France Programs



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Alps Advice

When planning our first European climbing holiday, back in the late 1970s, we naturally thought first and foremost of Chamonix. We had seen a copy of Gaston Rébuffat's 100 Finest Climbs in the Mont Blanc Massif, and the pictures looked just too good to be believed. Now, many years later, we still feel overwhelmed looking up at the Chamonix Aiguilles or across vastness of the Géant Glacier. The wildness of this landscape has never lost its fascination.

Although the French Alps contain countless routes worthy of interest, for our descripton of climbs in the area we have chosen several which we feel demonstrate the variety and quality of climbing to be done there, unique in the world.

Besides the thousands of quality climbs in the Mont Blanc Massif, it's true that France has much more to offer the climber, being famous as well for its beautiful steep limestone sport climbing. Also, the Vanoise and Écrins massifs to the south provide superb alpine climbing with less company than in the Mont Blanc area. With such an inexhaustible supply of incredible routes, we can only scratch the surface with the suggestions we make here. In the list below we have chosen a few of our favorite routes. It was tough deciding what to include and what to leave out. There are literally thousands of great climbs, and a person could spend a lifetime wandering from valley to valley, picking off the gems. But we had to draw the line somewhere, rather arbitrarily I'm afraid.

Chamonix is the logical base for most of the climbs listed here. Easily reached in a little over an hour from the Geneva airport, Chamonix offers convenient access to climbs for every taste and level of ambition. Many of the climbs listed below share a common hut, allowing you to do several day climbs from a common base, enjoying a prolonged stay in the hills. The Cosmiques hut is particularly well suited for this.

Climbing Mont Blanc du Tacul

Many of the climbs listed can readily be combined with other nearby routes, stringing together long outings, either hut to hut, or returning to the same hut each night. If you are curious about some of these combinations look at the "Combine With" links on in the gray info box on each climb's page. Or send us a note to discuss particulars.

Many climbers come to the valley with the goal of making an ascent of Mont Blanc. A worthy objective, certainly, but one that benefits tremendously from a bit of acclimatization. For any trip that includes Mont Blanc, we recommend at least 3 or 4 additional days of climbing, sleeping in high huts, both for the pleasure of those climbs themselves, and also to allow your body time to adapt to the rarified air you will encounter at almost 16,000 feet on Mont Blanc's summit. See our various Mont Blanc combinations below to give you an idea of what we mean.

Also take a look at the pictures on the linked pages below for a "virtual tour" of fine climbing in France.


Our selection is divided into four different levels of difficulty. We have devised a simple system of symbols to allow you to judge at a glance the difficulty of a given route. Click here to see a table with explanations of symbols.

France - Suggested Climbs


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Les Gaillands rock climbing
Mer de Glace ice climbing
Vallée Blanche Traverse
Mont Blanc du Tacul, NW Face
Aiguilles Crochues Traverse
Petite Aiguille Verte
Aiguille d'Entrèves Traverse
Aiguilles Marbrées Traverse
Aiguille du Tour, normal route
Arête des Cosmiques

Pointe Lachenal Traverse
Dômes de Miage Traverse
Dent du Géant & Arête de Rochefort
Pyramide du Tacul, East Arête
Chapelle de la Gliere
Aiguille de l'Index, South Arête
Aig. de la Gliere, Mani Puliti & Nez Rouge
Aiguille du Tour, Arête de la Table
Tour Ronde, SE Arête
Mont Blanc, Goûter Route

Tour Ronde, North Face or Gervasutti Couloir
Aiguille du Midi, Eperon & South Face
North Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul
Mont Blanc Traverse
Midi-Plan Travese
Aiguille du Peigne
Aiguille de Bionnassay Traverse
Aiguille du Chardonnet, Forbes Arête

Mont Maudit, Kuffner Arête
Mont Blanc du Tacul, Gervasutti Pillar
La Meije, Traverse
Aiguille du Midi, Frendo Spur


9-day Jungfrau, Monte Rosa & Mont Blanc

12-day Mont Blanc, Matterhorn & Eiger
8-day Mont Blanc & Matterhorn

Traverse of Les Courtes
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Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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All images, layout and text ©2004 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved

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