Murray Hamilton

Mountain Guide

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing courses are well established - now in their twelfth consecutive year.

Every year l'Argentière la Bessée hosts ICE, the international meet for ice climbing, which attracts ice climbers from all over world. The local area ranks therefore as one of the ice climbing venues of international repute. There are literally hundreds of documented ice routes to choose from, all within an hour's drive or less, at famous venues such as La Grave, the valleys of Fressinières and Fournel, and Ceillac in the Queyras.

The climbing is very different from Scotland in that it is on frozen waterfalls. Access to the climbs is often short on foot or snowshoe. The ice is hard in consistency and reliable, and therefore sharp equipment is essential. To this end, Murray loans out two sets of the latest gear for course members to try. The routes range from short (single pitch) to long (10 pitches) and are of all grades of difficulty. The conditions are very reliable and with clear nights (temperatures often drop to -10°C or more) and sunny days during the winter season it is rare to miss a day's climbing.

Course details

  • courses run from mid December to mid February
  • 5 days duration
  • maximum ratio of 2:1 This ensures progression according to ability and ambition
  • 2 levels of course: introductory and advanced

The introductory course includes a review of modern techniques of climbing and safety. Multipitch routes are included on the agenda and, if appropriate, you will have an opportunity to lead if you wish. The advanced course will recap on all aspects covered in the introductory course before attempting harder routes. Last year ascents were made of a number of grade 5 and 6 routes as well as gullies and couloirs in a higher mountain environment.

Murray runs all courses himself. If he is already booked he can arrange for other English speaking guides to lead extra courses. He will also arrange accommodation in a local gite. This is excellent value and costs 40 euros  per night for evening meal, bed and breakfast leaving course members to find only lunch snacks - also available at the gite.

For further details or to discuss any aspect of the ice climbing courses, contact Murray by email or by 'phone. Further details of current conditions can be obtained by visiting this site which is maintained and updated daily by a local French guide.

View Murray's Ice climbing Gallery

Please consult the detailed planner for specific dates of Murray's availability.