Coming straight from Geneva puts you first among an abundance of crags dotted around the vineyards on the valley sides around Monthey. These are mostly single pitch suntraps and have range of grades and angles. When the weather is bad up high, you can usually find some dry rock at these warmer, lower altitude venues. Factor in the stunning views of snow capped peaks and it makes for a fine place to climb.
On the eastern side of the Rhone Valley is the ski resort of Leysin - home to the International School of Mountaineering and famed for its rich history of climbing, having been the stomping ground of many a mountain hero. Despite all this it is often disregarded or overlooked in favor of the higher peaks of the nearby Mt Blanc range, which is good news if you are trying to avoid the crowds. It’s a great alpine training ground (you get used to climbing big routes, without the stress of having to deal with any glaciers!) and has a range of routes right up to long, hard and committing ones as well as some impressive via ferattas.
Not far from Leysin, are the less well known, but equally excellent areas of Diablerets and the unbelievable slab climbs on Le Miroir de l’Argentine, which gives routes up to 14 pitches high and is set above a beautiful alpine meadow. Be warned though, it may not look too steep, but the exposure is considerable!
Closer to the French border above Martigny are the crags of Miéville and Dorenaz. Here you can have the luxury of short walk-ins and can choose from long routes of about four or five pitches or just single pitch routes. For those wanting more of an adventure, head up to the area of Pissevache, where after an hours walk in, there are long routes at amenable grades. This proximity to the major alpine regions around Chamonix and Valais means that a sudden dump of snow or the forecast of bad weather in the high mountains need not ruin a perfectly good week of climbing in the alps. Having a little knowledge about this area could just help save the day when the rain is pouring down in Chamonix!
Geneva is the closest airport and is well serviced by fights from pretty much all over the world. Its a beautiful drive around Lake Geneva to Monthey where you'll find the main concentration of climbing areas. Virtually all the climbing areas can all be reached from Geneva airport in less than two hours by car.
If you are entering Switzerland from France, about one hours drive from Chamonix gets you over the Swiss border and into Rhone Valley near Martigny - the crags of Miéville and Dorenaz.
Red TapeSwitzerland, despite its location, is not part of the EU. However, there are no visa requirments for visits upto 90 days.
External LinksClimbers Companions - Information (in English) for climbers visiting the Rhone Valley area of Switzerland
Weather information for Switzerland
Tourist information website