In this feature from the British Mountain Guides, a qualified and experienced guide recommends a classic and favourite route for the current time of year.
With basic information, inspirational photos and a brief overview, if you're looking for an objective to tick this month - look no further!
May / June 2011 - Jim Blyth skis us up Mont Blanc, France.
Mountain: Mont Blanc 4810m
Ascent: North ridge of the Dôme de Goûter and Bosses ridge Descent: North face direct
Length: Day 1 – 825m 4 hours up. Day 2 – 1800m 8-10 hours up, 2500m 3-4 hours down
Grade: technical ski mountaineering with a short section front pointing on crampons on the ascent. Skiing slopes to 40° with crevasses and seracs to negotiate
Guidebook: Mont Blanc Ski Tours by Eric Delaperrière & Franck Gentilini, Editions Vamos or Mont Blanc et Aiguilles Rouges à ski by Anselme Baud, Nevicata
UKC Logbook Link: Ski Mont Blanc
The highest peak in western Europe, Mont Blanc is a spectacular spring ski mountaineering objective. Technical and serious but never extreme, skiing Mont Blanc is the highlight for many a ski mountaineer.
Best tactics for an ascent:
• Be well acclimatised and 'in the groove'. This is best achieved by technical ski mountaineering for a week prior to Mont Blanc.
• Only go if the weather, wind and conditions are optimal. Sunshine, light to no winds and good snow cover are what you are after. Call the hut warden at the Grands Mulets hut for info 04 50 53 57 10.
• Sharp edges for the summit cap where the snow is often brick hard. Steel crampons and ice axe required for the north ridge of the Goûter.
• Use ski crampons when skinning on any section which is steep. The skinning is not difficult but exposed and falling is not an option.
• Leave the Plan de l'Aiguille mid-station before 10 o'clock on day one. This ensures you pass beneath the threatening north face of the Aiguille du Midi before the day heats up. Care and good judgment to be used on this section as the slopes are steep and exposed. Return to the Plan by 2pm on day two.
Leave the Grands Mulets hut at 0130 – 0200. Skin to the base of the north ridge then put skis on packs and use crampons, axe and rope for the ascent. Most of this is steep walking but there are short sections where axes are swung and front points used. Placing ice screws on these sections may be desirable. If conditions are good once you are above the narrow ridge exposed skinning leads to the shoulder of the Dôme du Goûter and then easily on to the Col. Skis are once again on packs from just below the Vallot hut 4362m to the summit.
You will have had time to assess the state of the north face as you climbed the Bosses ridge deciding whether it goes and if so by which line. Usually the summit snow is very hard and care needed for the first few turns as you head out skier's right. Depending on the year you may enter the face just below the summit or continue down towards the Petits Rochers Rouges 4577m first.
The upper north face is a wide, even-angled slope with only crevasses to watch out for. The lower part is a different matter as it steepens and you are now skiing close to and under seracs. Continuing to keep a watchful eye for crevasses you should ski this section quickly and efficiently down to the Grand Plateau. Here you can marvel at your tracks and shed a couple of layers as it is now hot!
Continue on down towards the Petit Plateau where crevasses can often pose problems. Ski through the serac debris looking up to see exactly why you did not skin up the classic Grands Mulets route. Below the Petit Plateau the line went way out skier's right towards Pic Wilson and then down to the Grands Mulets hut. Conditions on Mont Blanc vary so much from year to year that you will always need to decide yourself which line to take. From the hut, retrace your tracks back to the Plan de l'Aiguille.
What makes it so special
Mont Blanc has claims to being the highest, one of the most beautiful and most committing of ski peaks in Europe. To ski it safely and enjoyably one needs all the skills and tools of the experienced ski mountaineer. Clipping into bindings on the summit and then admiring your tracks from the café terrace in Chamonix is wonderful. Everything in between is too!
Jim Blyth - BMG
More info on the British Mountain Guides
A British Mountain Guide is an International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) Guide, which put simply, means an internationally qualified guide with the knowledge and skills to lead parties in the world's most challenging mountain environments.
From first steps to the biggest objectives, a British Mountain Guide is an expert in techniques and safety, and a reliable companion for your adventures.
About Jim Blyth:
Jim specialises in ski guiding summits around the world. This year includes destinations such as Antarctica, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia, Turkey and New Zealand. If you are passionate about ski mountaineering and have a true taste for adventure and discovery then check out his website.
Jim Blyth's website - www.jimblyth.com