Climb it Range’s Jim Langley has just returned to the UK after climbing Mont Blanc. Below he describes the experience and gives a few tips and pointers to anyone considering this challenge.
I’ve spent the last two summer seasons working in the Alps, guiding tours and parties around the Tour of Mont Blanc, the 105 miles route around the mountain.
Inevitably, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to get to the top of this wonderful snowy mountain.
So, this summer I thought I’d give it a go.
I did not want to attempt the climb on my own … common sense tells you that’s not a clever idea, just in case you get into trouble or have an injury.
My mate Tim Harrop eagerly volunteered to join me.
We chose to follow the Gouter Route. It’s perhaps a greater ascent than the alternative options, but it’s the most popular and probably the most straightforward.
This involved heading first for the Tete Rousse hut. We climbed to this hut from the Mont Blanc tramway and spent the afternoon acclimatising there at around 3150m.
We spent the night here and had an early ‘alpine start’. Breakfast was served at 2am and we set off half an hour later in the dark of night. From there we crossed the infamously loose and dangerous Grand Coulier and then scambled up to the Gouter hut.
We were now at 3,800 metres high with another 1000 metres to the summit.
Wow, it was worth it.
What was it like at the top?
Mount Blanc is over 300 metres higher than any other mountain in the Mont Blanc massif, so you really do feel that you are on the top of the world. Visibility was amazing. It was crystal clear with no wind. Just being there felt really, really special.
Before the climb I was feeling pretty confident. After all, I’d been working in the Alps for a couple of months and felt fitter than ever. Even so, the whole experience was knackering and the effects of altitude are not to be underestimated.
Perhaps it was the altitude, but I was taken aback by how hard and arduous the climb was.
Getting down wasn’t easy either.
Do you need to be an experienced mountaineer?
You don’t need to be Chris Bonnington to climb Mont Blanc. Although you do need to have winter mountain experience and be both competent and confident using an ice axe and crampons.
We ‘roped up’ for the glacier travel. This means that we were linked together by ropes. This is for safety reasons as there are many hidden crevasses beneath what looks like solid snow. Snow bridges span these icy voids giving a false sense of safety and security. After all a glacier is a moving body of ice! To do this you do need to be able to work with ropes.
There are no difficult technical climbs though, so otherwise most experienced winter walkers should be ok.
And you can always hire a qualified and professional mountain guide to help you get up and down safely…there are plenty of superbly skilled guys around who you can book.
For more detailed information on climbing this iconic peak see here.