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Expedition Skills Course

  • Where?


  • Altitude


  • Duration

    7 days

  • Weather

  • Physical


  • Technical


  • P2 - Prolonged walking over varied terrain. There may be uphills and downhills, so a good solid fitness is required. Expect to be able to do a 6 to 8 hour walk over undulating terrain with a few punchy uphill climbs carrying a pack up to 6kg in weight.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

  • T3 - May involve harder scrambling or some trekking and climbing with ropes. If snow is encountered then glacier travel with ropes, ice axes and crampons will be necessary. Basic climbing skills is ideal, but will also be taught and certainly practiced during the expedition and  pre-summit phase.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

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  • Overview

  • Date & Prices

  • Pics & Vids

  • Itinerary

  • Kit List

  • FAQ's


360’s comprehensive and fun expedition skills course in The French Pyrenees offers a wonderful alternative to the Alps or Scottish Highlands for the aspiring trekker and mountaineer. Whether you’re aiming to trek and climb in winter mountain environments at home or have your sights on Himalayan peaks, there’s no better playground to learn the basic skills for winter mountain travel.

Learning as you undertake a  supervised mountain journey, this course will increase your understanding and appreciation of this fantastic environment while building your confidence to be able to move in winter conditions safely and independently. Skills covered include: snowshoeing, safety in the winter environment, self-arrest techniques, assessing avalanche hazards, navigation basics, ice axe and crampon work on varying terrain and conditions, building snow and ice anchors and belays, moving together over snow and ice, construction of snow holes, weather forecasting, basic ice climbing techniques, and mountain ascent in winter conditions.

Crucially, this course will enhance your ability to ‘read’ mountain weather and the geographic conditions around you. Throughout the course you will also gain valuable insight into expedition nutrition, clothing and winter camp craft. This is an intense affordable course run by expedition leaders with vast experience, designed to prep you for your next great adventure or just as a week of fun.

Find out more
Expedition Skills Course Expedition Skills Course

Date & Prices

We currently have no scheduled dates for this expedition, however if you give the office a call on 0207 1834 360 it would be easy for us to get this up and running.


  • Airport transfers to and from Toulouse
  • Rolfe Oostra as your guide for the whole week
  • Transfers to and from the mountain base
  • SOME technical equipment (ice axe, harness, crampons and snow shoes) see note on kit list
  • Food while on the mountain
  • 2 nights of accommodation based on 2 sharing at Papilio guest house with breakfast
  • 1 town meal on arrival
  • Mountain accommodation

Not Included

  • Flights/transport to and from Luchon. Best is Easyjet to Toulouse.
  • Alcohol
  • Additional kit
  • Insurance
  • Any additional town accommodation due to bad weather
  • Lunch when in town and final dinner
  • Refuge accommodation if the course switches to the Aneto region for weather reasons
  • Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early

Pics & Vids


DAY 1 : Arrive Luchon

Settle into your Luchon guest house. Pick up rental equipment (if required). Afternoon rock-climbing session. Familiarisation with equipment and basic climbing and abseiling techniques. Evening briefing covering essential information for the following days, talks on food, personal equipment and group equipment. Weather forecasting.

DAY 2 : Transfer to Mountains

Snowshoe into venue area. This area will always be spectacular but will vary according to local weather and conditions forecast. In the past they have included the Hospice de France, Valle de Benasque and the Vignemale areas. Today we concentrate on learning the art of snow-shoeing and snow safety. We get an understanding about varying snow conditions and avalanche risk assessment.

DAY 3 : Technical mountain skills

Today we focus on learning and developing mountain skills such as; Self-arresting. Ice axe and crampon work on varying terrain and conditions. Building snow and ice anchors and belays. Moving together over snow and ice. Crevace rescue, the construction of snow holes and weather forecasting.

DAY 4-5 : Mountain ascent in winter conditions

Today we begin to consolidate our freshly learned mountain skills by using them to ascend a small peak. You will be closely supervised by your instructors but the focus will be on your own decision-making processes. A summit attempt on the Vignemale (highest peak of the French Pyrenees. 3,298m) or Pico de Aneto (3,404m) is a typical objective chosen for the second day of this period. Both are graded PD in winter conditions. (Alpine grading on the French Alpine scale). A qualified mountain guide will accompany you for these days.

DAY 6 : Return to Luchon

Further consolidation of skills and de-brief on program. Snow shoe out from venue. Transfer to Luchon. Evening celebration meal.

DAY 7 : Fly home

Depending on your flight times you can spend the morning relaxing in Luchon or enjoying any of the outdoor activities this beautiful mountain town offers.

The weather in winter and in the mountains in general is very unpredictable. This is Plan A and we will try and stick to it, however Plans B, C and even D may be deployed dependent on the weather conditions that we have to work with. Be prepared to be flexible.


Depending on the snow conditions and forecast we will be either in unmanned winter quarters in a refuge or in a manned hut with facilities. If we end up taking the more luxurious option of the manned hut you will need €60 for 3 nights accommodation. We will of course, let you know before you head out where we will be.

Kit List

Bags & Packs


40-60ltr rucksack that is well worn in and with a good waist belt. A waterproof cover is advisable (remember that these covers are not 100% waterproof but act as a barrier). Whilst on the mountain you will need to carry all of the kit that you are not wearing

Waterproof rucksack cover

To protect rucksack from rain

Sleeping Gear

4 Season sleeping bag

You should get a sleeping bag rated to -10C and choose a sleeping bag that functions within the comfort rating of this temperature. A silk sleeping bag liner will enhance this rating on the coldest nights


Warm headgear

This can be a warm hat, beanie, balaclava, anything to reduce the heat loss from your head

Wide brimmed hat

Keeps the sun off exposed areas like ears and the nape of the neck


Worth spending money on good UV filters. For glacier work category 4 with side and nose protectors

Ski goggles

Category 3 for days when it may be snowing and very windy. Very useful on summit day


Minimum factor 25

Lip salve

Minimum factor 25

Upper Body

Base layer

This is the layer closest to the skin and its principal function is to draw (wick) moisture and sweat away from the skin. You can also get thermal base layers for use at higher altitudes that provide an additional insulative layer while still drawing sweat during times of high exertion

Quantity: 2

Mid layer

These are typically lightweight microfleeces or similar technology that provide varying degrees of warmth and insulation without being overly bulky or heavy to pack

Down jacket

These provide the best insulation and are worth every penny. Ask advice in the shop (or from us) when buying the jacket and mention you want it rated to -10C and the assistant will recommend the correct fill for you

Hard Shell

Waterproof hard shell jacket

Soft Shell

These should be windproof (not all are) and insulative. They are mostly made of soft polyester and sometimes resemble a neoprene finish which makes them very mobile and comfortable to wear. While offering a degree of weather repellence, they are not waterproof

Inner gloves

Ski gloves

Lower Body

Climbing trousers

Soft Shell or fleece lined

Waterproof trousers

As with the waterproof top, a lightweight pair of Goretex/eVent trousers that will act as a great windproof too

Long Johns

Thermal insulation for the lower body


Warm walking / ski socks

Walking boots

Crampon compatible 4 season trekking boots


To protect the tops of your footwear from harsh conditions and to provide some added insulation

Technical Equipment

Trekking poles

Telescopic ski or trekking poles


12 points. Grivel

Ice axe

A walking ice axe between 55cm and 65cm. Go to an outdoor shop and try different ones for weight and size so that you get one that feels good to you

Climbing harness

Try a variety on in a shop before you buy to ensure a good fit. Legs clips are a good option and avoids having to step into the harness to put it on

Climbing helmet

A plastic helmet is more suitable rather than the expanded foam helmets available. Make sure you try it on in a shop with a woolly/fleece hat underneath

Prusik loops

Paracord to make the prusik loops

Quantity: 2

Screwgate karabiners

Climbing equipment

Quantity: 3

Sling (80cm -100cm)


Water bottles

2x 1L water bottles

Evening Wear

Change of clothing for evenings in the refuges

Track suite bottoms


Wet wipes


Personal first aid kit

Blister patches, plasters, antiseptic, painkillers; (see FAQ’s)

Personal medication

Keep in daysack


Head torch

Bring spare batteries

Penknife (optional)

Travel towel

Travel towels from the likes of Lifesystems are perfect


You will be fed very well and given snacks each day however we advise bringing a small selection as a little bit of comfort.  For summit night it always good to have a few extra chunky bars for that extra boost. Energy gels and protein bars are not suitable



Don’t forget this! Your passport should have at least 6 months validity.  With your passport expiry date at least six months after the final day of travel.


Food and Water

Where do we get drinking water from?

All drinking water is from the refuge or can be bought at various stops for the first day’s walking. We pass streams in various places that you can top up from if you should run out, so take purification to add to it in the form of silver chloride or chlorine.

What is the food like in the refuge?

The food in the refuges is plentiful and of very good quality,often using locally sourced ingredients. Breakfasts consist of pastries, fresh bread and jams and you can expect hearty meals in the evenings.


What are the guesthouse and refuge like?

Papilio guesthouse is a comfortable lodge that sleeps 10 to12 guests. Book accommodation to your own preference.The Refuge is dormitory style accommodation but each person will have their own bunk bed.

Can you get a hot shower there?

Yes, hot showers are available. There may be a small supplement for hot water.

Health and Safety

What happens if there is an issue on the trek with a client – a fall or an illness?

360 Expeditions have conducted detailed risk assessments and put the necessary plans in place to cope with any accidents or illness whilst out on the trek. Our expedition leaders are highly qualified and experienced mountain leaders who hold expedition first aid qualifications and are used to working in remote environments. Their training allows them to deal with situations quickly and safely.

Should someone find themselves requiring further medical attention,the leader will organise for that individual to be taken from the trail and transferred to the nearest hospital. The leader and the 360 office team will also be on hand to offer guidance and support for insurance claims and contacting next-of-kin.

Is there any risk of altitude sickness?

There is minimal risk of altitude sickness on this trek.


What sleeping bag do I need?

The idea is to be as comfortable and warm as possible for the night and henceforth to ensure plenty of sleep for the arduous days ahead. A thin summer or three season sleeping bag or better still a silk sleeping bag liner inside will do the trick just fine. The refuge provides clean blankets.

What clothing do we need?

Think about how much of the kit you are likely to use again and what sort of expeditions you are likely to do in the future.The cost of equipment is usually a major deterrent for people coming onto trips in the first place. If you think you will reuse your gear, then it is worth starting to invest in good gear. The old adage often applies – you get what you pay for.

Think about the time of year, and how high you are going. While you may swelter at the bottom of the mountains, it can get surprisingly nippy at altitude. Both long sleeve tops and trekking trousers are recommended rather than shorts. Long sleeves and trousers are recommended as a deterrent to insects, scratches from bushes and to act as sun protection.

Equally, if you wish to bring short sleeve tops or shorts, that is fine, just be careful.Keep an eye on sunburn. The prevailing conditions of the day on the mountain will dictate what you feel like wearing. And the layering system never fails. If you are cold, put a layer on, if you are hot, take one off. If this is a taster into the world of climbing and trekking, borrow kit from friends, alternatively you can hire it from our partners at Outdoorhire.co.uk at a fraction of the cost of buying kit new.

What boots do we need?

Because of the huge variety of terrain encountered when ascending these mountains it is very important to wear the right footwear. Boots should be sturdy, waterproof, insulated against cold temperatures and offer adequate ankle support.In addition it is highly recommended that your boots are well worn in to prevent the formation of blisters.

A wide range of suitable boots are on the market and further advice as to which brand names are available can be found online or at your local outdoor store. The leather / Gore-tex combinations are endless and each with their merits. Our best advice is to try them on – if you think they’re comfortable, and will be for several hours a day, buy them.

Do we need crampons and ice-axes?

These are necessary for the climb above 3,000m. To reach the summit you have to climb the ever steepening Aneto Glacier.The ice and snow conditions vary according to the time of the year but crampons and ice-axes are mandatory for each ascent. For crampons non-technical strap-on types will do. If you are using crampons with the more modern heel clip make sure you have boots that are compatible. We recommend the Grivel 10 point walking crampons. A general walking ice-axe is ideal. These can be sourced locally, please let us know in advance and we can arrange it.

How much weight will I be carrying in my rucksack?

If you are borrowing or buying a rucksack, ask someone to help you adjust it to fit your back. And ensure you are making these adjustments with weight inside it, not empty. Generally it should sit reasonably high on your back so that the weight is acting vertically downwards, not forcing your shoulders back or drooping past your backside. Again, it is about how you feel comfortable wearing it and important to get right. Make sure too that it is either waterproof or you have a waterproof cover for your rucksack.

It is also advisable to pack your kit in plastic bags/bin liners or waterproof bags before placing them in your rucksack. You should bring a rucksack with you of approximately 60-80L as the idea on this expedition is to mimic as closely as possible conditions on some of the bigger mountain expeditions. Although we will not be camping, you will be carrying (or wearing) your snow-shoes, ice-axe, crampons, sleeping bag, spare clothes, water, cameras etc and a share of the teams food for the week. Altogether this will weigh something between 12 and 18kgs and whilst this is just for the walk in and out (minus a lot of the food when you are walking out), it is good to prepare for this!

Do I need a down jacket?

A down jacket is not essential, a good thick fleece or jumper will suffice for the evenings.

The Course

How tough is this course?

Just because we’re in Europe and reasonably close to home, doesn’t mean that you’re undertaking a gentle walk in the hills! This is a fairly challenging trek with significant altitude gain and some long days, learning techniques that may be new to you like use of crampons.

What is the course content?

The following is included:

Snowshoeing, Safety in the winter environment, Self arrest techniques, Assessing avalanche hazard, Basic navigation, Ice-axe and crampon work on varying terrain and conditions, Building snow and ice anchors and belays, Moving together over snow and ice. Construction of snow holes and weather forecasting, Basic ice climbing techniques, Ascent of a mountain in winter conditions

A greater understanding of expedition travel will be gained as further skills such as expedition nutrition, clothing and winter camp-craft will be demonstrated on the journey phase of the course.

Is there a quicker way to climb this peak than the one outlined on your itinerary?

Yes there is, we call it the fast and furious. This involves a very long day of both driving and climbing. We leave Papilio guest house at around 3am to arrive at the national park gate at 6am. Then we walk 40 minutes up to the refuge and from there commence the ascent of Aneto peak. We usually summit after a 5 – 6 hr climb and (conditions depending) descend in 3 – 4 hrs. Then its back into the car for a 3 hr drive to Papilio guest house in France. Total time is around 16 to 17 hours.

The Weather

What is the weather like?

During the day temperatures can be warm and can even reach to the mid 20C. In the evening higher up, it could drop to below freezing and with a distinct chill in the air. For early spring or late autumn ascents there can be snow from the refuge up and the temperatures on the summit well below freezing. As you will be trekking in a mountain environment,the weather can rapidly change for the worse so you need to be prepared for all conditions. Even in good weather it is not uncommon to have short heavy downpours or snowstorms.


What flights would you suggest?

British Airways and Easyjet both fly to Toulouse from a few major airports in the UK.

360 will meet you at a fixed pick up point at Toulouse airport with a meeting time that coincides with British Airways (BA) and Easyjet (EZY) flights arriving from London.

Please contact the office for flights arriving from non-London airports so we can arrange a suitable meeting time.


Do I need special travel insurance for the course?

You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the course. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance. For the Expeditions course you will need insurance that covers you for trekking to an altitude of 3,100m.

Your insurance details are requested
on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date. 360 Expeditions will be requesting your insurance details before the start date of the course.


What training do we need to do?

Being trekking fit before coming to the mountain is of great importance not only to maximise your chances of reaching the summit but much more importantly to enhance your overall enjoyment of the expedition: if you are struggling from day one then you will not enjoy the rest of the trip.

Physical preparation does not have to be Herculean: concentrate on cardio vascular exercise during the week by taking short runs when time allows and try to spend at least 2 weekends a month going on good long walks (longer than 6 hrs) carrying a rucksack of around 10kg, and head for the hills.

This kind of regime will not only prepare your body for carrying minor loads but will harden your body against the big days on the mountain itself. In addition it will help break in your boots and get used to your equipment. This will pay dividends when you reach the mountains.


Will I be able to get WIFI along the way?

The refuge doesn’t have WiFi due to its remoteness, but you will be able to get it at the guest house at the start and finish.

Is there mobile reception?

Mobiles tend to work fine once you get to 3,000m but not at the refuge.

Can I charge my camera / iPod in the mountains?

The refuge does have electricity so you will be able to plug things in to charge, but depending how busy the refuge is, you might find yourself competing for a socket with other guests.

Despite having done other similar courses, I still learned new things. There was a lot of variety, with ice climbing, snowshoeing etc. and it was geared towards what sort of expedition I’d like to undertake in the future i.e. more self-sufficient.

Charlene Gibson, Expeditions Skills Course, 2016
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