The ascent of Mont Blanc will take place on the sixth day or the seventh day of the training course, according to the best weather period: the seventh day is one day to rest and relax in the event of bad weather in altitude.
Meeting Place: Le Tour cable car, in Chamonix valley, by 08.30 a.m. End of the course : Chamonix, end of the afternoon, on day 6 or day 7 (depending which day you will climb Mont-Blanc).
Day 1: Meeting at Le Tour cable car, in Chamonix valley, by 08.30 a.m. A cable-car and a chair-lift will lift us till Balme pass, altitude 7,152 feet. From there, a pleasant path crosses the mountain pastures, providing a fantastic wiew on the " seracs " of the "glacier du Tour". Following the ridge of a moraine, the footpath will finally reach "Albert 1er" hut, 8,865 feet. Just a few minutes before reaching Albert 1er hut, we turn right to reach the glacier, where the ice climbing school will be held. You will learn how to step up, step down, and cross a slope with crampons, using your ice axe either like a stick or like a anchor. Afterwards, you will rope on, and discover the technics used by a rope party to ascend a slope, cross the crevasses, and use ice pegs for her safety. After this intensive training, we walk a few minutes up to reach Albert 1er hut. Night in the hut. Duration of walking: 2 hours and a half + the ice climbing school. Difference of level: + 1,778 feet (add about + 700 feet up, and - 700 feet during the ice climbing school).
Day 2: At dawn, a short footpath will quickly bring you up to the glacier. You will rope on, adjust your crampons, and, slowly walking up, you will reach after three hours the snowy summit of "Tête Blanche", height 11,250 feet, on the Swiss border. There, you will not find any custom-house officer, but a magnificent wiew on the glacier of Trient, the "Aiguilles Dorées", and all the summits of the Swiss Valais, including Matterhorn. After a snack and a few photographies, we will go down for a while on the track followed from the hut, and then leave it to ascend the Tour pass, height 10,791 feet. From there, crossing the plateau of the glacier of Trient, you will reach the beautiful hut of Trient, 10,400 feet high, which offers a sunny terrace and excellent beers! On the terrace of the hut, in the afternoon, your guide will learn you the main knots used by climbers. Night at Trient hut.Duration of walking: 5 hours. Difference of level: 2,726 feet up, 1,191 feet down.
Day 3: As you spend two nights in Trient hut, your rucksack will be very light today. Just before dawn, you will leave the hut, towards the Gilded Peaks (Aiguilles Dorées). Close to these sharp-edged granite peaks, is the passage of the pass of Plines, height 10,807 feet. A easy way down will bring you to the very small hut of the Gilded Peaks, where you will have a pause to enjoy the panorama on the glacier of Saleina, and the impressive north face of Argentière Peak. It will be time to head towards the pass of Saleina, 10,718 feet, a slope of 200 feet high which incline is 45 degrees: we may have to cut some steps to help the roped party to rise up to the pass. From the pass, we will traverse the plateau of the glacier of Trient till the last slope before the hut, where we will have a training to safety technics to be used in case of a fall on a snow slope, and a study of rescue technics in crevasses. Night at Trient hut. Duration of walking: 5 hours. Difference of level: 2,526 feet up, 2,526 feet down.
Day 4: You will leave the hut before dawn. A long but soft rise from the hut brings you up to the "rimaye" of the Aiguille du Tour, 11,621 feet high, your goal for today; the " rimaye " is the crevasse which separates a summit or a snow gully from the glacier below, and, as the glacier is going down a few centimeters a day, the rimaye should get wider and wider. Happily for the mountaineers, the snowfalls and the small avalanches coming down from summits or gullies will fill it in, allowing mountaineers to go across it. Above the rimaye, a easy climbing route on granite rocks leads to the summit of the Aiguille du Tour. We go down by the ascent route, then easily walk to the pass of the Tour, height 10,791 feet, where you will join back the tracks going to " Albert 1er " hut, and the footpath to the cable-car of the pass of Balme. Transfer to Chamonix, where we will separate by midday. Duration of walking: 5 hours and a half. Difference of level: 1,555 feet up, 4,836 feet down.
Day 5: After a comfortable night in the valley, we meet at midday by the cable car of Bellevue, in Les Houches. We catch up the Bellevue cable car, and then the Mont-Blanc Tramway, till the last station, "Nid d'Aigle" (the Eagle nest), height 7,782 feet. Following the Rognes footpath, at a steady pace, we climb up to Tête Rousse mountain hut, height 10,390 feet. We will stop there for a few hours, having siesta, a good dinner, and a few hours more to relax before leaving the hut just before midnight. Duration of walking: 2 hours and a half. Difference of level: 2,608 feet up, 0 feet down.
Day 6: We ascend by night the slopes of Aiguille du Goûter, passing the famous spots of this easy ascent: arête Payot, Grand Couloir, the chimney, Au bonheur des Dames, les Bancs Rouges. All the technical parts of the ascent are equipped with fixed cables. Just before reaching the summit of Aiguille du Goûter, height 12,674 feet, we pass the Goûter hut, from which about 40 roped parties have just gone out. The route goes up on the slopes of Dôme du Gouter, you may be a little sleepy, the wind may blow, but little by little you go up, following you guide to achieve your dream, Mont Blanc!
Passing close to the summit of Dôme du Goûter, the route goes down for 5 minutes, and then climbs to Vallot hut, height 14,311 feet. You will now ascend the technical parts of the route: Grande bosse and Petite bosse, Mauvaise arête, Rochers de la Tournette, height 15,344 feet. After La Tournette, you walk up on the final ridge. The sun is now rising on the famous mountains of Switzerland (Matterhorn, Eiger), and on all the Mont-Blanc group. The body is tired, but as you are acclimated, your blood cells and your figthing spirit will give you energy to reach the Top of Europe, 15,781 feet, after 7 to 8 hours of ascent. Emotion will be deep in your heart, some mountaineers cry, other meditate, these moments are yours. We will follow the ascent route down to Tête Rousse hut, and then the Rognes footpath will lead us to "Nid d'Aigle". Tramway and cable car down to Les Houches. End of the course by the end of afternoon. Duration of walking: 7 to 8 hours from Tête Rousse to Mont-Blanc, and 5 to 6 hours from Mont-Blanc to Nid d'Aigle. Difference of level : 5,555 feet up, 8,163 feet down.
Day 7: one extra day to shift one day later the ascent in case of bad weather. If the ascent has been attempted on days 5 and 6, that day will be a day to rest in Chamonix. Your mountain guides will do everything possible to make a success of this training course. But, in high altitude, exceptional risks may exist: storms, avalanches.... Your guides, responsible for your life, may change the program of this training course for your safety. If exceptional risks during days 5, 6 and 7 turn the ascent of Mont-Blanc to be unrealizable, you will ascend the Dômes de Miage, height 12,041 feet, or Gran Paradiso, 13,323 feet, or another summit, during days 5 and 6, or during days 6 and 7. No refundment will be made in that case, and the ascent of Mont-Blanc will not be postponed to any other date. The choice between trying to ascend Mont-Blanc or trying to ascend Dômes de Miage or Gran Paradiso or another summit will be made by the Mountain Guide (s).
Our experience of these training courses has led us to choose the classic route by Le Goûter, which is more often passable than the Cosmiques route (Three Mont Blanc route). The ascent of Mont Blanc will take place on the sixth day or the seventh day of the training course, according to the best weather period: the seventh day is one day to rest and relax in the event of bad weather in altitude.
- Safety: to climb Mont-Blanc via the classic route, according to the safety rules of the National Trade Union of French Mountain Guides (Syndicat National des Guides de Haute Montagne), we have chosen to post one mountain guide for two climbers. This choice has been made for your safety; it is also much more efficient for this long ascent to create homogeneous roped parties of two climbers with similar ages, rhythm or technic. During all the ascent, and during all the coming down till the end of the glaciers, you will be roped with your guide.
- Success rate, Mont-Blanc ascent statistics: by nice weather, more than 90 % of the mountaineers who followed these training courses since they were founded have reached the summit of Mont Blanc. This remarkable rate of success to climb Mont Blanc (statistics show an average rate of success of only 70 % for roped parties on the Mont-Blanc ascent) is due to thirty years of experience of this ascent. This training course has been created to surmount the five main causes of failures on the Mont-Blanc route:
- insufficient equipment: bring all the gloves and under-gloves that we ask you to carry, adjust your crampons to your mountaineering shoes (crampons not perfectly adjusted will tire you out walking on the ice), make sure your mountaineering shoes are warm and comfortable, and don't forget your Thermos flask.
- lack of practice in ice climbing: you will spend two and a half hours training during the ice climbing school, on the first day of the course, this is vital to success during your ascent of Mont-Blanc. This ice climbing school will be completed by a training to safety technics to be used in case of a fall on a snow slope, and a study of rescue technics in crevasses.
- insufficient training: you must train seriously during the three months before the training course : run one hour three times a week, bike eight hours a week, or hike ten hours each week-end, on routes with a few steep hills. If you do not train seriously, you have very low chances to reach Mont-Blanc summit.
- some programs do not include one extra day to shift one day later the ascent in case of bad weather : our program includes one extra day. This extra day gives maximum flexibility in case of bad weather.
- the main cause of failure : insufficient acclimatisation. If you spend all your training course sleeping in Chamonix (height: 3,445 feet over sea level), you will not be acclimatised, even if you ascent high summits each day. The goal of this course is to get you to sleep high (one night in " Albert 1er " hut, 8,865 feet high, two nights in "Trient" hut, 10,400 feet high), to bring you to a perfect acclimatisation. After four days and three nights in altitude, you will spend one night and one complete day in Chamonix to recover energy, and then you will ascend Mont-Blanc with the best chances of success.
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