Climbing the Highest Mountain in Western Europe
There is no doubt that climbing Mont Blanc is one of the biggest dreams for most. For experienced and beginners mountaineers, there is definitely a thrill around climbing particular mountains on their bucket list. To start of, here are some important facts about the beautiful Mont Blanc.
The registered elevation for the mountain is 15777 feet (4800 meters), which makes it the highest mountain in Western Europe. This beautiful mountain is specifically located in the French Alps between France and Italy. The mountain is thus, owned by both countries, however, an interesting fact is that Mont Blanc altitude may vary from time to time depending on the amount of snow covering the summit.
The weather for Mont Blanc is known to be extremely unpredictable as you climb higher. Mountaineers must be ready to experience strong winds, snow, frost, fog and extreme cold along the climb (if you think you are not ready yet for climbing this summit, check here what training program suits for you).
Most climbers prefer to attempt the summit between June and September during the summer season when is warmer.
Average temperatures (over summer) are between 20 and 30 Celsius (68 to 86 Fahrenheit respectively), dropping up to 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) at night. It gets cooler as you climb and once you reach the peak, the peak temperature could be expect to be between -15 Celsius (in the absence of wind) and -30 Celsius (with winds) (that is -5 to -22 Fahrenheit, respectively).
Climbing Seasons and Other Facts
Mountaineers can climb Mont Blanc in any season time of the year. During the summer period, it is more crowded as close to 200 people attempting to reach the summit every day. An estimated number of up to 30,000 people climb the mountain every year, because the French and Italian governments have put no restrictions to access the mountain.
Climbing Mont Blanc in summer is considered as the safer time because the snow cover is not as heavy along the ascent, however, the high summer temperatures put climbers at risk because as the snow melts, it may cause avalanches which have been known to cause fatalities on the mountain.
Beginners in mountaineering are advised to always take maximum caution to ensure safety. It is thus advised that the best time of the year to climb towards the summit would be summer. Besides, refuges are open during the summer when the highest number of climbers visits the mountain and this is the time you can get a place for your overnight stays.
Plan your ascent during summer season if you are a beginners, cos it is safer.
Experienced climbers often attempt to reach the summit in winter, which occurs from November to March. However, climbing Mont Blanc in winter may not be for beginners. The temperatures are extremely low, getting to -50 Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) at night. The mountain also receives precipitation in the winter season in form of snow and rainfall, which means getting wet as you climb along.
Another reason to rethink climbing in winter is that the mountain routes are covered in snow, making them slippery and putting climbers at risk of falling. Skiing is the most popular activity on the mountain in winter and hence mountain climbers are few at this time.
You must prepare for your excursion months in advance because services at the mountain are sold out within a day of the beginning of the booking period in March. As a beginner, you also need to consider a guided walk for your safety. Guides are available on the mountain and they can lead you on the safe passes of the mountain. A guide will also show you how to avoid walking into a crevasse or stepping onto an ice sheet.
You may chose to go climbing Mont Blanc solo but you can be assured of meeting a lot of other climbers, especially in summer. You will easily find company and you can choose to join with other solo climbers, or groups, and walk with the same pace.
Climbing Mont Blanc:
Another important question around the summit is, how long does it take to climb Mont Blanc? Climbers often take 3 to 7 days to get to the summit. Beginners can expect to take up to 7 days to allow for a steady pace and enough time to acclimatize and rest along the way.
Beginners should never attempt to climb the mountain too fast. Sudden change in altitude leads to altitude sickness that causes climbers to experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Such an experience will make reaching the summit impossible. Similarly, slowing down too much leads to a feeling of fatigue and climbers should thus maintain a steady pace.
Routes to the Summit
There are several routes up the peak and climbers often choose each route depending on the level of difficulty they can handle.
The Gouter Route is the most widely used by climbers especially in summer time. Along this route, there is a refuge on the Dome du Gouter, where climbers can rest for the night and proceed on the climb the following morning.
The Gouter Route is certainly highly recommended for beginners because it is the easiest.
However, this route is usually crowded in the summer and the refuge may not be so comfortable as a result.
The Cosmique Route (or Three Monts Route) is more challenging and is the second most popular. Beginners can still use this route to reach the summit, resting at the Cosmiques hut or a camp at the glacier. One advantage of using this route is that it will be a little less crowded than the Gouter Route, especially in summer. You can enjoy more comfort especially in the hut for your overnight stay.
Grands Mulets Route
Some experienced climbers often use the Grands Mulets Route, which is much longer than the other routes. This was the original route used in the 1700s but has become less popular now, and it joins the Gouter Route towards the summit. Climbers on this route use the Grand Mulets hut for a night’s rest.
To summarize, this is what you have to get into account:
Mont Blanc Routes Difficulty Sightseeing / Popularity Climber's Rate Camp Available
Goutier Route Low to Medium Great / High Solid 4.5 rate Dome du Gouter (crowded over summer season)
Cosmique Route (Three Monts Route) Moderate Great / Medium Solid 4.0 rate Cosmiques hut or a camp at the glacier.
Grands Mulets Route Moderate (longer) Good / Low Solid 3.5 Rate Grand Mulets hut. Merges Gouter Route.
Remember to book the huts well in advance and acquire the right climbing gear. First time climbers can always find information on what the proper climbing gear is and purchase it on time as they prepare for their expedition.
Climbing Mont Blanc is a fairly easy expedition that even beginners can conquer with the right preparation (if you think you are not ready yet for climbing this summit, check here what training program suits for you). Finally, importantly to ensure that you are physically strong by starting to keep fit anywhere from a year to six months before your expedition. It is advised that climbers acclimatize properly to avoid altitude sickness.