Overview of Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe, reaching 4,808m (15,774 ft). It is located in the Alps, along the French-Italian border, and some of it even reaches over into Switzerland.
The summit is based in French territory, and surrounding the mountain are the Graian Alps on the south, the Chamonix Valley and Savoy Alps to the west, the Pennine Alps on the northeast, and the Valley of Courmayeur located on the east side.
Glaciers cover around 100 square km of Mont Blanc. This is where the name comes from; Mont Blanc translates to White Mountain. Other famous peaks within the massif include Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Aiguille du Geant, Les Grandes Jorasses, Mont Dolent, or Aiguille du Midi.
The first ascent
The first people to draw attention to Mont Blanc were scientists P. Martel in 1742 and Jean. A. Deluc in 1770. Later on, Horace Benedict de Saussure shifted the attention, indicating Mont Blanc’s distinction as western Europe’s highest mountain.
Saussure’s statement made adventurers want to climb Mont Blanc. The summit was first conquered in 1786 by Michel-Gabriel Paccard, a Chamonix doctor, and Jacques Balmat, the former’s porter.
Paccard’s achievement was noted as one of the most important in the history of mountaineering. It was later overshadowed by Saussure’s ascent the following year.
Because of this, Marc-Theodore Bourrit attempted the climb and failed. Then, he decided to write a published account. Out of jealousy, the report was biased. It stated that all the credit for the climb should be given to Balmat.
What are the main routes to the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe?
The three most common bases for ascending Mont Blanc are Chamonix, Saint-Gervais-Ies-Bains, and, less often used, Courmayeur.
The most popular route, which takes three days, is the Voie Royale. Firstly, you’d take the Mont Blanc Tramway from Saint-Gervais-Ies-Bains, and climb from Bellevue to Nid d’Aigle. You then ascend through Col des Rognes and up the Gouter Corridor. Once you reach Mount Elbrus, you are halfway there. You might consider making a pit stop at Gouter or Tete Rousse on the down.
The next one is La Voie des 3 Monts. To complete this route, you would need to spend a total of 5 nights on the mountain, as the standard plan is to ride the cable car up from Chamonix to the top at Aiguille du Midi. The last walk up to the summit is through Mont Maudit. Once you’ve reached the top, you travel back down to the Refuge.
Grands Mulets was the original route followed by Balmat and Paccard. However, it is now mostly used as a ski trail. Visitors climb Mont Blanc using a different route and then launch off on skis down towards the north face, descending this way. The remaining less popular routes are La route des Aiguilles Grises and Miage-Bionnassay.
What you need to know before climbing Mont Blanc
The first thing you must consider before climbing is whether it is something you can achieve.
People have been climbing Mont Blanc for over 230 years. Almost half a million of these climbers have reached the summit, and roughly 20,000 people ascend each year. However, many people do not return completely safe from these adventures.
Each year there are approximately 100 recorded deaths on Mont Blanc. During the main season of July and August, the mountain rescue services have to help escort around 12 people off from the ascent routes daily.
Some of these people are vastly underprepared. They can later be charged with rescue expenses and worse sanctions if their actions lead to the endangerment of others.
The mountain authorities have a list containing all the essential gear you must take with you, and you could be fined and turned away if you’re notably deficient.
Some of the other Mont Blanc main itineraries
Tour du Mont Blanc, also known as TMB, can be done in one or two weeks. Although many mountaineers choose to begin their adventure in the Chamonix Valley and go anti-clockwise, one other great way to approach it is via Switzerland and go clockwise.
Whichever way you approach the mountain, you will wander through the tripartite terrain of France, Italy, and Switzerland.
The highest you will climb while on the TMB is 2,532 meters.
The route from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn is a route that follows a classic ski tour route called the Haute Route, which is also popular in the summer with hikers.
This route is spent hiking 100 km over the course of two weeks via the valleys of Haute Savoie in France and then all the way to the Swiss Valais. Beginning at the base of the Chamonix Valley, your journey soon ascends to travelling beneath ten of the twelve highest mountains within the Alps.
And the dates for both tours run from late May until early October.
Most Recent Concerns
In recent years, the tourism rate of Mont Blanc has peaked massively, increasing the number of accidents that occur here. It has become somewhat of a sensation; many people who don’t have a vast interest in mountaineering are still keen to climb them.
The glaciers on Mont Blanc, such as the Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in France, are melting at roughly 40 meters a year, having already lost 80 meters in the last 20 years. And the ground is becoming steeper and less stable.
This year a dry winter and an incredibly hot summer collided, meaning most of the ice was exposed and began to melt rapidly due to the low snowfall leaving glaciers without their usual thick layer of protection. And when that heat reaches the ice below the surface, which is concrete, pieces of rock begin to fracture and fall, which is a hazard in itself.
Mont Blanc is subject to increasing numbers of tourists and climate change aftermath and might just become known for being less safe than it once was.