New Itinerary for 2019! – Our Climb Mont Blanc week focuses on climbing the highest summit in Western Europe with a qualified UIAGM /IFMGA mountain guide. The training and acclimatization program involves technical training whilst reaching 4000m on the Gran Paradiso – acclimatizing in this way makes a huge difference on the final MB summit day. Mont Blanc itself will be attempted via the Gouter, Gonella or Grand Mulets routes. Our Mont Blanc trips now run in June and September only, when snow conditions are at their best for safe and enjoyable climbing; we also start our courses midweek to avoid the busiest nights in the huts.
Recent Trip Reports:
- Mont Blanc via the Grand Mulets
- Climbing Mont Blanc
- Mont Blanc July ’17
- Mont Blanc with Ben
- Mont Blanc private guiding
Need further information? Enquire about this trip
This is an introductory level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 1-2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need good general fitness and experience in UK mountains (summer and winter). You should have used an ice axe and crampons before, either in the Scottish winter mountains (eg a winter skills course) or on alpine glacier treks. To make a successful ascent of Mont Blanc you need good cardiovascular fitness and plenty of stamina, as the summit day will involve 9 – 12 hours climbing at high altitude – please read our fitness and experience requirements below for further information and advice.
NB – Climbing Conditions on Mont Blanc
You need to be aware when booking, that sufficiently good weather and climbing conditions are a prerequisite to make the ascent of Mont Blanc. Poor weather can occur at any time, but on average, the weather is good enough to make a summit bid on 70% of days in the summer season. Sometimes, during extended periods of very hot weather, the rockfall risk can increase to a point that it’s no longer safe to make an ascent (recently, this has only ever occurred in July and August, which is one of the reasons we now avoid these months for MB ascents). However, a fresh snowfall or drop in temperatures can improve conditions quickly again. If the weather or conditions on the mountain are not sufficiently safe at the time of your trip, then a high quality alternative on another peak will always be offered – if conditions are looking doubtful, we’ll keep you informed about the alternative plans and options.
Climbing Routes on Mont Blanc
We use three different routes to climb Mont Blanc – the Gouter Route from Les Houches, the Gonella Route from Italy and the Grand Mulets Route from the mid station of the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car. Each of these routes involves 1600-1700m of ascent from the hut to summit. Route choice is determined by hut availability, the current weather and climbing conditions and group fitness, so you need to be fit enough to climb to the summit via any of these routes.
This is a split ratio week, with 3 training days guided at 1:4, then 3 summit days at 1:2 ratio, with UIAGM guides.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 3 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals**
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and meals
- Local travel in the guides vehicle to complete the course itinerary
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Cable cars
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point and Chamonix valley base is Chalet Tissieres in Les Bossons, just 5 mins by car/bus from Chamonix centre. The chalet stands in its own 2000m2 alpine garden with stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the entire Chamonix valley. It offers simple but comfortable shared rooms, a large lounge/dining area, honesty bar, and a huge balcony for al fresco dining on warm summer evenings: a great place to relax after a big day in the mountains. The chalet serves a buffet breakfast and varied 3 course evening meal**, with special diets catered for upon request. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. **The chef has one night off each week – this day will include bed and breakfast only, but the chalet will recommend an alternative local restaurant. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
(NB ‘Course Only’ Options are also available. If you’d like to book a place on the course only and arrange your own accommodation, then please get in touch).
You should arrange outward travel on Wednesday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation.
Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment for the week, before we go on to discuss everyone’s ambitions for the week, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our planning. We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the valley.
Appproach the Vittorio Emanuele Hut
In the morning we travel to Italy and walk up to the Vittorio Emanuele Hut (2719m) in the beautiful Gran Paradiso National Park – there will be time to make any last minute food purchases etc en route.
The hut walk takes about 2-2.5hrs and is the first part of our acclimatisation program – allowing you to spend as much time at altitude as possible during the week.
This extra night sleeping high early on makes a big difference on Mont Blanc. In the afternoon we do a ropework training session near to the hut – practicing knots for tying on in the middle and ends of the rope, learning how to take in coils and rope up correctly for glacier travel – maximum ratio 4:1.
Friday – Saturday
Friday and Saturday are spent acclimatizing and making an ascent of Gran Paradiso (4061m) in Italy, via the classic West Flank route. Depending on weather, conditions and group fitness – we typically follow one of 2 plans:
- Friday – a very steady ascent of the Gran Paradiso, then return to the Vittorio Emanuele Hut for a second night.
- Saturday – descend to the valley and recovery day.
- Friday – ascent of La Tresenta (3609m), then return to Vittorio Emanuel Hut.
- Saturday – ascent of the Gran Paradiso, then return to the valley.
Plan A is hard work on the Gran Paradiso, but it gives you a lot more recovery time before the two big back to back climbing days on Mont Blanc, so this works well for many groups. Plan B gives you an extra summit, but less recovery time – so the group needs to be strong and the weather needs to be stable. Your guide will assess the weather conditions and group ability and decide on the best plan to maximize your chances of summiting Mont Blanc.
Sat PM Return to Chamonix, overnight in valley.
Gran Paradiso (4061m) – PD- , 1300m , 7-9hrs
The Gran Paradiso in the only 4000m summit entirely within Italy and gives it’s name to the National Park that surrounds the peak.
The climb is a steady ascent, mostly on snow, with a few steeper sections as the glacier gains height.
Eventually the route leads out onto a wide glacial bowl, which is skirted in an anticlockwise direction up to the final summit rocks.
The last 100m of scrambling to the summit is often busy, as teams pass back and forth along the same route, but the view is well worth it.
Mont Blanc Hut Approach Day
Final preparations in the valley, before heading up to either the Gouter/Tete Rousse, Gonella or Grand Mulets Huts ready to make the ascent of Mont Blanc.
As far as possible, this is a steady approach day in order to prepare for the big climb ahead.
However, it’s still a long way up to the huts (the Gonella and Gouter Huts especially, which are a 5-6hr approach) – so you need to be prepared for two big mountain days, rather than just one.
Climb Mont Blanc (4808m) – AD , 1600-1700m , 9-12hrs
The ascent of Mont Blanc via the Gouter, Gonella or Grand Mulets Routes and the final Bosses Ridge – each of these is a big and strenuous climb.
After a very early start from the hut, it’s a long climb through the night, where pacing yourself and having the determination to dig in and rise to the challenge are important. The lower section up to the Dome du Gouter holds no great difficulties when climbing via the Gouter Route, but on the Gonella and Grand Mulets routes there is some steeper terrain to climb in order to reach this point, where all the routes converge. Soon after the emergency Vallot Hut at 4350m, the climbing becomes steeper and narrower again.
This upper section is known as the Bosses Ridge and it can often be very cold here, as it’s at high altitude, early in the morning and frequently exposed to the wind. When finally reaching the summit the views are truly amazing, but it’s still a very long way back down to the valley!
PM Descend back to the hut and spend a second night there.
AM Descend to Chamonix – or reserve day in case of bad weather, to make a final attempt at the summit. It is possible to reach the valley the same day as climbing Mont Blanc, but obviously this makes the summit day longer. Tue PM return to Chamonix.
Return travel should be arranged on Wednesday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Early departures – if you choose to depart on Tuesday night, please leave plenty of time for repacking and the airport transfer. You will typically be back at the hotel by 4-5pm at the latest, so choose a flight departing Geneva after 9-10pm.
We base ourselves for the week in the famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Chamonix is one of the most famous Alpine centres in the world, with an unparalleled range of quality climbing across all grades and styles, and much of it with convenient cablecar access.
The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley – transfers will drop off at the destination of your choice, but must be booked in advance.
Flight and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 9-10 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 80 Euros each way in tolls).
- Euroline coach UK to Chamonix (takes 1 day): www.eurolines.co.uk/en
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train service to Chamonix (excellent fast service): www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
Mont Blanc Fitness/Experience Advice
Western Europe’s highest mountain is justly famous and is a popular target for keen mountain goers, both novice and experienced, from around the world. However, it’s a tough and committing mountain and care should be taken to make sure you are ready. Please use these guidelines to help you decide if the time is right.
Mont Blanc is a tricky beast – it definitely is not a novice climbers’ mountain, yet it can be climbed by less experienced mountaineers in the correct circumstances. There are several factors to consider, all of which will influence your chances of making the summit:
This is a key factor – you should be at Fitness Level 3 (see below) to enjoy climbing Mont Blanc. However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly after the Gran Paradiso climb, prior to setting off up Mont Blanc.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Weather and conditions
These must be good > perfect. Poor visibility, strong winds, low temperatures or fresh snowfall all increase the seriousness of an ascent to a much greater degree than they would on a lower peak and sometimes make an attempt too dangerous. The ideal is a calm, blue sky day with good firm snow conditions allowing for quick travel.
Your personal acclimatization rate
Most people are sufficiently acclimatized after 3 days of training, sleeping up high for 2 nights and climbing the Gran Paradiso, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
Technical mountaineering ability
You should be at Tech Level 1-2 (see below). You need some previous experience using ice axe and crampons before the trip, but further training will be provided to top up your skills if required – you also need to be comfortable and sure footed on steep hillwalking and scrambling terrain, as there are narrow and exposed sections on the ascents of both Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso.
All of these elements trade off against each other to a degree, but the two most important things you can do to help yourself in the run up to the trip are: increase your cardio vascular fitness and lose any excess weight – ie start training!
If you need to top up your fitness before this trip, please see our training guidelines.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
Tech Level 2
Sport climber/Intro trad climber. You have indoor or outdoor bolt protected sport climbing experience, or have seconded traditional naturally protected outdoor climbs up to V Diff/Severe standard. You have some UK winter hillwalking/Scottish grade 1 mountaineering experience using an ice axe and crampons, or have done some alpine glacier treks or easier alpine peaks to F standard.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate trad climber. You have led single or multi pitch traditionally protected rock climbs up to Severe/VS and have some ice/mixed climbing experience using 2 axes and front point technique, seconding ice or mixed routes to Scottish grade 2/3. You have climbed in the Alps before on longer PD, or shorter AD routes. You are also familiar with multipitch abseil descents.
Tech Level 4
Experienced all rounder. You lead multi pitch traditionally protected rock climbs at VS/HVS standard and multi pitch ice or mixed routes to Scottish grade 4 – or if you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience climbing at this standard and are very comfortable seconding climbs of this difficulty. In the Alps you have climbed longer AD routes, or shorter D ice and mixed routes with glacial approaches and abseil descents.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced all rounder. You regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock and ice/mixed routes at Scottish 5+/WI5. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have VERY extensive experience climbing at this level and are totally comfortable seconding climbs at this standard or above. In the Alps you have climbed longer D or above routes with complicated glacial approaches and descents.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Wicking thermal tops – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock boots – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.