Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Mont Blanc Facts

Mont Blanc Facts

 

At 4807 meters Mont Blanc is Western Europe’s highest mountain. The first recorded ascent was on 8th August 1786 by Jacques Balmat and doctor Michel Paccard.  Now the summit is ascended by thousands of people each year. The challenge of climbing Mont Blanc should not be under estimated but with careful preparation and training it is an achievable goal. Course details

Mont Blanc rises above the town of Chamonix in France.  Access from the Uk is easy via Geneva airport then an hours drive to Chamonix. The town itself has all that you would expect of a popular tourist destination and is in a superb location. www.chamonix.net

The season for climbing Mont Blanc extends from June through to the beginning of October. There is no ‘best’ time to climb it as it is so dependent on weather and conditions but it is certainly quieter outside of the busy summer weeks. We recommend that you take at least a week, leading up to your summit attempt, to make final preparations and get your body used to the lack of oxygen at altitude (acclimatise).

The majority of successful attempts are led by mountain guides. An official mountain guide will hold theIFMGA qualification.  They are the only people legally allowed to take paying clients up Mont Blanc. A number of companies organise ascents of Mont Blanc.  Those with a suitable amount of mountaineering experience may wish to attempt Mont Blanc without a guide.

With careful training and preparation the mountain can be attempted by those with very little or no previous mountaineering experience. Training for Mont Blanc  Once out in the Alps the ascent of Mont Blanc is usually attempted after several days of preparation and acclimatisation in the high mountains. Most people choose to climb from the French side by one of two routes.

The Gouter route is the most popular and has the highest success rate. This involves taking a cable car  from Les Houches, the Tramway Du Mont Blanc to 2300m then a fairly short walk up to the Tete Rousse hut, where you can stay or continue on to cross  the notorious Grand couloir .  This is followed by 700 metres of rocky scrambling, where you will be moving together using a rope,  leading up to the Gouter Hut.  This may be done in the dark if you have stayed at the Tete Rousse hut.  From the hut you will be on snow all the way to the summit.  The first part is on low angled slopes as you climb the Dome du Gouter, but care is required as you are on glacial terrain and the danger from crevasses is real. The next landmark is the Vallot hut, a high emergency shelter at 4300m. The final ascent is up the narrow snowy Bosses ridge and takes around 2 hours of hard, careful work. In all about 7 hours from the Tete Rousse hut, 5 hours from the Gouter hut. The descent is usually made by the route of ascent.

The 3 Monts route is climbed from the Aiguile du Midi cable car (3800m) . It is a harder proposition and differs from the Gouter route in that it is on snow or ice all the way to the summit. While the vertical ascent is slightly less, the time above 4000m is longer and it is more committing with long periods of time climbing very steep snow slopes. Generally it requires a higher level of skill and better conditions and weather.For a map www.planetware.com/map/montblanc

This route is normally done after a stay at the Cosmiques refuge (3600m). After an early start and a short flat walk on the glacier  the steep glaciated face of Mont Blanc du Tacul is climbed in about 2 hours. This can be straight forward or require the passing of open crevasses using in situ ladders or ropes. Next is an ascent of the shoulder of Mont Maudit and is the hardest part of the climb. It involves climbing steep slopes and passing under unstable ice cliffs, called seracs. From here a steady approach is needed as there are some steep often icy slopes to cross before the final climb up to the summit. Descent can be via the same route or more easily via the Gouter route to complete a traverse of the mountain.

The main obstacles that will get in the way of a successful summit attempt are, lack of fitness,bad weather and problems associated with acclimatisation

High altitude is defined as between 2000 metres and 3650 metres. Very high altitude is 3650m and above.  As the altitude increases the concentration of oxygen decreases.  Mont Blanc at 4807m is in the very high range. What this means for you on mont Blanc is that it is difficult to get enough oxygen into your body as you ascend the mountain. This problem is exaggerated as it is so easy to get up high quickly via the cable cars and the tramway.Most of us can acclimatise (our bodies get used to the lack of oxygen ) but it takes time and that time varies between people.

The symptoms most people will feel from being at altitude are, breathlessness, headaches, lack of appetite, nausea and difficulty sleeping. These, though uncomfortable are not life threatening. Problems arise if these symptoms  get worse and you keep on going up the mountain.If symptoms become severe you can get HACE – high altitude cerebral oedema or fluid on the brain or HAPE – high altitude pulmonary oedema or fluid on the lungs.These are life threatening problems !

This is why here at mont Blanc Training we recommend taking at least a week for your Mont Blanc Trip. You need to spend time both walking/climbing and sleeping above about 2700m. On our training course we spend time discussing the effects of altitude and how to avoid them and, if you have not done so already, how to choose a Mont Blanc course provider    Course details

 

 

 


 

 

Email: jacky@montblanctraining.co.uk | Telephone: +44(0)1286 870642
Address: 4 Glyn afon terrace, Clwt y bont, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 3DR