27 June – 11 July
This summer’s Alpine meet will be based around Chamonix – the ultimate Alpine destination. This is where it all began, in 1786 with the first ascent of Mont Blanc. Ever since, Cham has been the proving ground for each new generation of alpinists. It’s got it all: stunning scenery, classic climbs at every level of difficulty – trad, sport, mixed and snow – beautiful walking, a good spread of bouldering and some serious nightlife.
There’s traditional rock climbing on the Cham Aiguilles that soar above the valley, easily reached from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Papillons Arête (D+) and Nabot-Léon (TD-) are both fantastic days out and the Rébuffat-Bacquet (TD+) on the South Face of the Midi is one of the best rock routes you’ll ever do. Or head for the other side of the valley, the sunny nature reserve of the Aiguilles Rouges, where you can find equally classic but slightly less committing routes, both alpine and multi-pitch sport, again with convenient chairlift access. The easy SE Ridge of the Index (AD) and the very photogenic Chapelle de la Glière (D+) are must-do’s here. For modern alpine bolted routes in a more remote setting, head up the Mer de Glace to the area known as Envers. You may well find me lurking here.
Alex Wellings on Chapelle de la Gliere with Mont Blanc in the background
If you want to try mixed climbing, there’s no better introduction than the Cosmiques Ridge (AD), again an easy walk from the télépherique. Bask in the applause of the tourists on the Midi sun-deck as you vault over the railings at the end. If that goes well, get on the great-for-the-grade Midi-Plan traverse (AD). For pure snow routes, Mont Blanc (PD) remains one of the most sought after of alpine summits, whether you go via the Goûter or the more easily booked Cosmiques.
Chamonix is at the centre of one of the most justifiably famous multi-day walking routes in the world: the Tour de Mont Blanc. You could do the whole thing, a two/three-dayer or just a single section of this for marvellous outings and unforgettable views. The network of lifts and buses gives you lots of options. The Grand Balcon Sud and Lac Blanc are truly spectacular. From close to our campsite in Argentière, the Aiguillette des Possettes is a lovely relaxed outing.
A number of dramatically situated mountain refuges give plenty of opportunities for overnighting, whether walking or climbing: Lac Blanc, Albert Premier, Envers, Plan de l’Aiguille, Cosmiques, Tête Rousse and Goûter are the most popular.
And if sport cragging is your thing, Les Gaillands is one of the places where the sport started and now boasts around 140 routes. It’s getting polished now, but there are another 20 plus enormously varied crags within a few kilometres drive. Well worth visiting are Servoz, for juggy roadside climbing (with cafe!)and Les Chéserys, for friendly multi-pitch. Less visited but a favourite of mine is Le Chapeau: fine slabbing with striking views of the Drus.
Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi
The meet will be based at the very pleasant Camping du Glacier d’Argentière, which has a relaxed atmosphere, its own small shop/cafe and regular visits from a pizza van. There are normally plenty of climbers and walkers here. It’s very close to all the bars, restaurants and shops in the pretty village of Argentière, which is only about 10/15 minutes drive from Cham. Prices are pretty reasonable: for instance, two adults with a car and a small tent would be around €18 per night, which includes hot showers and wifi. Also they still do “garage mort” – ie don’t charge full price for nights when you’re up at a mountain hut.
Recommended guidebooks: Chamonix – C. Boscoe – Rockfax Mont Blanc Walks – H. Sharp – Cicerone Crag Climbs in Chamonix – F. Burnier & D. Potard – Vamos Les Blocs de la Région de Chamonix – E. Ratouis – Gabro Verlag
Recommended beers: Brasserie du Mont-Blanc
If you’re interested, please contact meet organiser: Andy Clarke