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.
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.
Located between Chamonix and Annecy are numerous mountain peaks that are much quieter than Chamonix. Based around the town of Annecy, 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.
There are 4 guidebooks that cover this area, called “Rock Climbs around Annecy”, “Bornes Aravis”, “Vallee de L’Arve”, 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 Vallee de L’Arve covers the limestone sport climbing in the Vallee de L’Arve between Cluses and St Gervais including some multi-pitch routes. The Giffe, Risse, Foron rock climbing guidebook covers an area to north of Cluses and around Morzine. The Rock Climbs around Annecy covers routes within an hour’s drive of Annecy, mainly to the east of the town.
As well as the multi-pitch climbing areas, there are many single pitch sport climbing areas, particularly in the area from Annecy in the west to Chamonix in the east, and Cluses in the north to Albertville in the south. These crags offer a wide variety rock type and styles and usually there is a good spread of grades at each crag. A selective guidebook called France East Roc 2, details 1,000’s of single pitch sport routes in this area.
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.
The Alps are also a great place to go walking and mountaineering as well as rock climbing. IGN produce an excellent range of 1:25,000 maps that cover the whole of France (blue cover). Buy these walking maps for the French Alps from our shop.