Alpine 4,000m Introduction - France and Switzerland

Course Overview

Ten peaks over 4,000m form a magnificent horseshoe surrounding the upper Saastal. Many of the summits are easily accessible from high mountain huts and cable cars, making this area of Switzerland ideal for the novice alpinist.

The initial training on this course will be based in Chamonix, with a trip to Switzerland planned for the last two days of the course.

This introductory six day course aims to visit a number of peaks and train those taking part in the essential skills needed to travel confidently over glaciated mountains. Course content will include the use of crampon & ice axe; roped glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques; ridge scrambling and 'moving together' roped; advice on acclimatisation and fitness; use of huts and cable cars. All ascents will be via simple routes, the only requirement being a good level of fitness. The programme would be ideal for people with hill walking and scrambling experience in Britain. Whilst experience on snow and ice is preferable it is not essential, as this aspect of mountaineering will be covered in full during the course.

Much of the time (3 nights) will be spent overnight at high mountain huts. The valley base will be in Chamonix. Both Chamonix and the Saastal area of Switzerland are easy to travel to. Accommodation will be at The White Chalet


Course Details

Costs: £950

Ratio: 1:4


By arrangement (June to September) for groups of four booking. Individuals also welcome.

Sample Programme

Meet during the late afternoon or evening preceding the course in Chamonix valley for introductions and a beer!

Day 1
Gear check. Please try and make sure that the equipment you are bringing with you is adequate for the activities to be undertaken. To this end please contact Alan Kimber with any queries before leaving the U.K. Introduction to snowfields and local ridge for prussik/rope training. Night in the valley.

Day 2
Walk to a mountain hut (possibly The Albert Premier Hut) and practice crevasse rescue from the hut. Night spent in the hut.

Day 3
Ascend a 3,500m peak from the hut and move on to the Trient Hut.

Day 4
Descend to the valley via a simple peak en route.

Day 5
Drive over to Switzerland and ascend to a mountain hut

Day 6
Ascent of 4,000m peak and descend to the valley.

Days 5 & 6
This could be changed to suit those taking part for a lower mountain, depending on how folk are feeling

This programme is a very full one and may well be changed to suit both the weather and course members level of fitness/experience. The important point is to maintain a gradual gain in height climbed in order to enhance the acclimatisation and fitness of individuals. Also of importance is the fact that this course is not meant to be exhausting all of the time, after all those attending are on a holiday!

Following on from this course, an ascent of Mt Blanc can be arranged over two days, after a rest day.

The costs for two days on Mt Blanc after a course will be approximately:
£600 for the guide on a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2
£50 each for cable cars
£35 each for the hut night
£25 towards the guides hut night



Cost Includes:

  • All hut costs and meals
  • Cable car costs
  • All Guides expenses
  • Valley accommodation (B&B)
  • In course transport

Price does not include:

  • Alpine insurance (Obtain from BMC)
  • Valley evening meals or packed lunches
  • Travel to the Alps

Note: The exchange rate may effect the accommodation prices, but not the main course price, which is fixed for the season.


Kit Requirements

Alps Kit List


For the Alps it is essential to have a warm and stiff soled boot. The warmth of the boot is important on high snowy peaks. Boots can be hired, but it is better to arrive with your own well broken-in footwear, in order to avoid problems. They must not be smooth soled or very flexible. Go for a B2 for general alpinism or B3 if you intend climbing more technical routes. Lightweight fabric boots are not recommended.


These should be ten or twelve pointers with front points. They should fit the boots you will be wearing! Rigid C3 crampons 'ball up' badly and are not recommended for that reason. Completely stiff crampons are not good for long treks. C2 Petzl-Charlet mixed points with toe straps and heel
' cup' are good, as are Grivel G10. Heel 'cups' tend to be more sure-fitting than heel clips on some boots. Carry your crampons in a bag, rubber nipple crampon covers are very fiddly and time consuming. Please have anti-balling plates fitted to your crampons. A C1 crampon with straps all round can be used on stiffer boots.

ice axe

Alpine axes should be around 60/70cms in length. Shorter tools are needed if steep climbing is envisaged.

Essential. Adjustable leg loops are preferred for ease of fitting. The Black Diamond 'Bod' is good.


Essential. Adjustable leg loops are preferred for ease of fitting. The Black Diamond 'Bod' is good.

Waterproof Jacket and Trousers
The trousers should have a full length leg zip for ease of fitting over boots and crampons. Lightweight waterproofs are often better in the Alps as they spend most of the time in your rucsac.

A lightweight pair of gaiters (not Yeti's) are essential at times.


A medium volume sac of 45/55 litres is best. Plastic bag liners are useful. Buy a rucsac without too many complicated straps and buckles. Large hip supports often hinder harness fitting and add to the weight, as do internal metal stiffeners.


Should be of lightweight layers. Extremes of temperature will be experienced and a flexible system is essential. Warm mitts and hat are essential, as are sun-shade hat, trainers and shorts. Jackets should have accessible pouch pockets for carrying items needed quickly (sunglasses, sweeties, small camera, sun cream, etc.). Shirts should have a high collar to protect your neck from the sun, T-shirts are poor in this respect.

Bivvy Bag

Bivvy Bag
A large person sized plastic survival bag (500gauge) is the minimum requirement.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit
A small personal pack including medication for blisters, headaches, stomach upsets, sunburn plus any personal drugs. For people on special drug treatments please bring spares and/or a list of their brand names/contents. Total sun block cream for glacier travel. Lip salve. Small tube of skin cream. Ear plugs for a quiet nights sleep in huts if other people are snoring!

Good Quality Sun-glasses
Best with side covers for glacier travel. Please check with an optician.

Compass and Map

Compass and Map
Maps are best bought on arrival but can be found in Britain, check beforehand.

Guide Books
Try 'The Alpine 4000m Peaks' by Richard Goedeke (Diadem). Recommended

Prussik Loops
Bring four metres of 6mm line (softish kernmantel) to be made into loops on arrival.

Long Tape Slings

Two @ 120cm and Screwgate Karabiners (three).


Essential to carry a litre.

Light Sleeping Bag
For camping, bunkhouses and possible planned bivouacs.Not for alpine huts. A light silk sleeping bag liner can add to your comfort considerably.

Telescopic Ski Poles (three part)
Very useful for taking the weight off your lower body in descent, boosting you up hill and general balance. Recommended but not essential.

Rock Boots

Rock Boots
Useful for valley climbing, during bad weather conditions at altitude.

Other items
- Form E111 (DSS)
- Passport
- Alpine Club Card
- Insurance