Chamonix is a resort in the south-east of France best known for its skiing and mountain climbing. Skiers and rock–climbing enthusiasts flock to the commune each year to test their mettle against some of the toughest peaks, or to learn new skills in a scenic and mountain location. Thibaut de Roux has spent part of each summer and winter in this resort for the past 20 years, exploring the many opportunities and challenges for both skiing and climbing. Most of the lifts for the climbing season in Chamonix open in the middle of June, although the lift at Aguille du Midi is in operation all year round. There are various types of climbing experiences at Chamonix to suit everyone from the adventure seeker to the complete beginner. An overview of some of the top routes for each ability class can be seen in the infographic attachment.
Mountains and Crags
The crags in Chamonix are equipped, while the mountain routes usually have abseil points but may be only partially equipped. There are guidebooks and climbing instructors available to help learn about how to climb, or to gain more essential knowledge of some of the more challenging routes. Guidebooks offer information not only about the obstacles and challenges of each route but also the orientation, which can help avoid climbing peaks in direct sunlight. It can get very hot when climbing in summer, so it is recommended to take water and only climb when the crag in question is in the shade. There are also many indoor climbing walls that are ideal for practicing or for enjoying the sport even when the weather is too bad for outdoor climbing. The Gaillands crag is one of the most popular and is suitable for all abilities, including families with children, and has a coffee bar on site for those that want to take a break and observe.
In the PDF attachment, find out more about what basic equipment beginner rock climbers will need.
Indoor Climbing Walls
The Chamonix Valley has a total of four indoor climbing walls, including one of France’s largest. The one in Les Houches is open to everyone and is widely regarded as the best, featuring more than 100 routes. Special instructors are on site for those that require it, including for both children and adults, and there are walls designed specifically for children. All the required equipment can be hired if needed and facilities include a refreshment area, showers and changing rooms. The other three indoor walls are in Chamonix itself. Two require a private membership subscription but the boulder room at Richard Bozon ice rink is open to the public. There are also two other public climbing wall venues within easy access from Chamonix.
Bouldering is a special type of rock climbing that is performed on artificial rock walls or smaller formations of rock. Climbers do not use harnesses or ropes for bouldering. There are several natural sites for bouldering at Chamonix, located in two main areas known as the French side and the Swiss side, both containing gneiss rock. The Swiss side has a large central boulder with an area usually used by groups and children, while the French side has climbs suitable for all abilities from beginner to experienced. Bouldering is a recognised sport and there are many competitions that take place around the world, in both outdoor and artificial indoor settings. The short video attachment provides an overview of rock climbing as a sport.