UK Mountains Walking, Mountaineering and Equipment Reviews
Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc

In the summer of 1996, I went to Chamonix to spend two weeks climbing, culminating in an ascent of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. The picture below was taken on the summit of the mountain itself.

Mont Blanc Summit

In order to climb the mountain successfully, it is necessary to acclimatise. This was done in and around the Chamonix valley with climbs such as the Cosmiques Arete, having stayed the previous night in the Cosmiques Hut, the Petit Aquille Verte direct from the Grands Montet cable car station and others.

Petite Aiguille Verte

Our first aclimatisation route was the Petite Aiguille Verte, a straightforward snow route from the Grands Montet top cable car station. It is Graded PD, and takes about 2hours in total. There is 100m of ascent. There are numerous lines, but essentially, one heads straight up! The normal descent is via the arete on the right.

Chapelle De La Gliere (2663m)

This is a fine rock climb near the Index Telesiege. It takes about 3 hours to climb and is 400m in length. It is graded at IV+ and makes a superb day out on fine rock.

It takes two days to ascend and return from the mountain after acclimatisation. The overnight stop was at the Gouter Hut as we did the Normal Route. The first day starts easily enough on the cable car, followed by a train. At the end of the line the hut is visible, but still several hours climb. The route goes across 'the most dangerous couloir in the Alps' - it is permanently raining rocks! On arrival at the hut, we spent the rest of the day and evening relaxing, before bed at around 10:00pm.

Start time was 4:00am, and the guardians had prepared breakfast - a sure sign that all systems were go. It is several hours before daylight and so there is a steady procession of lights going up the mountain. A useful trick is not to be the first to set off, otherwise you must break trail, which is much harder than following someone elses footprints. A second hint is to adopt the Alps plod. A steady walk, fast enough to keep warm, slow enough to avoid sweating or getting too tired too early. We did this and it was surprising how many people we caught and overtook because they had blown themselves out going too fast.

The Summit was reached about 8:30am, and like all good summits, we stayed there just long enough for a rest and some photos before beginning the descent.

It took no more than a couple of hours to get back to the hut, and after several mugs of tea, we began the long walk back to the train station.

On arrival at the station, we discovered that the train would not arrive for a couple of hours, so decided to walk to the cable car. This we did quite easily as it was all downhill, and we were soon back in Chamonix for the post-climbing celebrations.

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