Climbing can involve anything from scrambling to mountaineering and abseiling, so finding a place that offers a sufficient challenge as well as give you that satisfying buzz on completion is essential. Fortunately, Chamonix offers so many levels of climbing that you will find something that meets your ability and stretches it to a whole new level.
Guide books can give you the rudimentary information on climbing in Chamonix, but to ensure your safety, and that of your loved ones; engaging the services of a fully trained climbing instructor can help you to learn new techniques, tackle more challenging routes and help to keep you safe while on the crags.
Most of the mountain routes have been partially equipped already, with abseiling points in place. The geology of the area lends itself very well to the climbing experience, with towering slabs of granite and compact rock heralding from ancient volcanic activity. Lifts open in June so you will be able to find your way to those climbing sites that are higher up.
The Gaillands rocks lie just 2km south of Chamonix adjacent to the Gaillands Lake and offer a wide variety of paths and climbs, allowing complete novices and beginners a chance to adapt and increase in confidence before trying something a little more difficult. Gaillands is Chamonix’s favourite crag, and is popular with tourists and spectators.
During the long summer days there is a coffee bar where you can watch as others make their ascent as well as a public toilet to freshen up after a action packed day.
A 50 mt walk in the direction of Chamonix you will also find Le Vert sports bar offering an array of food and drinks.
If you enjoy scrambling and finding your own path, then bouldering at the Col des Montets, at the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve can be an invigorating and challenging environment. The terrain in this area features granite streaked with red oxidation that are ideal for climbing with or without ropes.
For something a little more challenging, head to the village of Barberine by car, but park up before you enter the village so you don’t block the road. The local river, l’Eau Noire, is simply stunning and makes for some incredible photography. Crossing the footbridge, you will enter Switzerland without any passport control. You might want to step on board the funicular railway and head towards the Lac d’Emosson to visit the Barberine Dam. The Barberine area boasts lots of sunny granite slabs for most routes, as well as a few 200m climbing routes presenting a more physical challenge.
Vallorcine offers a magnificent setting for climbers with some of the best rock in the area for those with mid-range to hardened experience. The climbing area has a NE exposure; and presents a refreshing challenge in the morning.
Servoz is a roadside crag with some extremely challenging overhangs. This south facing schist is hot work in summer, so cooling off in the café opposite is an essential stop. The bar has a ‘legendary’ stuffed “Dahu” which is well worth a look; and this area is very close to the Gorges de Diosaz. If you are in the area during the summer months, the gorges are a must-see.
If you are looking for something a even more challenging, then Chamonix offers an experience that is out of this world. Use the Flegere lift and then the Index chairlift up into the Aiguille Rouges, or the Midi lift up to the high mountain granite. Access times are marked against the names of the crags so you will know when these are open.
There are different grades for each type of climb, although these may incorporate different technical moves. If you are taking on a new route for the first time, you should probably engage the services of a local guide or instructor who will be able to assist and help you master any of the techniques you might need. Remember to take some water with you as well.
If you want to experience the challenge of a vertical climb, but don’t feel ready to take on the great outdoors you might want to consider some of the indoor climbing walls that Chamonix has to offer. The weather in Chamonix is changeable and the rain can put off the most determined climber or at the very least make the route extremely slippery. Fortunately, Chamonix has some awe-inspiring and challenging indoor walls that will satisfy the most determined and adventurous climber.
Les Houches boasts a wall offering a variety of terrains and routes, including a 9m overhang, corners and slabs. A children’s wall is also available with changing rooms, showers and refreshment facilities.
The Chamonix Sports Centre offers a more traditional climbing environment and costs only 4 Euros. The centre also provides swimming facilities for those wanting a lazy day by the pool.
The Megeve Sports Centre has a nice wall at the end of the sports hall. There’s an ice rink on the site too, for true winter sport lovers. It’s a 40-minute drive from Chamonix, but well worth the journey.
The best thing about indoor climbing facilities is they normally come with all the equipment you need, so if you want to enjoy a challenging climb without any of the risks normally associated with outdoors climbing.
Just wanted to say what a great service we had with Chamonix First. We hired a private return journey from Geneva airport. The driver was there waiting for us on arrival, helped us with our baggage and we were driven safely to our destination in a very clean and tidy mini bus. The driver was also helpful in giving us advice on the best restaurants and skiing area. The return driver was also punctual, polite and made us feel at ease on the drive back down the snowy mountain resort. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!