After a two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Conville Courses are back!
Established in 1980, the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust (‘JCMT’) has provided over 5,000 young people the essential skills needed to play safely in the mountains through subsidised courses in the Alps and UK.
Due to the Covid pandemic, the JCMT was unable to run any of its usual courses in the Alps or the UK since the Scottish Winter Mountaineering Course in January 2020.
But now, after over a two-year break, the Conville courses are firmly back on the scene, with the successful completion of the Alpine Preparation course in North Wales at the end of April 2022 and the summer Alpine Skills Courses in Chamonix. Applications for the Trust’s Scottish winter courses close on Friday 28 October.
The JCMT aspires to increase the number of places available on the courses, and this year, the number of places on its North Wales Alpine Preparation courses was doubled due to the increased number of applicants. But the JCMT can only do this with the continued support of the climbing community in the form of grants and donations. Next year the Trust will be offering 216 places across its three programmes.
Participants of the Alpine Mountaineering Course in Chamonix climbing the Cosmiques Arete on the Aiguille du Midi
Photo: Neil Johnson
What is the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust?
The JCMT was set up in 1980 after Jonathan Conville, a very passionate and competent mountaineer, sadly died whilst climbing the north face of the Matterhorn at the age of 27. His family and friends decided to set up a trust dedicated to upskilling keen young people to give them the essential skills needed to explore the mountains safely. The focus is on subsidising a series of courses for climbers aged 18-30 who may not have the skills, confidence, or financial means to practice safely in the mountains.
“…He identified strongly with the outdoors where he constantly found challenge. The Trust’s aims are to encourage and assist young people to train for and pursue their love of the outdoors in the spirit of adventure, which Jonathan embraced during his life. As long as there are mountains, there will be a place for the Trust…”
Photo: The JCMT
The JCMT subsidises an annual programme of three courses aimed at varying abilities and objectives.
Alpine Preparation Courses in North Wales
Alpine Mountaineering Courses in Chamonix, France
Winter Mountaineering Courses in Scotland
The Alpine Preparation Course is a great introduction to summer mountaineering, taught over a weekend at the National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin in North Wales. Attendees are trained in the basics of alpine rope work and some of the core skills necessary to climbing safely in an alpine environment under the instruction of IFMGA Guides.
Training on the Alpine Preparation Course in North Wales
Photo: Libby Peter
For those looking to make the jump from summer to winter mountaineering, the Scottish Winter Mountaineering Course based over a weekend in the Cairngorms provides training in ice axe and crampon technique, winter conditions navigation, route selection and avalanche assessments.
Great conditions for the Scottish Winter Mountaineering course in Coire-an-t-Sneachda, Cairngorms.
Photo: JCMT collection
The Alpine Mountaineering Course in Chamonix is for climbers and mountaineers with limited mountaineering experience and covers the essential skills needed to climb safely in Alpine environments. This course covers glacier travel, crevasse rescue, avalanche assessment, ropework, moving together in alpine terrain and route planning over three days under the tuition of a Chamonix based IFMGA guide. Many of the participants stay on in Chamonix after the course to practise their new skills on some of the classic routes in the massif.
British Mountain Guide Neil Johnson coaching short roping and moving together techniques up at Brevent during the July 2022 Alpine Skills Course. Photo: Tom Skelhon
This year’s Alpine programme was delivered by Peak Mountain Training. We spoke to its Director and British Mountain Guide Neil Johnson about the courses.
How important is getting formal training to start alpine climbing, even if you're an experienced UK rock climber.
“For many people the Alps are a big step up in both scale and commitment. Getting some training is highly valuable and can make a big difference in how successful early climbing trips can be. Preparation in the UK is useful, but it is often a surprise people just how different the Alps can feel. A lot of classic routes in the alps don’t require a high level of technical climbing but do need well-honed scrambling skills, efficient movement over snow and ice as well as slick rope work.”
How have the Conville summer alpine courses evolved in your experience of instructing them, and what do you cover in the courses?
“The courses have always been full of enthusiastic, motivated climbers and walkers. Over the last 40 years the guides working on the course have worked hard to make the skills and techniques taught to be tailored to the needs of the participants. The current programme, based in Chamonix, uses the valley’s lift system to access a variety of terrain. We focus on key skills:
Movement skills in snow, ice and rock.
Efficient rope work
Glacier skills and Crevasse rescue
For you what are the best aspects of instructing the Conville Courses?
“The enthusiasm of the student is infectious. There’s a real sense of satisfaction for myself and all the guides in helping people get started and seeing them progress. There is a great vibe at the campsite, many people use the course to start a trip and it nice to hear what people have been doing after the course.”
All the courses are heavily subsidised by the JCMT and represent an excellent, affordable way for young people to gain skills, confidence and experience where they may not have the chance to do so.
To find out more about the courses and how to apply, visit the website here.
How you can help the Trust
As the JCMT is a charity, it relies on financial support through charitable donations, including generous donations from the BMC and Scottish Mountaineering Trust.
The JCMT aims to subsidise as many places as possible on the courses in a sustainable way to ensure it can continue for many years.
The number of applicants always outstrips the number of places available and so a major aim for the JCMT is to expand the number of places available on all three of the course series, especially to run courses specifically for less advantaged individuals. For every £90 donated, an additional place on the Alpine Preparation Course in Wales can be offered, and a £150 donation would allow another place on the Summer Alpine Skills Course in Chamonix.
If you would like to make a donation however modest, either as a one off or recurring that can directly fund courses for aspiring mountaineers, please visit the link here
All proceeds go towards funding course places.
Keep in touch with the Conville Trust
The JCMT has a new look webpage with information about the courses, Jonathan Conville’s story and the work of the Trust: www.jcmt.org.uk
Follow the JCMT on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jcmtclimb/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_JCMT and Instagram: www.instagram.com/the_jcmt
The Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust is a UK registered charity 293720
*Policy details: £243.35 for an annual European Alpine and Ski policy up to age 69.
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