Chamonix is famous as the cradle of mountaineering and has many outdoor crags which are equipped for climbing. Chamonix rock climbing may have an extreme reputation but as you’ll see below, there is in fact something for everyone.
If you are heading out rock climbing for the first time alone in Chamonix, we strongly recommend taking a guide to ensure that you know where you are going and what you are doing. The information below forms an outline of some of the popular rock climbing areas in Chamonix but is no substitute for a qualified guide.
Similarly, we suggest various areas below for beginners etc. but if you are a beginner or have never climbed outdoors / on your own before then you should certainly take a guide.
Once you’ve got the lay of the land, we also recommend picking up a guide book. There are many available in several languages at the main book shop in Chamonix’s pedestrian zone. We like Crag Climbs in Chamonix by François Burnier and Dominique Potard.
Most popular Chamonix rock climbing – Les Gaillands
Les Gaillands is popular with locals and visitors to Chamonix, thanks to its location close to Chamonix town centre. The area is a beautiful setting for doing some rock climbing, with lakes to stroll around and stunning views of Mont Blanc and the Glacier des Bossons. There’s a small snack bar and toilets too, which makes it pretty convenient if you’re planning to stay out all day, and it’s very accessible from Chamonix on foot, on the bus or by train to the Pelerins stop.
Les Gaillands is also home to Chamonix’s adventure tree park and the Chamonix rock climbing school, so it’s always buzzing with people. The crag at Les Gaillands faces south / south-east so it does catch a lot of sun.
Total beginners should take some lessons to get to grips with the equipment and gain confidence on the crag – joining a group is inexpensive at 44€ and will ensure that you can be safe. All the safety equipment is included except climbing shoes, which can easily be hired from any sports shop in Chamonix if you wish to try them out. Find out more about Chamonix rock climbing lessons.
From the road and car park you can see the larger section of the climbing wall but there are several other smaller sections up on the left hand side which are hidden from view. The best beginner’s section is Vipères, up on the left, and the central section provides some good routes for practising lead climbing when you feel more confident.
Servoz, Les Chavants & Vallorcine
Just beyond Les Houches at the bottom of the valley, and most easily accessed by car, the Servoz crag is located just by the road. There is a great French bistro opposite this Chamonix rock climbing spot, and the Gorges de la Diosaz are only 500m down the road – well worth a visit in their own right so you can make a day of your trip to Servoz. Some sections of the crag are also sheltered underneath an overhang so it can be a good option if it’s raining, and the crag is west-facing so it’s a good location for staying in the shade during the day.
At opposite ends of the valley, Les Chavants in Les Houches and Vallorcine also offer Chamonix rock climbing crags which are suitable for beginners. Les Chavants is particularly nice as it has an open field at the bottom with picnic benches and a snack bar close by on the edge of the Lac des Chavants. The setting has a similar feel to Les Gaillands but rarely suffers from over-crowding.
In Vallorcine and just a short walk of 15 minutes from the car park, this crag is rated ‘excellent’ for experiencing typical granite climbing. Because of that, it can get overcrowded with climbers, although the area at the base of the wall is not very spacious for picnicking etc.
Get up into the mountains – above 2000m – and experience the spectacular views and sometimes quieter location for climbing. As the area faces east and you are higher in altitude, be mindful of the fact that snow can stick around well into the summer months.
There are a multitude of areas to explore, close to the arrival of the Brévent cable car and at different points just off the path between Planpraz and Brévent. You’ll need a good intermediate level of climbing to enjoy everything that there is on offer up there.
Legendary Chamonix mountaineering
More experienced climbers may want to try some of Chamonix’s mythical mountaineering routes. You can book a private guide and follow in some famous footsteps, from 200€.
Advanced climbers will probably already have heard of these famous routes and be itching to try some of them. As already mentioned, don’t forget the risks of climbing and mountaineering and ensure that you take a guide if you are not an expert.
- Easier mountaineering routes: Index (Flégère) and Petite Aiguille Verte (Grands Montets). The Petite Aiguille Verte is accessed via a glacier hike, while the Index is a classic and relatively uncomplicated rock climb. Both can be easily accessed by lifts, and the Petite Aiguille Verte is above 3500m so make sure you’re prepared for the higher altitude. Other easy routes to start with are the Aiguilles de Chardonnet or other routes up at Le Tour.
- Medium difficulty: Cosmiques (Aiguille du Midi) – this route is very easily accessed from the top of the Aiguille du Midi and is a popular and enjoyable introduction to mixed climbing, as it is not too long – taking less than a day to complete.
- Very difficult mountaineering: Les Grandes Jorasses Traverse is a challenging overnight climb, while the Walker Spur at Les Grandes Jorasses is one of the most famous alpine routes. Les Drus is also a challenging route which will tempt you from the bottom of the valley as it soars above Les Praz.
- Mont Blanc: the rooftop of Europe is a natural target for mountaineers who can’t resist conquering Europe’s highest peak.
Chamonix rock climbing equipment
Regardless of your level you will need roughly the equipment mentioned here. If you’ve booked into climbing school then the safety equipment will be provided.
- Harness, helmet, climbing rope (min. length 60m), belay device, quick-draws, cowstail
- Also remember to take sun or rain protection, as well as plenty of water and food – especially if you will be going overnight.
Hiring your kit
All the larger sports shops in Chamonix town centre provide rentals services for rock climbing equipment if you’re booking a private guide or ready to head out on your own. You may want to hire rock climbing shoes if you’re taking group lessons as they are not included but we do recommend having them.
Indoor rock climbing
The indoor climbing wall at Les Houches is open every day of the year, so in case of bad weather there is still a rock climbing option available. In the summer months (April-November) they are open from 2pm-10pm every day*, and when it rains they open earlier – at midday or 9am in July and August!
*Closes 8pm on Saturdays and 7pm on Sundays.
Other climbing activities
As well as the Chamonix rock climbing routes described above, you can also experience the heights of Via Ferrata in a group. Perfect for you if you’ve got a head for heights, this activity takes you across cable bridges and up iron ladders as you cross faces of the sheer cliffs high above Passy. The activity takes a long half day; Via Ferrata 78€ per person.
Visitors of all ages will also enjoy the adventure tree park at Les Gaillands. With a selection of routes from green to black you push yourself through the treetops as far as you dare – all the way to the final Tarzan swing! From 9€ per person.
You might also like to try ice climbing as part of our glacier hikes. Possible from 16 years+, these hikes take you up onto some of Chamonix’s famous glaciers – Mer de Glace or Vallée Blanche – to introduce you to the different techniques of roping up, walking with crampons and ice climbing.
Good to know
You can find out the latest climbing conditions and ask for advice at the Maison de la Montagne, opposite the Tourist Office in Chamonix town centre. They also have an extensive library of climbing guide books which is well worth a look.
Don’t forget to speak to our Resort Team to book group Chamonix rock climbing lessons, a private guide or any other climbing activities mentioned above.