Becoming An Alpinist

On this progressive alpine training course we aim to tackle some of Chamonix’s classic moderate alpine routes in a style that will offer you high quality mountaineering training along the way. This course is ideally suited to those with some existing rock climbing and winter mountaineering experience and who would like to develop these existing skills and become independent ‘Alpinists’.

With a maximum ratio of 1 Mountain Guide to 3 students this course aims to deliver high quality practical training whilst tackling some interesting alpine terrain (up to C. AD-) and practicing new skills in a high alpine context along the way. Training & development is the emphasis of this course thus we generally won’t be tackling long & hard Grande Courses…during the course….but hopefully in the future having done it!


2018 Course Dates & Price


Course Aims

  • Develop your existing mountaineering & rock climbing skill & experience with a view to progressing as an Alpinist
  • Spend 5 enjoyable days climbing, mountaineering & training around the Mont Blanc Massif
  • Visit a good variety of the classic mountain venues of the Chamonix Valley
  • Meet some other like minded alpine mountaineers
  • Have a fun & sociable week with 1 night spent in a high mountain hut

Below we have outlined both the alpine training elements and suggested alpine routes (up to around alpine grade PD+) for this course which will be led by a fully qualified IFMGA Mountain Guide

There are four cornerstones to Alpine Mountaineering which even good climbers experienced in smaller and non-glaciated hills may not be familiar with. These four themes will drive the content of the training throughout the week. They are:

  • Good ‘movement skills’ on all terrain from rough walking to steep climbing and from rock to mixed & ice
  • Always roping together members of the team on a snow covered glacier
  • Sticking to guide book time for the route – the need to be efficient and how to achieve this
  • An awareness of objective hazards and how to mitigate against them
Spectacular snowy ridge mountaineering along the Midi – Plan Arete above Chamonix. Good crampon, footwork and movement skills required!

Skills Covered During the Course

  • A refresher of crampon and ice axe skills, with an emphasis on secure but efficient progression
  • Ice climbing techniques with 1 and 2 tools
  • Secure and efficient movement skills on rock, ice and mixed ground.
  • Being swift yet secure and saving energy on long alpine routes
  • Glacier travel techniques
  • Managing the rope on alpine ridges
  • Multi Pitch Alpine Abseil Descents
  • Crevasse rescue techniques, keeping it simple and effective
  • Selecting appropriate equipment, light and effective
  • Using mountain huts
  • The use of alpine maps and guide books and selecting appropriate routes
  • Alpine navigation including altimeter, GPS and mobile phone applications
Chamonix Becoming An Alpinist Training – On The Arete Laurence near the Cosmiques Hut, Col du Midi

Course Programme – Sample Itinerary, (Flexible According to Weather, Conditions & Team Aspirations).

  • Pre Course – Arrive in Chamonix, arrange any hire equipment. Check in to Hotel / campsite etc. Any previous time spent in the valley warming up / acclimatising / training will be beneficial but is not essential.
  • Day 1 – Easy / big boot scrambling & rock climbing in the Chamonix Valley. This is an important training day and gives the opportunity to start developing your alpine & rock movement skills & climbing rope work whilst sampling some of the superb alpine rock in the Aiguilles Rouges / middle mountains.
  • Day 2 – Starting from the village of Argentiere we use the first of the big 3 alpine lifts in the Mont Blanc range Les Grands Montets (3275m). This gives us immediate access to glacial and high alpine mixed terrain where we can start to cover some of the alpine elements of the training themes described above and do some good easy mixed climbing in the process.
  • Day 3 – Ascend Chamonix’s famous high mountain lift, the Aiguille du Midi (3842m) to access the remarkable area of rock, ice and mixed climbs around the col du Midi. This day gives us the chance to develop more high mountain alpine techniques with a variety of possible route options including easy multi pitch mixed climbing or traversing classic alpine PD ridge terrain.
  • Days 4 & 5 – Drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to access the superb Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif via the high Hellbroner lift (3462m). After a glacial journey tackle a superb ‘Chamonix Granite’ Alpine ridge traverse like the Aiguille Marbrees. The journey back to the high ‘Torino’ Hut provides an ideal opportunity for some Glacier travel and crevasse rescue training. Dinner and an overnight at the Torino always involves plenty of pasta and classic Italian caféAn early start on Day 5 from the Torino Hut (3329m) usually provides the classic pre-dawn experience of an ‘alpine start’ crunching across the frozen glacier in crampons. Few other huts in the Alps have more route choices than the Torino. Check out our ‘Hellbronner Variations’ gallery below for some final route options which can be blended with any remaining training issues to be covered at the end of this action & coaching packed week of mountaineering. We finish the week with the final descent to Courmayeur / Chamonix for drinks, a course debrief and some ideas about suitable future climbs on the progression towards Becoming an Alpinist!
Classic PD Ridge traverse in the Mont Blanc Massif. Great Becoming An Alpinist Training

Suggested Fitness and Experience levels

This course is for people who already have some rock climbing experience, have used crampons and an ice axe before and want to develop alpine mountaineering skills. To get the most out of the training and suggested routes you will be able to second up to F5b (C. UK VS) and you will also need to be physically very fit and able to complete 5 full mountain days (eg. 6-8 hours in duration).

 Michael, Becoming An Alpinist Course, June 2015

I’m still buzzing after a cracking week. Thanks to you all for the great company and mentoring. Matt – drop me a line when you’re next in London and we can tackle the bullet-hard north face of the Westway!  Once again, it was a pleasure to climb with you all – good luck with all future adventures…

Suggested Course Progression

Our Chamonix Alpine Introduction would be a great start to building your mountaineering experience and a good onward progression would then be to Climb the Gran Paradiso, followed by the Weissmies. These enjoyable and contrasting Italian & Swiss 4000m peaks would set you up very well for Climbing Mont Blanc. Our Becoming an Alpinist course would fit in well after that and would then logically be followed by Chamonix Alpinist & our Climb the Eiger & Matterhorn courses. Chamonix private guiding is a good choice along the way for harder / longer routes & north faces as well as further specific training. This course progression is often reflected in the dates of our courses so get in touch if you would like to build an excellent longer alpine programme with several different consecutive courses…an alpine ‘semester!’

Equipment List

Please see out Alpine Mountaineering Equipment List below.

In addition to all the items mentioned in that list you will also require the following items which can be cheaply hired from us:

  • X 2 Technical Ice Axes
  • Comfortable rock climbing shoes that you can wear all day with a pair of socks underneath
Becoming An Alpinist Team doing some north face pitching & descent techniques on the Pointe Lachenal, Col du Midi, Chamonix

Matt, Becoming An Alpinist Course, June 2015

Thanks for a great week in the mountains! Great company, fantastic route choices and quality guiding (cheers Rob!) I’m really inspired to come back next summer, hopefully for 2 weeks this time. And will definitely be getting in as much climbing as I can through the rest of the the year and hopefully a good dose of freezing cold Scottish winter too. The training is already paying off – I was climbing with the club on the Gower last night, and felt secure setting up a good stacked abseil with me and my climbing partner both getting set up on the rope with our cows tails in place, and using all the checks we learned, before ab’ing down to the sea ledge. Thanks again everyone, and hopefully see you next summer or sooner!

2018 Course Dates & Price

Mon 25

Becoming An Alpinist

June 25 - June 29
Jul 23

Becoming An Alpinist

July 23 - July 27

25-29 June, 5 days, Monday – Friday

Book your place by filling in a booking form & making a payment on the course portal via the link above.

£1045 – Course Fee Only, as per inclusions & exclusions below

What’s Included in the Price?

Our courses are priced on a ‘guiding only’ basis which means you pay the exact cost price for all other expenses like hotels, mountain huts and lift passes.

  • 5 full days mountain guiding with an IFMGA Mountain Guide
  • Transport during the course including travel in the valley and across to the Italian Vallee d’Aosta
  • Discounted equipment hire prices
  • Management of the trip / itinerary and booking of all mountain huts

What’s Not Included?

  • Chamonix accommodation. Prices start from camping at C.10 euros per night, Bunkhouse for C.20 euros per night and hotel accommodation from around 40-50 euros upwards. Please see our Chamonix Accommodation notes.
  • Mountain huts. Allow about 65 euros per person for your hut night (dinner, bed & breakfast) and share in the Guides hut night also (double this for the Gouter Hut, including several bottles of drinking water).
  • Mountain lift passes. Allow 30 euros for the return trip during the training phase and about the same for the telecabine / tramway during the summit period.
  • The guides expenses are split between the group members and are discounted in huts and on lifts. The best way to deal with these expenses is to make a communal group ‘kitty’ which you contribute to and all expenses are paid out of.
  • Flights
  • Transfer from the airport to Chamonix, around 35 euros each way
  • Lunches, extra drinks, snacks etc during the course
  • Mountaineering equipment. Check the kit list below
  • Insurance, this is your responsibility to arrange and ensure that you are covered for alpine mountaineering in the European Alps
  • Any other expenses
  • Approximate total cost of additional essential expenses (based 6 nights staying in the huts and a 2* Hotel in the valley): 600 Euros
Becoming An Alpinist…Or Being An Alpinist, High On The Aiguille Verte with Mont Blanc beyond