SARL Peak Transfer
44a Chemin du Lai
Chamonix Mt Blanc
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Given Chamonix’s reputation and with the climbing world cup taking place here next week hopefully one or two of you will be inspired to give climbing a try. It would be rude not to right? Many people find themselves in the same situation in Chamonix, they are in a bar talking to one of the many outdoor folk and mention they would really like to get into climbing and ask the question, Where is the best place to climb outdoors. Having got into deep conversation with said person about the amazing climbing around you find out the crag they have recommended is full of multi-pitch trad routes all graded 6’s and 7’s which the likelihood as a beginner have absolutely no hope in hell of climbing (whether that be due to lack of ability, knowledge or appropriate gear).
To save you the hassle we at Peak Transfer & Vertical Gear have come up with the Basics you need to know and the best beginner crags in the Chamonix Valley.
If you are a complete beginner we strongly recommend getting a guide or rock climbing instructor to learn the basics. As you can imagine there are plenty of these available in the Chamonix Valley that offer private and grouped instruction for half a day or longer. If you can get a group of you together it can make learning really cost effective. They also tend to supply all the required equipment as well so you dont have to commit and beg, borrow or buy all the equipment yourself! Here are just a small handful of companies offering guides and instruction in Chamonix Valley.
Most of Europe tend to use the French numerical Grading System. The grades are based upon technical difficulty and how strenuous the route is. This systems starts at 1 which is very easy (easy scrambling) and increases with difficulty. Each of these numbers are further divided into a,b and c where a is the easiest and c is more difficult. A + can also be added to show added difficulty of a route. Therefore, grades would ascend like this 5c+, 6a, 6a+, 6b, 6b+ etc.
The French grading is as follows:
There are quite a few different types of climbing and not all can be guessed by their name alone! The media are the worst for this thinking free climbing is for daredevils climbing big walls without a rope. When it actually means something quite different. We have broken these into styles, types of climbing and protection.
There are two styles of climbing:
For basic ‘sport’ rock climbing you will need the following equipment
Emergency Contact Numbers:
Common sense is key to climbing.
When learning, always climb with either a professional (i.e. instructor) or an experienced friend. Don’t hesitate to question your instructor or climbing partner no matter their experience level, a good partner won’t mind you questioning their methods or checking safety.
Le Fayet du bas is a small beginners crag located in the Parc Thermal. Located in this park with plenty of green space and woods its perfect for a half or full day out combined with other activities and a picnic. A firm family friendly day out. It can get very busy in the summer but you can avoid crowds and the heat by climbing early in the mornings
Access: The crag is less than 5 minutes walk from the Saint-Gervais-les-Bains-Le Fayet train station or if you would prefer to drive follow the route blanche to Le Fayet and then follow signposts to Parc Thermal. As you drive through Parc Thermal you will see the crag on your left just past the swimming pool and a children’s play park on your right. You can park for free at any of the recognisable car parks.
Rock Type: Granular gneiss
Aspect: North West facing
Routes: 22 routes from 20-40m of grades 3b to 5c
Is a really convenient crag with a lot to offer, including good holds (known as jugs), multi pitch, single pitch of varying grades. There are even some overhung routes for those of you feeling adventurous! Right next to road opposite (name of cafe) where you can get all sorts of weird and wonderful delights including a Marmot burger if you’re that way inclined (yes they really do serve this).
Access: From Route Blanche turn off at Servoz towards the Gorges de la Diosaz (D13). The area is Plain Saint Jean, before you get to Servoz village you will see the crag on the right hand side of the road opposite the small cafe/restaurant on the left. Just park in the gravel car park. You can get the Mont Blanc Express to Servoz but it is a 2km walk to the crag.
Rock Type: Schist
Aspect: West Facing
Routes: There are 27 routes some of which have multiple pitches ranging between grades 2c to 7c. Most routes are at 4 and 5 grades.
A very small crag but a perfect beginners spot with easy routes and some really interesting climbing, even if it’s just for the day. Again its very convenient crag in a great location to make a day of it. Located next to the park, botanical garden, woods and lake in Les Houches its perfect for a picnicking and other activities such as biking etc or any non-climbers that would like to tag along.
Access: Get off the Route Blanche at le Houches, continue through the village. Pass the Prarion gondola on your left, straight over a roundabout, take road on the right. You will see the lake and park on your right where you can also park in gravel car park. You can see the crag at the far end of the field.
Rock Type: Gneiss
Aspect: West facing
Routes: 11 easy routes approximately 20m high with lots of beginner friendly holds. Graded mostly as 3’s and 4’s but a couple of 5c’s as a challenge.
Probably the most popular crag in Chamonix, mainly due to its central location and offering a lot of versatile climbing from slabs, to cracks, to overhangs. The stunning surroundings of the lake high ropes, cafe and access to hiking and mountain biking routes. Not to mention Mont Blanc as a backdrop its peak reflecting in the lake.
Access: Just under 2km from Chamonix town centre you can walk or catch the bus towards Gaillands (le Vert hotel) signposted from Chamonix centre. You will come to lakes on both sides at which point if you look to your right you will see the petit and grand gailland crags. If you would rather drive there is plenty of parking in the car park or on the road following the same route described previously.
Rock Type: Gneiss
Aspect: South / South-East facing
Routes: Over half of the routes are graded 5+ and lower. Pitches are of varying length so you may need a few for bits of gear than normal (check your guide book!).
Great rock and varied climbing this popular crag is ideal for new budding climbers and novices learning the ropes. Although not as quickly accessed as the other crags mentioned a 15-minute walk in (this is still considered quite short for hike in by typical climbing standards). You get a lovely view of the Vallorcine valley and its beautiful inhabitants
Access: From Chamonix follow signposts out of town towards Argentière and Martiny (Switzerland). Pass the Col des Montets and continue along the main road until you reach the village of Vallorcine. Turn right at Vallorcine towards the train station, cross over the tracks and keep to the right you will see a path on your left after 50m heading towards the crag in the distance. You can also get the Mont Blanc Express to Vallorcine and continue using the same directions on foot mentioned previously.
Rock Type: Granite (thought to be the best in the Region by some!!!)
Aspect: North-East facing
Routes: 25 routes, up to 100m high