Petit Mt. Blanc is (for the Mt. Blanc massif) a comparative rarity: a minor peak with a incredible summit panorama and a normal route that at the same time easy, completely safe relatively short, and satisfying. In fact, this little know summit is the perfect introduction to MB and alpinism for kids and groups (provided they’ve at least one experienced companion) , and a very good acclimatization trip for someone preparing for more ambitious goal.
As mentioned before, the view from the top (on east towards the massive Miage face of Mt. Blanc, to the west over the Lex Blanche basin, and to the south towards the endless ridges of the northern Graian Alps) is absolutely astonishing, making Petit Mt. Blanc one of the best and most accessible “belvedere” of the area.
Getting ThereFrom Courmayeur (Italy)
- By car through the Val Veny mountain road until the car park at La Visaille / Plan Lognan or (500 m. below) at Plan Veny (near the picnic area). Private access to this road is regulated from 1 to 20 August .
- By the bus service – one trip each 40 minutes. In Courmayeur the bus can be taken from the Bus Station (near the tunnel highway entrance).
Until 1992 it used to be possible to drive up to the Combal plan, and even up to the Elisabetta Hut (provided one had a four wheel drive vehicle). However, massive rockfalls from the Mont Fortin (on the southern side of the Combal basin) and increasing pollution problems made local authorities decide to put a barrier at La Visaille / Plan Lognan. And so, you have to walk all the 5 kms from the car parking to the Elisabetta, as it used to be until 1970.
In the area mineral and flower collection is forbidden. The same goes for making fires, and free camping under 2500 m. Hunting and fishing goes under local seasonal rules (ask in Courmayeur).
Remember that private access to the Val Veny road is regulated from 1 to 20 August
- S ridge (normal route) – F, 380 m. from the Rainetto hut., easy snow ridge (highly recommended)
- S face – PD, 800m, easy glacier climb with a complicate approach
- SSW ridge – AD, IV, 550 m, fairly easy rock climb on good rock
- SW face – AD-, 500 m, uninteresting glacier climb
- NE rib – AD, 1000 m, long scramble on rotten rock , rockfall danger, unrepeated
- NE couloir – AD+, 45°-50°, 1000 m, pleasant ice climb opened by Bonatti , often repeated and skied down (recommended)
- ENE couloir – D, 70°-75°, 100 m, ice climb on a ephemeral couloir
The main summit of Petit Mt. Blanc is 1 hour above the Rainetto hut, following a large and easy snow ridge, and then a final small rock lump. Allow 1h from the hut
When To Climb
While it’s possible to climb Petit Mt. Blanc in winter, the normal route (that largely coincides with the above described approach to the Rainetto hut) is exposed to strong avalanche risk during the winter season. Thus, the best moment to climb this summit is from early June to October.
On the other hand, beware that in the last few years, during late July and early August the snow cover of the summit ridge was totally gone, leaving only grey and blue hard ice that makes its climb far more difficult (expecially for inexperienced people).
Free camping in the Aosta Valley region is not allowed below 2500 m. However, it's tolerated if you don't create hassles or particular troubles. This includes, of course, making fires in the woods!
Here's a list of camping in Val Veny, all accessible by car or by bus from Courmayeur. In strict alphabetical order:
- Camping Aiguille Noire (www.aiguillenoire.com, ) - 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. Used to be also the cheapest, but price right now are almost the same everywhere.
- Camping Cuignon – in Val Veny between Zerotta and the military barracks (tel +39 0165 869073 Fax +39 0165 842861). This one is a bit of a question mark for me, because I don’t know anyone who’s been there. For outside it looks quite neat and smaller than Aiguille Noire
- Camping La Sorgente (www.campinglasorgente.net, ) – in Val Veny, 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 centre). They’re really climber-friendly, and the camping itself is well organised.
On the Val Ferret:
- Camping Grandes Jorasses ( www.grandesjorasses.com) in Val Ferret between Planpincieux and the golf course. (tel +39 0165 869708). Being near Planpincieux, it’s a lively and well placed on a partially wooden area.
- Camping Tronchey – in Val Ferret just in front of the entrance of the golf club, right under the monstrous Tronchey Wall of the Grandes Jorasses. (tel. +39 0165 869707). Nearby there’s Bar Tronchey (or “Chez Giulietta”), where at noon you can eat an incredible rabbit with polenta.
- 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 + restaurant at Arnouva, where the Val Ferret road ends – just in front of the opening of the Triolet basin. The place is beyond gorgeous, and you’re in a good position both for climbing and hiking. A guide who’s a friend of mine used it for his climbing stage for kids and was really enthusiastic. Also, you can ask the manager for any kind of indication on the nearest sport and trad climbs of the trendy Triolet area.
- On the other hand, if you don’t like camping and you’re tight with money, 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 a luxurious, the Monte Bianco somewhere halfway. If you want to consider staying there for several days, you’ve to book well in advance (In August and July these places become packed with hikers doing the Tour De Mont Blanc.)