed central hub with rock and ice ridges radiating like spokes on a wheel. We climb the mountain from via the normal route from the Dix Hut. This is a classic outing up the broad snow slopes of the WNW flank to meet the SW ridge. Narrow at first, the ridge becomes rocky and steepens up towards the summit, which provides memorable views west towards Mont Blanc.
Please note that the course is flexible. We are not restricted by hut bookings and the guides will make the best of the weather and conditions in the mountains, of which they have an intimate knowledge.
Course participants meet at the course base at 7pm. Briefing on the week's activities.
Ecole du Glace. Essential skills training: use of ice axe, crampons and roping-up for glacier travel.
Ascend to the Aiguille Rouge Hut. From the hut, we practise rope-work for the climb, belaying and crampon technique.
Climb the Pointe de Vouasson (3,489m). After the summit, descend to the valley base.
Valley-based skills day. Rock climbing and advanced rope techniques.
Mountain walk to the Bertol Hut, Dix Hut or Vignettes with continuing mountain skills practice.
Climb the Aiguille de la Tsa, Mont Blanc de Cheilon or Pigne d'Arolla.
Dispersal. Breakfast will be provided on the last morning before you leave the course.
Find out more about our Course bases, Course Inclusions and Exclusions, Course Directors and Guiding Ratios... [read more]
If you have the skills & fitness required, then Jagged Globe offers a wide range of exciting expeditions [read more]
Other Courses at this Grade
These courses have a similar grade and might also suit you. They are all considered to be 'introductory courses'.