Chamonix Mountain Adventures
Summer routes for a multi-activity holiday in the shadow of Mont Blanc
By Hilary Sharp
A guidebook to mountain activities in and near Chamonix in the French Alps. Walking, trekking, mountaineering including Cosmiques Arête and Mont Blanc, mountain biking, road cycling, via ferratas, rock climbing and bouldering routes, with clear advice for novices, and suggested levels of expertise required. Ideal for multi-activity holidays.
Seasonsit is possible to hike, climb and ride in the Chamonix Mont Blanc region any time outside winter; many of the activities here rely on lifts and other facilities that are generally open from mid-to-late June to mid-September
CentresChamonix Mont Blanc, Argentière, Vallorcine, Les Houches, Servoz, St Gervais, Passy, Les Contamines, Sixt, Sallanches
Difficultyranges from very easy strolls for all the family, to moderate rock climbs and glacier hikes which require either technical skills or the presence of a professional guide; climbing and mountain biking require some specialist gear
Must SeeMont Joly, Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges; Bossons and Mer de Glace glaciers; MTBing the Petit Balcon Nord; cycling down the Col de la Forclaz; climbing on Les Gaillands; tackling the VF beside Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval
The Chamonix valley in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps is a perfect base for a whole range of alpine adventures. The routes in this guide range from short walks and cycle rides for the whole family to long mountaineering routes to the highest summits, including Mont Blanc.
Activities covered in detail include walks, treks, mountaineering routes, road cycling, MTBing, rock climbing, bouldering and via ferratas, all within easy reach of Chamonix – with suggestions for other outdoor options in the valley, too, from rafting to paragliding.
Whether you and your holiday companions are adrenalin junkies or Alpine ramblers, or a mixture of both, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy, day after day, in this spectacular region.
- 6 sections, with basic information gear, terrain, technique and access for each activity and a range of contrasting routes, illustrated with maps or topos as necessary
- notes about activities such as rafting, canyoning, paragliding and trail running and things to do when it rains
- clear overview maps to help you choose and plan your days
Flowers and animals
How it all started
When to go
Getting there and getting around
Health and safety
Using this guide
Route 1 Mont Joly
Route 2 Le Prarion
Route 3 Aiguillette des Houches
Route 4 Montagne de la Côte
Route 5 Lac Cornu and Lacs Noirs
Route 6 Plan de l’Aiguille to Montenvers
Route 7 Grand Balcon Sud: La Flégère to Planpraz
Route 8 Aiguillette des Posettes
Route 9 Lac Blanc from the Col des Montets
Route 10 Mont Buet by the Normal Route
Route 1 Lac des Ilettes
Route 2 Lacs Jovet
Route 3 Chalets Miage and Truc
Route 4 Charousse
Route 5 Lac du Brévent
Route 6 Argentière via the Paradis des Praz
Route 7 Le Chapeau
Route 8 Montroc–Col des Montets–Vallorcine
Route 9 Bérard valley and Sur le Rocher
Route 10 Dinosaur tracks
Route 1 Refuge de Platé
Route 2 Refuge de Tré-la-Tête
Route 3 Refuge Moëde d’Anterne
Route 4 Refuge Bel Lachat
Route 5 Refuge du Lac Blanc
Route 6 Refuge Albert Premier
Route 7 Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard
Route 8 Refuge de Loriaz
Route 1 Pointe Percée
Route 2 The Dérochoir and Désert de Platé
Route 3 Aiguille du Belvédère
Route 4 Mer de Glace Balcony Trail
Route 5 Tré-les-Eaux Circuit
Route 6 Loriaz to Emosson
Route 7 Mont Buet by the North Ridge
Route 8 Cheval Blanc
2 Alpine Mountaineering
Route 1 Champex to Le Tour
Route 2 Grand Montets to Lognan
Route 3 Aiguille du Midi to Helbronner
Route 4 Petite Aiguille Verte
Route 5 Aiguille Crochues
Route 6 Aiguille du Tour
Route 7 The Cosmiques Arête
Route 8 Mont Blanc
3 Mountain Biking
Route 1 Les Contamines: Truc Miage circuit
Route 2 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains: Prarion circuit
Route 3 Pipeline descent: Saint-Gervais to Le Fayet
Route 4 Tour des Ayères
Route 5 Promenade de l’Arve
Route 6 Petit Balcon Nord: Chamonix to Le Tour
Route 7 Montroc to Chamonix along the Arve
Route 8 Col des Montets to the chocolate shops
Route 9 Vallorcine–Col des Posettes–Le Tour–Montroc
Route 10 Vallorcine to Martigny
4 Road Biking
Route 1 Chamonix to Sallanches
Route 2 Col des Montets
Route 3 Emosson Lake
Route 4 Col de la Forclaz
5 Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Area 1 Les Gaillands
Area 2 The Index
Area 3 La Joux
Area 4 Les Chéserys
Area 5 Aiguillette d’Argentière
Area 6 Vallorcine Slab (Rocher de la Saix)
Area 7 Barberine
Area 1 Col des Montets
Area 2 Pierre d’Orthaz
Area 3 Les Bossons
Area 4 Le Coupeau
Area 5 Le Médonnet
6 Via Ferratas
Route 1 Le Mont, Sixt Fer à Cheval
Route 2 La Curalla, Passy
Other routes in the Haute Savoie region
Route 3 La Yves Pollet Villard, La Clusaz
Route 4 La Roche à l’Agathe, Thônes
Appendix A Useful contacts
Appendix B Useful French words and phrases
Appendix C Further reading
Appendix D Glacier travel and rescue techniques
The French Institut Géographique National Top 25 series maps are the best for the activities described here. The ones needed are:
- 3630 OT Chamonix Mont Blanc
- 3531 ET Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
- 3530 ET Samoëns
- 3531 OT Megève
- 3530 OT Cluses Sallanches
A 1:50,000 map is useful to get an overview of the region, and for the road biking routes. The whole area is covered by the IGN Rando Editions map A1 Alpes Pays du Mont Blanc.
If you use a GPS, programme it to datum WGS84 and grid system UTM/UPS otherwise all grid references will be inaccurate.
Referred to as cable cars, chairlifts or gondolas, lifts are written in French as téléphérique, télésiège and télécabine and shown with a symbol on the maps.
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August 2013, Update to Family Walk 9
The author writes:
"There is now a new walkway which goes where the old one did decades ago. It's all brand new this summer, and consists of a metal bridge which takes you round to look at the waterfall. Very good, impressive views and accessible to all except dogs which might not like the lattice work metal structure. It's just a detour off the main trail described in the walk, so it's an extra. A stairway then goes up to join the normal path at the bridge by the café."
The wrong map appears on pg 11. The correct map is shown below and a replacement page can be downloaded as a PDF.
Chamonix Mountain Adventures is an excellent collection of physical and fun challenges in and around the Chamonix valley, under the slopes of Western Europe’s highest mountain; Mont Blanc.
It is the most comprehensive and concise collection of a variety of activities to do on the slopes valleys and rock faces of this stunning region loved by so many people. Covering the things we all love to do, the descriptions, maps and information allows any adventurous individual or group too utilise their time to the maximum, whether traveling through or having an extended stay in the region.
Hilary a qualified International Mountain Leader, author of guides on mountain hiking and snowshoeing, running and participating in her own business, Trekking in the Alps, is eminently qualified to put together and execute such an enterprise as this adventure guide.
Chamonix Mountain Adventures is the book to have in your collection to plan and take along for the numerous,varied, challenging and fun adventures to be had in the region. A must for those not stuck in the mono sport rut.
Mark Charlton, IFMGA mountain (rock and ice climbing) and ski guide based in Chamonix
This is truly a "something for everyone" guidebook to the Chamonix valley. The newcomer will find much helpful advice and the person who thinks that they know the valley well will find new ideas and many "I didn't know that was there!" moments. I first went to Chamonix in the early 1970s - it's changed a lot over the years (mostly more crowded) but is still a great destination, as long as the weather co-operates.
Chamonix is "the extreme sports capital of the world", justly so. Fabulous scenery, never too far away from creature comforts. There's a comprehensive network of mountain huts, an excellent weather service and the visitor can indulge in anything from bucolic nature walks to paragliding among the remarkably steep mountains.
This guidebook, written by a resident of the area who has had her own guiding business (trekking in the alps) based in the valley for over 20 years, focuses on ground-based summer activities.
Thus: walks, from the short (around 2 hours) to those taking a very full day; a section on trail runs (the author has completed the unbelievably grueling ultra-trail du mont blanc several times) a bit of alpinism, mountain and road biking; valley-based rock climbing and 2 via ferratas. Many of the walks are not immediately obvious from studying a map, and I found several walks that I would like to try on a next visit. For those walks that I have done, I found the advice to be exactly right.
I didn't have a clue as to how the mountain biking is segregated from the walking - this is discussed; clearly the local population don't want any bike coming down narrow path and encountering a walker moments!
There is also much good general advice, including the important issue of hut etiquette. And, speaking of huts, a list of hut (and other) phone numbers - vital if overnight stays are contemplated. To round things off, there's a brief glossary of useful French words. While most people will speak English, it's always polite to attempt to start in the local language!
Some of the itineraries would be best conducted in the low season as they get very busy in the height of summer - indeed a piece of advice is to avoid the first 2 weeks of August, when it may seem that the whole of France has descended on the valley.
Throughout, there are maps and pictures that whet the appetite, as well as side comments on the history, culture and flora and fauna of the region, all written in a light engaging style that bubbles with enthusiasm. I certainly wish I had had this guidebook last time I was there - it's accurate and stimulating. It would suit either the solo traveller or a family (dogs are also considered!)
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Hilary Sharp is British, a qualified Accompagnatrice en Montagne (International Mountain Leader), and is based permanently in France. After 23 years living in the Alps she now lives in northern Provence, within easy driving distance of the southern French Alps. She runs her own trekking business, Trekking in the Alps and Provence, guiding walks in winter, spring and summer (email@example.com; www.trekkinginthealps.com; www.trekkinginprovence.com). Her love of walking and climbing has taken her to many parts of Europe and further afield. Hilary occasionally contributes to British walking magazines and is author of Trekking and Climbing in the Western Alps (New Holland, 2002).View Articles and Books by Hilary Sharp