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Mt Blanc in Winter?

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Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby chickentikka » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:40 pm

Hey guys,

I'm moving to France at Christmas and will be spending some time down at Chamonix skiing. While I was there I was also thinking of climbing Mt. Blanc if it's not too crazy to try it in winter.

Any ideas, thoughts? Is the "Gouter" hut open? Are the normal routes gonna be most likely carved out or will I probably be up there by my damn self? What are the risks like in the winter? Avalanche? Would it be relatively "safish" to try without a partner?

Worth bringing the skis up it?

I'm no stranger to cold weather (did Denali and Aconcagua this year).

Thanks!
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby macintosh » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:55 am

chickentikka wrote:climbing Mt. Blanc if it's not too crazy to try it in winter. Is the "Gouter" hut open? Are the normal routes gonna be most likely carved out or will I probably be up there by my damn self? What are the risks like in the winter? Avalanche? Would it be relatively "safish" to try without a partner?


Alone or with a partner, climbing mont Blanc in winter is "just" a little bit crazy. The standard route to Goûter hut - open all year long - is one of the most dangerours in all Alps because snow avalanches. My advice: forget and go skiing :wink:
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby Darbyshire » Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:55 am

Hi Chicken, the Grand Mulets route is a popular winter ski route, although early and late winter are best avoided as the crevasses are opening on the Bossons Glacier and the risk of serac collapse within La Jonction is greater. As with all winter mountaineering you need to be on top of the weather reports and yeah you better be used to the cold as it will be fricking cold...the Grand Mulets hut has a winter room so no need for snow holing etc..if you can get a partner that would be better and you may be able to team up with others at the refuge..oh and yep the Gouter route will probably have a greater avalanche risk so best avoided IMO...mate if its crazy there are a lot of crazy people.!!
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby Darbyshire » Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:58 am

Be sure to visit the Maison De La Montagne in Chamonix for your weather reports..really helpful staff in there too
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby chickentikka » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:12 pm

Is the Gouter hut open year round? Sounds like it's closed?
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby Darbyshire » Sun Sep 08, 2013 3:12 pm

There is a winter room, well at least the old refuge had one..very basic and if it's anything like the old one very cold and damp but preferable to bivvying..
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby rgg » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:49 am

The new Gouter hut is scheduled to close by the end of September this year. The winter room is supposed to be open after that.

As with all things related to mountain huts, it's important never to take these things for granted. Bad weather or poor route conditions can mean that a hut will close for the season earlier than planned. A year ago that happened to many huts in the Mont Blanc area, and by mid September the season was practically over.
To find out more about the situation in the mountains around Chamonix, contact the Office de Haute Montagne shortly before heading out. They are always well informed about the current situation, and can tell you if the winter room is indeed open and what facilities it offers at the time.

On a different note, climbing Mont Blanc in mid winter would arguably be the worst time, because the days are short, temperatures are much lower, lots of snow can make it much more strenuous as well as dangerous, and you'll have to find your own way up. In other words, the odds are all stacked against you.
The normal ski route is the Grands Mulets - and you'll certainly want skis. It is served by the refuge des Grands Mulets, which opens around the end of March - before that, you can use the winter room. In fact, outside the spring season this route is normally not used anymore, because the glacier is very crevassed and when temperatures rise and the spring snow melts away, these crevasses make it too dangerous.
The ski mountaineering season only starts around the end of March, when the days are getting longer and temperatures are not quite as low anymore - but if I could chose when to go, I would prefer May. You'll need a good weather window, but while avalanches can happen at any time of the year, in winter, obviously, the risk is generally much higher. The Office de Haute Montagne can tell you all about the current avalanche risk as well, so do visit them shortly before heading out, and be ready to change your plans.
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby macintosh » Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:22 am

Darbyshire wrote:the Grand Mulets route is a popular winter ski route

Spring route :wink:
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby chickentikka » Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:53 am

Thanks for all the great advice guys. I am planning on being there for new year (to go skiing), but if the weather looks good I'd like to give it a shot.

Which route should I take in early January? I'm thinking Trois Monts or Grand Mulets. Do you think the trail will be completely empty? Completely unmarked?

Thanks for the good advice about the Haute Montange office. I'll check with them of course as I get closer.
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby rgg » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:35 pm

I wouldn't want to ever try it myself in January, but I would expect that the likelihood that the Trois Monts is in reasonable shape is decidedly smaller than the Grands Mulets. Even in summer, avalanche risk on the Trois Monts is not to be neglected.

On Mont Blanc, the popular routes on the glacier have a big, clear trail during the regular season, unless there has just been a fresh dumping of snow. And even then, as soon as conditions allow it, lots of people will go up and make a new trail real quick. Consequently, markers are not necessary. However, in January I wouldn't count on a trail. Now I can't speak for the Grands Mulets route, since I didn't do that (perhaps one day I will, but not in winter), but for the Trois Monts, if there is no trail and you don't know the route, it's going to be hard to find.
There are several places where you can easily go wrong, especially since you'll have to find the route in darkness. First of all is the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul. Lots of wrong ways to go at that point. Then there is the issue of finding the base of the steep shoulder next to Mont Maudit. If you know where it is and have visibility, it's easy, but again, it's going to be dark. I would say that if you don't know where it is, in darkness and without a trail, it would be very, very hard to find indeed.
If you have enough time, you could of course take an extra day, and explore the first part of the route (and make a trail) on the day before summit day. For the Trois Monts route, that would mean going up to the shoulder of Mont Maudit in daylight. For the Grands Mulets you won't have to go quite as far, getting to the Dôme du Goûter would be enough. In fact, you could start at the Grands Mulets refuge and head up the Grands Mulets route as far as the Dôme du Goûter in daylight, or even a bit further if there is enough time and you feel up for it, have a good look around, then descend just a little bit and stay in the winter room of the new Goûter hut. Next morning you'll have a trail for the first part, and if you time it right, you could be on the Bosses ridge at first light. After summiting, ski down the Grands Mulets and you'll easily be back at the refuge before darkness.
Of course that all depends on the route being in shape and the weather good enough, so don't get your hopes up. But the OHM can tell you everything you need when you show up there in January.
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby chickentikka » Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:00 am

Everybody talks about how crowded Mt. Blanc is, so I thought, why not climb it in the winter so it is less crowded. But I'm not sure I feel about entirely empty either. I'd like to get a sense if there will still be people on the routes and which ones? I'm kinda surprised that there could be all this mountain and powder and no crazies would but up for going up it with a pair of skis?

Trois Monts sounds like a great route in general. I'm way more interested in it than Mulets and Gouter But I hear you that it will be easier to get lost up there.
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Re: Mt Blanc in Winter?

Postby macintosh » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:17 am

chickentikka wrote: going up it with a pair of skis?... But I hear you that it will be easier to get lost up there.


As mont Blanc is not a ski slope, January is not the snowiest winter months. Due to the very hot summer 2013, it is not certain that the crevasses will be enough covered with snow for a safe ascent. If there are so few people during winter is that there are valid reasons that can not be ignored. Cemeteries are full of heroes. In every way, climbing a mountain, especially in winter, is not done on the internet. Must come in and decide at the last minute. :wink:
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