/ Mont Blanc guides worth the money?
A Friend and I are looking to climb Mont Blanc for the first time next summer (2013) via the Gouter route. I was wondering what the general consensus is on hiring a guide. Mainly is it worth the money?
I currently have no experience of winter walking, although I plan to change this over the coming winter with trips to Scotland and hopefully, attending an alpine course at either Pyb or Glenmore lodge. My mate has several Scottish winters under his belt and we came to the conclusion that we'd rather pay to learn the skills for ourselves than pay someone else to know them for us.
We've both been climbing for 2 years (and walking, leading groups in 3 season conditions, for over 4 years each) and know that despite some people saying the Gouter route is easy, you underestimate routes at your peril.
As students fitness is not an issue although (I suppose as always) money is.
Would be greatful to hear your thoughts on our situation.
A lot of the literature suggests the jumping straight on to Mont Blanc is not sensible for 'novice' unguided alpinists and that you are better building up experience with a string of other peaks to gain experience slowly. I'm not saying you can't do it or that others haven't done it tho'.
>we'd rather pay to learn the skills for ourselves than pay someone else to know them for us.
Sounds sensible to me.
I guess you relise the alpine courses are not actually "at either Pyb or Glenmore lodge." Indeed do glenmore lodge do alpine courses at all?
For a first trip to the alps irrelevent of UK experience I would suggest you either do an alpine course in the alps, get a guide, or go with someone more experienced. What ever you choose I'd get some descent books to read up before you train / go also.
As for hiring a guide, try the Conville course first and talk to the guides who run the course. They'll provide an honest assessment of your prospects and, from your time on the course, you'll know what they're talking about.
I also bought and looked up many routes to make sure the route was the right choice, although one thing I didn't do what I'd do again would be to acclimbitise correctly. I was up and down within 24 hours and felt absolutely dog s**t.
One of the best books I found was 5 ways to the summit by Francois Damilano.
As for crevasse rescue etc. I mucked about at a local park abbing off a bridge then prussiking up the rope.
Best of luck on a decision either way!
Are guides worth the money? Yes
Would hiring a guide give you the best chance of summiting? Provided there was a suitable weather window co-inciding with when you hire them, yes.
IS it the best way to go about it? Possibly. From my understanding British guides don't just drag you up a route but impart knowledge as well so you will learn a fair bit. On the other hand as students you will be time rich and the cost of a guide for 5 days could sustain an entire summer in Cham and may be more fun.
I should have said you *may* be time rich. I could claim the dole during summer hols when I was a student so never needed to work, I understand times have changed!
"As for crevasse rescue etc. I mucked about at a local park abbing off a bridge then prussiking up the rope."
there's a little more to crevasse rescue than that, in any case if you were soloing it won't be much use.
But I didn't need any of this as you can jump the crevasses.
Did you ever consider that some crevasses may be thinly covered with snow or the lips of the crevasses may be overhanging (like cornices) on thin snow?
I haven't heard of the rucksack being used as a second man before now, I guess your rucksack was very heavy?
I wasn't really asking if you'd do it again or suggesting that you made the incorrect assessment of risk, as I wasn't there and didn't see the conditions.
Just trying to point out as the OP is not experienced in the Alps that glaciers are not necessarily safe to cross unroped because you can "jump the crevasses" and that the reason you have a rope isn't just to cross crevasses you can't jump!
Seems like there's some staggeringly naive people here!
Using my rucksack as my second: Brilliant, just buy the new Berghaus self belaying model with auto-winch and instant emergency calling features as standard!
If the choice is: use my rucksack as my second (with a few knots in the rope) ro hire a guide I know which I'd opt for.
> I could claim the dole during summer hols when I was a student
So, it seems there are more madmen out there using their rucksack on the end of a knotted rope! Astonishing! The website does come with the following disclaimer:
"The techniques described are to be interpreted for use by experienced Veteran and Solo mountaineers only! The content is unorthodox and does not conform with conventional,accepted mountaineering practice."
I basically wanted to do the route with at least some security and if thats in the way of a rucksack, then so be it...it's better than nothing and at the end of the day, I got up Mont Blanc off my own back (minus a horrible headache for not aclimbitising) and would do it all again without a guide!
You'll be really popular dragging a sack behind you on Mont Blancin summer! Film it, you'll get a massive YouTube hit which will fund another adventure with a guide!
Wonder how many people you'll trip up?
At least you'll learn a few new French phrases too!
Zut Alors! :)
Try baggin it on your own without paying someone around £500 to take you up a big hill. It'll also make your balls slightly bigger :)
I've 'bagged' plenty of Alpine summits, often solo but I'm not dumb enough to cross crevassed areas alone. I assume if you fall in a crevasse and your sack follows you'll be keen/happy for a passing guided group to spoil their day to help you out. Especially as most crevasse rescues involve an upper body/arm injury 9having read the link).
I'm also not bothered about 'bagging' famous summits. I prefer quieter summits no-one in the pub has heard of. Why not choose a non-glaciated summit instead?
I wouldn't class what as done as dumb, as with all sports especially in the mountains an element of risk will always be at hand, but you can control it to a certain extent. Maybe this technique is unorthodox or even stupid...but if it come to a point where I had to use it, it'd be better than nothing.
To the OP, hammer this winter doing long long days doing easy scrambles and climbing and build your confidence up. As nothing goes past a grade 1 scramble one of the main things is to book in a hut early and take it easy acclimbitising. Watch loads of vids on YouTube to see what your up against and also read as many blogs as you can...the more info you read you'll be able to make your own judgement pal
> >we'd rather pay to learn the skills for ourselves than pay someone else to know them for us.
> Sounds sensible to me.
But that's what guides do... Unless told.. As an ml some clients book me just for training.. To run them into the ground.. But most want to learn.. Your aim is to make you redundant to them... For me the best part of my job is having clients come up to me after they've finished a classic fell race and thank me for facilitating that experience....
> What ever you choose I'd get some descent books to read up before you go.
At least you'll get down ok then.
It must be really difficult to make a reasoned and informed judgement when you read the range of opinion presented. The hazards of weather, crevasses, avalanche, route choice and altitude are dynamic factors which do combine to challenge and kill the most able mountaineers.
Yes, mountaineers can be lucky and survive despite their choices. They can attribute it to reading books, following blogs, or just staying in the footsteps of other guided parties; nonetheless, they are alive and others - less fortunate, but more skilled - die on the same mountain. This much is true.
Your options are not limited to hiring a guide. Let's look at them:-
1. DIY - following well-intentioned advice (like this, perhaps?) and practised techniques from books, DVDs and the internet, perhaps you might attend a BMC Alpine lecture; add luck...
2. A mountaineering club - there are numerous clubs in the UK, often with experienced alpine climbers and a European meet, prepared to support climbers such as yourself.
3. Conville Alpine Course - the inexpensive way to learn from a guide in the Chamonix area. If you are insistent on climbing without a guide or an experienced mentor, then this course is my recommendation.
4. Find an experienced partner/mentor on the climbing forums and climb as a rope of three.
Worth the money? Well, that's back to you again - what price are you prepared to pay to climb Mt Blanc?
We skied/climbed this early season 2011 from Grand Mulet via the North Gouter Ridge. Trapped by weather and spent an unplanned night in the Abri Vallot. Summitted with fresh tracks the next day. Good Times!
Anyway, to add my two penneth:
I was the least experienced member of out team and had still had at proably 10+ days glacier travel experience. It would seem to be a big ask to this with next to none.
YES to acclimatisation, whatever your goal, makes it safer and more fun!
YES to investing in your skills- we wanted a PyB-type alpine skills training weekend but didn't want to pay to go to chamonix so got Stuart McCleese to run a bespoke one for us (through PyB). We went through loads of techniques up in Scotland but of course there are no glaciers to practice learning what crevasses look like!
I would lean towards up-skilling yourselves but would strongly suggest that when you experience glacier travel for the first time you are doing it with someone who knows their shit (Guide, Trainer, Experienced Friend....)
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