Mont Blanc – how to
Every person going to the Alps should have an insurance covering mountain rescue. I recommend Alpenverein – it is international and widely accepted insurance which also gives you discounts in alpine huts.
Mont Blanc requires good physical condition and training, experience in glacier travel in crampons and crevasse rescue techniques. It is fairly straightforward as long as the weather holds up. When the clouds descend it is easy to lose your way so have a map and a compass or gps.
I do not recommend trying to climb the peak too fast. Acclimatization is very important. Every organism reacts differently to altitude change so make sure everyone in your group feels ok before going for the last push. 2 or 3 days above 3k should be enough – ideally other 4k peak. You can spend few days in a hut above 3k m or try out cable car from Chamonix directly to Aiguille du Midi 3777m. However it is quite expensive solution as a return ticket is around 60 euro.
Weather on the summit in summer is -5 -10 C plus wind chill. Strong winds can make ascent impossible.
Description of the most popular route from French side through Goûter ridge. One of the cheaper options.
Easy way to safely park your car is in Les Houches where you can also use a campsite to rest after the travel. Finding accommodation directly in Chamonix is expensive. Next step is taking a cable car to Bellevue 1800m (16,5 Euro for return ticket) and up following tracks of the Tramway du Mont-Blanc. One can also board the train itself and reach the end station Nid D’Aigle 2370m (17,5 Euro for one-way ticket). From there following a stony path you reach a grey emergency shelter Baraque forestière des Rognes 2768m where one can take refuge in case of a sudden storm. Above it one reaches flat snowy plateau area near Tête Rousse hut 3200m – the last place where putting up a tent is allowed. Higher up you can get accommodation in Goûter hut (online reservation weeks ahead needed – it is always full) or rest in emergency shelter Vallot 4360m. From 3200m up a steep slope, through dangerous because of frequent rock fall Grand Couloir, you reach Goûter hut. For me it was the hardest part. From 3800m it is mostly long walk up the snowy slopes. There are parts where path leads directly on the ridge and is only 1m wide offering nice view but not for someone with fear of heights.
List of necessary equipment:
- Warm clothes (2 pairs of gloves, thermal underwear, fleece sweater, windshell, hat, socks, optionally down or primaloft jacket for extra warmth)
- Sunblock and googles or sunglasses category 3 or 4
- Crampons, ice axe, trekking poles can be useful if you are used to them
- Climbing helmet and harness, 3-4 locking carabiners, 2-3 slings 60-120 cm, a short 5-6 mm in diameter rope for self-locking prusik knots
- Warm shoes, same as you would us in the Tatras in winter, and snow gaiters
- Thermos and water bottle
- Personal cooking set (cup, cutlery, pot)
- Thick sleeping pad or self-inflating mat and warm sleeping bag
- Space blanket
- Headlamp with spare batteries
- Gas stove and fuel canister (450g is ok for 2 people)
- Dynamic rope for glacier travel (length depends on the number of people, you can use thinner half-rope to save weight, 20 m for 2 people)
- First aid kit