Top roping: always be careful as pitches can be 30m (or even 35m). Use at least a 60m single rope (10.5 or 11mm) with a knot in the end. A helmet is recommended. In general, all routes are very well equipped. Carry 12 quick-draws and something for the belays.
Friction climbing on sunny granite slabs for most routes. Then a handfull of 200m routes which are a little more physical. 500m past Vallorcine village take a left (signposted). If you reach the Swiss border, you have gone too far. Park before the village of Barberine so as not to block the tiny road: the river here (l'Eau Noire) is beautiful. Cross it by the footbridge, in doing so, enter Switzerland without any passport control.
Carry a passport anyway and head over to Chatelard after climbing to fill up with petrol and chocolate.
The Chamonix valley has a new cragging spot. It's called Le Labo, and routes have been bolted by Jeansé Knoertzer, Ilan Knoertzer, Denis Poussin and Philippe Collet. Rock is still a bit fragile here and there, but with time it should get better. The climbs are relatively short (18/30m), overhanging and requires stamina. A good place to get in shape.
Drive to the hamlet of La Joux and park in the station car park. Walk through a metal gate to cross the railway line, then turn right, through the hamlet to the woods. Climb up and right through the woods to this small crag. 10min walk. Most routes are 20m and between grades 4 and 6 on slabby, technical gneiss.
A pleasant south facing setting and nice for picnics. There's a nearby avalanche barrier which has bolted routes and is also OK for bouldering.
This is Chamonix's favorite town crag, complete with tourist spectators and a coffee bar. A perfect family crag with lots of easy grades but something for everyone up to 7b. Generally well protected, gneiss rock and south facing. A must for all visiting climbers.
As you drive into the valley, turn left off the motorway and follow the "Taconnaz, Bossons" signs. You pass it on your left, just opposite the small lake.
A juggy roadside crag with some athletic overhangs. South facing, hot schist in summer with a cafe opposite to cool off. Mostly 2-3 pitch routes of 3 to 6b, with some harder.
Go to the bar opposite for a beer and check out the stuffed "Dahu" - a strange & rare local mountain animal. A visit to the Gorges de Diosaz in the centre of Servoz is also a must - 1km from the climbing wall.
Vallorcine has a few great climbs in a magnificent setting. Some of the best rock in the area, on these granite walls you can find climbs between 4 to 6b. The climbing area is located on the right when heading down the Col de Montet towards Vallorcine. With a NE exposure, this climb can be enjoyed in the morning freshness, but takes longer to dry after a rainfall. Park the car at the Buet Parking. You can also access this climb by taking the valley train.
Vallorcine means "valley of the bears": the names of the climbs are quite often a wordplay with the term 'ours' (bear).
And after the warm-up on these valley crags you may want to try something a little higher?
Take the Flegere lift and then the Index chairlift into the Aiguille Rouges. Or the Midi lift up into the land of glaciers and high mountain granite.
- Access times to these crags are marked against their names.
- Don't forget to carry drinking water.
- Use the local buses to get up and down the 25km long valley. Or hitch-hike and practice your french.
- Fill up with petrol in Switzerland, it's a lot cheaper and the border is just past Vallorcine.
- On the other hand, diesel is much cheaper in France.
Crag Climbs in Chamonix by François Burnier and Dominique Potard, two local mountain guides, is the recommended book.