Chamonix, France

Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc

If you are looking to climb Mont Blanc, this 8-day Alpine climbing holiday offers something of a new approach. Starting out in the Chamonix Valley, we have a day's instruction and acclimatisation, which involves traversing the Vallee Blanche, before driving across the border into Italy, to make an ascent of Gran Paradiso. After this we return to Chamonix for the ascent of Mont Blanc via the 'Normal Route' or via Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit. This combination of Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc provides a challenging and highly rewarding week of Alpine climbing and the chance to ascend two classic 4000m Alpine peaks.

To be successful on Mont Blanc requires a stable weather window during the summit days. Participants also need the necessary level of fitness. If the weather forecast is poor or it becomes apparent that people are lacking fitness to achieve a successful Mont Blanc summit ascent, our guides will choose alternative itineraries for the summit days. From the Aiguille du Midi you can access the Cosmiques or Torino refuges. These are ideal bases to ascend classic mountaineering routes such as Mt Blanc du Tacul, Arete de Cosmiques, Point Lachenal, Tour Ronde and the Aiguille du Entreves. We also have the option to drive to Switzerland and attempt the Weissmies in the Saas valley.

The price includes all guiding fees and expenses, half-bard accommodation in the valley (twin-room), half board accommodation in mountain huts, uplift costs and local transfers
The price does not include lunches, equipment hire and travel to and from the Alps.
Single room occupancy in Chamonix will incur an additional cost. Ask for details.

Please note if we have to change our plans due to poor weather there may be additional costs - e.g. travel to Switzerland - to be shared by the group. 

This list contains our recommended clothing and equipment for our Gran Paradiso & Mont Blanc Climber weeks.

In the summer months, the days generally start very cold and warm up during the morning to become hot in the afternoon. It is therefore essential that you have 2-3 thin layers that you are able to put on/take off as the conditions change. Thin layers also allow better movement as opposed to one layer of bulky clothing.

If you are uncertain what to bring or need further information, please contact us.

  • Base Layer Top and Bottoms – a few base layer tops, usually long sleeved is best, wool base layers form Smartwool or Icebreaker are good as they offer good wicking properties and dry quickly. For your legs a couple of pairs of long or ¾ length bottoms are best.

    Mid-layer fleece tops – a couple of fleece type jacket or tops that can be worn between your base layer and outer layers. The “Layering” approach offers the best heat retention and flexibility in warm and cold weather.

    Insulation Layer - a down or primalotf jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.

    Lightweight softshell type trousers - you want to wear a lightweight softshell or similar material on your legs, these types of trouser offer good protection from snow/ice as well as abrasion on rock and are comfortable to move in.

    Walking shorts or pair of trousers with zip-off legs. Useful for walk-ins to huts on hot days.

    Gore-Tex Jacket - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable jacket. Best to have a lightweight jacket that can be worn in the event of wet or windy weather but is packable enough to fit in your rucksack. Your insulated ski jacket will be overkill and too hot and bulky.

    Gore-Tex Pants - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable trousers. Lightweight is important plus side zips for putting on over your boots and crampons. Used in cold, wet and windy weather.

    Sun hat and warm hat – bring a wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap plus a warm beanie style hat.

    Light, thin gloves – a thin pair of fleece or softshell gloves for warm weather are a must.

    Insulated gloves - You need to have a pair of waterproof warm gloves to wear on cold days.

    Gaiters – these are useful to wear to keep snow out of your boots.

    Socks - 3-4 pairs of medium weight socks usually mid-calf length is good.

  • There are 2 grades of boots for alpine trekking and mountaineering: B1 and B2

    • B1 boots are usually lightweight boots offering more flexibility when walking and are usually suitable only for trekking, easy glacier walking and Via Ferrata trips.

    • B2 boots are semi-rigid boots that are the best option for summer alpine mountaineering trips. There are leather and plastic/composite options. Leather boots tend to be more comfortable and breathable whereas plastic/composite boots are warmer and more waterproof.

    B2 boots are compatible with C1 and C2 crampons.

    Key features of a good alpine boot include Vibram soles, a reversed leather upper (which protect the best side of the leather from scuffing and abrasion and improves durability and water resistance) and ankle flex and a higher cut which give control, mobility and support.

    Boots can be hired in resort but to avoid discomfort we do strongly recommend that you have your own pair which needs to be well worn-in prior to your trip.

    Alpine huts supply hut slippers so that you don't need to take any other footwear apart from your boots. Boots are not allowed in the dining room or dormitories and must be left in the foyer.

  • Rucksack - A simple and lightweight pack with a capacity of between 35-45 liters is recommended. You need to have one loop for carrying an ice axe on your rucksack.

    Lightweight sleeping bag liner – a silk or cotton sleeping bag liner is now compulsory in all mountain huts.

    Water bottle or Thermos – a water bottle or hydration system is needed.

    Head torch with spare batteries

    Penknife

    Personal first Aid Kit - Should contain:

    Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.

    Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen

    Antiseptic cream or wipes

    Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!

    (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)

    Whistle

    Sun Glasses - minimum category 3.

    Ski Goggles – these can be very useful if you encounter strong winds and poor weather.

    Sunscreen and Lip Protection

    Ear Plugs - For noisy huts!!

    Camera

    Hold-all bag - for gear not required on trek. Will be left at first hotel and collected on return.

    Passport

    Money - You will need some cash for food and drinks. There are some ATMs and most hotels, shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, but most huts still accept cash only. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 25-35 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption).

    Toiletries – Should contain:

    Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal

    Soap

    Anti-bacterial hand cleaner

    Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene

    Tissues and toilet roll

    Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel

    (Any other essentials you need but remember there are no shower facilities and generally no running water in the huts and you have to carry everything with you!)

    Alpine club card - If you're a member.

    Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.

  • These items are essential for all alpine mountaineering courses

    All items can be hired from Mountain Tracks or from sport shops in the Alps.

    • Climbing helmet
    • Ice Axe - General mountaineering / alpine pick 55-70cms long depending on your height.
    • Boot crampons - with anti-balling plates.
    • Climbing Harness – adjustable leg loops are useful for easy of putting on over your boots.
    • Adjustable trekking pole(s)

  • It is possible to hire boots and the technical items needed for the Mont Blanc Climber week in Chamonix and guideline prices for 6 days hire are:

    Mountaineering boots €55
    Ice Axe €30
    Boot crampons €35
    Harness €15
    Helmet €15

    If you wish to hire any technical kit please contact us in advance with your requirements.

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Chamonix

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The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).

Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.

As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Our top reasons to visit Chamonix

  • Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents

  • Great destination for weekends and short breaks

  • Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports

  • Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski

  • The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure

  • Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe

  • Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May

  • Good range of accommodation for all budgets

Chamonix Ski Area

The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.

Off Piste runs include:

 

The Vallée Blanche

The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).

Pas de Chevre

Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.

Glacier du Toule

You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.

Le Tour

From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.

Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.

Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers.  Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.


Resort Information:

Resort Height: 1,042m

Highest Lift: 3,842m

Nearest Airport: Geneva

Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.

More about Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy

The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.

  • It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.

    For UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
    If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
     

  • The effects of altitude on the mountain is a significant issue and can make or break the ascent. At 4,800m the altitude can most definitely be felt, this is not surprising considering the air pressure is only 60% of that at sea level.

    As you ascend to higher altitudes, atmospheric pressure decreases, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. It is also colder, drier and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger. After arriving at high altitude you will probably notice that your breathing is faster and/or deeper, and you may feel short of breath especially when exercising. This is the body's first and most effective response to higher elevation. In addition your heart is likely to beat faster and you may develop nausea, unusual tiredness, headache, or have difficulty sleeping. During the process of acclimatisation, one or more of the above symptoms are common, however these symptoms can evolve into more serious conditions if managed incorrectly. It is worth noting that everybody is different and there is an element of unpredictability regarding how you will cope with altitude and how well you will acclimatise. Often it is not the young and most fit who are the least affected by altitude.

    The process of acclimatisation needs to be well structured to minimise the adverse effects, but at the same time gain the necessary benefits. So our programme is designed in the best possible way, we start low and slowly gain height during the week. At least 2 nights are spent sleeping high in mountain refuges before an attempt on the peak.

  • You should arrange to arrive in Chamonix by late afternoon on the first day. 

    The most convenient airport is Geneva and from here the transfer time up to Chamonix by road is just 1 hr 15mins.  To travel between the airport and Chamonix we recommend you reserve a seat on one of the many commercial shuttle buses. Mountain Tracks can book this for you and the usual prices are from £40 per person one-way. Please supply your full flight details to us so we can make the reservation.

    Want to take the train to the resort?  No problem – it’s possible to get to Chamonix by train from the UK using the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris, then the TGV to Bellegarde and a regional train to Chamonix.  The journey can be done in 1 day. However, please note to arrive in Chamonix by 5pm you should be departing Paris between 9am and 10am, there is a small selection of options ranging from 5hr to 7hrs of travel. If you need to arrive late in the evening for any of our trips please discuss with us as soon as possible. 

    The London to Paris Eurostar timetable here 

  • All our mountaineering trips are run by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.

  • The maximum group size is 4.

    The first 5 days are guided on a maximum ratio of 1:4. 

    Mont Blanc summit days are guided on a ratio of 1:2.

  • Our usual hotel in Chamonix is the Hotel Les Lanchers located in Les Praz, this is a comfortable 3* hotel with modern light and airy rooms, a great restaurant and a comfortable bar and lounge area; as well as outside seating to enjoy the sunshine and views of the mountains. We offer accommodation on a twin share basis in their standard rooms, all with en-suite showers. Their restaurant "Rendezvous" serves local and international cuisine and offers a set menu during the summer months. Their chef can cater for any dietary requirements our guests may have. They serve a hearty breakfast and offer packed lunches for guests to purchase for their climbing days. You can view more details on the hotel here http://www.hotel-lanchers-chamonix.com/en/home
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