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Vallorcine

Sitting just twenty minutes drive from the world famous climbing town of Chamonix, the village of Vallorcine can be a haven of tranquility in comparison to the manic hustle-bustle just down the valley. If you are more interested in climbing perfect granite than posturing in a bar, then a quick trip to Vallorcine and its surrounding crags could be the perfect antidote to an overcrowded or weather threatened alpine trip.

Alan James on one of the easier routes on sector Afrique - L'Anormale (6b)  © Jack Geldard
Alan James on one of the easier routes on sector Afrique - L'Anormale (6b)
© Jack Geldard

The crags of this area are well documented in the UKC logbooks thanks to long-term UKC user and Vallorcine resident Jon de Montjoye, who produced the excellent little 2006 guidebook Barberine Gietroz - les classiques et les nouveaux spots and bolted many of the routes in the area.

photo
Jack Geldard on the sustained and steep 7b of Dreamer in The Gorge
© Alan James

The rock surrounding Vallorcine is a mixture of granite and gneiss and there are many different crags and sectors. The main area is a hillside above the hamlet of Barberine, known as Barberine and Gietroz (this is the area linked by the map on the right - or view the routes here in the UKC Logbooks). This area has virtually all styles of climbing, from the low angle and low grade multipitch slabs of Barberine, to the steep single pitch climbing of The Gorge (situated up the hill side above Barberine, and usually accessed from the Swiss village Gietroz) and a few mid grade single pitch venues such as The Zone and Sector Afrique.

Sarah Burmester on a classic 6a+ at Sector Afrique, Gietroz  © Jack Geldard
Sarah Burmester on a classic 6a+ at Sector Afrique, Gietroz
© Jack Geldard

Outside of this collection there are plenty of other crags to go at; from single pitch shady venues, through to longer multipitch routes up the Berard Valley, such as L'ete Indien and Into the Wild which are fantastic multipitch outings in the tail end of the well known Aiguilles Rouges, facing the Mont Blanc Massif. The hidden small cliff of Le Couteray is an excellent little venue, but climbing is not officially allowed here, and climbers must be discreet. It is however home to a few routes between 6a+ and 8a+, with one of Europe's hardest offwidth climbs (Thai Boxing) splitting the crag down the middle (see photo below). And of course for those wanting something less extreme there is the easy access slab of the Dalle de Vallorcine, with first pitches popular with groups and children.

Spot the climbers! The ever popular Dalle de Vallorcine offers easy access multipitch slab climbing.  © Jack Geldard
Spot the climbers! The ever popular Dalle de Vallorcine offers easy access multipitch slab climbing.
© Jack Geldard

As well as roped climbing, close to Vallorcine is a healthy does of bouldering up at the Col des Montets. These beautifully situated rocks are fairly roadside, have a great mountain view, and have problems of all grades, from simple slabs through to unclimbed projects on roadside blocs.

Charlie Boscoe on the magnificent upper pitch of L'ete Indien (6a)  in the Berard Valley near Vallorcine.  © Alan James
Charlie Boscoe on the magnificent upper pitch of L'ete Indien (6a) in the Berard Valley near Vallorcine.
© Alan James

The easier crags in Vallorcine do get quite busy in the summer, as climbers spill over from Chamonix, especially if the weather is poor in the mountains, but if you explore the area a little more, it is fairly easy to get away from the larger crowds and have a subalpine, and sublime rocky experience with views of the Mont Blanc Massif, without having to dash for a cable car or fight your way down the snow arete on the Aiguille du Midi.

photo
Jack Geldard bouldering at the Col du Montets
© Ben O'connor-Croft

For those seeking more adventurous outings in the mountains, Vallorcine also has its own 'big crag'. Les Perrons de Vallorcine sit high above the village and have several large rock walls with long routes. Jon de Montjoye and Hilary Sharp made the first ascent of several of these routes, their last being - Bada Boom - back in 2010. This 11 pitch 7b monster of a line has had just a few repeats but is reportedly of the highest quality.

Jon de Montjoye told us:

"The steep multi-pitch routes on this magnificent south facing mountain crag are up to 370m high and are situated on the Franco Swiss border above Vallorcine. The approach from the Emosson Dam in an hour and fourty five minutes. I would recommend the following routes: Ballade des Gens Heureux 6a+, Squatteur de Lune and Grevolle Directe 6b+, Bada Bing 6c+, Bigger Bang 7a, Alea Jacta Est 7a+, Bada Boom 7b. The traverse of the Perrons is a classic in either direction, either for itself or as a finish after a route."

La Traversée des Perrons. (NE - SW)  © jon
La Traversée des Perrons. (NE - SW)
© jon, Nov 2007


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Logistics

When to Go
Spring through to Autumn is an ideal time to climb in Vallorcine. Winter is snow-covered (but great if you want to ski), and mid-summer can of course be quite hot, however there is some shade to be found with tree-lined crags. The higher multipitch routes up in the Berard Valley need summer conditions to dry out and melt away the snow.

How to Get There
Geneva is the usual airport for Vallorcine, and airport transfer company Mountain Drop Offs offer direct group transfers from Geneva to the village if you don't want to hire a car. There is an easy and regular train service from Vallorcine to Chamonix if you do want to get in with the crowds down the valley.

Accommodation Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Vallorcine has a few choices of accommodation ranging from the well maintained campsite.

Gear and Supplies
There are a few key shops in Vallorcine from which it is possible to get basic supplies. There are also a couple of outdoor shops with climbing gear and skis and mountain bike gear, although to get perhaps the best climbing shop range in any town, a short train ride down to Argentière or Chamonix will give you endless options to spend your cash on shiny new things. For refreshments Hotel Le Buet has near-legendary status in this part of the world for providing the essential supplies after a great day in the mountains.

Outdoor Shops Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Geoff Unger on the steep 7b crack at Couteray - you can see Thai Boxing the super-hard offwidth just to the right  © Jack Geldard
Geoff Unger on the steep 7b crack at Couteray - you can see Thai Boxing the super-hard offwidth just to the right
© Jack Geldard

Other Activities
The valley is blessed with beautiful trails for hiking, the best canyoning river in this part of the alps and is well equipped for mountain biking. The ski lifts that carry plank-surfing snow lovers in the winter are taken over by bike wielding downhillers in the summer. There is also the 'Spa' - hot pools and all that sort of stuff, for those who want to calm down and relax after a hard days cragging.

Instructor/Guides Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

Climbing Walls Advertise here

No Premier Listings found in this area

A crowded Dalle de Vallorcine  © Alan James
A crowded Dalle de Vallorcine
© Alan James



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24 Jun, 2013
Nice article. And a neat guidebook too - pride of place on my bookshelves, with a haughty, "When am I going to get used?" air about it. Thanks Jon! Mick
25 Jun, 2013
Looks good - heading out that way with the family in the van over the summer so might take a detour on the way to Mello.. Out of interest how far from the Cham tunnel is this by car? :D
25 Jun, 2013
Barberine is right on the Franco/Swiss border which is a 20 minute drive from the centre of Chamonix. For the tunnel, allow another 10 minutes.
25 Jun, 2013
You can also get the train to Vallorcine and it's not far to some of the crags.
25 Jun, 2013
You can normally but it's not running at the moment - lots of work (still) going on, on the track. A bus service replaces the train, so no problem.
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