Jan – Mar
7 days

Comprehensive winter alpinism training in the Pyrenees

INCLUDEDAirport Transfers
2 nights B&B in Luchon
5 nights mountain refuge
Professional Instruction
Transfers to  mountain base
Evening meal on arrival
All food in the hills
Most gear & tech equipment
NOT INCLUDEDFlightsSome equipment

This fun, comprehensive and great value winter mountaineering course with expedition skills is a fantastic opportunity for the aspiring mountaineer to learn the necessary techniques to bag their first summit in winter conditions.

On this course, your winter mountaineering guide will ensure you have a fun, relaxed and enjoyable week in the mountains of the French Pyrenees, well away from the hustle and bustle of busy ski resorts.

It’s hard to find a better playground in which to learn how to use crampons, ice axes, build snow holes and move safely in the mountain environment. You’ll learn a whole bunch of skills that will increase your understanding of this fantastic environment and build your confidence at the same time.

Who is this training course for?

The winter mountaineering course is suitable for all skill levels. However you will need a certain level of fitness. The course is self-supported and you will need to carry your own equipment and any technical kit such as ice axe and crampons that you may borrow too.

Whether you have your sights set on a Himalayan peak or simply want to learn how to move safely in the mountains of Scotland, you’ll learn everything you need to know from your experienced winter mountaineering guide, Rolfe. He has led four 8000m Himalayan expeditions and has unrivalled experience of the high mountain environment. You’ll pick up further skills such as expedition nutrition, clothing and winter camp-craft as the week progresses.

What you’ll learn on this winter mountaineering course

Most of the course will be spent up in the mountains where the practical techniques you’ll learn will include;

Snowshoeing techniques
Self arrest techniques
Basic mountain navigation
Building snow and ice anchors and belays
Construction of emergency snow holes
Basic ice climbing techniques
Safety in the winter environment
Assessing avalanche hazard
Ice-axe and crampon work on varying terrain
Moving together over snow and ice
Weather forecasting
Ascent of a mountain in winter conditions

The weather in winter and in the mountains in general is very unpredictable. Although the itinerary highlighted below is Plan A it may be necessary to resort to Plans B, C or even D depending on the weather conditions. If you come on this mountaineering course you must be prepared to be flexible.

Depending on the snow conditions and forecast you will either be in unmanned winter quarters in a refuge or in a manned hut with facilities. If we end up taking the more luxurious option of the manned hut you will need €60 for 3 nights accommodation. We will of course, let you know before you head out where we will be.

This winter mountaineering course is based in the mountains of the central French Pyrenees

Outline itinerary for your winter mountaineering course

This is an outline which may change depending on weather conditions at the time


Day 1

Transfer to Luchon
The transfer from Toulouse airport to your guest house near Bagneres de Luchon is just 1h30. If you all arrive in good time you may have time for a quick rock climbing session with your guide to familiarise yourself with rope techniques. Later, you’ll have an evening briefing which will cover all the essential information that you’ll need for the following days.

There’ll also be talks on food, personal equipment and group equipment as well as weather forecasting. Useful stuff!You’ll enjoy a hearty home cooked evening meal at the B&B before retiring to bed ready for the week’s adventures


Day 2

Transfer to the mountains
Your guide will transfer you to the starting point for your adventure which will be chosen depending on the weather conditions and forecast at the time. This area will always be spectacular and could be the Hospice de France, Valle de Benasque or the Vignemale areas.

Today we will concentrate on learning the art of snow-shoeing and snow safety in which we’ll get an understanding about varying snow conditions and avalanche risk assessment.

Your destination for the night will be the winter quarters of an unmanned refuge up in the mountains. You’ll all pitch in to make brews and prepare dinner with the food that you have brought up with you. Dinner is sure to be accompanied by plenty of banter before you retire to your sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep.


Day 3

Technical skills
Today, the focus is on learning and developing mountain skills. These will include ice axe self-arrest, ice axe and crampon work on varying terrain and conditions, building snow and ice anchors and belays, moving together over snow and ice, crevasse rescue, the construction of snow holes and weather forecasting.

After your days exertions you’ll either return to the mountain hut for the night or construct a snow-hole if conditions allow.


Day 4 and 5

Mountain ascents in winter conditions
Today we begin to consolidate our freshly learned mountain skills by using them to ascend a small peak. You will be closely supervised by your instructors but the focus will be on your own decision-making processes.

A summit attempt on the Vignemale (highest peak of the French Pyrenees. 3,298m) or Pico de Aneto (3,404m) is a typical objective chosen for the second day of this period. Both are graded PD in winter conditions. (Alpine grading on the French Alpine scale).

You will spend these final 2 nights in a mountain refuge or a snow-hole.


Day 6

Return to Luchon
Today you’ll descend from the mountains today with either crampons or snowshoes on your feet, learning skills as you go. After the transfer back to your guest house in Luchon you’ll have further consolidation of the skills you’ve learnt and a de-brief of the programme.

In the evening it’s time for a proper chill out and a few beers with your celebratory meal in Luchon. You’ve earned it after all!


Day 7

A sad today today as it’s the day you leave the Pyrenees mountains.

You’ll no doubt be tired but with a head full of enthusiasm for more winter adventures following your mountaineering course.

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