Mont Blanc Ascent FAQs Pre-trip preparation Expedition Documentation Please note you will be emailed out a set of Trip Joining Instructions after we confirm your booking. This includes detailed information to assist in the planning of your trip, from travel and medical advice to equipment lists. The following is to serve as a helpful guideline but please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions. Our team is here to help! What insurance do I need? As a minimum, you will need rescue, repatriation and medical insurance. Check with your credit card insurance, or your local Alpine Club. Otherwise the British Mountaineering Council offers alpine insurance for short or long periods. How fit do you need to be to climb Mont Blanc? You need to be fit and determined! Only those who have trained well have a good chance on Mont Blanc. You need to be hill fit, used to long mountain days carrying a pack, and long scrambles over broken mountain terrain. Don't train for the minimum and hope you will get away with it. An ascent of Mont Blanc will probably be the toughest physical effort of your life. The summit day involves around 12 hours of almost constant exertion at high altitude. This is best trained for by going hill / mountain walking or mountaineering. Working out in a gym is a lot better than nothing but is not a replacement for the real thing. The physical challenges of climbing Mont Blanc can be easily under-estimated resulting in climbers running out of energy and having to turn around on the mountain. It’s not necessary to go very fast on the mountain, but we do need to move consistently for about an hour and a half at a time between brief rest stops. In addition to a high level of general fitness, stamina and determination are also required to climb the mountain with a decent safety margin. How hard is the climbing on Mont Blanc? Do I need some mountaineering experience? Climbing Mont Blanc is something anyone, young or old, can do with a good level of fitness and strong willpower. However, the days are long - you will be in the mountains every day for 6 days, climbing for between 6 and 12 hours with only short breaks. Previous mountaineering or rock-climbing experience is strongly recommended. Experience on high altitude hikes (such as Kilimanjaro) is useful so you know what to expect at altitude, but this will not properly prepare you for mountaineering on high alpine mountains. The weather can be extremely hot, or extremely cold. You’ll be carrying your own pack. You’ll be sleeping in bunks in mountain refuges with no running water. You will need equal doses of physical stamina and mental determination. If you don't like hardship, cold or windy weather, getting up early, or the idea of 12 hours of continuous effort, then don't fool yourself into thinking you can climb Mont Blanc. However, if you enjoy outdoor activities, don't mind bad weather and a bit of hardship, and appreciate the rewards that an effort such as this can bring, then get in touch to discuss whether this is possible for you based on your current fitness and experience. Via the ‘normal route’ (Gouter) the ascent is on a rough rocky path up to the Tete Rousse Hut and this normally a fairly straightforward walk if the weather is fair. Early the following morning we’ll tackle the next section to the Gouter Hut in the dark. Just after the Tête Rousse refuge, we cross the infamous Grand Couloir where there is often rock fall from above. The last 550m from here is scrambling, rather than walking. This is never hard ‘climbing’ but it is exposed scrambling and it’s necessary to use your hands for the steeper sections. We may also wear crampons. From the Gouter Hut, the terrain is glaciated, and crampons are required, along with harnesses and ropes. The terrain up to the Vallot Refuge is mainly quite easy glacier walking without any steep ground. We then climb along the exposed Bosses ridge, which requires concentration and good crampon technique due to the steep snow slopes that drop off on either side. The final narrow section of summit ridge is a little exposed but there is normally a good track, and this provides a superb climax to your successful summit attempt. While the technical difficulties are not great on the Gouter route it is recommended that you have some experience climbing in crampons and travelling roped together on a crevassed glacier, but you will gain these skills during our week. Is this trip suitable for novices? As we’ve mentioned above, it’s better to have some prior mountaineering or high-altitude experience as Mont Blanc isn't an ideal first Alpine 4,000m peak. However, the normal route is not technically difficult. You do require excellent fitness and stamina, as well as a good head for heights, combined with the ability to move quickly and efficiently over broken mountain terrain. An ability to learn quickly is useful, as you’ll learn a lot during the week. Is climbing Mont Blanc dangerous? Yes. There are some significant risks in climbing Mont Blanc via the Gouter Route: Rockfall in the Grand Couloir kills climbers every year. Above the Tete Rousse Hut, the route requires you to cross from left to right across the couloir in ascent, and the opposite way on descent. In 2015 the route was actually closed for two weeks in August due to the high risk of rockfall. Glaciated Terrain: Climbing Mont Blanc involves climbing on a steep glacier. Glaciers by their nature have large cracks (crevasses), some of which are extremely deep. After fresh snow, these crevasses can become covered and difficult to spot, but if you step onto a snow-covered crevasse you may fall in. On Mont Blanc, this risk is mitigated as you will be roped to your guide and other climbers, so that if one climber falls into a crevasse the other climbers should be able to hold whoever falls and recover them. Wind & cold: It can be extremely cold & windy on Mont Blanc, especially so on the summit ridge & summit (-15C is normal). Strong winds, above around 30mph, can make the upper mountain a very dangerous place due to the cold, the risk of being blown around and the lack of a helicopter rescue option. The windchill on the summit can drop to -40C in summer. This information is not designed to scare you in any way, but to fully inform you of the risks that climbing Mont Blanc entails. Some of hazards that are beyond our control. In particular, the crossing of the Grand Couloir presents an objective hazard that can only be minimised with awareness and swift travel. However, by climbing with Inspire Alpine® and an UIAGM Mountain Guide most of these risks are seriously reduced. By spending some time mountaineering training and acclimatising at the start of a Mont Blanc week you’ll also increase your own margin of safety. What accommodation do we use? While in Chamonix you will usually stay in a 3* Hotel (e.g. Hotel Pointe Isabelle, Hotel Alpina or Mercure), all of which are well-located in Chamonix with many excellent restaurants, cafes and shops on the same street. In the mountains you’ll be staying in mountain refuges, which offer simple but hearty dinners and breakfasts. There are toilets, but no showers in the Mont Blanc course refuges. You can’t drink the tap water so you will have to purchase bottled water or other beverages. Sleeping is in dormitories; blankets are provided but sheets are not, so please bring a sleeping-bag liner. What does the trip price include? Professional organisation of the trip by Inspire Alpine® UIAGM certified high mountain guide for every day of the course. The ratio is 1 guide: 4 clients for the Gran Paradiso ascent and 1 guide: 4 clients for the Mont Blanc ascent All accommodation, including the first night in Chamonix All meals (breakfasts, lunches, and dinners) except for dinner on the first night in Chamonix, and dinner in Chamonix on day 4 of the trip Group mountaineering safety equipment provided by your guide Tramway / cablecars and transport within the Chamonix valley What is not included in the course price? Transport to and from Chamonix at the start and end of your course Dinner in Chamonix on day 4 of the trip Personal expenses (drinks in the refuges, additional snacks, toiletries etc) Personal mountaineering equipment and clothing (some equipment can be hired, please ask) Single room supplement Mountaineering insurance Any extra expenses due to trip curtailment caused by bad weather, injury, lack of fitness etc. (e.g. hotel in the valley, lifts) Travel When should I book my flight? We generally advise you to wait until 60 days prior to your trip start date to ensure that your trip has met the minimum numbers and will operate. If you see a good deal and want to book your flights, you should ensure you can make changes to your tickets and it is a good idea to purchase trip cancellation insurance, in the event that you need to cancel. Where do we meet? How do I get to Chamonix? We recommend that you arrive into Geneva International Airport, which is located just over the French border in Switzerland. Regular shuttles and train services operate up to Chamonix. Once you book, we'll send you a discount code for a special rate with Mountaindropoffs.com. Otherwise Ouibus, Easybus, Alpybus and ChamExpress all do the Geneva - Chamonix route. Equipment & Clothing Do I need any specialist mountaineering equipment in addition to my hill walking gear? Yes. You will need good quality alpine mountaineering boots suitable for taking crampons and warm enough for climbing in snow in temperatures well below freezing (rated B2 or B3). You will also need, crampons, a harness, ice axe, helmet and rope. What clothing & equipment do I need? As a guide, you’ll need to bring at least the following technical equipment for the Mont Blanc trip: Mountaineering harness Ice axe, straight handle, max 60 cm long Insulated mountaineering boots with rigid soles (B2 or B3) Crampons with anti-balling plates Telescopic trekking poles (advised) Climbing helmet In addition, we’ll send you a detailed kit list when you book. Some of this equipment can be rented locally to reduce costs. We also offer a fantastic selection of discounts (15-20%) from a range of outdoor manufacturers & retailers. What equipment do you provide? Your guide will provide the ropes and additional safety equipment. On the Climb Will I suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)? The chances are low, but it can happen. When people try and rush to the summit on the first few days of their trip, their chances of getting AMS are unacceptably high. Climbers on 6-day trips usually acclimatise sufficiently to safely attempt the summit towards the end of the week but everyone is a little different when it comes to high altitude acclimatisation and the important thing is to listen to your body and act accordingly. How bad does the weather have to be to make us turn around on summit day? Strong winds, above around 50km/hr, can make the upper mountain a dangerous place due to the cold, getting blown around and the loss of a helicopter rescue option. Poor visibility in thick cloud means crevasses and steep snow slopes can’t be negotiated efficiently. Fresh snow can present an avalanche risk and rain will elevate the stone fall risk in the Grand Couloir. Alpine electrical storms present a very real danger to the mountaineer. Any one of these weather factors are likely to result in being forced to retreat, or not leaving the hut at all, on summit day. Poor weather can be dealt with to a greater extent lower on the mountain, approaching the huts and for the training phase but good weather is required to climb Mont Blanc! What are the options in case of bad weather? If the weather is too bad (storms, high winds, etc) to allow a summit bid, there are two options. We can either attempt another summit if the weather is better there, or We can abandon the course and retry another time (in which case we will give you a credit proportional to the number of days lost, to be used for your next attempt. As you will be in a group, this decision needs to be unanimous) If climbing Mont Blanc is your main objective, then you have the option of hiring a private guide for your summit bid once the weather, and in this case the decision will be yours and you will have to cover the costs yourself. How cold is it on the summit? Even in high summer the temperature is usually below freezing point and often around -5C to -10C. On a calm sunny day this temperature can feel pleasant and a short break can even be taken on the summit to admire the views and enjoy a sandwich. However, with cloud and wind chill this can feel seriously cold and any skin exposed to the wind will need to be covered to avoid cold injury. What is the best time of year to climb Mont Blanc? The classic season to climb the mountain is during the summer months of June – September. The most favourable weather is usually during the high summer season in late July and August. Autumn often provides cool but fine stable weather. Few people climb Mont Blanc in winter due to the bitter cold and deep snow creating an increased avalanche risk. What happens if I’m not strong or fit enough after we start? If your guide determines that your fitness is not up to the required standard to climb Mont Blanc, you will be asked to leave the trip for the sake of the others in the group. If this happens, you will not be reimbursed for the remaining days; therefore, please ensure that when you book you are realistic about your fitness and motivation. If you hurt yourself or get ill or injured during the course, the guide may also decide that you are not able to continue. In this scenario, you’ll not be reimbursed but you may be able to claim on your insurance. What happens if another client in my group abandons the ascent? If your climbing partner has to abandon the final ascent, normally you will both have to descend with your guide. If the decision is made at a refuge it may be possible for one client to rest safely while the competent client can ascend with the guide. If you want to avoid this situation, please discuss with us the option of having a private guide for the final ascent. Who’s guiding us? Your guide will be a UIAGM internationally qualified high mountain guide, who speaks both French and English. This is the highest qualification for mountain guides, and only they are qualified to take you on high altitude glaciated terrain. Your safety is your guide's primary concern. We have been working with our guides for many years, and they all have a profound knowledge of the Mont Blanc region. You may also be accompanied by our founder & Everest summiteer Ricky Munday. Can I join by myself? Yes, definitely! Based on your experience and fitness level we will place you on a rope with other people who best match your ability. For the summit attempt, this means just one other client (2:1 client to guide ratio). If you prefer, you can summit with a 1:1 client to guide ratio for an additional cost. What if the trip does not fill up? For the 6-day Mont Blanc trip, the price is based on a group between 4 and 6 people. In the unlikely event that we do not have the minimum number (i.e. 4) then we will let you know 2 weeks before the trip start date. You will have the option to cancel with a full reimbursement, or to pay a supplement. For the 3-day Mont Blanc course, there is a maximum of 2 clients per guide. The price is based on 2 clients, but for a supplement you can also do this 1:1 which is many climber's preference to maximise their chance of summitting. What is the hut food like? Breakfasts in the mountain huts usually consist of European-style bread with jam and cheese etc. A typical evening menu would include a hearty soup followed by a pasta dish or stew and then dessert. If you feel like a glass of wine or beer with your meal, please bring cash or a credit card. Funding & fundraising How can I fund this expedition? You can choose to: fully fund the expedition yourself fundraise for a charity of your choice or fundraise for our social mission (we’re a social enterprise!), from which approximately 50% of the sponsorship will cover your trip cost, or opt to do a mixture of both! For all three funding options, an online registration deposit of £250 is required to secure your place We have worked with many UK charities and welcome partnerships with new ones all the time! As long as the charity you propose to raise funds for is a registered UK or Irish charity and agree to you doing so, we are more than happy for you to fundraise for any charity close to your heart. Take me to Mont Blanc!