The ascent of the mythical Mont-Blanc, who hasn’t dreamt of it? Being the highest summit in Western Europe, Mont Blanc is the dream of beginners and experienced hikers alike.
This article lists the practical tips and tricks we have noted for the Mont Blanc course, in case you want to do the same as we do.
However, it isn’t complete (we aren’t professionals), so do not hesitate to exchange and ask your guide for advice.
When to leave?
The ascent takes place from June to the end of September, sometimes even in October. The best time is still June / early July, a period when the weather risk is less.
How long to stay on site?
Unfortunately, the success rate is only 50% due to weather factors.
In 2014, I wanted to try the experience in July and the weather was so bad that we had to find an alternative (the Gran Paradiso in Italy).
In 2018, I tried again in August and because of the heat wave, I had to climb Monte Rosa in Italy too (several peaks over 4000m).
I think that by staying 2 weeks on site, you can find a favorable shooting window for the ascent of Mont Blanc. Of course, the longer you stay on site, the better prepared you will be, acclimatized to the altitude and have a better chance of getting favorable weather.
Having said that, the difficulty is to be able to reserve the Goûter refuge, which is a mandatory passage for the Mont-Blanc and which is therefore taken by storm.
Reservation of the refugeMost
people come to Chamonix on Monday, get ready at the beginning of the week and make the ascent at the weekend.
By staying a few days longer, and by planning the ascent at the beginning of the week for example, not only will you have a better chance to have a guide available, but you will also have the necessary equipment for the Goûter hut. Reservations are open at different times and there is a first period reserved for guides so ask your guide if he can book for you.
How to choose your guide?
If you are a beginner, it is essential to start with a guide. The easiest way is to contact the Chamonix guide office.
Some agencies offer all-inclusive packages (preparation, nights in a refuge, meals, equipment rental, …), this is the case for our ascent in 2014.
The guides only offer accompaniment, all other expenses are at your expense, this is the case for our ascent in 2018.
You can find the contact details of our guides Franck and Mathieu in the dedicated article.
Equipment and clothingYou
have here the list of equipment for Mont Blanc. I think you can choose the first price at Decathlon, except :
- T-shirt + change (long sleeve, ideally merino wool): essential, if you sweat and your first layers are wet => you will be very cold.
- warm gloves
Either you have to buy from the brand (like Icebreaker), or borrow from the guide (my guide lent me his warm gloves, as they cost around 150€ per pair).
For your information, all the material bought at Decathlon cost me around 400€.
A stitch on the socks and shoesDuring
the preparation and the ascent, my heels hurt and were bleeding. And despite the specially adapted bandages, every step was torture for me.
I think the shoes just didn’t fit me. And my brother Vincent also told me that I should have washed the hiking socks before the climb, because that can make a big difference too. So, I advise you to :
- give you a rest day between the preparation & the ascent: this way you can exchange the material if necessary.
- wash hiking socks beforehand. Socks are just as important as shoes.
A point on the CamelbackChez
Decathlon, you can buy a camelback (water pouch with hose) for 10€, I advise you to buy it, it’s very good.
On the other hand, at the beginning, it can have a very pronounced plastic taste. To remedy this, do not hesitate to leave a few pieces of lemon (green or yellow) in it all night long. And also before the ascent.
A point on the bagTry
to be as light as possible. Without helmet, ice axe and crampons, we are between 9kg and 10kg/sac, and it’s already very heavy.
I opted for this mountaineering bag from Decathlon: BACKPACK BAG SPRINT 30 SIMOND, 60€, it is very good
How does a Mont Blanc training course take place?
For us, the training course lasts 7 days: the first 2 / 3 days are devoted to learning mountaineering techniques (use of crampons, ice axe, rope walking, …) and acclimatization to altitude with potentially a night in a refuge during the week (very important).
If the weather allows it and if the guide considers that we have the level, at the beginning of the week, we leave for 3 days of ascent (with night in a refuge ) for the Mont Blanc (the Mont Blanc is done in a classic way in 2 days but the descent is very long and tiring, it is easier to do the descent over 2 days). If this isn’t possible, the guide will suggest another summit. 4 years ago we had climbed the Grand Paradiso in Italy, a summit at 4000m, and this year, the massif of Monte Rosa at 4600m.
The course is accessible to beginners in mountaineering but you need a good physical condition (it is an endurance sport). It is generally said that you need to be able to run a half marathon to be able to do an ascent of this type.
It is therefore an important point: everyone must commit to prepare themselves physically before the internship. Being roped up (2 people + the guide), if someone gives up, everyone comes back down. There are no worries if it is because of a mountain sickness (there isn’thing we can do about it), if it is because of a lack of physical preparation, it’s still average.
What kind of accommodationFor
the two internships in 2014 and 2018, we have opted for the same accommodation: https://www.mountain-base.com/residence-le-paradis-2.htm
It costs 800 € per week and can accommodate up to 7 people. It can only be rented by the week: Monday to Sunday. It cannot be rented for 10 days for example.
- It is very well placed
- Small terrace with view of Mont Blanc
- All comfort
- In terms of sleeping arrangements there is a bedroom with a double bed, a bedroom with a double bed + bunk bed one place and the living room with sofa / bed.
The advantage is that everyone has an individual bed.
There are 2 showers and a toilet.
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the basis of 4 people and 3 nights in a refuge (half board, including the nights in the guides’ refuge + drinks).
There is one guide for 2 days of preparation + two guides for the 3 days of ascent.
If you also count the transport to Chamonix (round trip), add 200€ more
Also count the purchase of personal equipment of about 400€
In total, per person, and if you leave at 4, it amounts to :