Mont Blanc Climb
Mont Blanc is one of the classic climbs in the Alps. Towering above Chamonix, France, it has long attracted climbers following the first ascent in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Dr. Michel Paccard. John made his first climb of Mont Blanc in 1990 while studying in Europe and returns annually to this great climb.
The normal ascent is made by the Gouter Route after several days of climbing training and acclimatizing at huts accessible from Chamonix. For those that have pre-acclimated on other mountains we can get the climb done in 2 or 3 days, but most will need to use the first three days of the itinerary presented here to review skills while climbing some really fun routes accessed from the Albert 1er hut and the Trient Hut.
The summit climb itself is perhaps a bit more difficult than the standard route on Mt. Rainier, but it accessible for fit, intermediate climbers. The Gouter route requires some rock scrambling, thus the the warm up climbs during our acclimatization and training before the ascent. We tweak the approach to our warm-up climbs a bit to avoid the crowds. On Day 1 we take a taxi to Champex and approach the Trient Plateau from the backside which makes for a more relaxed start to the trip. You see all of the same terrain on the opposite side, but only pass through the terrain once as you make a 3-day traverse of the Trient plateau.
Mont Blanc 6-day Climb Itinerary
Mont Blanc Climb Day 0: Team arrives in Chamonix, France and meets at 7 pm for pre-trip orientation and dinner. We have used the same two hotels for almost 25 years because they are easy to reach via shuttle or train and take excellent care of our customers. At this meeting we do an equipment check, layout the plan for the week, and then have a nice meal.
Mont Blanc Climb Day 1: Early departure for the town of Champex, Switzerland where we take a ski lift to 2200 meters and begin a stunning hike to the Cabane d'Orny (9288'- 2831M.) The Orny hut is smaller and less visited than the Albert Premier hut on the opposite side of the Trient Plateau and has some excellent rock climbing opportunities. We generally forgo the rock climbs in favor of training on the glacier below the hut, where we review use of ice axes & crampons, and spend the afternoon perfecting our short-rope technique. These are all skills that will be critical in the days ahead.
*Ascent by foot day 1: 2,070 ft./631 M
*Ascent by tram day 1: 2,323 ft./708 M
Mont Blanc Climb Day 2: We leave the Orny hut early, climb the Tete Blanche (11,250'- 3429m) and/or the Petitie Fourche (11,549'- 3520m) and return for a night at the Trient hut (10,400'- 3170m) a favorite on the Haute Route. Both climbs are moderate and involve steep snow sections and easy rock scrambling similar to that found on the Gouter Route of Mont Blanc. Our goal is to keep the total vertical gain down so that we do not wear ourselves out for Mont Blanc, but still get in some excellent climbing similar to what we will see on our big summit day. The Trient Hut and the hut we will use on Mont Blanc are at almost identical elevations, so having the opportunity to sleep at this elevation will help to acclimate us for going higher yet on Mt. Blanc.
*Total Ascent on foot day 2: 2,260 ft./689 M
*Total Descent on foot day 2: 1,148 ft./350 M
Mont Blanc Climb Day 3: Climb Aguille du Tour in the morning via another moderate mixed snow and rock climb (11,627' - 3544m) and return to Chamonix where we spend the night, catch a shower and repack. The actual climb of the Aiguille du Tour is a mixture of steep snow and rock requiring us to move together in short-rope mode while maintaining a high level of security. This style of climbing is often steeper and more complex than what many of our American customers have sampled before and this is excellent training for the challenge ahead. On the descent we will descend through the Col Superior du Tour onto the Glacier du Tour. Eventually we get off the glacier and hike on a narrow trail down to the Albert Premier Hut (2702 M - 8865'). We then follow this trail down to the top of the ski lifts coming up from the French town of Le Tour (1453 M - 4767'). We catch a two-stage lift down from the top to the town itself, and then catch either a bus or taxi back to Chamonix, a short ride down valley. We spend this night in the same hotel we used at the start of the trip.
*Ascent on day 3: 1,227 ft./374 M
*Descent on foot day 3: 4,426 ft./1,349 M
*Descent by tram day 3: 2,402 ft./732 M
Mont Blanc Climb Day 4: Travel down valley to Les Houches where we use the Tramway du Mont Blanc (TMB) to ascend to the Nid D'Aigle (2372 M - 7,782'). We start our hike to the Tete Rousse Hut (10,390' - 3167M) from the small train station at the Nid D'Aigle. We prefer the Tete Rousse Hut over the higher Gouter Hut (12523 ft - 3817 m). A new hut was placed near the old Gouter Hut a few summers back, but then was damaged in a fire, which limited the number of spaces they have for overnight guests. We have found working out of this hut to be complicated enough that we are better off utilizing the larger hut at Tete Rousse, which also has the advantage of allowing us to sleep lower. On the hike in the views of the route and surrounding mountains are stunning. We generally spend the afternoon relaxing in the sun behind the hut and watching parties come down the route we will ascend in the morning.
*Ascent by foot day 4: 2,608 ft./795 M
Mont Blanc Climb Day 5: We rise very early (1 am typically) and set out for the summit of Mt. Blanc. The route begins with a multi-hour rock scramble up an impressive face with occasional points of assistance in the form of cables and metal steps placed in the rock. Once this is overcome the climb to the summit is primarily on snow and ends with a spectacular climb up the narrow summit ridge to the highest point in Western Europe. We generally descend via the route we came up. In order to keep things somewhat relaxed, we spend a second night at the Tete Rousse Hut after the ascent. This keeps us from having to rush to catch the last train, which is several hours from the hut. The final summit push is more difficult than climbs such as Rainier, but with proper training and acclimation, people can usually get the job done.
- Ascent by foot day 5: 5,309 ft./1643 M
- Descent by foot day 5: 5,309 ft./1643 M
Mont Blanc Climb Day 6: This is an extra day for weather or to descend from Tete Rousse Hut. It is possible to use the excellent tram system in Chamonix to squeeze in another climb if time permits, and there is also the option to go cragging near Chamonix. Most people are sufficiently tired from the climb to opt to spend the day looking around Chamonix, but there are excellent opportunities for short ascents if you are up for it. We spend one last night in Chamonix at the hotel before splitting up as a group the next morning.
- Descent by foot day 6: -2,609 ft./-795 M
- Descent using train & tram day 6: -4501 ft./-1372