Brief Description of Mont Blanc
Standing on the border between France and Italy, in the heart of the Graian Alps, Mont Blanc is widely considered to be the birthplace of modern mountaineering.
Since it was first climbed more than 200 years ago, Mont Blanc has remained a very popular destination for mountaineers. An estimated 20,000 people attempt to climb the peak each year, the majority of whom succeed.
Due to the impacts of climate change on the moutnain’s glacier, new rules have been implemented to mitigate the impacts that climbers are having on the alpine environment. As of 2019, all climbers ascending via the normal route must have a permit and reservation at one of the three mountain huts.
Quick Facts about Mont Blanc
- At 4,808 metres (15,774 feet) in elevation, Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in France, the Alps and Western Europe.
- The Mont Blanc massif is currently under consideration to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The record for the youngest person to successfully climb Mont Blanc is 10-year-old U.K. native Asher Silver.
History of Mont Blanc
Beginning in 1760, Horace Bénédict de Saussure – who is widely considered to be the father of modern mountaineering – would travel to Chamonix in order to observe Mont Blanc.
After failing to climb the peak in 1774, de Saussure set a reward for the successful ascent of the peak. This came on August 8, 1786 when Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard successfully reached the top of Mont Blanc from the French side of the border.
This would remain the only way up to the top of the mountain until 1890, when Giovenni Bonin, Luigi Grasselli and Friar Achille Ratti climbed up the west face via the Italian side.
Experience Required for Climbing Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is widely considered to be a difficult and dangerous climb, best suited for intermediate moutnaineers.
While it is not a very technically difficult ascent – requiring basic knowledge of rope travel as well as crampon and ice axe use – it is physically challenging.
The climb is quite steep and the terrain is difficult. As a result, it is important to be in very good physical condition and spend time acclimatizing, in order to avoid altitude sickness.
Hidden crevasses, rockfalls and avalanches all pose risks to climbers. Anyone heading to the summit of the peak should be prepared to deal with all three of these potential obstacles.
Main Routes up Mont Blanc
There are five main routes that climbers take up to the summit of Mont Blanc.
The Goûter Route is one of the two normal routes up the mountain and is one of the most popular. While it avoids the glacier, the route passes over the Grand Couloir on the north side of the mountain and is prone to rock-falls, making it one of the more dangerous routes.
The 3 Monts route is another popular option, which does cross the mountain’s glacier and is more technically challenging as a result. En route to the main summit, the 3 Monts route takes climbers over Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit. This route passes under various seracs and is prone to avalanches, which is why this portion is usually done at night when the snow is frozen.
From the Italian side of Mont Blanc, the Aiguilles Grises is the most popular option. This route takes climbers over the Miage Glacier, before ascending the Col des Aiguilles Grises and the Dôme du Goûter. A slightly longer and tougher variation of this route is also possible.
Other itineraries include the historic route, which heads up the massif via the Grands Mulets Hut. It is most frequently used by ski mountaineers in the winter now as well as a descent route to Chamonix.