Climbing - Mont Blanc
Day 1. Ice skills practice - Mer de Glace
The acclimatisation programme begins with a trip up the old rack and pinion railway of Montenvers through the woods from Chamonix to the edge of the Mer de Glace (1,909m). If you haven’t used crampons or an ice axe before, this is where your introduction will take place, as you spend some time getting used to walking in crampons, swinging an ice axe and climbing steep ice.
Day 2. Up to the Albert 1er refuge
To assist with acclimatisation, you will spend a night at altitude in the Albert 1er refuge (2,702m) in preparation for an ascent of the Aiguille du Tour (3,544m) the following day. You take the cable car from Le Tour to the Col de Balme (2,130m). From here, there is about a two hour hike on a footpath to the Albert 1er refuge. After a rest, you’ll have the opportunity to go out on to the glacier to further practise snow and ice skills.
Day 3. Climb the Aiguille du Tour and return to the chalet
A bright and early 5 a.m. start allows you to be crunching across the glacier in crampons towards the Aiguille du Tour (3,544m). This is a relatively easy alpine peak with a bit of technical scrambling towards the end. From the summit you can expect a view which stretches all the way from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc.
Day 4. Aiguille du Midi and Vallée Blanche
You take the early morning lift from Chamonix up to the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m), one of the highest cable cars in the Alps for a traverse of the Vallée Blanche. You rope up at the top and descend the classic snow arête to the Col Du Midi (3,532m).
This is a stunning day out, with superb views of the big mountains of the Alps – the Drus, the Jorasses, the Courtes and the Droites. The arrival is at the Point Helbronner on the Italian border (the highest border station in Europe). From there you take the spectacularly scenic gondola back across to the Aiguille du Midi, then down to Chamonix.
Day 5. First day of the Mont Blanc ascent
Finished with training, you are now ready for the ascent of Mont Blanc, and the group will be joined by more Chamonix Experience guides (ratio 2 clients to 1 guide).
The route chosen will depend on the prevailing conditions, the group’s ability and ultimately on the guides’ decision. There are two alternatives for the ascent: either the "Normal Route," via the Tête Rousse refuge or the Goûter refuge and the Dome de Goûter, or the longer "Traverse Route" which is a more technical ascent via Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit.
For the Normal Route, you will set off from Les Houches. A cable car and a train take you up to the Nid d’Aigle at (2,372m). From here, a two hour hike on a rocky trail leads you to the Tête Rousse refuge at (3,167m). You may stay here overnight or continue for a few more hours to the Goûter refuge at (3,817m).
The longer Traverse Route (sometimes referred to as the Trois Mont Blancs route) begins with another trip up Aiguille du Midi (3,842m). Dropping down into a snow bowl, there is a short ascent via a snow arête and hanging glacier to reach the Cosmiques refuge (3,613m). You should be there by early afternoon, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the dramatic scenery.
Day 6. Summit day & descent to Argentière
The Big Day! Whichever route has been chosen, expect an early start (1 or 2 am).
On the Normal Route, the whole of the ascent to the summit is on snow covered glacier. The climbing is never technical, but the final ridge is exposed, you are high up and the air is thin, so slow and steady is the way. Expect four to six hours of ascent, depending on the overnight stopping place.
On the Traverse Route, Mont Blanc du Tacul is the first obstacle, averaging 30 to 35 degrees inclination. After crossing the shoulder of Tacul, there is a bit of descent. The next mountain to cross is Mont Maudit, which has even steeper sections, up to 40 or even 50 degrees, notably on the very last section. After this, the climb to the summit is fairly steady, for a total of six to seven hours of ascent.
For either route option, you should be on the summit of Mont Blanc (4,807m) just after sunrise, in position to enjoy some of the most spectacular views in all of Europe. You will then descend back down to the valley in time for a mid-afternoon celebratory drink.
This is the suggested itinerary for the 6 day Mont Blanc Course offered by Chamonix Experience Guide Bureau. To join this course or find out about other adventures, please visit www.chamex.com or call +33.450.540.936.