Mont Blanc 4810m
Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Central Europe, sees frequent climbs from June to September. Scaling its normal routes promises a magical and unforgettable experience for the fit and motivated. With formidable length, difficulty, and altitude, Mont Blanc offers a genuine mountain challenge.
The alpine summit, fully clad in glaciers, crowns at 4810m, a striking landmark in the Mont Blanc massif’s east. Descending the mountain’s slopes, glaciers stretch like spider’s tentacles towards the valley, their frozen currents flowing gradually over time. These icy rivers conclude with awe-inspiring ice falls, poised just above the valley floors.
Can I do it?
Yes…but it will take a lot of training and preparation. You need to be in excellent physical shape and have good health when you arrive to climb Mont Blanc. It makes sense to start training at least 6 months before arriving, but how much training you need is ultimately very individual.
The climb is hard, and if you reach the top, it will stand out as a tremendous achievement.
The technical training we do on our 6-day course using crampons and ice-axes, learning skills we need to apply on the ascent, would normally be sufficient for those with prior trekking and mountain experience, but could be insufficient for people who need a more gradual approach, suffer from fear of heights or even if the actual conditions on the mountain are harder than during normal.
Many of our clients believe the climb of Mont Blanc is the hardest physical challenge they have done and are often surprised that the difficulty was as great!
How difficult is it?
The technical difficulty is high enough to present a big challenge. It is a significant step up from normal trekking, and the difficulty you might have encountered on technically easier summit climbs like e.g… Kilimanjaro.
The real difficulties on the Mont Blanc ascent begin from the Tete Rousse hut. The climb from here goes up a rock spur leading to the Gouter refuge. The climb is about 600 height meters high. When the route is dry, we go without crampons. If it is snowy, we wear crampons. The route is steep, and we climb roped up all the way. Finally, a series of fixed cables are placed to help overcome a steep final section.
From the Gouter refuge, the terrain changes. From here, we move on snow & ice to the summit. After a long and laborious snow slope, we reach the Vallot refuge in 4362m. From here, the route takes a more alpine character, and it is mostly quite cold and sometimes windy. We follow narrow snow ridges to the summit. It is not for the faint of hearts. The descent from the top is long. We need enough energy and a clear head to stay in control. You need good stamina and concentration.
Can I join only the training days?
Yes, from next year, 2024, there is an option to join the 3 first training days. This is an excellent opportunity to gain more experience and learn alpine techniques. You will join a team training for the Mont Blanc. This is a possibility to learn skills and check whether an attempt on the Mont Blanc or other more difficult alpine summits is realistic for another time.
You can also check out our “Vallée d’Aoste Adventure” trip, a really good introduction to mountaineering.
Do I need special equipment?
You need very good clothing and special alpine equipment. You can rent crampons, helmets, mountaineering boots, harnesses and poles in Chamonix.
Read more about the equipment you need on this page – Mont Blanc equipment.
Can you ski the Mont BLANC?
If you wish to ski the Mont Blanc, you must be an excellent off-piste skier with touring and alpinist experience. The season is from mid-April to mid-May but can vary according to the snow conditions in a particular year.
Some years with abundant snow are better than others. The earlier winter months are generally too cold, or conditions aren’t yet favourable.
When is the best time to go?
The summer season is when the summit is mainly climbed and goes from late May to the end of September. Below is an attempt to describe the different periods with some general observations. Bad weather and dangerous conditions could ultimately be present at any time, rendering an attempt impossible during any of the periods.
Late May – Mid-June
The huts are opening already in late May. This is a natural response to the fact that the summers are warmer than usual and that August is no longer a good month for climbing the Mont Blanc. The good snow cover of late May and early June can provide great conditions on the mountain. The days are long, and you will meet fewer people than later. The lifts and train are not yet running, so getting to the huts is longer than usual, but possible.
The route between Tete Rousse and Gouter can be considerably more technical as there is more snow on this section.
We recommend a 1-1 ratio for this period as the conditions in this section can be quite tricky and demanding.
Mid-June – Late-July
This is, by many, the preferred time to climb Mont Blanc. The snow conditions are still good, and the access is assured with open lifts and trains.
We generally haven’t got too many problems with stone-fall in the Gouter couloir traverse yet, but it is important to pass during the cold and early hours.
Some years, late July has been too warm, and the risk of stone-fall was too high to attempt the Mont Blanc.
July and August often have more frequent thunderstorms than the early and late periods of the season. These thunderstorms are predicted, and while they are mostly in the afternoon and early evening, we can be unlucky and have unstable conditions throughout the day.
We don’t arrange courses for climbing the Mont Blanc during this period. The weather can be great, and conditions fine high up on the mountain, but the risk of stone falls in the Gouter couloir is becoming too high. For certain years, the administration closed the route during this period.
With colder temperatures and sometimes snowfall reaching lower, we have another month of good conditions on the mountain. Shorter days, crisp air and slightly fewer people on the mountain ensure better conditions. In late September, bigger snowfalls can end the Mont Blanc ascents for the year.
During the summer, especially in July and August, it is not uncommon to experience thunderstorms in the early afternoon. In mountainous regions, the diurnal heating causes warm air to rise, which can form large cumulus clouds. This instability in the atmosphere can result in intense and localized thunderstorms.
This is one of the primary reasons we prefer to undertake climbs during the early morning hours. We do not risk being anywhere on the mountain in a thunderstorm.
is it cold?
It can be very cold towards the summit of the Mont Blanc. Temperatures as low as -10 degrees + windchill effect can seriously challenge climbers. It is important to stay warm, so have good clothing and ways to protect all your body parts.
Contrary to the above, we sometimes end on the summit later in the day when the temperatures are much higher. Often, our timing has much to do with the weather conditions and what makes the most sense.
Lower on the mountain, we often walk in T-shirts and shorts.
Is it dangerous?
In the mountains, risk 0 does not exist. Several people die or get injured in the mountains each year. Mont Blanc is no exception.
The main reasons are inadequate preparation, lack of experience, equipment failure and insufficient skills. Bad decision-making, wrong use of equipment, fatigue and insufficient training can equally lead groups into serious trouble. These are just some examples.
Some danger you have little or no control over. These are called objective dangers. This could be a stone fall, a serac collapse, or even an avalanche. Unfortunately, no route on the Mont Blanc offers “no objective risk”. That is why we do our best to “out-smart” the danger by having a watch-full eye on conditions, time our ascents right, and not be afraid to turn back if it doesn’t look good (controlling the so-called “subjective danger”).
With good judgement and decision-making, it is possible to reduce the risk you take, but it is never possible to eliminate the danger 100%.
As professional guides, we are trained to make the right choices and do our utmost to reduce any danger to an acceptable level. This equates to being very conservative. We don’t go to the Mont Blanc if it is too warm or windy or if any storm is coming.
We will not bring anyone onto the Mont Blanc if we don’t think they have the required fitness or have acquired a sufficient skill level to move safely and quickly enough.
We have our approach and timing, regardless of what other groups do on the mountain. Some groups may keep going, while others might choose to descend earlier. This is common in climbing. Everyone has varying skills and strengths, and they may assess risks differently.
In essence, we function as separate teams on the mountain, considering many factors in our decisions. Our focus is ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.
Can you guarantee the summit?
We cannot guarantee that we reach the summit or even start the climb of Mont Blanc.
We guarantee the availability of the guides for the duration of the course. The mountain guides will do their best to follow the itinerary but offer other trips if the mountain conditions are too dangerous to climb the Mont Blanc. See the reasons for not climbing the Mont Blanc below.
What happens if we cannot climb?
We do our best to follow the itinerary and will give Mont Blanc a good try on most weeks.
But bad weather and other potential problems listed below can mean we must cancel an attempt.
What reasons could that be?*:
1. Unstable weather situation
2. High winds (+40-50km/h at 4000m)
3. High 0 isotherm (too warm – the risk of stonefall)
4. Too much snow (avalanches)
5. Closed huts, lifts & trains for some reason
6. Mountain closed (Administrative closure)
7. Mountain Guide Association recommendation
8. Participants’ lack of fitness
9. Participants’ technical level is not good enough
*This is possibly not an exhaustive list, but this comes close to what could potentially be the reasons.
In such a case, the guide will make a plan B for climbs of other mountains involving hut nights or single-day climbs. This could be scaling a lower peak where the weather isn’t as violent, maybe a 4000m peak a bit further away (Grand Paradiso, 4000m peaks in the Italian part of the Monte Rosa massif, etc.). The guides will always do their best to propose another great program for the last 3 days.
Can we postpone an attempt?
Regrettably, we can’t fulfil this request. Our guides are booked for the set course duration; extending it isn’t possible. During the summer, our guides have packed schedules.
Even if we encounter improved weather conditions earlier in the week, we’ll maintain our initial plan. We haven’t had enough time to acclimate or receive the necessary training early in the week. Additionally, securing accommodations in the huts would be challenging, and the extra guides for the Mont Blanc ascent wouldn’t yet be available.
Although we may not have reached the summit of Mont Blanc, the training and experiences you’ve gained are invaluable and serve as excellent preparation for future climbing endeavours.
Can we get a refund?
We do not offer a refund if we don’t climb Mont Blanc for safety issues or other reasons. Our expenses are the same whether the Mont Blanc is climbed or not. We need to cover the guide’s wages, huts etc.
You must understand that our courses are in a mountainous environment that we don’t control.
Please make sure to read our general conditions for participating in our courses.
How to book as a single person?
Yes, you can join our 6-day course as a single-person booking. The price is higher as you will go with your guide towards the summit of the Mont Blanc on the last 3 days of the course. We no longer mix participants who haven’t booked the course together. This is to avoid the problem of matching two climbers with different fitness, ambitions and experience.
When should I book?
We advise you to book as early as possible. It is great for us to get bookings as early as December for a summer ascent.
The reservation system for the huts works on a first-come-first-served basis and has several places released throughout the winter.
In the last few years, the first opening for reservations opened around the beginning of January. Still, as the FFCAM (French Alpine Club) refuses to give the date when the reservation opens to avoid server overload, we might not get all reservations in the first opening round.
We can only book a place in the hut for someone who has booked, as we need to upload their ID (w. name, nationality and birthday). The name cannot be changed later. This measure was introduced in 2021 to avoid companies booking “empty” slots hoping to fill bigger groups.
If you are serious about climbing the Mont Blanc, book early!
What if hut reservations are full?
There is a high demand for places in the Tete Rousse and the Gouter hut, so we must get participants signed up well before the hut reservation opening.
If we don’t secure enough places in the huts to offer everyone a chance to climb Mont Blanc on a certain date, we will sign people up for the places we get in the order they signed up. The date of the deposit payment will be used as a reference.
We will let you know 6 weeks before your departure. If we do not secure a place, you can choose to:
1. Cancel your trip and get a full refund of all your money paid.
2. Hope for a “last-minute” place (often 3 days before the scheduled ascent). If we don’t get a “last-minute” place, you will accept to climb other nice mountains with the guide.
Note: All companies are having the same issues with getting hut reservations. Places are limited to the number of places there are and no company has priority.
How do I book?
We advise you to read all the material concerning the climb of the Mont Blanc on our website before you sign up for a course.
We love to climb Mont Blanc with groups of motivated and fit individuals, but it is important that you realistically think it through. Are you ready for the challenge, or would starting on an easier course be better?
Below is a link to our 6-day course. We also offer the possibility to join the 3 days of training. This is a great way to check if a future climb of the Mont Blanc is realistic.
Read what it takes and contact us if you need some advice.
A bit of history
Chamonix & the Mont Blanc was discovered
Until the middle of the 18th century, the mountain surrounding the town of Chamonix was unknown to the surrounding world and was not even marked on most of the region’s mapped material. Those few people who had visited the Chamonix valley could tell tales about an area habited by barbarians as if a primitive African civilisation was the topic. Many myths about the place were created, and legends told about the place, the mountains, and their glaciers. The mountains came to be known as the “damned mountains” (E.g. Mont Maudit – “Maudit” is the French word for “damned”. Not before 1744, when the two English gentlemen Windham and Pococke published their account about their “expedition” to Chamonix in 1741, many of the myths were cleared off the table. Slowly, the valley of Chamonix gained interest from the outer world, and scientists started to visit the valley to measure the height of the summits and label them with names.
A bounty was set
During the summer of 1760, Chamonix was visited by a young and rich scientist, Horace Benedict Saussure. Saussure was only 20 years old but already by then a recognized scientist. During his visit, he promised a price for the first group that found a way to the top of Mont Blanc. He was interested in making experiments high up on the mountain. In the following years, his offer showed no real interest, and no real accounts of any such summit attempts exist. As tourism grew and Chamonix gained interest from those who wished to see the fabled mountains and their glaciers, the local herders and crystal hunters saw an opportunity to earn a living guiding people in the mountains and towards the higher peaks. The bounty on Mont Blanc suddenly became interesting.
1786 summit year
From 1775 and during the next 10 years, there are accounts of several attempts to find the best route to the summit of Mont Blanc. Often, these were pretty big “expeditions”, and routes were tried by the Aiguille du Gouter and the Bossons glacier. In 1786, two groups gained what we today know as the Vallot hut in 4300m. They judged the ridge (Today the Bosses ridge) too steep and narrow to climb. Today, this is the normal route to the Mont Blanc.
The same summer, on the 8th of August 1786, the first ascent of the Mont Blanc was made by two local Frenchmen. Doctor Michel Gabriel Paccard, son of the town’s lawyer and the poor peasant and crystal hunter Jacques Balmat.
The year after that, Paccard and Balmat reached the summit. H. Saussure went to Mont Blanc and made his experiments, which were widely published worldwide. The first ascent the year before suddenly was much less interesting.
There is a lot of good reading and more information about the first ascent of the Mont Blanc on the summit post website (where I have also borrowed some information from the above text).
Summitpost – Eric Vola, Chamonix
- Name – Mont Blanc (FR) – Monte Bianco (IT)
- Height: 4808.72m (Wed. 13 September 2017)
- First Ascent: 1786 Jacques Balmat & Doctor Michel Paccard. Many regard the date of the first ascent of the Mont Blanc as the start date of modern Alpinism.
- Situation: Western Alps, more precisely named “Alpes Grées – FR”)
- Topographical prominence: Ranked 11th in the world
- Towns/communes: Chamonix, St. Gervais, Courmayeur
- Ownership: The border situated on the summit of the Mont Blanc between Italy and France. (Somewhat contested. The French would like the border a bit south of the summit, putting the summit entirely in French territory).
- Observatory: In 1893, an observatory was built on the summit of Mont Blanc until 1906, when it fell.
- Plane crashes: Air India Flight 245 (1950) and Air India Flight 101 (1966)
- Number of ascents/year: Without having access to any exact statistics, it would be fair to estimate the number of people trying to scale the Mont Blanc per year to be between 15000-20000. Of these, less than 50% will reach the summit.
- Fastest ascent/descent: Killian Jornet 11 July 2011 in 4h57mn40s.
Climb & Ski Mont Blanc with us:
Thousands of climbers attempt the summit of Mont Blanc every summer. Our trips are just some of the many organized by more than a handful of other companies. We pride ourselves on providing great trips for 25 years, keeping the best safety level while providing our guests the best chance of reaching the summit.
Mont Blanc 6 day program
Our 6-day Mont Blanc course has been running for over 15 years and has been refined and optimized to display the best program for reaching the summit within a week of adventure.
Private Mont Blanc program
We know the 6-day program doesn’t suit everyone’s needs, schedule or ambitions. Over the years, we have arranged many private trips to the Mont Blanc for individuals and small groups. We can plan for more acclimatisation training or include harder preparation climbs than the classic 6-day Mont Blanc program includes.
We will happily quote you a trip designed for you.
Technical Mont Blanc climbs
If you aspire to climb the Mont Blanc by a more technically demanding route, we can arrange this for experienced alpinists on a 1-1 ratio. Depending on the route choice and length of the trip, we can propose a custom program.
Mont Blanc 24h – Express Mont Blanc
Fan of big distance running and endurance sports. You must recently have done several very hard running or multi-sport trips with intense effort for more than 20 hours to have a chance of doing this gargantuan effort.
As mountain guides, we can offer guided climbs with this option on a 1-1 guiding basis. You should have previous alpine experience and equipment optimized for a light ascent.
Climb Mont Blanc on skis, set off the summit and enjoy 3800m of crazy altitude difference. This could seem a wet dream for most people and does rest so for most of mankind. If you are a good ski tourer and skier, this is possible.
Many leave their skis at the Vallot hut at 4300m and go to the summit and back on foot. The skiing from the Vallot hut is less steep than the North face of the Mont Blanc but still presents difficult glacier skiing.
Arete Nord du Gouter
We do a couple of days of touring and acclimatisation before we head to the Grand Mulets hut. From here, we climb to the top of Mont Blanc in a single push of 1800m. This trip is a 1-1 guiding course and only for very good ski-tourers and off-piste skiers. Climbing this far demands a really excellent physical shape for those trying. The window to do this climb can be short, as the shoulder of the North Ridge is often too icy and only possible for a week or two.
Piton des Italienne
We lift with a helicopter to around 4000m on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. From here, we climb Mont Blanc in about 3-4 hours and can ski straight from the summit.
NOTE: SKIING FROM THE TOP OF MONT BLANC IS ONLY POSSIBLE FOR EXPERT SKIERS IN STABLE CONDITIONS.