/ First time in the Alps, where to go?

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NateDangerJones - on 04 Apr 2019

Hi all, 

Me and my wife are heading to the alps for the first 2 weeks of July, we have about 12 days there for a few climbs, to give us loads of time to acclimatize and generally hang about.

Our primary purpose is learning, we are there to experience alpine culture, get familiar with higher altitude mountaineering and walking, gain experience on glaciers and enjoy the scenery. We would also like to tackle a decent significant target.

At first we thought Chamonix, but it doesnt really sit too well, i'm not too keen on the idea that the alps = chamonix, i'm sure there must be many better and cheaper alternatives that give good value for our goals. 

We're both very fit and have been doing lots of big days in scotland over the winter with lots of ascent, 

Where would people suggest to go?

Do you have any specific routes that would suit us?

Doug on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

My preference would be Ailefroide in the French Alps or somewhere like Arolla or Saas Fee in Switzerland. The first two have no cable cars, the third does (& I think they are free if you are staying in Saas Fee). 

But there's a lot of the Alps I've never visited in summer, especially towards the east (eg Austria)

Marmolata - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Anywhere, really. Culture is of course very different between France, Italy, Tyrol or Sitzerland (only counting those with significant glaciers). 

My personal recommendation would be to look for an area that's not connected to a "big name" like Mont Blanc, Eiger, Großglockner etc.  In that sense maybe the glaciers in Tyrol's Sulztal (Schwarzenbergferner and Sulztalferner) and ascent of the Schrankogel (3500 m) would be something I could advice personally. It's off the beaten path and probably a good starting point being quite centrally located in the Eastern Alps.

OwenM - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Marmolata:

Arolla would be a good base for a first Alpine trip. There are lots of straight forward peak with easy access. Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d'Arolla. The campsite is quite nice as well.

Trangia on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Marmolata:

Plus 1 for the Eastern Alps which often seem to be overlooked by Brits. Being a bit lower they are an ideal first timers venue with less pressure on the time required to complete many ascents thereby giving more opportunity for developing the skills for Alpine mountaineering. You will probably get in more ascents during a typical 1 or 2 week trip, than you might in the bigger Western Alps. 

I would also suggest  the Otztal Alps with mountains like the Wildspitze, Similaun, Fineilspitze, and Hintere Schwwarze. All over 3500m or so and with glaciers and snow and rock ridges.

Tim Davies - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Les Contamines: domes de Miage, mont tondu, decent valley climbing,  nice campsites, pleasant towns, good walking if weather poor. Not far the busier areas. 

Easy access from Gva with the ouibus 

PaulW - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Engandine perhaps. Lots of smaller alpine peaks and options of Piz Bernina or Pallu for something a little bigger. The traverse of Pallu is a significant route without too much in the way of technical difficulty.

McHeath - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Another vote for the Austrian Ötztal; dozens of imposing 3000ers, plenty of intact glaciation still, and a good refuge infrastructure. The Wildspitze (3770) would be a good highlight; it's Austria's 2nd highest mountain, is technically easy to medium on several routes (good traverse possibilities), and is magnificently situated (4th most prominent in the entire Alps).

Trangia on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to McHeath:

I'm curious to know how you managed the umlaut on Otztal? I couldn't find any way of typing it on this Forum!?

McHeath - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Trangia:

If I tap and hold the "o" on my smartphone a window pops up with all the foreign ones: ö ø œ õ ó ô and ö!

JLS on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Saas-Fee/Grund is hard to beat for your purpose.

There are half a dozen or so 4000m peaks there that would be very doable with your experience. I assume, living on Skye, you’ve scrambled much of the Cullin.

Options include (in order of difficulty)...

Jegihorn 3000m peak - via 2hr walk/scramble up or longer via-ferrata or bolted rock climb.

Allalinhorn 4000m peak - via 1.5-2hr walk up from cable car over easy glacier terrain or 4hr trek up from a Brittania hut mostly on steep snow with a well protected rock pitch near summit, descend the short way to the cable car.

Lagginhorn 4000m peak - 4hr up easy glacier to ridge scramble then exposed snowy top.

Weismies 4000m peak - 4hr up from the Amagela hut, no glacier, mostly scramble up rock ridge that may have some snow about. The quicker way from Honsass is more dangerous these days.

Stralhorn 4000m peak - 5hr up, long snowy walk over glacier. Usually not too cravassed.

Alpubel 4000m peak - 3hr up possible from an early cable car breaking off from the Allalinhorn route. Descent to Langfulh can be tricky with crevasses extra care needed.

Nadlehorn 4000m peak - Long hard hut approach, peak tops out at over 4300m so accimitation important. Crevasses on glacier tend to run parallel to route so extra care needed. Rock pitch at summit may require placing gear.

Raymondo - on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to Trangia:

If you are using a PC and keyboard, then Alt 148 may get you this character... ö
And Alt 129 for this character... ü

Höpe that hülps (hope that helps).

Trangia on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to Raymondo and Nate

Thanks. Yes I am using a keyboard, but still no luck! 

Never mind, the moment has passed now

I think I need more keyboard use instruction generally as I'm just a slow old two finger typist!

L Old Mountain Git on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

I'd second Ailefroide. Great camp site. Plenty of alpine routes up high in the PD, AD range. More sport routes than you can shake a quickdraw at, for days when you're not up high. Barre des Ecrins is 4000m +. Awesome place, that is cheaper than most.

Doug on 05 Apr 2019
In reply to Old Mountain Git:

and with better weather than much of the Alps !

michaelb1 - on 07 Apr 2019
In reply to Old Mountain Git:

I would definitely second the ecrins but not that bloody campsite. I  was there a couple of years ago on someone's recommendation and it was pricey and rammed, mostly with loud Brit sport climbers and boulderers. I hated it. Not only that, but it pissed it down and an Italian chaps dog did a massive crap right in the awning of my tent. To be fair to him, he was very apologetic about it (the man that is, not the dog).

El_Dave_H - on 07 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Another vote for Saas, if you're willing to pay Swiss prices. One thing to consider is how much information available, in a language you can read, for the area you're considering. 

There's tons of info on the Saas peaks in English either online or in guidebooks, plus the guides office in Saas Fee are friendly and have good info on the normal routes on all the local peaks, since they'll be guiding them day in, day out in high season.

As people have noted, lifts are free in Saas if you're staying in the valley and get a 'citizens pass' from your accom. This doesn't cover the Metro Alpin railway (which allows access to the Allalinhorn and Alphubel via the Feechopf traverse) but it does allow you to buy one Metro-Alpin ticket and use it repeatedly for the duration of your stay, which is pretty good value.  

It won't be cheaper than Cham, but as a first time destination will likely allow you to get loads of good mountaineering done.

jon on 07 Apr 2019
In reply to Trangia:

Copy it from his post and save it somewhere.

Toerag - on 09 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Austria = cheaper than Switzerland in general. Can't advise on the climbing side other than Saas-Fee area was the venue for a friend's first alpine trip and he enjoyed it (in the '80s). For alpine culture avoid the modern French ski resorts. You will get the true alpine culture albeit in localised flavours anywhere in the alps as long as you avoid the big ski areas and main roads. I appreciate you're looking to gain glacier experience, but don't forget that you can have plenty of fun at lower altitudes as long as you're not hell-bent on doing snowy things. Why do a rock route at 3000m+ with all the associated time, expense & risk of altitude sickness when you can do something equally enjoyable topping out at 3000m?

Hardonicus - on 09 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

How about the Bernina range. Start of with interesting mountains like Piz Palu (several ridge options, including a traverse) with easy glacier access and then finish up your first 4000er i.e. Piz Bernina. If you're going well you could hit it up via the Biancograt.

Pretty expensive in Switzerland mind.

Post edited at 15:46
Martin Hore - on 09 Apr 2019
In reply to Trangia:

It's long-winded, but what I do when I need an umlaut or accent using a PC is to open up a Word document, click "Insert" then "Symbol", click "Subset" and select "Latin Extended", find eg the ü, select it, click "Insert", then copy and paste into here.

If I needed them often I'd create a Word document with all the handy ones waiting for me.

PS I'm still on Office 2003 so you may need to translate the above a bit, but the same concept should work


Post edited at 16:18
CasualLime - on 10 Apr 2019

I have the same question. 

Has anyone been to Zinal? It was recommend to me as a good base for a first alpine trip. Obviously there are lots of 4000m peaks in the area, but they all look quite long and hard apart from Bishorn. 

Guy - on 10 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Try and be flexible as the weather patterns may make one area much more favourable than another.  There are often east/west splits as well as north/south.

jafferton91 - on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Fully recommend a guide for 1 or 2 days to get a feel.

Deadeye - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to NateDangerJones:

Lot's of good suggestions above.

If it's your first trip to the Alps, might I risk giving a small piece of advice?  With apologies if it is obvious or you know etc.

Every year Brits on their first trip to the Alps get into difficulties for two main reasons:

1. They underestimate the change in scale - I'm sure you know that

2. They take risks with the weather/conditions.

The latter happens in two ways - the obvious one of heading out on a dodgy forecast and taking longer than planned, but also in an insidious cumulative way.  If you have committed your hard-earned holiday to those two weeks (say) and the weather is gash for a week (which it can be quite easily), then your threshold for what's "acceptable weather" lowers.  Being comfortable with the possibility of coming home having got up nothing at all is a very good safety device.

That said, I think you'll have a blast - one's first time in the Alps is an amazing experience.

mysterion on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

At my first Alpine hut I found out that there was no mountain weather forecast and that the only relevant forecast was the national forecast after the tv news - which needed to be 'scorchio' with lots of sun symbols before the locals would go out.

Post edited at 22:46

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