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Mont Blanc

#1
Has anyone climbed it during the summer, am looking at doing it this summer and was wondering if anyone has any hints tips i.e. guided vs unguided, where to stay, any good contacts. Cheers in advance
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
#2
Yes.

Private or mil exped?
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
#4
Have you got the Mil Alpine Mountain Proficiency or similar? i.e. experience of use of crampons, ice axe, simple rope work, crevace drills, climbing roped with others?
 
#5
no not done that course although have done a bit of crampon work but only in scotland during the winter, hence thinking that I will definately need the guide. Do you think that this would be too ambitious an aim with the limited skills I hold?
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
#6
No not at all. But you will need a guide, and training before you do it. I did it as a mil exped, and we spent a week of training and aclimatisation, and then did the climb. There were plenty of people going up with guides. Usually it will be guide + 1 or guide + 2 people. You are roped together, and will be on crampons all the way.

There are plenty of companies that will do that for you, try:

http://www.montblancguides.com/

or

http://www.exodus.co.uk/holidays/twm.html

or just look on Google.

Good luck. The view is good from the top, but you will be breathing through your hoop on the way up!
 
#7
cheers thanks very much, have already been in touch with the first lot, seemed a good bunch even if there were one too many frenchmen kicking about the place!
 
#8
Jack, listen to Chimera's advice on this one. Mont Blanc is a big mountain and people regularly die on it.

Here are a couple of 'do's for you:

Make sure that there are sufficient competant climbers in your party. Most professinal guides will take a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio depending on the route and how competant the party is. If you are using a professional guide, make sure that they actually know what they're doing.

Make sure that you have the proper kit and know how to use it. It's a big mountain, it will be cold and the weather can turn very quickly.

Make sure that you plan your route properly. There are a number of routes up the mountain, some are more difficult than others - pick one suitable for your skill level.

Acclimatise - Again, it's a big mountain, it will take you a while to acclimatise to the altitude. Chimera's recommendation of a week's build-up and acclimitisation training is a good one.

Make sure that you have proper insurance and medical forms in place. Certainly the Swiss Mountain Rescue charge for heli-evacuation and I thnk the French do too. The French medical system will care for you, but you need to fill in the correct form first (available free at your local Post-Office).

Make sure that you tell someone in the valley of your route, timings and estimated time of return so that they can raise the alarm if you disappear. Make sure you check in with them when you do get back.

Finally, have fun! It's a great hobby you've chosen.
 
#9
Just to add another tip...

Try to allow more than a week for your trip in order to improve your chances of success. Chamonix is a fantastic part of the Alps but presumably because it is so far West it does get hit by occasional Atlantic weather systems meaning little climbing gets done for a week or so. If you've the capability to sit out a storm (ie go on the piss for a week) then you'll vastly improve your chances of success.

Tricam.
 
#10
Seems like an awful lot of effort just to get a pen.

TAXI!!!
 

Alsacien

LE
Moderator
#11
I climbed it a couple of years back with these guys:
http://www.icicle-mountaineering.ltd.uk/
I already had a hatful of more demanding peaks under my belt - but learnt a lot, just 2 of us plus a guide (needed here I would recommend). The guide was a Czech who had pioneered a new solo Everest route a few years earlier......all the guides were top class.

Icicle can get you up to speed from any level - see the site.
 
#12
I have climbed this hill 3 times - 2 summer and one winter ascent. All 3 were done solo.

Things to decide:

Kit: the weather can close in very rapidly and remain poor for several days. You need the equipment to be of such a standard as to survive this. Take no luxuries: the extra weight can be a killer (literally).

It can be effing cold near the summit. This may sound blóódy obvious, but is is much greater than 80% of clothing can cope with comfortably. If the wind picks up there is a danger of frostbite on exposed skin (despite that the previous morning you may have been cutting about the col du Midi in a T shirt and climbing shoes).

Technical skill. This depends on what route you take. My first ascent was via the classic Gouter route (staying in huts). As I went in late July there was almost no need for a guide: there was a queue at all choke points and it was impossible to go off-route (because the weather stayed clear).

Slightly harder technically (there is more steep snow and ice and a few more bergschrunds to cross), but a lot more interesting and less crowded is the route from the Col de Midi: catch the cable car from Chamonix and then camp near the base of Mont Blanc duTactul. After a 2am (latest) start, climb to the top of both Mont Blanc duTactul, Mont Maudit and then do the final ascent up Mont Blanc proper. You can either descend via the Gouter huts or back the way you came.

I prefer this route as there is a good possibility that you will be one of very few parties doing the route, I also found it more interesting than the well worn slog up the dome du gouter.

People who come croppers on the mountain commit the usual mistakes that are just as common in the UK:

1. Cr@p navigation (they assume because they can see the route and the hut that they do not need to navigate at the same time, thus have problems when 2 minutes later they can see only 2 metres and the fresh snow obliterates the path).

2. Stupidity. I have seen groups go hideously equipped. Had the weather closed in or something else happening to prevent them making the Hut in daylight they would have died due to lack of essential clothing. I have also seen muppets so overloaded with equipment (e.g. traditional ice axes plus technical axes, too many clothes, bottles of champagne, large tents and bivi-bags, camp seats (!!!), etc). The danger of this is that they are not fit enough to lug the kit around and thus render themselves more likely to slip and fall or be too exhausted to make their waypoints.

3. Inexperience. A walk in the Dales (no, not the slug) does not an alpinist make. There are plenty of English speaking guides in Chamonix (and on the Italian side). They are not cheap but then they are extremely good at what they do. Even climbers with a lot of Scottish winter experience can become croppers due to the different dangers: avalanche is a real problem, especially once the sun gets onto the slope. The dangers are much worse as well: in Scotland poor equipment and navigation are the main killers. On Mont Blanc it tends to be things beyond your control: rock and ice falls or avalanche caused by other climbers (another reason to be first up in the morning), or simply a sod-off great serac will collapse without warning (one such killed several people during my second summer ascent).

Unless you are supremely fit I would follow the advice already given and aim to stay for as long as possible. Not only does this enable you to aclimatise (albeit to a limited amount - true aclimatisation to altitude takes a long time), but you become used to the strain of working at altitude. It also allows you enough time for a couple of shots at the hill if the weather has a couple of bad days: don't spend them in the overpriced pubs of Chamonix: use them to get some mountain navigation work in on the glacier, as well as doing some lower altitude work (up through all the forrests there are loads of routes).

Apart from that enjoy the experience and don't take any stupid risks (get the daily weather and avalanch report, etc). Let people know where you will be and have good insurance (a helicopter off the mountain can be very expensive - as my insurer discovered). I guess the last bit is teaching you to suck eggs, but stick to the basics and you won't go far wrong: Mont Blanc is not a technical route.
 
#13
Cheers all for the responses is much appreciated and has helped to no end. Have had a chat with some guides and am slowly managing to get it sorted out. I think the guided route sounds like a good Idea as I am not wholly confident in my abilities yet and have done no climbing in the alps as of yet so don't know the weather systems and the like.

Cheers for all the advice again.
 

Alsacien

LE
Moderator
#14
Dread said:
I have climbed this hill 3 times - 2 summer and one winter ascent. All 3 were done solo.

Things to decide:

Kit: the weather can close in very rapidly and remain poor for several days. You need the equipment to be of such a standard as to survive this. Take no luxuries: the extra weight can be a killer (literally).

It can be effing cold near the summit. This may sound blóódy obvious, but is is much greater than 80% of clothing can cope with comfortably. If the wind picks up there is a danger of frostbite on exposed skin (despite that the previous morning you may have been cutting about the col du Midi in a T shirt and climbing shoes).

Technical skill. This depends on what route you take. My first ascent was via the classic Gouter route (staying in huts). As I went in late July there was almost no need for a guide: there was a queue at all choke points and it was impossible to go off-route (because the weather stayed clear).

Slightly harder technically (there is more steep snow and ice and a few more bergschrunds to cross), but a lot more interesting and less crowded is the route from the Col de Midi: catch the cable car from Chamonix and then camp near the base of Mont Blanc duTactul. After a 2am (latest) start, climb to the top of both Mont Blanc duTactul, Mont Maudit and then do the final ascent up Mont Blanc proper. You can either descend via the Gouter huts or back the way you came.

I prefer this route as there is a good possibility that you will be one of very few parties doing the route, I also found it more interesting than the well worn slog up the dome du gouter.

People who come croppers on the mountain commit the usual mistakes that are just as common in the UK:

1. Cr@p navigation (they assume because they can see the route and the hut that they do not need to navigate at the same time, thus have problems when 2 minutes later they can see only 2 metres and the fresh snow obliterates the path).

2. Stupidity. I have seen groups go hideously equipped. Had the weather closed in or something else happening to prevent them making the Hut in daylight they would have died due to lack of essential clothing. I have also seen muppets so overloaded with equipment (e.g. traditional ice axes plus technical axes, too many clothes, bottles of champagne, large tents and bivi-bags, camp seats (!!!), etc). The danger of this is that they are not fit enough to lug the kit around and thus render themselves more likely to slip and fall or be too exhausted to make their waypoints.

3. Inexperience. A walk in the Dales (no, not the slug) does not an alpinist make. There are plenty of English speaking guides in Chamonix (and on the Italian side). They are not cheap but then they are extremely good at what they do. Even climbers with a lot of Scottish winter experience can become croppers due to the different dangers: avalanche is a real problem, especially once the sun gets onto the slope. The dangers are much worse as well: in Scotland poor equipment and navigation are the main killers. On Mont Blanc it tends to be things beyond your control: rock and ice falls or avalanche caused by other climbers (another reason to be first up in the morning), or simply a sod-off great serac will collapse without warning (one such killed several people during my second summer ascent).

Unless you are supremely fit I would follow the advice already given and aim to stay for as long as possible. Not only does this enable you to aclimatise (albeit to a limited amount - true aclimatisation to altitude takes a long time), but you become used to the strain of working at altitude. It also allows you enough time for a couple of shots at the hill if the weather has a couple of bad days: don't spend them in the overpriced pubs of Chamonix: use them to get some mountain navigation work in on the glacier, as well as doing some lower altitude work (up through all the forrests there are loads of routes).

Apart from that enjoy the experience and don't take any stupid risks (get the daily weather and avalanch report, etc). Let people know where you will be and have good insurance (a helicopter off the mountain can be very expensive - as my insurer discovered). I guess the last bit is teaching you to suck eggs, but stick to the basics and you won't go far wrong: Mont Blanc is not a technical route.
Seconded.
This is the route I did from Augille du Midi hut which can be accessed by cable car.
I heard the same things about the Gouter route being clogged up, and the start point hut is apparently not great and totally overloaded.
 
#16
Cheers everyone thanks for all the help, am in the process of trying to get a booking now. That Elbrus thing looks very intresting, maybe next year!

Just out of interest, one of the posters mentioned about winter climbing qualifications that you can get through the army. How do you go about getting on these courses what are they called, and how do they progress.

I'm an OTC scrote at the moment but will be becoming a regular officer once I finish my degree, can I get the ball rolling now whilst still at university and try and pick up some qualifications, or would I be better to wait until I've (hopefully) finished Sandhurst etc and do it once I get to my battalion.

Any thoughts on this would be great.
 
#17
The quals used to be the JSMEL (Joint Services Mountain Expedition Leader) with Summer and Winter variants - below and above the snow line respectively. There were also other technical qualifications you could get.

This info is now a few years old and the qualifications have probably changed. Have a word with whoever books courses at your OTC.

If you're thinking of going for some of these qualifications, you may want to start logging your mountaineering escapades.

OPB
 
#18
I would suggest that you join the MLTE (used to be MLTB) award scheme (www.mlte.org). The ML qualification is recognised by the Army, but JSMEL is not recognised by a lot of civvie organisations. From personal experience I would suggest you get the civvie quals in now (this situation may/hopefully will have changed by now).

The route is quite simple: get in 20 'quality' mountain days under your belt (most people need a lot more, and in reality true 'quality' days are difficult to accumulate:

the individual takes part in the planning and leadership
• navigation skills are required away from marked paths
• experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in UK and Irish hills
• knowledge is increased and skills practised
• attention is paid to safety
• five hours or more journey time (used to be 16km covered!)
• adverse conditions may be encountered

Once you have the experience you then go off on a MLTE training course (see their website for details). As well as some excellent training, it adds a further 5 or 6 quality days to your belt (which may increase your experience by 25%). You then go away and get some experience. This normally takes at least a year (to get in enough Scottish or Welsh winter experience) before returning and doing an assessment course.

Standards are thankfully very high across the skill set, and the qualification is well regarded.
 
#19
You can complete your mil MLT course as part of your training at Sandhurst. If you do it in Indafatigable (not sure of spelling), the Joint Service Mountain Trainng Centre in Snowdonia, then you can concurrently complete the first part of Civil ML qual. Ripon course does not count for ML (except you can apply later for dispensation from first part as MLT is recognised of sorts by the British Mountaineering Association).
 

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