How to become an Alpine Mountaineer, Part One: Move to Chamonix.

How do you learn to climb mountains in the Alps?

This is a question I don’t know the answer to, but I’ve got this summer to work it out.

This blog was originally inspired when I asked this question: ‘How do I start?’ The answer isn’t laid out on a plate for me. But I’ve asked this question before. I’ve asked it about fell walking. About scrambling. About winter mountaineering. But all those things came through in the end. Despite the fact that I was never given a map of how to go about learning, I did.

This blog is not going to answer this question. It is not a practical guide to learning to climb mountains. But I hope it will serve as some kind of inspiration. It is record of my mistakes, and my progress. Maybe it will be something that could be used as a tick list of things to climb, or things you need to learn and practice in order to be classed as an alpinist. Maybe it will be something that could be used to demonstrate what not to do. Maybe it will just be a story of me, messing about in the capital of alpine mountaineering for the summer.

Right now, I don’t know know. At the moment what I do know is that:
  • I’ll be living and working in Chamonix from today
  • I’ll have limited time off
  • I want to leave with more alpine mountaineering experience than I have now.
Whether or not I can pull that off will be discussed in excruciating detail.

I know the techniques. I can climb mountains in the UK in winter; but I am not a climber. This, I think, might have to change. Long days, time limits, crampons, and snow aren’t new to me. Its glaciers, alpine rope-work and altitude that might cause more of a problem. I know the principles, having done three days, but I’ve never put it into practice.

The key will be finding people to climb with. I have one route on my list (and someone to do it with). Depending on our experience, we might be able to do more but, neither of us are what I’d call ‘experienced’.

Instead, I need to be in the right places, and know the right people. I need to ask the right questions;
“Can I come too?”
“Will you teach me?”
What’s the worst that can happen, everyone says no and thinks I’m a bit weird?

I need to put some faith in the genuine interest of other climber to share what they do. I need to not let myself be limited by guilt and self consciousness; worrying that perhaps I’m holding people backs, or that I’m in the way. I know how happy I am to show people around my stomping ground in the Lakes or North Wales. I know how surprised I was when I asked that question over the winter and got a genuinely enthusiastic response. Its not always about pushing your own grades, but sharing what you love. Fingers crossed I can make that work for me.

So, this is me, resolving to make a nuisance of myself until people show me how to climb things.  I’ll let you know how it goes…
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2 thoughts on “How to become an Alpine Mountaineer, Part One: Move to Chamonix.

  1. Awesome blog! I hope to do similar next year. Sept 8-10 my partner are planning to come to Cham for a little weekend away. Looks likely we’ll hike up from Les Houche to Dome Gouter and down to Courmayeur in one push. You’re welcome to join us. Also if our plans change. All the best!

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