Mont Blanc is a massif composed of many peaks and spires, each with their own routes. The massif straddles the French-Italian border. Sources vary as to what is the precise border between Italy and France. Fact sheets consistently list Monte Bianco di Courmayeur, a summit not far from Mont Blanc, as Italy's highest point and French and Swiss maps also show this to be the border. However, most insist that the border crosses Mont Blanc itself. This is informational only. See a more complete explanation in the History section below. Unless some fool decides to build something there, the politcal line is merely a human construction which should not detract from the beauty of the place and its spectacular views. The summit belongs to climbers who are willing to make the effort to visit this windswept place!
This link to the Swiss map shows the summit is slightly north of the map's center bull's eye
The two towns near Mont Blanc are Chamonix, Haute-Savoie (France) and Courmayeur, Valle d'Aosta (Italy) .
The main summit is the highest in the Alps with an elevation difference from bottom to top of more than 13,000 feet. Mont Blanc has traditionally been considered to be 4807 m high, but GPS-based measurements made in 2001 and 2003 show differences of a few meters from year to year, because of fluctuations in the thickness of the glacier that covers the peak to a depth of up to 23 m.
There are four "normal" routes that are not very difficult (but not without danger!) but very popular and, especially the Gouter, often crowded. All the normal routes end on the same ridge, so congestion there is common.
Mont Blanc was first climbed was on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard; the first woman to reach the summit, in 1808, was Marie Paradis. The end of this page contains a more detailed history.
For aditional information about the whole massif, go to the Mont Blanc Group page.
Many have died on Mont Blanc, unfortunate victims of the whims of Nature and the weather. One such was the last maintainer of this page and early SummitPost member Rahel Maria Liu, who died 24/25 August 2004 after being caught in a freak snowstorm while attempting to climb the Innominata Spur on the southern (Italian) face of Mont Blanc.
Mont Blanc is reached either from Chamonix in the Savoy valley in France or from Courmayeur in the Val d'Aosta in Italy. The valleys on the Italian side form a T, with the NW-SE trending Val d'Aosta forming its vertical leg. At Entreves at the NW end of Val d'Aosta, Val Veny splits off to the SW and Val Ferret splits off to the NE. Both public transportation and private car will easily reach these destinations. Chamonix (N506) and Courmayeur (E21B) lie along major highways and major rail lines. If coming from Switzerland and points east, Chamonix is reached by way of Martigny, Switzerland. One can continue through Chamonix and the Mont Blanc tunnel to reach Val d'Aosta or one can continue south from Martigny, over St. Bernard Pass to Aosta and then NW to Courmayeur.
Traveling between the French and Italian sides of the mountain has been made faster and simpler by the 11.6 km long Mont Blanc tunnel, which is a major route across the Alps.
Once in town, local buses and cable cars will take you to the trailhead of the hut from which the particular route is based.
For more information:
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Both Courmayeur and Chamonix have a plethora of hotels, hostels and pensions. The whole area is popular year round and reservations are advised.
Camping de la Mer de Glace
A General listing of camping grounds in the Savoy valley.
The following contributed by Clarity:
Under Accomodations, click on Dormitories and/or Campsites
Gites (dormitories) run 13 euro/night/person. You have a bunk bed and shower with a kitchen area that is equiped with all cooking pots and glasses to cook for yourself or for around 25 euro/night/person you get breakfast and dinner included.
Campsites vary and the further away you go from the center of Chamonix the cheaper things become.
If staying at a gite or campsite, make sure you get the Chamonix visitor card that gives you free access to the bus system...don't know if that includes any train movement within the valley?
The tourist board have a great booklet that lists all the campsites and every kind of accommodation.
The following information supplied by signorelli.
Free camping in the Aosta Valley region is not allowed below 2500 m. However, it's tolerated if you keep a low profile, such as making no fires.
The following campgrounds, listed alphabetically, are all accessible by car or by bus from Courmayeur.
Camping Aiguille Noire - in Val Veny, at Zerotta, near lower station of the chair lift. (tel. +39 0165 869041 Fax +39 0165 843097). A good place for families and big groups, it used to be also the cheapest, but prices right now are almost the same everywhere.
Camping Cuignon in Val Veny is located between Zerotta and the military barracks (tel +39 0165 869073 Fax +39 0165 842861). From the outside it looks quite neat and smaller than Aiguille Noire
Camping La Sorgente in Val Veny. It is located in a clearing of the forest called Peuterey, exactly under the Mont Noir south face (tel. +39 0165 848209 or, in summer +39 0165 869089). The location of this one is gorgeous (the ancient forest nearby is said to have been a Celtic worship center). They're very climber-friendly, and the camping ground itself is well organized.
Camping Grandes Jorasses in Val Ferret between Planpincieux and the golf course. (tel +39 0165 869708). Being near Planpincieux, it's a lively and well placed facility in a partially foirested area.
Camping Tronchey in Val Ferret lies just in front of the entrance of the golf club, right under the monstrous Tronchey Face of the Grandes Jorasses. (tel. +39 0165 869707).
If you're willing to spend a little more, a nice alternative to camping can be the Chalet Val Ferret. It's a seven room little hotel with restaurant at Arnouva, where the Val Ferret road ends, just in front of the opening of the Triolet basin. The place is gorgeous, and you're in a good position both for climbing and hiking. Also, you can ask the manager for information about the nearest sport and trad climbs of the trendy Triolet area.
On the other hand, if you don't like camping and your budget is tight, you can consider sleeping in one of the low altitudes refuges. There are the Elisabetta hut, at the head of Val Veny near the Col De La Seigne, the Elena hut and the UGET Monte Bianco hut. In all these places accommodation varies - the Elisabetta is quite spartan, the Elena almost luxurious, the Monte Bianco somewhere halfway. If you want to consider staying there for several days, book well in advance. In August and July these places become quite packed with hikers doing the Tour De Mont Blanc.
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It is essential to make reservations for most of these huts. This can be done either at the Club Alpin Francais office in Chamonix, or by phoning the hut guardian directly. Bivouac huts have no guardian and it is usually "first-come-first-served". Go here for a map showing the location of some of the huts.
Any hut approaches described are only general, to give an idea what might be involved. Consult a guide book or enquire locally for more specific information. Many of these huts require glacier and snow approaches. Recent changes in climate patterns and the glaciers may have changed the approaches.
1. Ref. du Goûter (3817 m)
This hut, which is also called Ref. de l'Aig. du Goûter, is the starting point for the most popular route on Mont Blanc. Therefore it is completely overcrowded during the season. You have to make an early reservation for this hut. Be prepared to sleep on the floor! From Chamonix, take the bus to Les Houches and then the tramway to Nid d'Aigle. From there, follow the trail up to the Tête Rousse glacier, passing by the Tëte Rousse hut. Either scramble up the rock rib to the north of the Grand Couloir or sprint across the couloir and scramble up the easier slope to the hut.
2. Ref. de Tête Rousse (3167 m)
This hut is situated below the westflank of Aig. du Goûter. This hut can also be used to climb the Dôme du Goûter route. It has the added advantage that you will cross the dangerous couloir very early in the morning before the barrage of rockfall begins. Adds about 2 to 3 hours to the ascent time.
3. Ref. Vallot (4362 m)
Ref. Vallot is neither a hut nor a bivouac hut, but only a place for emergency. It is situated at the beginning of Bosses ridge. Overnight stays are not allowed! 12 beds
4. Ref. des Grands Mulet (3051 m)
This hut is situated on a rock spur above glacier des Bossons. From Chamonix take the Midi téléphérique to the half way station at Plan de l'Aiguille, then follow the trail to Glacier de Pélerins and cross its tongue. Continue on the trail past an old cable car station (Gare des Glaciers) and up the left side of the Glacier des Bossons. The glacier is crossed to the S-SW to La Jonction, eventually coming to a trail leading to the hut.
5. Ref. des Cosmiques (3613 m)
The Ref. des Cosmiques is situated on a shoulder between the Col du Midi and the SW-ridge of the Aig. du Midi (Cosmiques-ridge).
6. Abri Simond Bivouac
The Abri Simond Bivouac is situated just a few meters northern of the Ref. des Cosmiques, just at the beginning of the Arête des Cosmiques. Open in winter, when Ref. des Cosmiques is closed.
7. Refuge Durier (3358m)
This hut with guardian during the summer has 17 places. Located on the French/Italian border, it is located 200 m north of the Col du Miage. From there one can climb the South ridge of the Aig. de Bionnasay, the Dômes de Miages as well as combine these climbs into a 3 to 4 day traverse of Mont Blanc.
8. Refuges du Plan de l'Aguille du Midi (2307m)
This refuge appears to be close the intermediate station of the Midi cable car.
9. Ref. Gonella (3071 m)
Sometimes this hut is called Ref. du Dôme. It is the starting point of the Italian normal route on Mont Blanc. From Cantinae de la Visaille (1653m, bus from Courmayeur) one follows the trail to the Miage glacier which is ascended past where the Dôme glacier meets it and on to the southern spur of the Aiguilles Grise. Here a trail leads to the hut.
10. Bivouac Quintino Sella (3396 m)
This bivouac hut is not guarded and is seldomly visted. It is situated to shorten the approach to Tournettes spur. 15 beds
11. Ref. Monzino (2590 m)
It is possible to arrange to transport backpacks by a lift from Visaille.
12. Bivouac Eccles (3850 m)
This bivouac, which is also called Biv. Lampugnani and Crippa, is situated 200hm below Pte. Eccles on the SW-ridge. On the IGN-map, it is marked on a point which is too high. 4-8 beds
13. Bivouac Craveri (3490 m)
This bivouac hut is also called Biv. des Dames Anglaises. It is situated northern of Brèche N of Dames Anglaises at the foot of the east flank on SE-ridge of Aig. Blanche de Peuterey. This bivouac hut is important for those climbing the complete Peuterey-ridge.
14. Rifugio Torino (3375m)
The hut sits only a short distance from theFunivie Monte Bianco cable car station or one reaches it after hiking 5 hours from La Palud(Entréves). From it climbs of Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Grand Capucin, Tour Ronde, Aiguille du Rochfort and Dent du Geant are reached.
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Camping is technically not allowed on the mountain at all, or anywhere on the massive. Bivying is allowed. That is: pitch tent at sundown, pack tent at sunrise. People camp anyway though, and only rarely will the police step in.
Since the huts are so crowded, it is becoming increasingly common to camp on the mountain. I question the environmental impact this is causing and would encourage people to respect the camping ban.
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There are so many routes that embrace every degree of difficulty! Here is just a brief list of the more popular ones. Only routes that are intended to reach the Summit of Mont Blanc are listed.
Refer to a guidebook or the route pages for more details! Conditions are constantly changing, which have forced some variations on the classic routes, so consulting a current guide and inquiring locally is necessary. The Routes section of this page describe some of the more popular routes.
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There is also a hiking trail called the Tour du Mont Blanc that circumnavigates the mountain.
NOTE! All the routes require skilled knowledge in glacier travel . The weather on Mont Blanc can change very rapidly, so that one needs to be prepared for anything. Expect high winds on the summit ridge which is narrow and exposed.
Both the Goûter hut and the Grand Mulet routes are graded PD (a little difficult), and both have their advantages and disadvantages as well as dangers.
Ascent via the Aiguille du Goûter most often involves crossing the dangerous "Grand Couloir" with its constant stonefall. However, I have talked to people who chose the more difficult ascent of the slope left of the couloir. This too has rockfall but at least you aren't in a shooting gallery. When Fred and I climbed this route (1985), it was truly terrifying to cross that couloir. All indications are it is still this way today. Above the Goûter hut, the route is constantly exposed to the wind, which, when strong, can keep climbers trapped in the hut on otherwise perfect days. Alternatively, one can stay at the Tête Rousse hut, which lies on the plane 2500 below the Dom du Gouter. It adds 2 to 3 hours to the ascent time, but one then crosses the Grand Couloir early in the day, before the rocks start falling. This site has pieces of the maps of this route.
The Grand Mulets route is a longer route to the summit, and is more sheltered than the Goûter. However the ascent to the Col du Dôme can be rather tedious, with long snow slopes broken by crevasses, and exposed to falling seracs. There are ladders across some of the larger gaps, but these cannot always be relied on to be there. In bad weather, it can be nearly impossible to find one's way on this route.
Another option is the Aiguille du Midi Route which traverses Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit to Mont Blanc. Can be done in descent after ascending by one of the other routes or one can ascend this route and descend one of the other normal routes.
The usual way on the Italian side is via the Gonella hut, from the Val Veny. The route travels up a crevassed Dôme glacier to just above the Col de Bionnassay and on to the Dôme du Gouter, connecting to the Aiguille du Goûter route. It is also possible to climb the rocky ridge that parallels the glacier.
North Ridge of Dôme du Goûter
AD-, glacier 45°
Traverse from Aiguille de Bionassay (Bionassay NW face)
AD, snow and ice 55° , 1050 vertical m from the Tête Rousse hut to Aig. de Bionnassay, 750 m from Aig.d.B. to Mont Blanc summit. 11.5 to 13 hours!
First ascent by Buxton, Grove, MacDonald with Cachat and Payot, 28 July 1865.
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AD+, mixed III+, 2200 vertical meters, 10 to 18 hours from the Monzino hut.
D+, mixed, 54°, IV+, 1450 vertical meters. 12-17 hours from the Monzino hut or 7 to 10 hours from the Eccles Bivouac.
There are several variations of this ridge, depending on how much of it one traverses.
D+, most of the rock UIAA II and III with some IV (YDS 4th and easy 5th) with mixed snow and ice to 54degrees. 2500 vertical meters. 10 to 20 hours from the Monzino hut. Many will bivouac at least once. Difficult to escape, should the weather turn bad.
First ascent by any route: Emile Rey, Christian Klucker, César Ollier, Paul Güssfeldt, 1893
First ascent by the Aig. Blanche de Peuterey: Obersteiner and Schreiner, 30/31 July 1927.
First ascent by the east side of the Col de Peuterey: G. Herzog, M. Herzog, G. Rébuffat and L Terray, 15 Aug 1944.
Central Pillar of Frêney
ED1, rock, VI,A1
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D-, mixed, 45-50°, II-III
Red Sentinel (Sentinella Rossa)
D+, mixed, 55°, avg. 47° (1000m), III and II
TD-, mixed, 57°, IV
The following is additional information from gabriele.roth
Brenva Spur - the easiest and safer route from the Brenva side - only 1 critical point : the last ice wall, changing during the season - one negative point : coming out from the Spur you loose the willing to go to the summit ... too far and of "less level" so, normally climbers turn to the right and come back to Aiguille du Midi (crossing the slops of Maudit and Tacul).
Sentinella Rossa - looks to be the safer route to the summit (I've seen it from both sides - Spur and Major) - but looks also a strange mix of snow and rock, very discontinuous and (I think) not much engaging.
Major - 1 very dangerous point : the crossing of the big (killer) channel coming down from the summit between Sentinella Rossa and Major ridge Once passed it the climb is safe, various and very engaging with fine
snow ridges and not easy rocky bulwarks.
Poire - dangerous approach and, I think, some danger even along the route, the Poire itself (a rocky triangle) is not so marked so that ice falls can cross the whole wall ... But, in safe conditions I think it should be very fine, complete ... a classic Himalayan ascent ...
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Tournette Spur (Rocher du Mont Blanc)
AD-, mixed III, mostly II, 30-45°
See recent advice :
Last summer (aug. 2005) we climbed Mont Blanc. We had chosen for the route "Tournette Spur". The couloirs, snow channel, and the glacier near to it, where difficult, almost impossibel to reach. Hugh crevasses en falling rocks makes it verry dangerous. So we went to the Gonella Hut. From here we could see the "Link Couloir". The snow in the upper part of this couloir was disappear and we saw rock-avalanches. No way, nobody wants to climb there. On th 4th Aug we reached the summit via the "Italian normal route". We believe that the Tornette Spur the next years not in condition is to climb. And if you still wants to try; Good Luck !
Les Bosses SW Side
Miage Face, Left-Hand Spur (Jaccoux-Domenech)
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While July and August are the best climbing months, the weather can suddenly change at any time. Sudden thunderstorms that turn into snow storms have ambushed and killed many climbers, including Rahel Maria Liu, former maintainer of this page. When Fred and I climbed this peak, there was a violent thunderstorm that lasted all night and dumped more than 6 inches of snow. Consult the weather forecasts regularly and then be prepared for these to be wrong. Weather systems usually come from the west and so the Mont Blanc range is the first to get hit by storms. This mountain makes its own weather.
Weather and Conditions Information
Météo France Meteo
Grand Couloir Webcam
Office de Haute Montagne
Tel: +33 450.53.22.08
Fax: +33 418.104.22.168
Office de Haute Montagnes (OHM)
Bureau des Guides
Midi cable car
Institut Géographique National
1:25000 no. 3630 OT (Chamonix)
1:25000 no. 3531 ET (St-Gervais)
To order maps:
Germany: DAV Service
Maps can also be purchased in local bookstores upon arrival.
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Contributed by signorellil:
There have been two (and ONLY two) treaties dealing with this matter between France and Italy:
1) One done in 1796 - by Napoleon I° - who established that the border line passed "on the highest ridge of the mountain as seen by Courmayeur" (thus leaving an ambiguity if this should have been interpreted as "from Courmayeur - the village" or "from Courmayeur - the administrative territory".
2) A second one, who has been never modified and IS STILL LEGALLY VALID was established in 1860 between Napoleon III° and the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele II°, unambiguously establishing that the border line passed "on the highest point of the mountain, at 4807m."
This would have settled it, but French cartographers, four years later, printed an official map where the border line was passing on the MB de Courmayeur. For several political reasons (i.e. at the time France was a very valuable ally) the Italian government didn't react (and neither did the French one), and so the matter was left alone for decades. It was actually re-evaluated (without reaching an new settlement) only after WWII
In short: as far as international treaties goes, the border passes on the main summit (and so, MB de Courmayeur is entirely in Italian territory). But the French cartographic custom (never disputed officially) is to claim the entire summit.
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Since the middle of the 18th century, people tried to climb the Mont Blanc as the highest summit of the European Alps and it continues to remain a goal of many mountaineers today. The name Mont Blanc was not used until about 1740.
Horace Benedict de Saussure, aged twenty, journeyed on foot from his native town Geneva to the "Glacières de Chamouny". On 24 July, 1760, he reaches the Brévent. Saussure has given birth to the idea of Mont Blanc as "a summit to climb", and has created a whole new movement - Alpinism. Back in Chamonix, he posts the announcement in all the parish churches of the valley, promising to give "a very considerable reward" to any who might be able to find a viable route to the summit of Mont Blanc.
Attempts are made on the mountain in 1783, 84 and 85, but the attempt which is to point the way to success takes place on 8 June 1786. On that day, two parties of guides, one coming up by the Grands Mulets, the other by the Aiguille du Goûter, meet at the Dôme du Goûter. The weather begins to cloud over, leading to a general retreat. On the way back from the Dôme du Gouter, one of the party, the crystal-hunter, Jacques Balmat, who joined the climb at the last minute and whose relationship with his companions is none too friendly, went off to one side to look for crystals in a rock off the track. When he wants to rejoin the others, he finds that they have disappeared. Balmat sets off on the descent, but at the Grand Plateau, is caught by storm and nightfall and is forced to bivouac,sitting on his sack and his snowshoes. His survival, however, proves that it is perfectly possible, if necessary, to take two days for the climb.
The Chamonix doctor, Dr. Paccard, has a dream: to carry a barometer to the summit and take a reading there. An excellent mountaineer, he has already made several attempts on the mountain. As it happens, the doctor and the crystal-hunter are the best-qualified and the most determined and are, as a pair, ideally complementary. Paccard has no particular financial interest in the expedition so that Balmat is not obliged to share the prize offered by Saussure. Two months later, on 8 August 1786, Paccard and Balmat succeed in that greatest of first ascents, the first ascent of Mont Blanc. They ascend the mountain by way of the Rocher Rouge and the NE slope.
On year later, Saussure has the pleasure of standing in the summit. Alpinism as a sport is born .
1840: Grand Muler over the Grand Plateau: Marie Coutlet and Company.
1861: Aiguille du Goûter and Bosses Ridge: Melchior Anderegg, JJ Benen, Peter Peren, Leslie Stephen, FF Tuckett.
1865: Brenva Spur: J&M Anderegg, GS MAthews, AW Moore, father and son Frank and Horace Walker.
1872: SW Face: Jean-Antoine Carrel , J Fischer, TS Kennedy.
1890: Normal Italian route: J&L Bonin, Achille Ratti (later Pope Pius XI), J Gadin, A Proment.
1893: Peuterey Ridge: Emile Rey, Christian Klucker, César Ollier, Paul Güssfeldt
1901: Brouillard Ridge with NW approach: GB&GF Gugliermina, Joseph Brocherel.
1911: (Aug 9) : Brouillard Ridge Direct: Joseph Knubel, GW Young, HO Jones, K Blodig.
1919: Innominata Ridge:Adolphe and Henri Rey, Adolf Aufdenblatten, SL Courtald and EG Oliver.
1927: Brenva Face by the Red Sentinel: T Graham Browne, FS Smythe.
1928: Brenva Face by Route Major: T Graham Browne and FS Smythe.
1940: right hand Frêney Pillar (Gervasutti Pillar): Giusto Gervasutti and P. Bollini di Predosa.
1959: far left of Pilier Rouge on Pic Luigi Amedeo: Walter Bonatti and Andrea Oggioni.
1961: Central Pilar of Frêney: Chris Bonington, Don Whillans, Ian Clough and Jan Dlugosz.
Apparently there used to be an observatory on Mont Blanc
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