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Arc'teryx Alpine Academy 2014

posted Aug 14, 2014, 10:08 AM by Italo Balestra   [ updated Mar 25, 2016, 1:59 AM by GoOut Project ]

When I climbed the Mont Blanc, 15 years ago, I had very limited experience in walking on a glacier and in ice climbing and I had a ridiculously minimalistic equipment (all I could afford at that time, as a student) composed of one ice axe, a pair of ice boots, a pair of crampons, a sleeping bag, and a headlamp. I also had an old Millet backpack from the '70s, that I inherited from my dad, and a light Ferrino beach-camping tent that I borrowed from my girlfriendI was so determined to reach the summit that year, that with my very limited knowledge, my minimalistic equipment, and a good dose of recklessness, I managed to get to the summit and back all in one piece and all by myself. Everything went smoothly, I never felt in danger, and I was so stoked of what I did. 

Today, being a bit more experienced, when I think of all the risks I unconsciously took, I feel almost sick! I should have been more humble, learn the basic techniques and understand the dangers of the high mountain environment and big alpine glaciers before venturing up there alone! Today, as a grown-up and maybe a bit "wiser" man, if I could meet the "young and reckless" version of myself I would suggest myself to go and do first an alpine climbing course or to hire an alpine guide... or even better... to go to the Alpine Academy in Chamonix!

I first heard about the Arc'teryx Alpine Academy a couple of years ago from some of our friends, who had watched videos and read articles on the first edition of the event in 2012. They got excited and they tried to convinced me to participate to the next edition. I had been thinking about the Academy for more than a year... I dreamed about going back to Chamonix and to the Mont Blanc... and then, as a big surprise, with a little bit of luck and thanks to the Globetrotter store, I managed to win the perfect price: a ticket to Chamonix and the Arc'teryx Alpine Academy, all-inclusive!

Then, off we go...  last june, together with other Go Out Project team members, we packed our gear... (this time much better equipped) destination Chamonix to brush up on our knowledge of mountain safety at the Alpine Academy!

What's the Alpine Academy?
The Arc'teryx Alpine Academy is a 3-day event held every year in June in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. The event gathers an international crowd of people who are passionate about the mountains. The Academy offers mountaineers of every level the chance to learn or strengthen their knowledge on mountain safety, rescue, and climbing techniques and a wide range of other topics related to different alpine activities. Courses (or clinics) are held by professional mountain guides together with Arc'teryx athletes.

The clinics are mostly focused on safety: you will learn how to move safely in a high-mountain environment and how to behave in some of the most common emergency situations. You'll have the chance to practice first hand what you have learned, as for example, how to rescue your climbing partner from a crevasse, or how to improvise a rescue on a wall. You may also experience a night on the glacier and learn how to set a bivy or how to build and emergency cave on ice and snow.  

In addition, you have the chance to test products offered by the

sponsoring brands. This year there were products from Arc'teryx, Petzl, Scarpa, Hilleberg, SUUNTO, LYO Food, and Peak Design.
A number of interesting side activities are also available thanks to the sponsoring brands. A sewing station, where you could let your garments be repaired, a tool-sharpening station, where you could learn tricks on how to optimally sharpen your crampons and ice axes, the movie night, with many inspiring videos, and several seminars covering a large number of topics related to alpinism.

When and where?
The Academy is held in June, conveniently planned at the beginning of the summer climbing season, so that you can learn and practice right at the beginning of the mountaineering season and still have time to plan your next climbing projects for the summer. One of the coolest location on the Alps is chosen for the Academy. Chamonix is an international alpine town strategically situated at the bottom of the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. This probably makes it one of the best location in the world for such an event. In a few minutes the Telepherique du Midi brings you from the town centre up
to the 3800 m of the Aiguille du Midi, the famous and spectacular terrace on one of the largest glacier in the Alps, the Mer de Glace.

The Clinics
Most of the courses are held in english, but you can also choose french, or german (most guides are english, french, and german). Each guide has a small group of up to six people, which is optimal to give everybody the opportunity to practice. Small-sized groups also give the guides more freedom and flexibility to plan the activities together with the participants. You shouldn't expect to climb very hard or technically demanding routes, but you can discuss with the guides if you have any preference on what to do, what to learn, and where to go. The clinics are mostly focussed on safety and are done in one day. Most of the activities are done within a relatively short distance from the Aiguille du Midi, the train station of Montenvers, the Brevent, or down in the valley around Chamonix.

We have participated in the following clinics:

  • Glacier preparation
  • Valleé Blanche traverse
  • Technical Mountaineering (level 2)
  • Women's Glacier walk
  • Alpine Climbing
Text: Italo Balestra - Photos: Ruben Dario, Julian Rohn, Franz Walter, Italo Balestra, Marina Tronquet, Arc'teryx Archive