Where should the alpinist beginner climb?

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I have climbed for two years in Scotland doing general mountaineering and summer '99 I want to climb something in the Alps which is a fair bit bigger. I'm looking for mountains which are challenging but not necessarily technical or especially difficult - basically a nice introduction to the world of the Alps. I am preferably looking for something which won't be over-crowded (is this possible!?). Any other relevent info would be welcomed... Thanks

-- Richard Allen (u07rja@abdn.ac.uk), November 10, 1998


Try out the Zermatt-region in Swiss, for instance Breithorn (for acclimatization, very easy, but crowded), Monte Rosa (beautiful, could be crowded), Pollux and Castor (easy, accessible), Liscamm (a loooong ridge, be aware of cornices).

-- Paal Longva (plongva@uclink4.berkeley.edu), November 12, 1998.

Contrary to what most people believe Ithink the MontBlanc region is excellent for people beginning in the Alps. This for several reasons: 1) It may be crowded on certain routes and during certain times, but that is not a bad thing at all. At least, when you screw up, somebody will be around 2) Thanks to the cable carts you will be in and out of the mountains within a short amount of time, thus making it easy to escape bad weather easier 3) Fine terrain for beginners in the Aiguilles Rouges, opposite the MontBlanc Massif 4) The entire municipality of Chamonix is equipped for mountaineers, if you lose, or break gear, you will always find replacement. 5) frequent heli flights check the most frequented routes 6) There are a lot of huts, and most of them are fairly cheap, if you are member of an alpine club (e.g. BMC) 7) There are plenty of non-crowded routes, especially on the italian side of the Mont-Blanc 8) It's fairly close for someone from the west of Europe, thus making a weekend trip worthwhile.

I hope this will help you on choosing a region where you will appreciate the Alps!!!

-- simon (S.M.vandenBergh@sc.dlo.nl), November 23, 1998.

You are in just the same position as my friend and I were last summer we had both spent 2-3 scottish seasons climbing up to around grade 3 and decided we would like to head to the alps. Like you (I think) we both wanted to go bigger and higher and see what it was like before heading into anythig too techncal. We both went to Glenmore Lodge for and Alpine prep week in the easter which was fantastic as we were taught by british mountain guides. They were good at making sure we did not fall in to that british problem of being over equiped and too slow! It's a good course but expensive, you can learn everything you need to know from a friend of someone with experience.

We went to Arolla (advised by guides) a small village at 2000m in the Swiss alps. This was great to learn as therte were peolpe around but it was not too crowded. The snow routes here were great but most of the rock is friable. From here we went to Chamonix to see what it was like and by this time even though it was much busier we were fitter and moving fast enough to be over taking alot of people.

I would defintly recomed Arolla to start with, if you want any other info I have loads more info on maps guide books and how to get there. We were there for 3 weeks and had a great time, defintly going back to the alps this summer.

-- Sandy Paterson (u03app@abdn.ac.uk), December 08, 1998.

Best beginning mountaineering is the Sierra Nevada in California. Reasons? 1. good granite that's safe & predictable 2. the most stable weather of any range in the world 3. relatively little relief to most climbs compared to such places as the Tetons, Alps, or Canadian Rockies

-- Bob Henley (rhenley@earthlink.net), February 01, 1999.

I'd agree that the Chamonix area is an excellent place to start with Alpine Climbing. In so far as this is possible, it is a "low risk" area. Transport out of the valley (and back!) is convenient, there is "dry glacier" access to some wonderful moderate climbs that are perfect for learning to move fast and the scenery is incomparable. There really are a lot of mountains that can be reached easily in a day (with a bivvy or a hut stay the evening before) and even some "day trip" mountaineering routes (the Plan-Midi arete and the Tour Ronde come to mind). For the latter, it is absolutely essential to be on one of the first telepheriques up the Aiguille du Midi, however! The downside is the horrendous crowding, but as long as you pick routes that are not classics, you will still get a good day and a climb that is as good as anything else in the alps. Basically, avoid Gaston Rebuffat's "100 best climbs"! Personally, I have never found the crowding too much of a problem. People are happy, enjoying the mountains, and the atmosphere is more pleasant than in some of the "I don't want another human being within 5 miles of me" areas in the USA. June is a good month to avoid crowds, although the snow can be excessively low, and I'm about to try late August/early September as another option.

-- Peter Neame (pneame@com1.med.usf.edu), August 15, 1999.

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