Climb Europe
Climb Europe

Rock climbing in the French Alps

Chamonix is not the only place in the French Alps to go rock climbing amd mountaineering, with other popular areas being the Ercins, and the Annecy-Cluses-Morzine region.

1.  Rock climbing in Chamonix

Chamonix is a world-class area for mountaineering and rock climbing that is dominated by Mont Blanc, at 4,810m high. The Mont Blanc Massif has 27 peaks over 4,000m with the style of climbing being long alpine routes on granite rock. 

Chamonix is also famous for its series of granite towers (Aiguilles) that line the southern side of the valley.  These towers offer classic Alpine rock routes that range from a few hundred metres to around 1,000m long.  On the northern side of the valley are the Aiguilles Rouge Mountains. These reddish gneiss rock walls are at a lower altitude than the main Mont Blanc massif and are also more accessible from Chamonix via a series of ski lifts or nearby car parks.  The style of climbing found here are long multi-pitch routes, with a mixture of fully bolted routes through to pure traditional routes.

Find out more about rock climbing in Chamonix

Map of the main rock climbing areas in the French Alps

Map of the main rock climbing areas in the French Alps Rock climbing in Chamonix Rock climbing in the Ecrins and Hautes Alps Rock climbing in the Annecy-Cluses-Morzine region

2. Rock climbing in the Annecy-Cluses-Morzine region.

Giffe, Risse, Foron rock climbing guidebookLocated between Chamonix and Annecy are numerous mountain peaks that are much quieter than Chamonix.  Based around the town of Cluses, Bonneville, and Morzine there are many accessible crags with a good mixture of routes.  These range from single pitch sport routes to long multi-pitch routes that are often well-bolted.  These multi-pitch routes are generally between 100m to 300m long, though there are also some monster routes up to 1,200m long.  The style of climbing is often on slabs across a wide range of grades.

Bornes Aravis rock climbing guidebookThere are 2 guidebooks that cover this area, called “Bornes Aravis” and "Giffe, Risse, Foron”.  The Bornes Aravis rock climbing guidebook covers an area to the south of Cluses and includes routes around Grand Bornand and Bonneville.  The Giffe, Risse, Foron rock climbing guidebook covers an area to north of Cluses and around Morzine.

3. Rock climbing in the Ercins and the Durance Valley

Sometimes this area around the Barre des Ercins Mountain is referred to as the Haute Alps or Southern Alps. Again this area is much quieter than the Chamonix area and it also enjoys better weather.

The area is dominated by the 4,000m+ peak of Massif Des Ecrins plus several other 3,000m+ peaks, giving 1,000's of Alpine routes across all grades. There are also around 1,500 sport routes from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 600m long - of which the majority are well bolted. This climbing is mainly situated in the Durance Valley around the towns of Briancon, Ailefroide, L'Argentiere-la-bessee & Guillestre, and includes over 75 crags. 

Find out more about rock climbing in around the Ecrins and the Haute Alps
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The Rockfax Chamonix rock climbing guidebook

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