We parked the car a mile down the road from the trailhead at 5,250 feet of elevation and climbed to the hut at 10,075. That was 4,825 feet gained in 5.5 hours.
From the hut to the summit (at 15,780) it was another 5,705 feet of elevation gained in 6.5 hours. We started at 12:45am having woken at 11:45pm for breakfast (served in the hut at midnight).
The descent from the summit back to the hut was pretty fast considering how terrifying it was for me, 4 hours. We were tired but glad to be back in the hut by lunchtime.
The next morning, we dropped back down to the car from the hut in 4 hours. Keep in mind that the people I was climbing with never took rests or breaks and always climbed or hiked faster than the "suggested" times in the guidebooks. Normally this route takes longer.
I've been wanting to do this route for years, but never had the right conditions - or hut was closed (which meant they 'closed' the route...). Finally got to climb it with rgg this season.
As Rob says it was a long route.. actually the approach also was very long - and carrying as we were bivvy gear for the top, we were a tad slow as Rob points out. Climbing the long glacier section in the dark was hard work and very tedious - but the reward came with the dawn, as we reached top of the Piton des Italians, at 4003m. The bit of ridge from there to the top of the Dome du Gouter was STUNNING - and of course the more well trodden Bosses Ridge beyond, not exactly a lesser experience. One reason for the slowness was taking so many photos...
...TR to follow!
Mark and I climbed the Italian normal route from Rifugio Gonella. There was a whole lot more snow on the Glacier de Miage on the way to the hut than usual, and it was a bit soft, making it a tiresome approach.
Once at the hut we learned that the normal time for breakfast for those climbing Mont Blanc was midnight! That meant we only had four hours of sleep. Not the ideal preparation, but we were determined and so we got out of bed again, very sleepy still.
The route proved to be very long indeed, but conditions were excellent. At first we made good time, but as we got higher we got slower and slower. I don't know exactly how long we took, but it must have been more than 10 hours.
Started below the Combal Bar where the road barrier is and it took us around 6h to the Gonella Hut. We left the Gonella Hut on the 25th of August at 1:00am and reached the summit of the MB after the bivvy in the Vallot shelter. Crossing the Glacier du Dome in the darkness was very tricky and difficult due to the amount of the crevasses. I believe that this is the best route up the Mont Blanc and the Gonella Hut is an amazing place to stay, the owner - David is very friendly and helpful. Great classic Alpine route overall - highly recommended!
It was not a good trip. On the Miage-glacier we got rain. We turned back under the via ferrata. It was a lucky decision becuase 3 minutes (!) later a huge rock fall went across the route. If we had gone up on the wire we would have died.
Climbed with Silvio. Brutal walk up to the hut, then two hours sleep and a 1 am start. Took seven hours to the summit with perfect weather. About a dozen climbers started from the hut an hour before us but we never saw more than their lights on the ridge. A nice, easy route. The descent was a bit tricky though as regaining the glacier during the afternoon meant dodging constant rockfall. On a warm day, I'd recommend taking the ridge all the way back to the hut.