Aiguille du Chardonnet (left) and Petite Aiguille Vert (right)
This summer I was the recipient of a fantastic piece of luck in being offered a place on a generously subsidised Alpine skills course run by Plas y Brenin (a prestigious Welsh mountain centre) on behalf of the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust (of course I accepted the offer). Jonathan Conville was a promising young Alpinist whose life was cut short in a climbing accident on the north face of the Matterhorn in the Winter of 1979. He was 27 years old. The trust was established by members of his family to promote and teach, predominantly young people, safe and enjoyable mountaineering practices by absorbing some of the costs of skills courses that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for many people.
The Alpine skills courses run throughout the summer, with 6 persons hand picked by the trust's members to attend each one. Currently the courses are based in Argentiere just north of Chamonix and normally take place on part of the Mont Blanc range. The course lasts three days, in which such skills as moving on ice and snow, crevasse rescue, snow anchors and dealing with altitude are taught. On the final day my group was lucky enough to be able to exploit a gap in some otherwise unsettled weather to summit Aiguille du Tour (3,544m) via its normal route from Refuge Albert Premier. Several groups that had preceded us had been less fortunate.
For any young, or youngish, aspiring British Alpinists out there I thoroughly recommend you apply for this course next time it comes around. I personally, and I think I can speak for my fellow course attendees too, had a great time and learnt a lot. Application forms are usually available in early spring and can be found on the Plas y Brenin or BMC websites.
I would obviously like to extend my thanks to the Jonathan Conville Trust for running the course, and also to the two guides/instructors Phil and Dave who were able to dispense zen-like mountain wisdom and complete nonsense in equal measure. I would also like to thank everyone who attended the course with me - Andy, Tom, Che, Janet and John – the experience wouldn't have been the same without you.
Finally I would like to offer my apologies to Eleanor and Paul who's wedding I missed to attend the course – I'm really sorry guys, I wish you all the luck in the world!