Mark will work with you to focus and achieve your climbing goals. There are so many possibilities, but here are a few sample itineraries to give you some ideas:
There are many, many gorgeous and challenging peak climbs in the Alps, but three mountains command the most attention from the public:
For many, a life-long dream is the ascent of Mont Blanc, the highest point in Western Europe.
Learn what it takes to climb perhaps the most famous and aesthetic peak in the Alps.
The history of mountaineering is intricately tied to the intimidating north face of this dramatic peak.
This program is designed for people who climb a lot on climbing walls and want to use their skills and strength to tackle the world of rock climbing in stunning alpine settings. In and around Chamonix there is a lifetime supply of incredible rock climbs, which can be climbed from mid-March until November.
The aim of the program is to provide you with all the additional skills necessary to progress rapidly to becoming an alpine rock climber.
A key element of this is summed up in the phrase “Speed equals safety”. Alpine rock climbs can be very long and the ability to move quickly and safely over relatively simple terrain using the skills of short-roping are an essential part of alpine rock climbing.
The overriding philosophy of the program is not to concentrate on the actual gradings of the climbs but rather the “big picture” of what alpine rock climbing is all about. Namely, being in stunning, atmospheric settings.
For example, at the climbing wall often the aim is to push the grade as far as you can, yet there are two main points to consider when transferring to the mountains: first, often the grade at the climbing wall does not translate well. This is to say a grade of 6a in the gym can seem very scary and much harder a thousand meters above the ground. Second, it is definitely worth climbing a few grades below your maximum so that there is something in reserve.
At the end of the program you will have a good understanding of the following skills.
- Multi-pitch climbing in an alpine context.
- The use of double ropes.
- Technical abseil (rappel) descents
- Problem solving, route selection
The very nature of alpine rock climbs and what makes them even more exciting is that the rock climbs often have glacier approaches or steep snow slopes, especially early in the summer. With this in mind, one day of the days in the program could be spent on the Mer de Glace covering the basics of crampon and ice axe technique in the context of alpine rock climbing.
Appropriate equipment: for the majority of routes it will be necessary to carry a rucksack with at least water, food and a spare windproof. Choosing the right kit is critical because of the weight issue.
Length of the program: there is no specific length of the program. However if your goal is to climb at high altitude (above 2000 meters), then it is necessary to be well acclimatized; otherwise there is a real chance of being ill: bad headaches, fainting, nausea.
To avoid this then, 4 or 5 days is sensible.
For someone who has never climbed in the Alps the following programme works well. There is an assumption that you are a reasonably fit, keen hill and mountain walker, but with no or very little experience of ropes or rock climbing.
The aim of our time together is to provide you with the necessary skills to ascend a variety of alpine peaks in safety.
Below is a suggested programme (pending conditions, of course):
- Day 1
Introduction to the use of ice axe and crampons within the context of the Alps. These are fundamental skills that will allow you to move with confidence over a variety of terrain. This day will take place on the Mer de Glace glacier.
- Day 2
An ascent of the Aiguille du Crochue. This is a marvelous rocky scramble so typical of the Alps. During the climb we will examine the use of the rope to safeguard our progress. This type of scrambling is the border with simple rock climbing.
- Day 3
We will take the Aiguille du Midi cable-car to its summit which is one of the highest in the world. From there we will climb the Cosmiques Spur. In order to climb this route we will be using the skills we have gained in the previous two days.
- Day 4
Walk up to a mountain hut. In the afternoon we will look at the various skills required for crevasse rescue. You will extract someone from a real crevasse.
- Day 5
The hut guardian will wake us at 4 am. After breakfast we will cross the glacier and climb the Aiguille du Tour. This is a major alpine peak, which involves some scrambling near its summit. The views are fantastic and given clear weather you will clearly see the Matterhorn.
Mark also travels with clients to sunny Mediterranean limestone cliffs and Scottish sea stacks for pure rock climbing.