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.
Travel to Chamonix and rendezvous at the hotel by late afternoon. In the evening we will have welcome meeting and briefing about the week ahead, this is usually held around 6pm. There will also be a chance for the guide to check out your clothing and gear and to decide if you will need to pick up any further items of equipment before setting out in the morning.
We take the early morning lift from Chamonix up to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m). Today, we aim to traverse the Vallee Blanche to kick-start the process of acclimatisation and to give us the chance to practice the use of ice-axe and crampons. We rope up at the top of the Aiguille Du Midi to descend its classic snow arête to the Col Du Midi (3532m). There are several small summits and view-points on the way as we traverse this spectacular glacier to reach the Helbronner Gondola station on the Italian border (the highest border station in Europe). We return via the spectacularly scenic Gondola to the Aiguille du Midi where we ride the cable car back down to Chamonix. This is a stunning day out, with superb views of the big mountains of the Alps – the Drus, the Jorasses, the Courtes, the Droites, perhaps even a distant view of the Matterhorn.
Today we will drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and have lunch at the Albergo Paradiso, beneath the shapely peak of Gran Paradiso. In the afternoon we make the steep, 2 to 3-hour ascent to the Rifugio Federico Chabod is at an altitude of 2750 metres. It was built in 1985, has accommodation for 100, drinking water, washing facilities/showers and hydro-electricity.
After checking in at the hut you will go out to the glacier for some skills training in crampon work, ice axe arrest and placement and crevasse rescue skills.
An early pre-dawn start from the hut to climb this isolated peak, crossing boulders and snow fields which lead us onto the Glacier du Mont Gran Paradiso and towards the Becca de Montcorve. We cross snow slopes to reach the Fenetre du Mont Roc, crossing a rimaye (a large crevasse separating the glacier from the permanent snow field above) and ascending a steep slope to give access to the final rocky summit ridge. The final 100 metres is an exciting exposed scramble, though we are well protected. The summit supports a recently renovated ‘Madonna’ which is fortunately well attached to the rocks. This is a fantastic viewpoint particularly of the Mont Blanc Massif. The ascent takes around 5 hours and is about 1300 metres of ascent. The descent to the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele takes about 3-4hrs at a gentle pace.
We return to the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele (2735m). The old hut (still there) was built in 1884, whilst the new one did not appear until 1932. There are beds for 120 people and there is good drinking water, washing facilities, a lake, hydro electricity, bar and restaurant. This large, lively hut is friendly and well organised, with good food, coffee and wine!
From the hut we ascend gently initially and then more steeply below the cliffs of the Pyramid du Grand Neyron (3255m). This is usually a great place to spot herds of chamois and ibex. A hidden rocky col is finally reached and we prepare for an exciting descent, using fixed chains and ladders to take us down to the moraines of the Timorion Valley. Finally, we reach a pleasant path leading to the old cattle byres at Levionaz Dessus, from where we descend zigzags to the Leviona Valley. Finally, we finish our walk-ou with a steep zigzagging trail through pine forests and below the Leviona waterfall to the hamlet of Tignet, a beautifully restored collection of buildings. A short descent along a road leads to our pick up point in Degioz, Valsaverenche. Around 7 hours of walking. After a late lunch (time permitting), we board our transport for the return drive to the Chamonix Valley.
Now that our training is over, we are ready for the ascent of Mont Blanc. The group will be joined by more guides (ratio 2 clients to 1 guide), and we will make our ascent via the ‘Normal Route’ on the Gouter Ridge.
For the Normal Route, we will take advantage of the uplift provided by the Mont Blanc Tramway which will take us to Mont Lachat (2115m). From here, we follow a rocky trail for approximately 3 hours to the Tete Rousse Refuge (3167m) where we will stay overnight. We usually arrive at the hut by early afternoon, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the dramatic location.
The Big Day! You can expect an early start from the hut - approximately 1 a.m! On the Normal Route, a rocky scramble leads to the Gouter Refuge (3817m), from where the remaining 1000 metres of ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc is on snow. The climbing is never technical, although the final ridge is exposed and can be tricky when windy. We are high up and the air is thin, so slow and steady is the way forward. The ascent can take from 6 to 8 hours, returning by the same route. We should be on Mont Blanc’s summit just after dawn, in position to enjoy some of the most spectacular views in the whole of Europe. We return via the same route usually back to the Gouter hut, we try to reach this by early or mid-afternoon (in time for a late lunch). We will spend the night in the Gouter hut.
If we have not summited the day before, we may make the attempt today as described above. After summiting we will descend via the Normal Route all the way back to the valley. If we have summited on day 6, then we have a leisurely start and descend to the valley in time for lunch. In the evening, we have the opportunity to reflect on the adventures of the week, while we celebrate with a drink (or two)!
Depart after breakfast
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
• 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)
• 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!!
• Hold-all bag - for gear not required on trek. Will be left at first hotel and collected on return.
• 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
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
If you wish to hire any technical kit please contact us in advance with your requirements.
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.
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 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 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. For more information and other useful train travel details look at www.snowcarbon.co.uk
At the end of the week the course finishes after breakfast on the last day and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight from lunchtime onwards to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!
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.
I have no previous mountaineering experience but I am keen to learn the basics of using crampons and an ice axe and rope work. I would enjoy ascending rocky scrambles and easy angled snow and ice. I am a regular hill walker summer and winter and used to long days out, I am happy to walk for 6-8hrs per day carrying all my gear in my rucksack. For Via Ferrata trips a head for heights and some upper body strength is useful.
I have undertaken some previous rocky scrambling and short rock climbs, ice or easy alpine climbing. I am comfortable moving on rocky and snowy ridges and slopes of up to 40 degrees. I enjoy the challenge of more remote technical terrain. I would like to learn more about alpine rope work. I can improve my crampon / ice axe technique and could scramble on rock with greater efficiency.
I have previous experience climbing alpine PD+ or harder. I am undeterred by scrambling and have done some pitched climbing on rock or ice. I have a firm grasp of the rope techniques necessary for pitched climbing and crossing glaciers. I am confident when using crampons and ice axe. I relish the thought of climbing steep rock and ice or traversing an exposed ridge covered in snow and ice. I can abseil, know how to use a prussic knot and make myself safe on basic belay stances.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.