Options for climbing Mont Blanc

Sommet du Mont Blanc

Climbing Mont Blanc: an experience that promises to be memorable! But under what conditions? Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned mountaineer, there are a number of options available to help you make the most of your adventure on the highest peak in the Alps.

Are you a budding mountaineer dreaming of climbing Mont Blanc? The good news is that this experience is within everyone’s reach, including beginners! Provided, of course, that you’re in good physical shape, and that you take the time to learn how to walk at altitude.

Not sure where to start planning your first ascent of Mont Blanc? Here’s an overview of the different ways to achieve this challenge, to help you choose the one that’s right for you!

Climbing Mont Blanc with a mountain guide

Ascension avec guide

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced mountaineer, it’s important never to underestimate the difficulty of climbing Mont Blanc. The high mountains, while magnificent, are also often particularly dangerous!

That’s why the question of whether or not to take on a guide doesn’t usually arise: if you’re just starting out, having a guide by your side is essential. Not only to ensure your safety, but also to increase your chances of success. The added value of a good guide-accompanier lies in his knowledge of the terrain and the region, his anecdotes, his sense of humor, his encouragement and his advice, all of which will help you achieve a complete ascent of Mont Blanc.

To climb Mont Blanc with a guide, you have two options:

🏔️ Private ascent of Mont Blanc

Use the services of a mountain guide for a small private group of your own. Ideal for a climb with friends, for two, or even for a single person. But be careful! The smaller the group, the higher the price!

The benefits:

  • The homogeneity of the group in terms of level (and understanding!)
  • The guide’s attention more focused on your efforts
  • Choose your own dates

🏔️ Group ascent of Mont Blanc

With this option, you join a group set up for a course or tour with the aim of climbing Mont Blanc. The number of participants rarely exceeds 4 to 6. Be careful not to sign up for a course that doesn’t match your level! Similarly, places are limited, so book yours as early as possible: up to 1 year in advance.

The benefits:

  • Group spirit, meeting new people through hard work
  • More affordable prices in some cases
  • Some packages are all-inclusive: mountaineering equipment, full board, insurance, etc.

Climb Mont Blanc without a guide, solo or in a group

⚠️ This option is not recommended!

If you’re not an experienced mountaineer, climbing Mont Blanc without a guide is a perilous undertaking. Rockfalls, seracs, avalanches or crevasses… Danger lurks for the uninitiated, and every year several people die on the slopes of Mont Blanc. If only by following the normal route, the Goûter couloir and its frequent rockfalls represent a real danger! If you’re planning to climb Mont Blanc without a guide, make sure you understand the risks involved.

The different routes up Mont Blanc

There are not one, but four different routes up Mont Blanc. In the vast majority of cases, guided courses will suggest that you take the normal route for your first ascent of Mont Blanc.

🏔️ The Normal or Royal Way

Refuge Du Gouter 3835 m
Level of difficulty: beginner

Average climbing time (ascent and descent): 3 days

Some also call it the Royal Route, which is more apt, given the beauty of the route. It’s the most popular route, as it’s the most accessible to climbers of all levels.

If you’re a beginner making your first ascent of Mont Blanc, the normal route is for you!

The ascent begins in Chamonix on the Mont Blanc tramway, reaching the Nid d’Aigle at 2380m, where the walk begins. Depending on the version and the level of participants, a first stage is marked at the Tête Rousse hut (3165m) or the Goûter hut (3835m). Between the two, the couloir du Goûter, at the foot of the Aiguille du Goûter, is dreaded for its rockfalls. The next day leads to the Dôme du Goûter (4304m), before the final, steep climb to the Arête des Bosses, before reaching the summit of Mont Blanc (4809m). The descent follows the same route, with a second night in a refuge en route.

🏔️ La voie des 3 Monts

Level of difficulty: intermediate

Average ascent time (ascent and descent): 3 days

The difficulty of this lesser-used route is stepped up a notch, mainly due to the more technical itinerary on certain sections.

Access to the start of the hike is via the Aiguille du Midi cable car, with a first short glacier stage at the Cosmiques hut (3613m). However, it’s not until the following day that we get to the heart of the matter, via the Mont Blanc du Tacul glacier (4248m), renowned for its seracs and crevasses! The very steep Col Maudit passage then requires a solid technical level towards Mont Maudit (4465 m), as does the Mur de la Côte before reaching the summit of Mont Blanc. You can descend by the same route, or take the normal route for a loop to the Goûter refuge.

🏔️ The Italian or Papal Way

Level of difficulty: intermediate/experienced

Average climbing time (ascent and descent): 3 days

The advantage of the Italian route, or « voie des Papes », is that it’s seldom used, and therefore quiet. The level of difficulty is primarily due to the steep gradient: good physical condition required!

We start at Val Veny (1700m) in Italy, and climb to the Gonella hut (3071m). The ascent to the Mont Blanc summit takes in the Glacier du Dôme and its crevasses, then the vertiginous Arête des Italiens to catch up with the normal route and Arête des Bosses. You can return via the Goûter hut and the normal route for a looped itinerary.

🏔️ Miage Bionnassay crossing

Level of difficulty: experienced

Average climbing time (ascent and descent): 2 to 3 days

A superb route but much more technically challenging, the Miage Bionnassay traverse is reserved for experienced climbers who are not afraid of heights!

Several variants exist, for an ascent in 2 or 3 days, depending on your level. The Aiguille de Bionnassay ridge (4052m), steep and spectacular, is one of the highlights on the way to the Dôme du Goûter, on the way to Mont Blanc. From the summit, there are a number of options for descending via more accessible routes (via the refuge du Goûter or the refuge des Cosmiques).

What level of physical fitness is required?

entrainement alpinisme

Climbing Mont Blanc is an experience open to beginners. But beware: « beginner » does not mean « out of shape »! Whichever formula you opt for to climb to the summit, it’s imperative that you’re in excellent physical shape. And that you have introduced regular sports training into your daily routine beforehand.

In practice, it takes 3 days to climb Mont Blanc. To give you an idea of the level required, here’s the program for a classic itinerary:

Day 1: Tramway du Mont Blanc – Nid d’Aigle, to Tête Rousse refuge, overnight. 3h total walk, 850m ascent.

Day 2: Tête Rousse refuge, hike to the summit of Mont Blanc, descent to the Goûter refuge, overnight stay.

⚠️ 12h walking in total. 1650m ascent, 950m descent.

Day 3:Refuge du Goûter, descent to Chamonix. 4h walk in total, 1500m vertical drop.

The difference in altitude is significant every day, and the second day to reach the summit is particularly demanding. Add to this the difficulties associated with altitude, the notorious Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), and the vagaries of the weather, which can force you to condense your walk, and it’s clear that climbing Mont Blanc is a real physical challenge.

What length of course is required for what technical level?

The newer you are to mountaineering, the longer the duration of your guided course. For example, courses to climb Mont Blanc range from a minimum of 2 days to 6 days.

🏔️ Beginner level: 6-day course

You’re new to mountaineering and about to make your first ascent of Mont Blanc.

The first few days are spent working with the guide to learn the basic mountaineering techniques and equipment (rope, ice axe, safety equipment, etc.) needed to climb Mont Blanc, as well as taking several walks in the high mountains to acclimatize to the environment and altitude. After this, 3 days are devoted to the actual ascent of Mont Blanc.

🏔️ Intermediate level: 4 to 5-day course

You’ve mastered the basics of mountaineering (level PD – Peu Difficile to AD – Assez Difficile), but you’d like one or two days to brush up on your basics with the guide, and condition yourself for the high mountains.

🏔️ Advanced level: 2 to 3-day course

If you’re an experienced mountaineer, you’ll be able to tackle the Mont Blanc without any prior experience. The program is condensed into two days, with some serious elevation changes to be expected. For hardy, experienced walkers only.

What’s your budget?

Various organizations offer courses with the aim of climbing Mont Blanc. There is a wide range of offers, in terms of price, content and duration. When looking for the most suitable course for your project, there are a number of criteria to bear in mind:

  • Program and level: choose a course suited to your level. Overestimating your abilities usually leads to an unpleasant experience on site.
  • Equipment: in addition to your personal equipment (the cost of which should not be overlooked), you’ll need technical equipment (ice axe, harness, crampons, helmet, etc.). Some organizations include this in the course price, others do not. In the latter case, you’ll need to buy or hire the equipment in advance.
  • Accommodation: included or not. In general, reservations for nights in mountain huts for the duration of the ascent are taken care of, but not always!
  • Meals: similarly, some packages are full-board, others half-board.
  • Transportation: local transport, ticket for the Mont Blanc tramway, etc. Once again, transportation may or may not be included in the price of your course.
  • Insurance: is your personal insurance sufficient, or do you need to take out additional insurance in case something goes wrong? Don’t forget to check this information and include it in your budget.

Skiing up Mont Blanc

Here’s one last option for climbing the Mont Blancs, this time in a gliding version: on skis!

Level of difficulty: experienced

Average climbing time (ascent and descent): 2 days

🏔️ When?

In this case, the ideal season is a little later than the Mont Blanc ascent on foot, from April to June. Needless to say, you’ll need an excellent level of ski-touring ability to embark on this adventure, as well as top physical condition.

🏔️ How?

The most frequently used route, the Grands Mulets, is the historic ascent of Mont Blanc. From the Plan de l’Aiguille, with a stopover at the Grands Mulets hut (3057 m), there’s a steep climb to the summit. The descent on skis, on the other hand, is much quicker!

The Mont Blanc ski ascent is offered by several organizations over 2 days, in small groups of no more than 2 participants, with, of course, a mountain guide to accompany you.

Now you know all the options available to you for your first ascent of Mont Blanc. Now it’s up to you to rise to the challenge!