/ Mont Blanc Program
Me and 3 friends are planning a trip to the Alps this summer with the ultimate aim of summiting Mont Blanc. For planning purposes I'd be interested to know what people feel would be a good schedule with regards to acclimatisation, practice of techniques etc which would be a good lead up to tackling the mountain. I believe Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc de Tacul seem to be peaks people often use to acclimatise prior. Also, how much time would you recommend we spent in the Alps in order to fulfil our aims; we were thinking an 8 day trip but could do longer?
Additionally, would you recommend camping/bivying or staying in the Mountain Huts and how much is the cost of staying in these huts and how much time do you need to book space in advance? My experience of the Japanese Alps is that they are usually pretty expensive and full.
Looking forward to your responses!
The mountain huts I used were pretty good value, £30 with tea thrown in per night. I didnt book a room but they let you sleep on/under the tables in the main room, I would book ahead. In terms of acclimatising I would say if you plan to summit via the Gouter route (the easiest) you can climb to the hut, drop off kit and go to the dome de gouter to acclimatise, then come back to the hut an sleep, do the same thing the next day and your ready for a summit attempt the next morning.
How much you need to be at altitude to acclimatise is down to your genetics, I did it in 3 days with no acclimatisising, however if you do Mont Blanc de tacul that should be fine. Good luck.
Your profile shows you have done a fair bit of rockclimbing but there is little mention of snow / ice winter routes or alpine climbing skills / experience. So a possible schedule could include:
-A few days doing some winter walks / scrambles climbs in the UK.
-Some longer mountain fitness days, perhaps linking climbs and scrambles together in the UK.
-Practising moving together roped up on ground you find easy.
-Crevasse rescue techniques practice.
Once in the Chamonix area a possible schedule could include:
-Check at the OHM ( Guide's Office for weather forecast and mountain / route conditions
-Perhaps go into the Aiguilles Rouges. Up to Index area for some mountain cragging with awesome views of your Mont Blanc route. Bivvy near telepherique for another day of rock routes or perhaps a more alpine route such as the Traverse of the Crochues which has lots of moving together scrambling and easy climbing at around 2,800 metres
-A visit to the Albert Premier hut ( hut or good bivvy spots ) in the morning can be combined with dry and wet glacier skills practice within a few minutes of the hut. Following morning you could put the skills together by choosing a route in the area such as the Aiguille Tour (3,500 metres) or combine the Tete Blanche and Petite Fourche
-Going up the Aiguille de Midi and either bivvy or use the Cosmiques hut. Lots of routes to choose from around here. As you say the normal route up to the Tacul is good acclimatisation or, if you have the skills, try a more challenging route such as the Contamine Grisolle. There are also shorter routes you can mix and match to help with acclimatisation such as the traverse of the Pointe Lachenal, the small ridge that leads up to the Cosmiques Hut or the Cosmiques Arete itself.
-You then need to choose which way up Mont Blanc you wish to go, depending on conditions and group ability. Of the easier routes my preference is to go up from the Cosmiques. You can return the same way but a traverse coming down the Gouter route makes a great day.
Personally I prefer to bivvy, if there isn't too much of a walk in, as I find some huts noisy and hot and I sleep better on a bivvy. Take earplugs if going in huts! However using huts means you can travel light, getting kitted up in the morning is a bit easier and more comfortable and some huts are a delight to be in. The Gouter hut does not fall into this category!
Just to reemphasise, check the forecast and mountain / route conditions regularly. Have fun!
General hill fitness is the main criteria. The better the stamina the more you'll enjoy it. As many big walking days out in the UK as possible.
When I did Mont Blanc (normal Gouter route) our acclimatisation schedule was Petit Aiguille Vert from the valley (to get brother used to crampon work and good for fitness then another day on the Midi Plan and down the Mer du Glace.
Worked well for me.
No probs. With regards to huts, I don't really use them for reasons that have been stated. I would imagine the gouter and cosmiques huts get mobbed during the summer months. Used the hut at lac blanc on our way to climb the perseverence and there was only a handful of others there.
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