The Arve valley and the adjacent climbing areas can be reached by driving through the Mt. Blanc tunnel. From Chamonix drive down the valley past Sallanches and Cluses.
To get to Balme, La Maladiere and Les Vuardes continue on the motorway until Cluse (a toll must be paid).
For the Tour d'Areu drive along the A-road to Sallanches.
Michelin road map no. 244 Rhone - Alps
Best time of year
The areas described in this article all vary in altitude and orientation. Balme faces west and is situated almost on the valley floor. It's possible to climb here for most of the year except for the cold winter months and August, when it is too hot. This is true for La Maladiere too, even though it is slightly higher up and more windy. Climbing is possible at Vuardes even in summer as it faces east and is higher up than the other two areas. The south facing d'Areu towers, situated at an altitude of almost 2000m, are ideal for the hot summer months as well as autumn, too.
Rock and protection
The rock in all these areas is an excellent grey limestone. Vuardes differs from the other areas as the rock is extremely smooth and compact. La Maladiere and Balme both have a similar variety of holds, resulting in technical and fingery routes which rise up the vertical faces.
The rock on the Areu towers is extremely compact but its rough surface is ideal for smearing.
The protection on the routes varies from one area to the next, too. La Maladiere and Balme, given their ease of access and "sports crag" feel, have well protected routes - many even have cemented bolt belays. Vuardes has a bit of everything, from 8mm and 10mm bolts to some pegs, but all the belays are safe.
The d'Areu towers are bolted up perfectly with 10mm bolts. It is important to remember that these routes were not bolted by abseil but instead on lead. The distance between some bolts can, as a result, be quite substantial. When choosing a route consider therefore not only the grade of the route but also the obligatory grade, as this reflects the minimum effort needed to get from one bolt to the next.