Shell jacket – You need a lightweight yet relatively sturdy shell jacket that stows away without taking up much space in your backpack. You should be able to fit the jacket hood over a helmet.
Shell pants – The best pants for Mont Blanc are lightweight water and windproof shell pants of good solid material. It’s an added benefit if you can zip them up on the sides and take them on and off without taking off your boots.
Mountain pants – Sturdy mountaineering pants of Schöller fabric or other stretchy, weather-resistant material. On good weather days, we often use these on the entire Mont Blanc ascent with or without a base layer underneath. The shell pants sometimes never leave the backpack.
Note on pants:
It’s difficult, takes time, and often it is impossible to change your pants combination when climbing. It’s important to get it right from the start. Here are two relatively similar options, where we recommend the first.
- Base-layer + Mountain pants + a very lightweight shell pant. This is a simple yet efficient combination of trousers for climbs in the Alps. Most of the time, you can get away with just wearing the mountain pants with or without a thin base layer. If the weather is bad, you can wear lightweight shell pants on top.
- Base-layer + normal light trekking pants + Normal shell pants. If you have a pair of heavy-duty shell pants and don’t want to invest in a brand new pair of mountain pants, you can get away with bringing a pair of normal trekking pants of lighter material. You will always wear a base layer + shell pants during our climbs. It is a slightly heavier and less flexible solution than number 1, but it is often a very good setup on Mont Blanc, where the difference in weather and temperature is great, from the hike to the hut and the climb to the summit.
Base layers – A long-sleeved base layer top and a short-sleeved base layer t-shirt are a good combination for the upper body. You can change for the dry if one gets sweaty and wet on a walk-in. We must bring long thermal bottoms for cold starts on higher alpine objectives. You don’t need the warmest version, but one that offers enough extra insulation on cold days when layered with your mountain pants.
Mid-layer – A light fleece sweater or jacket. It’s nice to have a hooded version for the cold and to keep the sun off your neck while walking on the glaciers.
Light fibre and down jacket – The best is if you can wear the jacket both underneath and above your shell, which gives the highest flexibility. We usually wear this layer during the last hours of the Mont Blanc ascent when the wind and cold temperatures make conditions hard.
Note: An expedition-grade down jacket will be too warm and heavy for Mont Blanc.
Warm hat – Should cover the ears and be thin enough to wear under a helmet.
Neck gaiter / Buff – Something that can warm your neck and protect against wind and bad weather. A “buff” or other balaclavas are great.
Sunhat – The sun can be very intense on the glaciers. Make sure you have a system to hide from the heat and sun.
Warm gloves – They should be insulated and warm enough for -10 degrees.
Mittens (optional) – A pair of mittens could be necessary if you are very sensitive to cold.
Fleece gloves – A pair of lightweight gloves is very useful when you need the dexterity of your fingers. This can be a pair of fleece gloves with added protection or a light pair of leather gloves.
Note: A pair of gardening/bike/work gloves can be a good third glove. It can be used for a day of Via Ferrata, MTB, etc.
Socks – 2 pairs of socks. We recommend a pair of light trekking socks and a warmer variant for cold weather.
Snow gaiters – We only need the short version for summer use, but if you only have a “high” version, that will also work. You will not need separate snow gaiters if you have a pair of mountaineering boots with an integrated snow gaiter.
As much as gaiters (individual or integrated) protect you from the snow and cold, they will protect your pants from crampon accidents.
Trekking, running, or approach shoes – We advise everyone to bring a pair of normal sports shoes with a good sole. Some prefer hiking to the hut in such shoes while carrying their mountaineering boots. They can also come in handy if we do a day of Via Ferrata or as an approach to any valley climb.
Shorts – Some prefer wearing shorts to the huts on very warm days.
Extras: To reduce the weight of your backpack, the trick is to bring only the important ones.
Personal affairs – Money (cash euro and credit card), passport, insurance card, etc.
Energy-Bars and chocolate
Sunscreen – Choose factors 30-50. Below 30 is not enough unless you are a guide with leather skin (and even that isn’t wise).
Sun stick – To protect your lips from the sun.
Sunglasses – With side protection, level 4.
Snow goggles / Ski mask – When it’s windy on the Mont Blanc or any of the summits we make, the goggles are very important! If you are a skier, you will likely already have a mask you can use.
Water bottles / Tea flask – Sigg or Nalgene bottles are great. One liter + 0,5 liter should be sufficient for most people. If you only fill the bottles with cold drinks, simple “San Pelegrini” or “Badoit” bottles are good enough. If you bring a tea flask, 0.5l is enough and not too heavy.
You only need to bring these items when a hut night is planned.
A sleeping bag liner – Is obligatory in most huts.
Headlamp – A good and bright headlamp that fits on your helmet. Make sure to fit new batteries. New headlamps have a red-light function, which is highly appreciated by fellow climbers when people need to find the toilets during hut nights.
Phone charger – You can most often charge your phone in the hut.
Earplugs – For a better night’s sleep in the huts.
Small first-aid – Painkillers (Paracetamol + Ibuprofen), plaster, blister kit (Compeed, sports tape, iodine, small scissor). Don’t bring any more than this unless you have special conditions that require you to take other medicine (make sure to inform us of what you take).
Reading material – You can bring a small book or magazine to read. There is normally a selection of magazines in the huts, but often in French or Italian. But don’t bring a heavy hard-back edition…
35-40 litre backpack – Should have attachments for 1 ice axe + 1 pole. The best is to go for a relatively simple “alpinist” backpack without too many extra straps. We need the backpack to be light and not too bulky for climbing.
Rain cover – Once in a while, we approach huts in heavy rain, and a rain cover can be of good use. It’s possible to use a bunch of plastic bags as a replacement, but it is not quite as effective.
Mountaineering boots* – You need a pair of well-fitting, insulated, and sturdy semi-rigid or fully rigid mountaineering boots that fit crampons easily.
For the best comfort and to avoid blisters, it’s an advantage to use boots that you have “broken in” before arriving in Chamonix.
It’s fine to rent mountaineering boots; you’ll often get boots already broken in by other climbers. You even have the added benefit of being able to change during the week if you experience that they don’t have the right fit.
If you bring your boots, ensure they are of the suggested quality.
We often reject participants’ trekking boots that are too soft for fitting crampons and/or not warm enough.
If you are buying boots and doubt the shoes are good enough, please contact us for advice.
We recommend you tape your heels before walking for several hours with the stiff mountaineering boots. (The stiffness of the sole puts extra pressure on the heels. You risk getting blisters the first day if you don’t take preventive measures.)
Crampons* – 10 and 12-point steel crampons of classic models will do the trick (8-10 points facing down + 2 front points). Your crampons must be fitted with anti-balling plates to avoid the dangerous accumulation of snow underneath your foot (risk of sliding).
Aluminium crampons are not strong enough for this trip.
Ice axe* – A classic 50-60cm ice axe. The idea that you need a long axe so it can double as a walking stick is false. The axe is a tool for climbing and can be used for other important applications, such as self-arresting. A good axe length sits well on your backpack without sticking high above your backpack.
Telescopic pole * – We recommend you use at least one pole. It does help your balance on uneven terrain or soft snow. Some prefer to bring two. It can help you push while walking up and can help take some weight off your knees while descending. Bring poles that don’t take up much space when folded.
Note. While poles can help during our descends, it is no help for anyone suffering from chronic knee problems. If you suffer from such conditions, you should not attempt to climb Mont Blanc. It’s simply too hard.
Helmet* – A normal climbing helmet will do. Make sure that there is a good attachment for a headlamp. A bike or worker’s helmet is not good enough.
Harness + screw karabiner* – A light climbing harness + a normal screw karabiner.
We recommend a lightweight climbing harness. It should be large enough to leave at least 10-15cm of extra webbing after tightening. Two gear loops are enough. It is no problem using the same harness you use for sports climbing, but make sure you have enough space in the harness for the extra clothing you’ll be wearing.
We advise against using any work or rigging harnesses as they are too heavy and not suited for our purpose.
*Can be rented in Chamonix.
** We can supply you with some of these items. Let us know what you need.
The guide will provide all protective and safety gear listed below.
Protection & safety gear – Glacier kit, rock protection gear, slings, quick-draws.
First-aid kit – A first-aid kit
Radio – A radio or other means of calling rescue.