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Mont Blanc Gouter Route

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 myradio 03 Jan 2021

Hi all,

Planning to go to the Mont Blanc next summer. It is not set but my first idea was trying to get very early in the season. I would like to know whether someone is planning in going and wants to team up or maybe I can join a group.

My idea is to do it without a guide. I am not a real expert but have done some +4k already and I have been studying this one considerably.

Just let me know.

cheers, 

 Mark Haward 04 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

I hope you have a safe and successful climb. I suggest you fill out your profile some more so people have a better idea of your skills and experience.

In reply to myradio:

Good luck.

A friend and I did the Gouter route unguided with minimal winter mountaineering experience summer before last - I'd done a basic 3 day Scottish winter mountaineering course a couple of years prior and I climb. My friend had no real experience to speak of other than a number of multi day backpacking trips.

We had a week in Chamonix and spent the days before acclimatising with some trail runs up high, hanging about up at the top of Aguille du Midi and hired an instructor to spend a day with us doing skills on Mer du Glace (my friend's first time in crampons).

We got the first tram from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains up to Nid d'Aigle. From there, it's a pretty simple hike up to the Tete Rousse - a couple of icy areas where we had to take extra care where the trail narrows before the Tete Rousse but nothing too bad.

They have mountain police at the Tete Rousse who will check you have a reservation at one of the huts, if you don't I've heard you'd be sent back down so make sure you have one.

The route is relatively straightforward and very well trafficked - alot of reports focus on the sketchiness of the couloir, but we didn't find it a problem. Wait til you can't hear rock fall and then make a beeline for it. The toughest (and sketchiest) part IMO was the scramble between the couloir and the Gouter hut - route finding is easy - you'll be in a trail of ants and the rock is marked with the way - but it's a hell of a slog and you'll likely be putting on and taking off your crampons a few times.

We were first out of Gouter hut around 3am - we wanted to get a good head start to give us the most time to get back down before the last tram, I had a GPS track synced to my watch to follow but you can just as easily follow the already broken trail to the top. About 4am we started to see a trail of other headlamps coming from the Gouter hut. Was quite special being out ahead on our own.

Let me know if you need any more info and enjoy!

In reply to myradio:

Hi myradio

If you go ahead with your plan this summer I can highly recommend staying in the excellent Tete Rousse hut for a number of reasons. I stayed here a couple of summers ago and got a booking by phoning about 3 days in advance of a great weather window as the Gouter was block booked months in advance. Most folks we spoke to said the Tete Rousse was a far nicer hut to stay in due to the lack of unacclimatised people with the usual headaches and throwing up to found in the Gouter higher up! 

My partner and I were averagely fit and left the Tete Rousse at around 2am and were on the summit by about 8.30am. Then back down at the Tete Rousse for just after 12 noon before a leisurely stroll back down to the Eagles Nest to catch a train back down. 

The main advantages we found were we could have a leisurely first day before catching the Belvedere pherique around 12 noon before the mont blanc train to the Eagles Nest leaving a couple of hours walk to the Tete Rousse late afternoon. On your ascent you also cross the infamous grand couloir in the early hours when it is normally frozen into submission...

As a shameless plug you can see a short vid I made showing all the main landmarks + features you will encounter on the Gouter:   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRBF_y3URI0&

Bon chance and hope this helps! 

Dave


 steve_gibbs 04 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

The Gouter Hut is rather pricey and often booked-up. If you're already well-acclimated and mountain-fit, it's possible to summit in a longer day from the Tete Rousse Hut. It used to be possible to bivvy in any one of the hundreds of stone circles scattered across the sizeable flattish area near Tete Rousse, however I fear there may now be restrictions preventing that. There is also now a regional government issued kit-list on what you need to bring and may be checked on route.

Day 1: We took the Bellevue cable car up, then switched to the train up to Nid d'Angle, then walked 2-3 hours up to Tete Rousse Hut. Bivvyed.

Day 2: Woke up midnight. Dossed bivvy kit in rocks. Set off 12:30am. We took roughly 2 hrs Tete Rousse to Gouter Hut, 2 hrs Gouter Hut to Dome du Gouter, 2hrs Dome du Gouter to Mt Blanc Summit. 1 hr on the summit enjoying views. 5 hrs summit back to Nid d'Angle, plus breaks. Train and cable car down to valley.

Note we were both fit and very acclimatised at the time, so this is not recommended for most people.

 myradio 04 Jan 2021
In reply to Mark Haward:

Good advice, I am updating it

 myradio 04 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

Hi guys, thanks a lot for the advice, indeed the Tete Rousse Hut seems to be a very nice option.

Thanks @BattyMilk for such a detailed description.

I am quite fit (in general, and planning to train specifically for this one) and I have decent experience as I said including glaciers some technical stuff, scrambling and many days trekking; but I wouldn't go by myself, and I don't enjoy going to the mountain with guides. I go fully equipped and with proper info.

I wonder if there is anywhere else people generally team up.

 Mark Haward 04 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

You can often find partners in Chamonix including at campsites. However, this can be very hit and miss in terms of quality of partner. It works for some people, has been a disaster for others. My personal recommendation, especially as a relative alpine novice, would be to consider going with / joining a local climbing club or find someone on UKC so you can climb with them in the UK first and get to know each other ( strengths / weaknesses / honesty! / compatability ). Meeting with people from the Conville Course can also work.

    When do you consider 'early in the season' to be? As I'm sure you know conditions can change the route dramatically. For example the Grand Couloir can be snowed up / icy and very stable or dry and very active. The ridge that follows can be a totally dry fun scramble ( albeit with some loose rock around ) or can be quite tricky when icy the whole way ( especially on descent ). Check out the OHM in Chamonix / online for latest conditions update. 

In reply to myradio:

> Hi myradio

> If you go ahead with your plan this summer I can highly recommend staying in the excellent Tete Rousse hut for a number of reasons. I stayed here a couple of summers ago and got a booking by phoning about 3 days in advance of a great weather window as the Gouter was block booked months in advance. Most folks we spoke to said the Tete Rousse was a far nicer hut to stay in due to the lack of unacclimatised people with the usual headaches and throwing up to found in the Gouter higher up! 

> My partner and I were averagely fit and left the Tete Rousse at around 2am and were on the summit by about 8.30am. Then back down at the Tete Rousse for just after 12 noon before a leisurely stroll back down to the Eagles Nest to catch a train back down. 

> The main advantages we found were we could have a leisurely first day before catching the Belvedere pherique around 12 noon before the mont blanc train to the Eagles Nest leaving a couple of hours walk to the Tete Rousse late afternoon. On your ascent you also cross the infamous grand couloir in the early hours when it is normally frozen into submission...

> As a shameless plug you can see a short vid I made showing all the main landmarks + features you will encounter on the Gouter:   

> Bon chance and hope this helps! 

> Dave

Hi myradio

I forgot to mention in my previous mail that my partner and I were well acclimatised having been around the Mont Blanc area, Italy and France, for well over a week prior to our ascent. We had already had a number of walks and climbs of increasing altitude, culminating in an ascent of the voie normale on the easy 4000er Gran Paradiso. Easily accessible with a car or bus from Chamonix and a lovely mountain in a beautiful area. A lot of guides take their clients up Gran Paradiso prior to an ascent of Mont Blanc, as both voie normales are around the same grade whilst there are a dearth of easy 4000ers (except Mont Blanc de Tacul but is prone to avalanche) around Cham. Anyway if you have the time an ascent of Gran Paradiso would serve you very well!

Cheers

Dave

Post edited at 13:24
 myradio 07 Jan 2021

@steve_gibbs @BALD EAGLE

So, if you stay at the Tete Rousse you have to wake up early to continue, this means you cross the couloir and the scramble in the dark?

 Mark Haward 08 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

> @steve_gibbs @BALD EAGLE

> So, if you stay at the Tete Rousse you have to wake up early to continue, this means you cross the couloir and the scramble in the dark?

Yes. Most parties would leave Tete Rousse hut between 1.00 and 2.00 am and expect an average of 12 hrs from Tete Rousse to summit and back to Tete Rousse. ( Some parties are much faster, some are slower.)  If you arrive at Tete Rousse hut in the early afternoon you can scout out the first section of the next days route to near the edge of the Grand Couloir so you are familiar with it whilst it is light. The GC is not far from the hut and is usually at its most stable during a cold / frosty night. On a clear night there will be a stream of headtorches.

    If you go from the Gouter Hut many people leave between 2.00 and 3.00 am. So yes, you need to be prepared to walk / scramble in the dark ( although it is not usually that dark on a clear night or if there is any kind of moon ).

 steve_gibbs 08 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

Yes, we left our bivvy at Tete Rousse around 12:30am, so crossed the Grand Couloir around 1.15am, so it's fairly safe at that time.

We did, however, return from the summit in the same day, which meant in our decent, we passed the couloir around 10am, which isn't a good time. Some things are safer, some less safe, whichever way round you do it!

As you approach it, hide behind a big boulder, stop, listen and assess your route across it. If there's no activity, run across it! IMO, I wouldn't bother clipping the fixed line, as it seems to be more hassle than it's worth, as some people don't extend their sling enough and get stuck when the ground dips, left dangling from the line in the danger zone!

In reply to myradio:

The scramble is steep but is well marked and has cables on all the more exposed parts.  Indeed, is almost like a via ferrata in places. Make sure you are acclimatised and fit though, it is 1,600m of ascent on summit day fromTete Rousse!

In reply to steve_gibbs:

Agree not to bother with the safety line. When we did it (Sept 2019), there wasn't much snow base and it was far out of reach above our heads and not aligned with the already broken trail across anyway so wasn't an option.

 MatthewClimb 12 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

Hi,

I’m Interested.

I attempted Mont Blanc via the Gouter route three years ago with two friends without a guide. We had to abandon due to bad weather, no visibility and avalanche risk but would like to have another crack, and another team member would be great.

We had booked the Gouter Hut but ended up sleeping on the floor of the Tete Rousse when the weather closed in. We could have continued the next morning up to at least the the Gouter as the weather was better but felt too far out of our depth in the conditions so opted for a retreat.
 

We all have rock climbing and trekking experience, including at altitude. We did a winter skills course in the Lake District to prepare. And we did some training climbs with a guide on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, staying the the Torino Hut, a few days before. 

 MischaHY 13 Jan 2021
In reply to BattyMilk:

> Agree not to bother with the safety line. When we did it (Sept 2019), there wasn't much snow base and it was far out of reach above our heads and not aligned with the already broken trail across anyway so wasn't an option.

Take a pulley and zipline that bad boy 😉

(kidding, obviously). 

 Al Randall 13 Jan 2021
In reply to BattyMilk:

> Agree not to bother with the safety line. When we did it (Sept 2019), there wasn't much snow base and it was far out of reach above our heads and not aligned with the already broken trail across anyway so wasn't an option.

And yet in other years you could find yourself digging it out of the snow.

Al

 FreeloaderJoe 13 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

Don't bloody do it is my advice. Do the trois monts route or the Italian route, or any other route. It's hellish and shit. Total misery fest.

 steve_gibbs 14 Jan 2021
In reply to FreeloaderJoe:

After doing the Gouter Route, I concluded it was a zero-star route with a three-star view! So make sure you have a big enough window of time out in Chamonix, to summit on a perfect weather day! You only get on average one, at most two, perfect days per week, where Mt Blanc doesn't have its 'hat on'; that being a lenticular cloud that invariably sits over the summit.

It really is mostly just chossy easy rock, followed by a mindless snow-plod and it's hectic busy too. If you want an enjoyable technical route, look elsewhere.

I've descended the Trois Mont route as part of the Royal Traverse and really didn't think it any more exciting. It's just all snow-plod and no rock.

If you want adventure, the Royal Traverse is a much more satisfying route onto Mt Blanc, but it's a mammoth route, with technical rock and includes the iconic knife-edge Bionnassay Ridge, taking three full days!! 

 Enty 14 Jan 2021
In reply to myradio:

I did it in 2018. Up and down the Gouter route with a doss at the Tete Rousse.

The planning, the logistics, the Gouter ridge in the dark, the Dome du Gouter under a full moon with headtorch turned off, my first proper Alpine sunrise and the other views. Getting to 4800m all on my own. Highest mountain in western Europe. Priceless.

One of the best things I've ever done in my life depsite what the previous two posters have said.

E

Post edited at 12:47
In reply to myradio: I think you will need to repost this a bit nearer the time as i guess it’s tricky for people to make plans at the moment. Ignore people who dismiss the route. If you want  to do Mont Blanc without a guide this is a good option and a great objective. It will be busy and getting a hut booking might be the biggest challenge. I found waiting until the last minute worked best as I noticed a pattern of hut cancellations a few days before they were due, probably people whose preparations hadn’t gone well and wanted to cancel before losing their deposit. That was a few years ago so might be different now. Key advice would be, acclimatise well and do a couple of routes with your new partner in advance so you get to know them.

 johnlc 15 Jan 2021
In reply to BALD EAGLE:

Hi Bald Eagle,

I watched your video last night and really enjoyed it, so thanks.  I also enjoyed the video of you climbing a sea stack Am Buchaille I think (no doubt my Gaelic spelling is awful).

In reply to johnlc:

> Hi Bald Eagle,

> I watched your video last night and really enjoyed it, so thanks.  I also enjoyed the video of you climbing a sea stack Am Buchaille I think (no doubt my Gaelic spelling is awful).

Hey John

Many thanks for the positive vibes and if you have not already, you can subscribe to my channel where there are all sorts of alpine and sea stack shenanigans as well as Mont Blanc:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkVKguHnrqXx5lAmviy2U8g

If it is any consolation my Gaelic pronounciation is probably as bad as your spelling... ;-)

Cheers

Dave

 myradio 00:05 Mon
In reply to Martin Haworth:

Good advice indeed. Matthew is already interested but I will certainly bring this up again in spring.

I wanted to bring it up now because of reservations and training. Maybe someone was not planning to go but now its an option :P 


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