Take it to the Top: Ten Great Alpine Adventures

Grand Slamming the Alps: The Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc, and the Eiger
  |  Gorp.com

Looking for something really worth bragging about at the next class reunion—how about climbing the Alps' three most famous peaks: the Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc, and the Eiger?
Stay in valley tent camps or alpine climbers' huts while preparing for each of the major climbs. Spend the first few days around the glaciers of Mt. Blanc, practicing alpine mountaineering skills, including use of ropes and anchors, crevasse rescue, and both French and German ice ax and crampon techniques.

Once at peace with your alpine skills, you and the rest of the brave climbers will undertake a two-day ascent of Mt. Blanc, western Europe's tallest summit. Though the highest of the Grand Slam's three peaks, Mt. Blanc is not difficult technically, and provides a good break-in climb for those without much experience with a roped ascent. Next, moves to Grindewald to ascend the Eiger's West Flank, a moderate snow ramp leading to the summit. Before the summit attempt, you will want to spend a few days polishing your technical skills. Despite the Eiger's formidable reputation, the West Flank route is non-technical and can be mastered by most climbers without too much difficulty. The last goal of the Grand Slam tour is the Matterhorn. This famous peak can be very challenging, but your group should be able to reach the top in a single day.
Practically Speaking
Every summer, the American Alpine Institute offers a European Grand Slam expedition that gives intermediate climbers the opportunity to bag all three classic peaks in a single trip.
Although completing the Grand Slam is no mean feat, AAI's program is suitable for most anyone with some alpine camping experience who can carry a 40-pound pack five to six hours a day. Participants should have experience in both glacier climbing and technical rock-climbing. Cost for the 10-day adventure will be roughly $4,000 (for two climbers with one guide), plus airfare to Geneva. Climbers must bring all their own personal gear, including crampons and ice ax. AAI provides tents, ropes, all collective equipment, some food, and all transport within the climbing areas. Participants must pay for hotels if they overnight before and after the climbing sessions.
For intermediate-level climbers looking for a considerably less-expensive three-summit adventure, you can also hire your own European guide—just make sure they're UIAGM-certified. In Europe, you won't have any trouble finding a qualified climbing guide. There are over 4,000 UIAGM-certified guides in Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland, and is hard to go wrong with a veteran guide in any major climbing center in the Alps. With a suitable group of two or three qualified climbers to share guide costs, you can spend under $200 per day, exclusive of airfare and hotels.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 1 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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