/ Alpine course worth it?

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
sheffieldchris - on 23 Jun 2013
looking for a little validation here.
I have spare time this summer for a trip to the Alps. I have hiked there and many other mountains of the world before but want to do more technical routes.
I have been to over 6000M so just getting to high points is not the focus, can rock climb to VS/HVS on a good day, winter climb to IV.
My problem is that none of my mates have the time or much inclination to come out with me.
I have looked at a course run by the French UCPA and the cost of 1400 for 2 weeks does seem fair when you factor in costs of guides,cable cars, transport, all food and accommodation. My reservation is that will it be actually worth the time, as for the first few days of the program it goes through a lot of the things I am already competent at.
My question is, should I try and join a club this short notice to go with them, go on the course or try and find a partner willing to climb with on here?
DigitalSteak - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris: I've not been on a UCPA course but stayed there with the Chamonix Mountain Festival earlier this month and can't rate it highly enough. Amazing food - breakfast, packed lunch made by yourself, and dinner - all eat as much as you can just don't leave food on your plate. Couple that with clean rooms, friendly staff and a lift pass and you can't find much better value!

I've no idea about the guiding, however...
dollydog - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to cmaradcliffe: could you not hire a guide;perhaps a brit!
Simon4 - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris: To my mind the French and mountain instruction do not mix. Not because they do not have some good Alpinists, some of them are excellent, just that they have lousy teachers - arrogant, self-admiring and inward looking, like their ski-instructors.

So you can either try one of the British mountain centres, if their courses are not already filled up, or search through the various threads for British Mountain Guides, who are much more likely to be familiar with the idea that you view them as a stepping-stone toward self-reliance and that you want instruction as much as routes.

If you climb in Winter up to Scottish IV, and are presumably familiar with Winter hill-walking and generally looking after yourself in cold, challenging conditions, you should quite easily be able to do straightforward routes with a partner of comparable experience. But to go on a course with a British mountain centre or a British guide can provide a valuable instant start with familiarity with what the Alps are all about.
chamdog - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Simon4:

I did a short course with the UCPA last year and found it excellent. There was a huge emphasis on autonomy and teaching so we covered a lot in just a few days. And the atmosphere was great. But note - my guide's English was very limited. I speak enough French to get by so that worked ok for me.
I appreciate that Simon4 may have had a bad experience with French guides but really it's not on to judge the lot of them. I think that the best guides are usually found by recommendation (or serendipity) be they Brit or otherwise. I am happy to pm you recs if you decide to go that route.
Simon4 - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to chamdog:

> I appreciate that Simon4 may have had a bad experience with French guides but really it's not on to judge the lot of them.

Not saying my experience is any more or less valid than yours, and glad that yours was good. But I still suspect that my experience corresponds to what most people find, covers quite a few encounters with French guides and ski-instructors. Like I say, it is normally nothing to do with their technical competence, though I have on occasion found that questionable.

> I think that the best guides are usually found by recommendation (or serendipity) be they Brit or otherwise.

Definitely agree with that. It is about the only way you can "try before you buy", so if the OP gets some recommendations from you or from the various other threads. Mostly people tend to talk about a guide's attitude, which is very important.

CliffPowys on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris:

At UKL100 a day, the course sounds like good value to me.

Even if you know the stuff on the first few days that still leaves 12 days of new things. A professional will also often improve your knowledge of things you think you already know.

I find guides variable and unpredictable. The best guide I have ever climbed with was French and the worst Swedish. Unfortunately it is a bit of a lottery.

Finding a partner can be just as unpredictable. I have had some very enjoyable climbs with strangers I met at the OHM. I have also climbed with people who turned out to have little idea but who "talked big".

If you can find a club with members who can teach you what you need to know this is, IMHO, the best solution. A club, along with my parents and the French guide, gave me the start I needed.
GridNorth - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris: Only you can know if it will be money well spent. Personally I would rather spend the money on a book and 3 alpine trips to gain experience. Guides can only teach you technique which is is just as easy to get from a book and practice beforehand. The BMC Alpine Essentials DVD is also very good.
Up High on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to sheffieldchris) Guides can only teach you technique which is is just as easy to get from a book and practice beforehand. The BMC Alpine Essentials DVD is also very good.

so where are you going to practice your book theory,,, as most of the Alpine techniques are best practiced in the alps, also guides can instruct you on the techniques so you understand them and apply them correctly.

GridNorth - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Up High: It's easy to practice techniques in places like the lower reaches of the Mer De Glace for example but in any case I'm not dismissing guides and courses just pointing out that I personally would rather spend that amount of money on additional trips. It's not hard it's mostly common sense. Some people may not have trust in their own judgement and that's fair enough.
sheffieldchris - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris:
I have enough confidence in my own ability having gone solo to India and Nepal to trek and climb/walk 6000M easy peaks. I know I would be a competent second on routes up to D and happy leading at least PD to start with.
My issue is that do I go out there and chance meeting people who are happy to do stuff with a stranger who has not had much technical Alpine experience.
I could go solo and carry on just doing the trekking but I am looking for more now
WILLS - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris: Kenton cools company Dream guides do various courses there. Check them out.
pamph - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris: Just to put in my tuppence worth, I was stuck for a partner a long while ago, and although was pretty competant at climbing HVS and Grade IV/V and had been to the Alps three times before with friends, I decided to go on a guided trip with a British guide. I learnt a lot on that trip, not least that I and my friends had been doing quite a lot wrong in several areas, such as crevass rescue, the correct and fastest way to move together and reading the weather and snow conditions. The course was four of us with the guide, which was actually a bit worrying at times, (five on a rope is something I haven't done since!) but the experience was extremely valuable despite my (so-called) experience. So I say, go and do it and learn as much as you can.
Pyreneenemec - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to sheffieldchris:

I'd definitely say UCPA was the way to go; but can I ask you a question ? Did you lie about your age ? In days gone by, UCPA was for 'youngsters' under 40 !

I've never been on a UCPA course, but crossed their paths on many occasions and know quite a few guides that work for them. The guide to client ratio guarantees almost personal intstruction.
Pyreneenemec - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Simon4:
> (In reply to sheffieldchris) To my mind the French and mountain instruction do not mix. Not because they do not have some good Alpinists, some of them are excellent, just that they have lousy teachers - arrogant, self-admiring and inward looking, like their ski-instructors.
>
>

Oh dear ! Was it really necessary to post such bull-shit ?
GridNorth - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Pyreneenemec: Simon4's comments may be a little harsh and it's always dangerous to generalise but in the 40 odd years I have been climbing in the alps I have encountered dozens if not hundreds of guides with their clients and my overall impression of them is not good.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Pyreneenemec - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to GridNorth:
> (In reply to Pyreneenemec) Simon4's comments may be a little harsh and it's always dangerous to generalise but in the 40 odd years I have been climbing in the alps I have encountered dozens if not hundreds of guides with their clients and my overall impression of them is not good.


Generally speaking, it is the better-off who take a guide in places like Chamonix. However, like most of us, they don't like throwing their money away and will only use a guide who has built up a solid reputation. You don't want to find yourself with a social disaster on something like the Grandes Jorasses traverse! Young guides just starting out will probably earn their bread and butter with places like UCPA or Montagnes de la Terre, hopefully acquiring the essential interpersonal skills.

For the anecdote. One of my best mountain-memories is being sketched by a very well known and popular Chamonix guide whilst climbing a route on the Grepon. I wasn't charged extra !


This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.