We’d travelled past the beautiful Lac de Gaillands lake several times on our travels around Chamonix, each time marvelling at the rock climbers scaling the high rock face that rises up out of the surrounding parkland, so we decided to stop off to check it out and see if there’s an opportunity for total beginners like us to try out rock climbing.
We sat on the grass in front of the climbing wall eating our packed lunch and watching climbers apparently of all ages and abilities, from obvious advanced adults to young children, tackle the rock face. It looked like an ideal activity both for us and our older two children – and sure enough there’s a ‘climbing school’ offering the chance for total beginners to try out climbing.
We booked up a slot for us and the two children, for which we’d have to come back the next day as they were fully booked that day. Les Gaillands climbing wall is only a couple of kilometres outside Chamonix and has a bus stop and a train station – and indeed is within walking distance of the centre of Chamonix if you prefer, so it’s an ideal location to try out rock climbing in Chamonix whatever your abilities.
We turned up the next day ready for the children to have their session first.
Ryan and Alicia were nine and 10 years old. Luke, their younger brother, was five – and even he wasn’t too young to have a go although, despite much persuasion, he wasn’t keen on doing it, so it was left to the older two.
An instructor kitted them out with all the ropes and safety gear, speaking pretty good English, and led our – along with a small group of other – children up an easy and gentle, child-friendly part of the climbing wall.
They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, looking back at us the whole way to be sure we were getting plenty of photos of them and feeling proud of themselves for successfully scaling their part of the wall up to a ledge where they came to a stop.
I have to admit we were a bit nervous about the way the group of children all seemed to be roped to each other. We know absolutely nothing at all about climbing and these guys were clearly professionals so no doubt it was all above board but from where we were sat there was a slight fear in the back of our minds about one of them falling and taking all the others, who all appeared to be joined together, with them!
Thankfully everything went smoothly and, from the ledge they’d climbed to, they then had a zip line descent back down to the park below, which they all seemed to love.
By the end of the session the two children were grinning across their faces and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, clearly proud of themselves, which was great to see.
Next up it was our (Mum & Dad’s) turn. We had a different instructor, one whose English wasn’t quite so good as the other guy, so we really struggled to understand how to harness up in all the safety gear.
Our part of the rock-face was much higher and we got to climb all the way up to the top (albeit still of a lower, beginner-level wall rather than the full height of the wall further along, which seems suited only to more advanced climbers).
The instructor shouted helpful instructions in English as best she could – with one of us stood at the bottom “belaying” the other (which basically involves holding the rope in case the climber falls – quite a responsibility it felt!)
Once we reached the top of the wall, it was a case of leaning all your weight back on the rope and abseiling back down again.
This was a pretty scary – but extremely fun – experience, despite at one point a bit of panic involving the language barrier where we couldn’t quite understand the instructions for getting back down again; not ideal when you’re 50ft up a sheer rock face with nothing but your clueless husband responsible for your life at the other end of your safety line!
Despite the confusion, we had a brilliant time at the Les Gaillands rock climbing school – us and the children alike. It was a great experience for all of us and such a convenient way to get introduced to rock climbing so close to where we were staying in central Chamonix. It’s definitely an activity we’d highly recommend!