The European Alps are the birthplace of mountaineering. Early pioneers including Horace-Bénédicte de Saussaure and Jacques Balmat in the 18th century and Edward Whymper in the 19th century conquered the most famous peaks including the Mont Blanc (de Saussure and Balmat) and the Matterhorn (Whymper). These two mountains are still serious endeavors and should only be attempted by experienced alpinists!
- Read Whymper’s “The Ascent of the Matterhorn” online or download it to your e-reader (from Project Gutenberg)!
The Chamonix-Mont-Blanc tourism office has prepared a helpful brochure on the serious nature of a Mont Blanc climb (it can be downloaded by clicking here). Beginning and aspiring mountaineers can climb these peaks with the help of a guide and even many experienced mountaineers will wish to have the safety and experience of a local guide. Our 7-day Climb the Mont Blanc itinerary is great for safety, acclimatization and value.
For a more moderate itinerary suitable for fit beginners with a little bit of glacier experience or intermediate mountaineers, we recommend the 8-Day Summer Haute Route Glacier Trek.
There are also other programs that are perfect for beginners including a “My First 4000 Meter Trip” that includes 5 days of instruction and a summit of the Gran Paradiso in Italy. Our partners in Chamonix, perhaps the oldest guiding association in the world, have the following scale to help clients pick the proper mountaineering trip for them:
- LEVEL 1: Approach to glacier hiking: For first timers who wish to learn basic glacier hiking techniques (hiking with crampons, roping up, elementary knots etc.) Ex: High Tour around Mont Blanc
- LEVEL 2: Elementary glacier hiking: For strong hikers with little glacier-hiking experience. Ex: Chamonix – Zermatt or the haute Route – Gran Paradiso – Mer de Glace Tour
- LEVEL 3: Intermediate glacier hiking: Steep glacier hiking, ups and downs close to 35°. Ex: Mont Blanc Huts
- LEVEL 4: Approach to mountaineering: Multi-day glacier trips, with very steep and airy sections, requiring the use of front spikes on crampons. Ex: The Dômes de Miage
- LEVEL 5: Solid mountaineering experience: For people with an extensive mountaineering experience, knowledgeable in the use of crampons on long steep slopes (40° to 45°), rope-handling and all other mountaineering techniques in mixed alpine terrain. Ex: Monte Rosa Crossing or Climbing the Mont Blanc
Ask us if you need help choosing a glacier trek or mountaineering experience. Keep in mind that it is essential to know your mountaineering skills before selecting a trip. It is better to select an easier trip if you don’t know how to assess your abilities.