/ Mont Blanc and Guilding Companies

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Boulderdash86 on 07 Nov 2012
Afternoon

I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with Guilding Companies for Mont Blanc and if so approximate cost wise. I have done some googleing but there are so many about I would like to know which ones people have had good experiences with. Also I know its mainy a motorway up the top but what other (interesting) routes are there for someone who want to lose there Mont Blanc virginity??? I'm on a Winter ML course in Jan so that and my expereince of 3 seasons of Scottish Winter should give me some good foundations to work from. Or if anyone else is going out there sometime let me know of dates - you can see what I've done on my profile, but would probably prefer to go Guilding first as to obtain some knowledge.

Thanks

BD
kenr - on 07 Nov 2012
Hiring a guide for your first time is a good idea.
Might consider showing up a week early and doing at least one other route with that guide, so they could help assess which route might be best for you. Also acclimatization to altitude counts a lot for your enjoyment of the summit of Mont Blanc, if not just for simple success - (I'd also suggest some serious investigation of the biochemistry of acclimatization).

Other than the normal France-side route, some alternatives are:
* the Three Mont Blancs: more interesting + difficult than the normal route.
* north ridge of the Dome du Gouter is nice in early season if good at ski-mountaineering, since either the ridge or the Grands Mulets glacier could be nice ski descents depending on snow + glacier conditions.
(these could also be used as a ski descent from an early-season climb of The Three Mont Blancs).
* normal Italy-side route (? Aiguilles Grises ?) is said by some to be more spectacular and "Himalayan" than the France-side routes.

Rick Marchant is who I would hire. He lives in Chamonix, very good at enabling a wide variety of climbers to have a good time, find out what fits for them. He opened new ideas of what was possible for me in both alpine rock climbing and ski mountaineering. Specifically for Mont Blanc he gave me a different paraditm for what it could mean to really climb it in a way that would make it very special for me.
I believe he's married to Isabelle Santoire who's also a guide, so I imagine you can find at least of them in the Chamonix phone book.
Mark / Alps - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Boulderdash86:

Looking at your profile ( walking, winter walking, some rock and winter climbing, ML training ) I suggest you could do Mt Blanc without a guide as long as you build up your skills and experience through a progression of routes first and perhaps find someone experienced to go with.
In the UK use the excellent videos / books available to learn how to rope up, move together, crevasse rescue. Practice these on very easy ground or scrambles in the UK. Do long easy rock routes / scrambles or link them together. Aim for long days.
Some suggestions, assuming you stay in Chamonix area, could be as follows.

1) Walk or take the train to Montenvers station and walk / downclimb ladders to the Mer de Glace. Practice and hone techniques of roping up and moving together on the dry glacier, practice moving up and down progreesively steeper slopes. Set up some top ropes for steeper ice climbing fun. Practice crevasse rescue.

2) Walk to Albert Premier hut in the morning, spend the afternoon honing your crevasse rescue techniques on the dry glacier next to the hut. Also look at your potential route for the next day and hpefully get some sunbathing in.

3) The Aiguille de Tour is a glacial walk from the hut with a scramble to the summit. A relatively short route with awesome views and, on the descent, try crevasse rescue on the wet glacier if you still have the energy.

4) Perhaps after a rest and some valley cragging take the Index telepherique and go for the traverse of the Crochues. Mostly scrambling, but very exposed! ) with a little climbing ( about Diff. )and some snow. Lots of moving together and good views of Mt Blanc routes.

5) Take the telepherique up to the Aiguille de Midi and choose a route from there. The traverse of the Pointe Lachenal is a great short route, the traverse of the Valley Blanche to the Torino hut is fun. From there you could do the Aiguille de Toules, Entreves and / or Grand Flambeau.

6) The normal route on Mt Blanc de Tacul is an easy 4,000m peak to top up acclimatisation. As always check the snow / mountain conditions / weather forecast at the Office de Haute Montagnes first.

7) The Domes de Miages are also a popular build up

8) If you feel comfortable with your skills, knowledge, fitness, forecast and route conditions go for your route up Mont Blanc.

Have fun whatever you decide to do...
kenr - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Mark / Alps:
Whether or not to hire a guide is a really good question, and Mark has offered a well-thought alternative, a classic program -- very worthy of discussion here.

My first response:
* If you've got lots of free time to devote to this
. . (like more than one week)
* If you've got plenty of intelligence, discipline, and patience.
* If you're willing to accept some additional risk.
and
* If you can find a couple of partners with those same qualities.
and
* They have that same goal of climbing Mont Blanc.
and
* They are free to go to Chamonix on those same dates.
Then
You might reasonably go for the goal of summiting Mont Blanc without a guide.
Boulderdash86 on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Boulderdash86: Ok Thanks for all the feedback am going to hire a Guide. Has anyone been with these...

http://www.montblancguides.com/

They seem to have quite a lot for the price? Or the one I've been recoommended...

http://www.bmg.org.uk/index.php/eng/Members/Guides-K-M/Rick-Marchant

Also I know weatehr plays a big part in success but what is the best time for Mont Blanc, am thinking September?

Thanks for the vast array of experience

BD
sihills - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Boulderdash86: your spa, ml, got your winter ml coming up, 3 seasons of scottish winter, you want to lead expeditions with kids, yet you want a guide for mont blanc?!?! f*ck me! wheres the sense of adventure gone!? get a book, read some articles on here, you dont need a guide!!!!!!!
mrchewy - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to sihills: All those courses and qualifications might just make a person too cautious!

Seriously tho - there must be someone on here who would fancy having you as a partner for Mont Blanc? Maybe put a post in the partners forum and then get on a few routes with them this winter?

Best of luck! Hopefully bump into you on the summit.
Mark / Alps - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Boulderdash86:

What about a compromise?

How about doing some alpine training routes with a guide or, more economical, do a course such as offered by ISM or Jagged Globe. Let them know your target is Mont Blanc. Then you will probably have the skills, knowledge and experience to climb Mt Blanc without a guide. It is easy to find partners who want to do it...
kenr - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to Boulderdash86:
> I know weatehr plays a big part in success but
> what is the best time for Mont Blanc, am thinking September?

What month is best depends on what route you want to do, also current snow/glacier conditions.
I did it in April, because my chosen route was in perfect condition then.
I heard last September the normal France-side route was almost declared "closed" because the stonefall danger had gotten so bad.

The glaciers are changing, mostly for the worse. Some routes have their crevasses better bridged in early season (especially after a winter with big snowfall), like say June or even late May.


kenr - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to sihills:
> your spa, ml, got your winter ml coming up,
> 3 seasons of scottish winter ... yet you want a guide for mont blanc?!
> ... wheres the sense of adventure gone!?

There's lots of mountains + wall in lots of places where you can have an "adventure".
Mont Blanc is special in that it's one of the few things you can climb and if you get to the top you can back and tell you office mates -- and they've actually heard of the thing you climbed, and you can explain in one sentence why getting to the top was a worthwhile achievement.

Some people have very few weeks on holiday (with some of those taken by family requirements) and many many weeks with their office mates. So for just one out of those precious weeks, for one special climbing goal, it makes sense to maximize your probability of success (and lessen the "adventure").

Also some persons might want to maximize their probability of success during their precious holiday week _and_ do a more interesting or challenging route than the easiest "normal" route (? the one that was getting hit by massive stonefall last September ?)

Lotsa years ago I hooked up with an experienced partner to climb the Three Mont Blancs route. He was very intelligent, seemed very organized. We had an excellent weather forecast for the big day. "Adventurous" start clinbing M.B. du Tacul in the dark. But as we started climbint Mt Maudit it was clear that he was not as well acclimatized or something, so other parties were way ahead of us. And then it turned out that his abundant winter ice climbing experience did not include knowing how to handle the softened snow at the bergshrund on Mt Maudit. So we decided to turn back.

If I had hired a guide, I would most likely have summited Mont Blanc that day, and by one of the great classic alpine routes.

My reaction:
I thought it was a wonderful adventure.
I didn't have Mont Blanc as a goal back then - (didn't try again until many years later).

But the Original Poster in this thread is talking different from me. He sounds like he really does have summiting Mont Blanc as a major goal.

Ken
Welly Matt - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to kenr:

Check out this Guy an IML based in Chamonix

really awesome and genuine guide with a good level of varied experience and knowledge, heres his website, its not the most technologically advanced but it gives you the basics for contact. Highly reccomended

Matt

http://bigsmileadventures.com
kenr - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to mrchewy:
> there must be someone on here who would fancy
> having you as a partner for Mont Blanc?

I think that a key planning question is:
Do you think you might punch through down into a crevasse on Mont Blanc, or not?

(Those who have never seen real crevasses and the ways they can be dangerously hidden, during their several years of excellent experience in Scotland, can perhaps be forgiven for not wanting to guess an answer to this).

For those who answer Not, I have a further question:
Q: Assuming you can assess weather + serac-fall + summer-avalanche + rockfall danger to choose a reasonably safe route and day -- and you carry a SPOT to request a rescue ...
Why do you need a Partner?
. (never mind a Guide) .

(Those who think that Mont Blanc might have substantially different weather + serac-fall + summmer-avalanche + rockfall hazards than Scotland have another reason not to answer this question).

Crevasse -- For those who think that crevasse-fall _does_ need to be considered, this question:
Q: How do you know that this partner is going to be able to save you if you do punch through down into a crevasse?

Most books (and the crevasse-rescue I took) say that crevasse rescue with a party of two is rather tricky. For one thing because it's tricky for the same person to both hold the fall and initiate rescue. And other things in the complexity of real-world rescues with an injured faller where additional hands or additional muscular strength are important.

Usually the books and courses say that a single rescuer is likely to succeed only if they are very experienced and capable.
How do you know your partner is that?
. (in recent years there was a case on Mont Blanc where both climbers died in a hidden crevasse apparently because the one who was a Guide was unable to arrest the fall).

Q: So don't you really want Two partners (or Three?), if you're really taking crevasse-fall risk seriously?

Which then gets us to further questions like, "You mean partners who once fifteen years ago did a simulated dry-land rescue in Scotland?" or "You mean partners who last year did one day on rescue techniques in the Alps, though on a section of the glacier which was obviously safe and well-controlled?"

The more Partners, the higher the probability that one will turn out to be too slow above 4300 meters because of altitude sickness (or just slowness). The higher your demand for Quality in your partners, the less likely you are to be able to synch on dates or goals.
(There are reasons why lots of alpine climbing is done in parties of two.)

Questions.
timjones - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to Welly Matt:
> (In reply to kenr)
>
> Check out this Guy an IML based in Chamonix
>
> really awesome and genuine guide with a good level of varied experience and knowledge, heres his website, its not the most technologically advanced but it gives you the basics for contact. Highly reccomended
>

IIRC The IML doesn't cover glacial terrain or alpine mountaineering.
mrchewy - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to kenr: All good questions and your experience is obviously greater than mine having looked at your website. My total experience of being on a rope in winter amounts to the small chimney at the start of Tower Ridge and being lowered into a millwell on the Athabasca Glacier to ice climb a few years back now.

I was working with a chap the other week who'd spent the night in a crevasse when all three of them had ploughed into one, the circumstances of which which pretty much reaffirmed my opinion that two on a rope crossing a glacier is not much safer than one. With this in mind - some of my goals for next year include the Matterhorn, Eiger and Mont Blanc on my own. As you said it's all about the planning and there's not too much of a glacial issue to contend with.

People all bring different things to a climbing partnership, the OP has plenty of time to get on a few long multipitch climbs with a prospective partner, maybe do the Welsh3000s together to access how they get on when tired, hungry and pottering along Crib Goch when it's wet, night and claggy. If any of that flags up red... then he still has the option of a guide. If finding a partner works out - then he'll have a greater sense of achievement on getting back down from the summit.

Solutions.
Luca Signorelli - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to kenr:

> Usually the books and courses say that a single rescuer is likely to succeed only if they are very experienced and capable.
> How do you know your partner is that?
> . (in recent years there was a case on Mont Blanc where both climbers died in a hidden crevasse apparently because the one who was a Guide was unable to arrest the fall).

On Mont Blanc during high season, particularly on the 3 Monts route, occurrences of guides stopping crevasses falls or in general saving the lives of their client(s) are almost daily.

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