Alpine Skills Training

Being self-sufficient climbing Alpine peaks

By going alpine climbing with a guide you will learn lots just by doing it! Climbing in different mountain areas, trying a variety of terrain and type of route always builds your knowledge and experience.

Traversing the Grand Cornier, the Dent Blanche’s north face looming behind

Training in particular alpine skills helps you make more sense of this environment. This may add a significant contribution to own your experience, with or without a guide.

On the final ridge of the Dufourspitze

In particular, the skills you may wish to learn would typically involve focusing on crevasse rescue & ice/ropework skills and planning & leading your own trips.

Crevasse Rescue and other glacier related skills

In the course of a day’s visit to an accessible glacier we can run through a whole range of skills that help you understand how to travel safely in the high mountain glaciated environment. Skills we would look at would include:

  • glacier travel as a team of roped-up mountaineers
  • basic solutions to assisting someone should they have fallen in a crevasse
  • a good introduction to making snow & ice anchors in the glacier and to improvised rescue techniques

The glacier location can also be a great venue to focus on getting used to using your crampons and try a bit of ice-climbing with ice-axes in safe but spectacular locations amongst the crevasses.

On the vast dry glacier section of the Grosse Aletschfirn, Bernese Oberland

Planning and leading your own alpine adventures

For those of you who are keen to try climbing alpine peaks without a guide, being at the sharp end of the rope is what you seek. Leading the way and thinking about decisions, in the company of a guide, may be just what you need. The mountains and routes that you aspire to climb and your previous experience in other mountain environments will determine what happens next. There are some good areas in the Alps that lend themselves to having a great variety of mountain objectives in which to learn about being at the sharp end of alpinism.

Good basic skills Washing dishes outside the Bouquetins bivoauc refuge

  • route choice and planning your route,
  • safe glacier travel,
  • looking at the best way of climbing a variety of terrain (rock, snow & ice), alpine-style, making decisions about pitching versus moving together,
  • dealing with specific technical ropework situations, including abseiling, crevasse rescue and prusiking.

A key skill to learn for the climber or mountaineer in the Alps is how to adapt your ropework to the terrain. This is to keep things speedy yet safe. To ascend and descend the peak before weather or darkness fold in.

Sometimes it helps to think about the terrain that you can encounter on your chosen route. Then you make an assessment of the skills that are required to achieve it.

  • Can the team climb this route?
  • Do I know how to protect it so that the team feels safe?
  • How do we get back down the mountain, is it by the route of ascent or are we committed to a different way down?

To lead your own trips on alpine peaks, a lot of the skills on the ground are sometimes just as easily learnt on British hills. Building your skills in Scottish winter mountaineering and summer scrambling, is great preparation for an alpine mountaineering trip. Leading the way in journeys and making decisions. Being a climber in these two UK environments helps a lot too. Yet it is your skill as a mountaineer that needs to be honed in particular.

Just down from the summit of Mont Blanc

Guiding Details

Guide to client ratio   up to 1:4

Alpine skills training can be covered within what ever time scale you have available, particularly if you have been able to acclimatise before hand. It is worth setting aside 5-6 days to allow for a consolidation of skills and experiences. A typical week would be as follows:

  • day 1  Warm up glacier day
  • days 2-3  Head up to mountain hut to climb peak the next day, and back to the valley.
  • day 4  Rock-climbing/skills day. Or head on to the next hut; there are often climbing opportunities available next to huts.
  • day 5-6  Hut trip plus the next peak(s)