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Expedition Skills Course

  • Where?

    France

  • Altitude

    3,032m

  • Duration

    7 days

  • Weather

  • Physical

    P2

  • Technical

    T3

  • 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.

  • Overview

  • Date & Prices

  • Pics & Vids

  • Itinerary

  • Kit List

  • FAQ's

Overview

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

Departure & Return

Duration

Price (excl. flight)

Price (incl. flight)

Start: 05 January 2019
End: 11 January 2019

Price without flights:  £760

Leader: Rolfe Oostra with help from Emma Taylor
In conjunction with SayYesMore

05 January 2019

11 January 2019

7 days

£760

N/A

Leader: Rolfe Oostra with help from Emma Taylor
In conjunction with SayYesMore

Start: 12 January 2019
End: 18 January 2019

Price without flights:  £760

All female expedition: Leader: Rolfe Oostra

12 January 2019

18 January 2019

7 days

£760

N/A

All female expedition: Leader: Rolfe Oostra

Start: 21 January 2019
End: 27 January 2019

Price without flights:  £760

Leader: Rolfe Oostra
Assisted by: Jamie Ironmonger.

21 January 2019

27 January 2019

7 days

£760

N/A

Leader: Rolfe Oostra
Assisted by: Jamie Ironmonger.

Start: 03 February 2019
End: 09 February 2019

Price without flights:  £760

Leader: Rolfe Oostra

03 February 2019

09 February 2019

7 days

£760

N/A

Leader: Rolfe Oostra

Start: 10 February 2019
End: 16 February 2019

Price without flights:  £760

Leader: Rolfe Oostra & Jo Bradshaw

10 February 2019

16 February 2019

7 days

£760

N/A

Leader: Rolfe Oostra & Jo Bradshaw

Included

  • 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)
  • 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* (please see the FAQ’s for the pick-up / drop-off times in Toulouse)
  • Additional kit
  • Insurance
  • Any additional town accommodation due to bad weather
  • Lunch when in town and final dinner
  • Alcohol
  • Refuge accommodation if the course switches to the Aneto region for weather reasons (60 Euros)
  • Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early

Pics & Vids

Itinerary

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.

Night in guest house.

(D)

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.

Night in mountain hut.

(BLD)

 

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.

Night in mountain hut, snow-hole or snow camping.

(BLD)

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.

Night in mountain hut, snow hole or snow camping.

(BLD)

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.

Night in guest house.

(BL)

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.

Transfer to Toulouse Airport.

(B)

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

Rucksack

Bring a rucksack with a good waist belt. Ideally, bring the biggest rucksack you have, 60-80L is perfect, ideally an 80L bag. To carry all your kit and a proportion of your week’s food allocation along with your crampons, helmet, ice axe etc.

Waterproof rucksack cover

To protect rucksack from rain

Sleeping Gear

4 Season sleeping bag (If you wish to spend a night in a snow hole)

If conditions allow us to build a secure snow hole and you wish to spend a night in it, then please bring a 4 season sleeping bag that is rated to -10C. Choose a sleeping bag that functions within the comfort rating of this temperature.

A silk liner will enhance this rating on the coldest nights.

Light summer silk liner

For nights spent in the refuge.  The refuge will also provide blankets.

Headwear

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

Sunglasses

Worth spending money on good UV filters. For glacier work category 4 with side and nose protectors.  Julbo is our preferred supplier

Ski goggles

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

Sunblock

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

Underwear

Merino or wicking material, not cotton. How many pairs you take is entirely up to you

Feet

Warm walking / ski socks

Walking boots

Crampon compatible 4 season trekking boots

Gaiters

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

Technical Equipment

Trekking poles with snow baskets

Crampons (available to borrow from 360)

12 points. Grivel. If you have got these already, then this is good as it always helps to practice with your own.  If not 360 will lend you crampons

Ice axe (available to borrow from 360)

A walking ice axe between 55cm and 65cm.  If you have got this already, then this is good as it always helps to practice with your own.  If not 360 will lend you an ice axe

Climbing harness (available to borrow from 360)

It’s always good to have your own climbing harness and we recommend Petzl.

Don’t worry if you don’t have your own – 360 can lend you one at no cost.

Climbing helmet (available to borrow from 360)

A plastic helmet is more suitable rather than the expanded foam helmets available. Make sure you can wear it with a woolly/fleece hat underneath.  If you do not have a climbing helmet then 360 can lend you one.

Prusik loops

Paracord to make the prusik loops

Quantity: 2

Screwgate karabiners

Climbing equipment

Quantity: 3

Sling (80cm -100cm)

Snow shoes (available to borrow from 360)

A flat device attached to the sole of a boot and used for walking on snow. If you have these already, then this is good as it always helps to practice with your own.  If not 360 will lend you snow shoes

Hydration

Water bottles

2x 1L water bottles

Evening Wear

Change of clothing for evenings in the refuges

Comfortable clothes for the evening

Toiletries

Wash kit

Keep it simple on the mountain. Essentials are toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Moisturiser is advisable, everything else is a luxury!

Travel towel

Travel towels from the likes of Lifesystems are perfect

Wet wipes

Alcohol gel

A must have for good camp hygiene

Medications

Personal first aid kit

The 360 med kits are designed to be used in emergencies and akin to an A&E rather than a pharmacy on Expeditions so please come prepared with useful meds for yourself such as painkillers (Ibuprofen if you can take it and a Paracetamol) plus blister plasters, plasters, antiseptic, rehydration sachets and any muscle rubs you wish to use.

Personal medication

Keep in daysack

Misceallaneous

Head torch

We recommend Petzl head torches. Bring spare batteries.

Penknife (optional)

Snacks

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 day it’s always good to have a few extra chunky bars for that extra boost.  Energy gels and protein bars are not suitable.

Plastic mug

Large plastic mug for soups and hot drinks

Plastic bowl

Large plastic bowl for cereals, porridge, soup etc.

Spoon

Light weight spoon to use at meal times

Knife

Light weight knife to use at meal times

Documentation

Passport

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.

Travel insurance

Copy of own travel insurance details.  And relevant contact numbers.

We have a partnership with True Traveller and would recommend that you contact them when looking for travel insurance for your trip with 360. However, it is vital that you ensure that the insurance cover they offer is suitable for you, taking your personal circumstances (items to be insured, cancellation cover, medical history) into account. Many other insurance providers are available and we do recommend that you shop around to get the best cover for you on the expedition you are undertaking.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip.  To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

Dental check up

We recommend you have a dental check-up before your trip. New fillings can be an issue at altitude if there is an air pocket left in the gap

EH1C (formerly E111)

While you do have travel insurance, this can save you paperwork and reduce upfront costs should you have a minor ailment or need to see a local GP if you already have one

FAQ's

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.

Do you provide snacks during this expedition? Or do you recommend that we bring our own?

360 provides some snacks for your days on the mountain, however do bring some of your favourite snacks from home, a range of fast and slow release energy snacks. The pure ‘energy’ style bars which are solid are quite tough to eat on the mountain so go with simple things. Flapjacks, shortbread, sweets, nuts and chocolate are great, snacks that you’re going to really look forward to eating and which will give you energy.

Accommodation

What are the guesthouse and refuge like?

Papilio guesthouse is a comfortable lodge that sleeps 10 to 12 guests.

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.

Kit

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 light summer silk liner should be fine for the nights spent in the refuge. The refuge also provides clean blankets.

If conditions allow us to build a snow hole and you wish to spend a night in it, then please bring a 4 season sleeping bag rated to -10C.

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, so it is important to get it 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. Ideally an 80L bag.  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 can weigh up to 12kgs 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 teens C. 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

Travel

Flights aren’t included what time should I arrive and depart to Toulouse?

We haven’t included flights as this gives you options from the UK. There are many flights that come to Toulouse daily from many different airports.

For our skills weeks we will be suggesting you get the following flights:

  • EasyJet Gatwick – Toulouse 0840 arriving at 1130
  • EasyJet Toulouse –  Gatwick 1805 arriving at 1900

 

If these do not suit then all you need to know is that we will be at the airport at midday on day one of the itinerary.

On the day you leave we will be dropping the team off at Toulouse airport for 3 PM.

Please therefore find flights that work for these timings.

If there are any issues with this please let us know and we will also try and help however it might mean in getting a hire car/train or taxi to your start / finish point.

Bagneres de luchon is 1h 40 mins drive away.

Insurance

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.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

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 8 weeks before your departure.

Do I need an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for this expedition?

As the trip is based in France it is also worth having a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as this “gives card holders the right to access state-provided healthcare on temporary stays in other European Economic Area (EEA) countries or Switzerland. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would be to a resident of that country and is provided either at reduced cost or, in many cases, for free.

The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until the card holder returns home. This includes treatment for pre-existing medical conditions.” If you don’t already have one, you can apply for one here and it is free.

Many travel insurers won’t cover your medical costs in the unlikely event that you need medical treatment whilst you are away which could have been covered by an EHIC.

Training

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.

Electronics

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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