Climbing Mont Blanc: A Trekker's Guide

Climbers on Mont Blanc | H. Qualizza
Climbers on Mont Blanc | H. Qualizza

Clearly visible above the beautiful mountain town of Chamonix, Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe (4810m/15,780ft), was first climbed in 1786, and the ascent gave birth to modern day mountaineering.

Now a mecca for budding mountaineers, the peak and surrounding areas offer world class alpine trekking and climbing opportunities, right in the heart of Europe.

While summitting Mont Blanc is a serious endeavour, this guide will make it well within reach for the fit and experienced trekker.

Routes for climbing Mont Blanc

There are two main routes for climbing Mont Blanc: the Gouter ‘normal route’ and the ‘Trois Monts’, both of which are rated Alpine grade PD – that is peu difficile, meaning a bit difficult.  We recommend the Gouter route as it generally has the highest success rate for reaching the summit and is considered the safer route.

Spectacular views in the Mont Blanc region. Photo: Erin Williams

Who is it suitable for?

Whilst the range has attracted the attention of world-class alpinists from around the globe for its challenging routes for centuries, there are also many options available to the novice climber under the guidance of experienced guides.

Mont Blanc is often underestimated; a high level of fitness and experience walking or scrambling over uneven and steep terrain is essential as you will need to do so at a good speed. A good speed is the ability to walk or ascend 400 metres in an hour at altitudes in excess of 3000 metres.

To participate in the Mont Blanc Ascent, prior mountaineering experience is an advantage but not essential. Most important is an excellent fitness level, with a good level of experience walking in the mountains on snow and ice.

What to expect on the ascent

When climbing Mont Blanc, the walk is often on uneven rock and ice, with exposed sections of trail for a vast majority of the climb; balance and tenacity are very important.

Expect to hike for 6-to-12-hour days with up to 800 to 1600 metre vertical gains in elevation. The snow slopes will be up to 35‑40 degrees in parts and there is also rock climbing involved in some sections.

Combined with exposure and the possibility of adverse weather conditions, it can be difficult for those who have not experienced this type of climbing before. Additionally, you will be wearing stiff mountaineering boots and crampons which take some getting used to.

Climbing Mont Blanc Preparing for the climb. Photo: H. Qualizza

How to prepare for the climb

The best preparation for this ascent is extended periods of hard-paced walking with a pack in mountainous terrain; legs and lungs should be the focus. As mentioned above, the ability to ascend quickly at a rate of 400 metres in one hour is a minimum requirement. If you are not fit and strong, your chances of summitting are vastly reduced. Remember, it is up to your guide to decide whether or not you are fit to attempt the summit.

You should aim to start your preparation six months or more in advance of taking the trip.

Practice on uneven ground, so that you are accustomed to uneven footings, basic rock climbing, and at the least, scrambling should also be a part of your training regime. Incorporate running and cycling in hilly regions into your exercise programme to further prepare you well for this trip. You can learn the technical skills to get you to the top in your final days of training; however, your fitness and preparation are your responsibility and key to a successful climb.

 Climbing Mont Blanc Alpine Training. Photo: H. Qualizza

Conquer Western Europe's highest mountain

Our eight-day itinerary is designed to allow fit and experienced walkers, who have little or no experience in alpine skills, to appreciate the exhilaration of summiting an alpine peak.

Climbers enjoy superb weather conditions on an ascent of Mont Blanc |  <i>© Pierre Schmidt</i>

Acclimatisation and basic technical training are part of our programme for the first three days as we venture into the spectacular mountains of Aiguille du Tour and Petite Fourche, crossing beautiful glaciers under a stunning backdrop of snowy peaks and jagged mountains.

During these days our guides will train you in the use of an ice axe, crampons and basic rope techniques, arming you with the right alpine skills for the summit bid. Fully prepared, we focus on climbing Mont Blanc.

We schedule three days for climbing Mont Blanc, to allow two chances to reach the summit, giving our groups a significant advantage and a better chance of success. Travelling in teams of two clients to one qualified high-altitude mountain guide during the ascent, and often roped up, you will learn to work as a team and move together efficiently in a challenging mountain environment.

Summit day is a long and tiring day, however, the views from the summit are magnificent and are well worth your efforts.

Feeling inspired? Find out more about climbing Mont Blanc on our Mont Blanc Ascent trip >>

climbing, climbing skills, France, french alps, Gouter route, guide, guided mountaineering, ice, introduction to mountaineering, Mont Blanc, Mountaineering, mountaineering skills, mountains, mt blanc, preparation, snow, training, trekking

Comment (0)

Your comment will be visible after the administrator's approval.

b i u quote

Save Comment
Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Adventures South"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Walking Holidays"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Canadian Trails"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Humac Challenge"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WB.jpg?v2' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Walkers’ Britain"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Walkers' Britain</div>
Walkers' Britain (formerly Sherpa Expeditions) have specialised in walking and cycling trips in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1973. Explore iconic trails and destinations on a self guided or small group active holiday with Walkers' Britain.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Tasmania Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Utracks"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions Schools"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions Schools</div>
World Expeditions Schools is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Yomads"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ACT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Australian Cycle Tours"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Cycle Tours</div>
Australian Cycle Tours specialises in high quality self guided and guided cycling experiences in a selection of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WEX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="World Expeditions"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Expeditions</div>
The pioneers of original, worldwide adventure travel holidays since 1975
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TJX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Trail Journeys"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Trail Journeys</div>
Self-guided cycling experts on New Zealand's Otago Rail Trail and more
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/BMAC.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Blue Mountains Adventure Company"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Blue Mountains Adventure Company</div>
The original Blue Mountains canyoning, hiking, climbing and abseiling experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GWNZ.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="Great Walks of New Zealand"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Walks of New Zealand</div>
Explore New Zealand's most spectacular wilderness regions with the self-guided hiking experts
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/NAA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon' alt="North America Active"> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>North America Active</div>
USA Canada hiking & cycling tour specialists, choose from self-guided or guided trips