Mont Blanc Ascent

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Mont Blanc

Last official altitude measured on September : 4808, 73 metres (15' 776, 8)

Long considered as the culmination of a great climber’s career, it has unfortunately become a consumer product throughout the years.

REACHING THE TOP OF MONT BLANC

Redefining the ascent of this summit and enhancing its image as a serious climbing expedition has become necessary. Reaching the top of Mont Blanc requires preparation to high altitude, physical and psychological training, technical mountaineering skills etc.



Classic routes overview

THE NORMAL ROUTE VIA GOÛTER

Day 1: 

+1428 m (4’755) from Nid d’Aigle to Goûter hut.

5 to 6 hours.


Day 2 : 

+1015 m (3'712) from hut to summit / 2438 m (8'045) from summit to Nid d’Aigle.

10 to 12 hours.


Using the lifts from Les Houches (Bellevue cablecar) or St Gervais (tramway du Mont Blanc) will take you to Nid d’Aigle. Overnight possible in 3 different huts along the route: Nid d’Aigle, Tête Rousse, and Gouter. One additional night at Gouter hut makes the climb possible in 3 days.


A technically less demanding and apparently “easy” route, with objective risks yet to be considered seriously: rockfalls within the Gouter couloir and an airy Bosses ridge that may involve thin and exposed icy sections.

THE 3 SUMMITS FROM AIGUILLE DU MIDI

Day 1 : 

200 m (0’666) / + 45 m (0’150) from summit of Aiguille du Midi to Cosmiques hut.
50 min.

Day 2 :

+ 1425 m (4'745) from Cosmiques hut to summit.
1425 m (4'745) from summit to hut; add +370 m (1'232) to get back to the cable car.
13/14 hours.

Starting right from Chamonix, one can reach the Cosmiques hut via Aiguille du Midi and the cable car in 45 min. Although the first day seems short and easy, one must expect a substantial vertical gain on the second day.


Physically demanding this route remains above 4000 meters most of the way. It includes some technical sections (bergschrund/crevasse crossing on Mont Blanc du Tacul- Mont Maudit), as well as steep slopes with icy sections (Mont Maudit and Mur de la Côte). Be aware of inherent hazards such as serac falls and avalanches in the Tacul and Mt Maudit area.


The descent can follow the same route or down the Gouter normal route.

HISTORICAL ROUTE

Day 1 : 

+ 825 m (2'747) from Plan de l’Aiguille to Grands Mulets hut.
4 hours.

Day 2  

+ 1699 m (5'658) / 2500 m (8'325) from summit to Plan de l’Aiguille.
6 to 8 hours up; 3 hours down on skis; 

6 hours down walking

Starting from Chamonix one can access mid station of Aiguille du Midi cable car. Seldom used in summer (very chaotic glacier, high serac falls hazards around the Junction and Petit Plateau areas) this route is somewhat more common on the way down. 


A popular spring skiing route, with an optional route section via the north face of the Gouter Dôme , it by-passes the unstable and exposed sections near the ice Plateaux.

L'itinéraire de la voie normale italienne

Day 1 :

+1371 m (4’565) starting from lac Combal parking area (Val Vény).
5 hours.

Day 2 :

+ 1739 m (5’790).
Total gain 3110 m (10'356).
13 / 14 hours.

On the Italian wilder face of Mont Blanc, this less frequently used route to the summit presents similar technical difficulties as the Gouter route. However, the glacier section can be rather chaotic and hard to deal with. Gonella hut must be reached on foot, which increases vertical gain significantly on both days.

Advice and preparation

No matter which route you chose, climbing Mont Blanc requires to be well-prepared and trained.

Climbing Mont-Blanc to try yourself at mountaineering is definitely not a good idea.

THE TECHNIQUES

It is not necessary to be a north face climbing expert to make it to the summit. However, one must keep in mind the following:


Good cramponing skills (using glacier crabs) are essential in order to climb icy 40°degree slopes, in good soft snow conditions or in challenging icy terrain. 


Using a rope properly: roping distance, adjusting rope length, and crevasse rope rigging. We highly recommend less experienced people to sign up for an introduction course to ice-climbing and/or basic mountaineering. 

PHYSICALLY

Attempting Mont Blanc is not recommended to people who are under-trained and who anyone with a health condition. The necessary effort to reach the summit requires walking in high altitude during 10 to 15 hours.

 

Your ability to support this strenuous effort will definitely increase chances of success. You will have to train your stamina during 5 to 6 months ahead of the climb. Helpful sports activities are hiking, riding a bike, jogging, and ski touring. 


One can never be over-trained to climb Mont Blanc. In fact, the more you train, the better you prepare yourself to a sudden unexpected emergency situation. The end of the training should involve spending time in the mountains, and progressively adapt the body to being in altitude- or above 3000m (10’000). 


A good knowledge of basic mountaineering techniques and being well prepared physically and psychologically should enhance your chance of success to reach the summit. 


Ready to go? We wish you a great climb!

Questions / réponses

What is “Acute Mountain Illness“ syndrome ?

It is a physical discomfort that generally occurs a couple of hours after reaching high altitude (above 3000m). People usually experience headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, extreme tiredness. If symptoms increase on the way up, their physical ability weakens in a significant way. As result, it is best to turn around: symptoms will automatically decrease as one loses altitude. Everyone’s metabolism can be affected differently by AMI. If symptoms start occurring at 2000/2500 meters, it is highly recommended to turn around immediately. More information is available from the Mountain Medical Research Institute (IFREMONT), which is located at the Chamonix Hospital. You can also go online for more details: www.ifremont.com


Who should not attempt the climb ?

It is necessary and understood that climbing up Mont Blanc requires a healthy lifestyle. Temporary states, such as pregnancy, momentary weakness, seasonal colds, as well as age – not to mention a doctor’s contraindication - are all good reasons to postpone the ascent.


What hazards should I expect on the way up ?

For the most part they are dangers inherent to high mountains, also referred to as “objective dangers”: weak snow bridges, serac and rock fall hazards, avalanche hazards, sudden weather changes (visibility, orientation problems) etc. A good knowledge of the mountain environment can reduce the risks. Prior to climbing and in order to reduce exposure, you can do a terrain recognition trip in hazardous areas. Also, respecting a pre-defined climbing schedule, turning around (in poor weather conditions), abandon due to bad mountain terrain conditions are all key actions in the planning of a safe ascent. Certain actions from inexperienced parties can put party members in danger. But more consequently, they can be a hazard to other parties behind them or going in the other direction. Due to its distinctiveness, the peak of Mont Blanc has always attracted hundreds of people, and amongst them are the ones who will only set foot into the world of high mountaineering once in a life time. So, Climbing Mont Blanc is a great idea, but not at all costs !  


What is it like ?

Climbing Mont Blanc is a truly mountaineering endeavor, at everyone’s reach as long as you are in good health and physical condition. It is necessary to be appropriately prepared for altitude, and physically trained. One should also have a good knowledge of basic mountaineering techniques as well as safety mountain rules. If you are not familiar with mountaineering activities, we highly recommend the service and knowledge of a mountain guide, who will ensure safety during the climb by choosing the right route, assessing mountain conditions and evaluating objective dangers in order to adapt to difficulties encountered along the way (i.e. with technical sections, sudden weather changes, party rhythm and stress from party members eventually …)


Which route should I chose ?

In the Chamonix valley, there are 3 different ways you can chose from to reach the highest peak in the Alps. They all vary in difficulty. Your choice should match your mountaineering ability, and take into consideration mountain and weather conditions encountered at the time of the climb. Sudden changes and incidents occurring on a chosen route should also be taken into account, as they may increase climbing difficulties.


When is it best to climb Mont Blanc ?

Ideally, it is best to plan your climb from June to September, to benefit from mountain hut services and lift access. (Please check our website for opening dates). This will make your ascent more “comfortable” although trails and huts are very busy at that time. After mid-September the mountain becomes quiet again due to the closing of lifts and hut infrastructures.

To ski tour up Mont Blanc, the best period extends from March to May.

Weather conditions definitely influence decision making and choice of period to attempt the climb.


How long is the ascent ?

LNo matter which route you chose, it takes at least 2 days to complete the climb : - Day1 : climb up to the hut and stay overnight - Day 2 : Reach the summit and hike back down (a part of the climb to be considered seriously !). Climbing Mont Blanc is very demanding and strenuous. If you don’t want it to become a “horrendous” experience, you may also add a third day in order to minimize the effort on the way up and down.


Can I do the climb alone ?

Climbing to the summit of Mont Blanc involves high mountaineering conditions and terrain, presenting various objective dangers. Cramponing mistakes may result in sliding down a steep slope, or falling into a crevasse, which can be deadly (Any of the routes to climb Mont Blanc involve glacier crevasses !).


When and how should I book the hut ?

Nights at the hut must be booked in advance. Visit our website for detailed information regarding hut booking procedures. We do not recommend making an attempt when huts are full. For obvious safety reasons, hut keepers will not let you in to stay. Please note that camping overnight is not permitted along the “Normal Route”, as it is in a wilderness protected area. Bivouacs are allowed in the “base camp area” next to Tête Rousse hut only. Overnight tenting (bivouac) is tolerated from sunset to sunrise in the Chamonix valley and on municipality territory. Vallot hut is an emergency shelter only. It is not appropriate for base camping on the way to Mont Blanc, and offers very uncomfortable lodging (dirtiness, high altitude…) !


Is there a minimum/ maximum age to attempt the ascent ?

Teenagers aged 16 and above can attempt the climb, as long as they are in very good physical shape and well- trained. However, we strongly recommend a less demanding mountaineering experience (e.g. an easy 4000 meter peak). There is no age limit to climb Mont Blanc. 70 year-old people have been able to reach the summit, mainly thanks to their excellent health and physical condition.


How much does a mountain guide cost ?

There is a fixed price for climbing Mont Blanc. Information are available from local guides’ offices. A mountain guide can lead a party of 2 people maximum. In order to increase your chances to reach the summit, you can also join a Mont Blanc training course, managed and supervised by mountain guides. Signing up for an ice climbing course or a 4000 meter ascent with a guide are also a great way to prepare for Mont Blanc.How much does a mountain guide cost?