Like most of the Alps, Chamonix is a great place to go rock climbing. Chamonix has numerous spots along the valley for cragging. In France, it is common to find bolted routes or single pitch or top rope, which makes climbing relatively accessible as less gear is required. The most popular spot is at Les Gaillands which is within walking distance from the town centre and has an open park ideal for barbecues. It is a great location for a day out as it is set next to a lake and has many walking trails nearby, as well as a buvette (snack bar). Les Gaillands is one of the oldest climbing sites in France with the first of its 130 bolted routes being put up in the 1930's by Alfred Couttet. The routes are now maintained by the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix and offer a variety of slabs, cracks, and overhangs at all levels of difficulty.
How much does it cost to go rock climbing in Chamonix? Rock climbing course prices in Chamonix start at around €45 per person for a half-day group lesson and up to €400 for a full-day climbing private guide.
Rock Climbing in Vallorcine
At the high end of the Chamonix Valley and twenty minutes by car sits the pretty village of Vallorcine. It is the perfect place to head if you want to escape the busy world of Chamonix and enjoy some great rock climbing. The options available range from children’s routes to highly technical routes with official climbing grades up to 8a+.
La Dalle de Vallorcine is a wide and large climbing wall that's a great way to discover the sport, it's usually used by schools and groups for lessons. The face is very easy to access. Driving from Chamonix turn right just as you enter ‘Le Buet’ and take the signs to the ‘Montets’ campsite. Before the campsite, park and then take the tunnel under the railway and it’s just a short walk. There are over thirty mid-range climbs available here, ranging from grade 4 to 7a. They are typically north-west facing.
Les Perrons de Vallorcine is a more challenging crag with routes up to 370m high. There are over 20 climbs here on south-east faces that will demand the best from climbers. The way to access these is via the Emosson Dam, just across the Swiss border at Chatelard. This includes the Bada Boom route, the hardest and longest (at 400m) on Les Perrons.
Bouldering in Grands Montets
Just up from Vallorcine, there are two bouldering areas located on either side of the Col des Montets, with more than 50 problems from 3a to 7c grades. The first is located about 200m from the Col on the Vallorcine side, while the other is on the Col itself, looking back towards the Grands Montets. Parking is roadside or just opposite the Col.
The Chamonix valley is home to one of the largest indoor climbing walls in France. Mont Blanc Escalade is located in Les Houches and is open all year, with more than 100 routes to the roof ranging from 16 to 21 metres in height. All necessary equipment is available for hire. In Chamonix town, there is a good sized bouldering wall in the Sports Centre (Centre Sportif Richard Bozon). There is another climbing wall at the ENSA, but you need to be a member of the local Club des Sports to gain access.
Via Ferrata climbing offers an element of security that still allows beginners to enjoy the achievement of having scaled a mountain! This form of climbing was invented by Italian soldiers in the Dolomites who used it to enable them to scale vertiginous faces easily and quickly. These days it is a popular sport that makes the thrill of mountain climbing more accessible to children, beginners and those who want a bit more security when they climb. Following marked routes through the mountains, you are helped along by metal steps, bridges and ladders whilst being roped up for extra safety. Suitable for adults and children over the age of eight; guides can be arranged on request.
At Flegere there is a Via Ferrata course called the Via Ferrata des Evettes which can be found at the top of the Index chairlift. There are two different routes which can be done separately or joined together for a full day out. There is also a Via Ferrata route at the Mer de Glace which is easily accessible from Chamonix town centre. Take the Montenvers train and, from the station, descend the ladders down onto the Mer de Glace following the signs marked ‘Le Refuge’. Cross the glacier heading for the white square painted on the opposite rock face, from here you will find a well-marked Via Ferrata route that consists of around 30 ladders and, if climbed to the end, finishes at the Refuge de Couvercle. One way should take around four to five hours, there is a shorter return route through Les Egralets that takes a further three hours.
Further afield, there is also a Via Ferrata route above Passy. The route sits under the Aiguille de Varan on a cliff face and climbs up 180m over a length of 400m. Access to the spot from car park takes 20 minutes and then the average time to complete the Via Ferrata takes 1 hour 30 minutes.
How much does it cost to try out Via Ferrata in Chamonix? You can hire all the essential equipment, including helmet, harness and "cows tails" at most sports shops in resort – it'll set you back around €20. If you're a beginner, you should also book a mountain guide or instructor. Prices for Via Ferrata group lessons in Chamonix start at around €45, with private guides charging around €220 for a half-day.
For the true mountain enthusiast, why not scale an amazing frozen waterfall or glacier? Chamonix has a multitude of ice-falls and gulleys where you can experience the thrill of ice climbing with a guide. This is a fantastic sport, and not just for experienced mountaineers. Beginners can start off at La Crémerie in Argentière, while the more experienced can sample some of the many other sites around Chamonix, Servoz, Les Houches and Argentière. The ice climbing season peaks between December and March. Some knowledge of ropes and basic climbing skills will give you a head start, but if you are a complete novice then your guide should be able to teach you from scratch.
How much does ice climbing cost in Chamonix? Ice climbing prices in Chamonix start at around €250 for a half-day group course.
Mountaineering & mountain climbing
Chamonix is quite simply the Mecca of mountaineering. Whether you are a rock climber, ice climber, ski tourer, or just enjoy being in the mountains, Chamonix really is the place to be. The glaciers and icy slopes of the Mont Blanc Massif offer a massive number of climbing routes for alpinists, while the world famous Chamonix granite is extremely popular with rock climbers. Chamonix is also home to what is perhaps the most popular high-mountain route in Europe, the climb to Mont Blanc. However, this is no mean feat, in order to tackle it, you must be very fit and should book a guide to accompany you.
How much does it cost to climb mountains in Chamonix? Local mountain guides offer formulas for all skill levels, from beginner mountaineers to expert climbers. Private guiding prices start at around €400 per day.