8 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide
First summited in 1786, the Mont Blanc is the symbol of modern mountaineering. Towering over the whole Alps mountain range at 4810m high, climbing the Mont Blanc peak is a must for any adventurer with enough Alpine experience. What is there to know before attempting the ascent of the highest mountain in Europe?
Who can climb the Mont Blanc?
The Mont Blanc ascent is not technically the most difficult but is very strenuous due to its altitude and its long summit day. For most of the ascent, climbers will be roped to their guide; however, experience of climbing glaciated peaks is still required by most tour companies to ensure everyone’s safety.
Climbing the Mont Blanc
As in the case of other high-altitude climbs in the region (such as the Eiger or the Matterhorn), your expedition will most likely be preceded by a couple of days of training. This training will take the form of technical climbs in the Chamonix Valley in order to perfect your skills as well as allow your body to get used to the altitude and prevent possible altitude sickness. The night before the start of the expedition, you will discuss with your guide about the current and expected weather conditions and you will be able to ask any remaining question. You will also agree on which route to take, if that has not been decided beforehand.
Ascending Mont Blanc
While there are many ways to climb the Mont Blanc, there are two popular routes from Chamonix. Here is what your summit day will look like depending on the one you choose:
The Gouter Route via the Dome du Gouter
This is the standard route taken by most climbers to the summit and is considered the least technical route of all. Typically guiding is 1:1 or 1:2, depending on your preference and budget. You will start in Les Houches, a village close-by Chamonix, and ride the cable car and the Tramway du Mont Blanc all the way to the Nid d’Aigle. This is the starting point of the hike to your first night’s refuge, a 2 to 3h relatively easy trek with incredible scenery over the Chamonix Valley.
The next morning will start with the ascent of the Gouter Hut, requiring you to climb up a 700m high rock face to reach the refuge, standing at 3835m high. From there onwards, crampons are required. After following a narrow ridge for most of the ascent, you will soon arrive at the very much awaited summit and will understand why climbing the Mont Blanc is an obsession of so many climbers. The captivating view over the Valley and the mountain range is the best reward for these hours of effort, so soak it up during your few minutes at the summit.
If the ascent left you with energy to spare, you can descend all the way back to Nid d’Aigle then Chamonix in the same day; but most climbers make a halt at the Refuge du Gouter for the night.
Alternatively, certain operators / guides prefer to climb all the way to the Gouter Hut on the first day, stay there overnight, summit the Mont Blanc early in the morning and descend back to Chamonix right away. You can discuss the pros and cons of each option with your guide before finalizing the trip as bookings for the overnight stay at the Gouter Hut are made well in advance.
View of Mont Blanc
The Cosmique Route or Trois Monts Route
This is a more technical route and, therefore, will require 1:1 guiding. You will start from the Aiguille du Midi station which is a 20-minute cable car ride from the center of Chamonix and ascend via Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit, two 4000m peaks. In addition to being more technical, this route requires good weather conditions to ensure your safety. You have the option of descending by taking the same route or by taking the Gouter Route.
There are two alternative routes to climb the Mont Blanc that are good to know about. The first one is the Italian Route via the Gonella Hut – this route will take you from the Italian side of the mountain up to join the normal Gouter Route on the summit. As its name indicates, it leaves from Italy and might be more difficult to reach from Chamonix. The second one is the Grand Mulets Route, the route of the first ascent in 1786. It is the most direct route to the summit and will require you to first ride the cable car to the Plan de l’Aiguille Station, then cross a glacier to stay in the Grand Mulets Hut. This route is known to be used by ski aficionados wanting to slide off from the summit of Mont Blanc in the spring.
Climbing the Mont Blanc is, as you may have understood, accessible to all climbers with an intermediate level and above. This adds to its appeal, but also leads to the way getting crowded during high season; so be warned and expect to share the summit with other climbers. Despite this, summiting Mont Blanc will be a memory you can proudly remember for the rest of your life – so get ready and get climbing!
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