/ Will I be warm enough for Mont Blanc in Summer

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rss91 - on 08 Jan 2017
Climbing Mont Blanc in the summer and need some guidance on clothing. Currently thinking:

Base - Merino 200g
Fleece - (Haven't purchased one yet)
Down - MH Ghost Whisperer
Shell - NF Resolve which I already own

The down jacket was on sale for 50% so I decided to buy that but just wondering if it will be warm enough for MB. I'd be looking to get a thick fleece as well.

Your thoughts please? Thanks

jon on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

It's almost impossible to say - I've stood on top of MB wearing a thinnish fleece shirt with no discomfort. Other times in multiple layers of down and thinsulate and still been incredibly cold - to the point that on one occasion I thought to myself 'if anything goes wrong now I don't know if I'd be able to cope'. On balance I think I'd be tempted to take another couple of layers - especially one that you can get on over the top of everything else rather than having to undress to get it on! The other thing I'd never go without are a pair of mitts. They don't have to be expensive , a cheap pair will be just as effective.
zimpara - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:
As well as your gear I would take a cheap insulating Gillet (WITH BIG HOOD) seeing as your down jacket is quite light and does not have a hood, It is VERY cold before the sun comes up if the wind picks up. And we were running most of what we could to keep warm. Get a hooded fleece too if you aren't taking a balaclava.

(Or I would buy a replacement hood for a down jacket and sew it onto your jacket.) High altitude is not a place to have no hood.

We had a buff each, a balaclava (Which we wore up and down) and TWO hoods. Snapped a picture on the summit fast and we got the fuck out of there. COLD!

Gear looks good otherwise. Have a lot of fun!
Post edited at 11:50
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thlcr1 on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

We got caught in an horrendous storm as we came over the dome and had to shelter in the Vallot hut overnight. Just about the coldest I've ever been and I had a super thick box wall duvet. I'd I've been tempted to say a warmer down jacket would have been a good idea. However as you've got it I'd look at either a down gillet to wear under it or a primaloft belay jacket to go over it. You'll need to try that in a shop to get fits that don't compress the down. The advice about mitts is good to. I wore dachstien mitts with gortex over mitts and my hands were so cold I had no feeling in the fingers at all. I'd suggest your normal gloves and take a pair of really warm down mitts as well. Of course it might be really warm and just the base layer will do, but it might not!

Lee
rss91 - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to zimpara:

Thanks.

I should have said I went for the hooded version of the jacket. And will probably go for a hooded fleece based upon your reccommendation. And I'll buy a few bits and bobs like a balaclava. Hoping I won't need to get more layers though as they can be expensive as well as the extra weight.
Dell on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

I'd say the primaloft suggestion is a good shout. You can get by without a fleece. A thin 100gm hoodless one as a spare layer maybe, but you will get more warmth for less weight with something like a Montane Prism than a heavy fleece.
Pipecleaner - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:
What about legs, hands and feet?
I'd say err on the cautious side...I'd rather be a bit over than under going somewhere I wasn't sure about.
Check out some recommended kit lists for different guides to get a feel too.
And have a great time!
Post edited at 13:54
rss91 - on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to Pipecleaner:

Haven't thought as much about those but inital thoughts would be:

Legs
Base and Softshell trouser

Hands
Liner and thick gloves

Feet
Thick socks and hire B3 boots
thlcr1 on 08 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

Hoods good! Id still say even with a super thick fleece and that thin down jacket you might end up very cold. Think these days I would consider something like a Rab VR over a base layer then a WARM down jacket to go over that and a shell that would fit over the whole lot. Alpine climbing always seemed to be warm or freezing to me often with a breeze. not so often in between. If you still want to use the down jacket you've got, primaloft would be warmer and lighter than fleece while still being windproof. Could be worn on its own or in combo with the down. Bit more versatile in my opinion

Lee
GrahamD - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

If you are doing the 'normal' route in good conditions, being too hot rather than too cold is a problem. So for summit day a base layer, a mid layer and a shell are fine for the top half. Trousers you want to be comfortable in hot or cold, although I found summer hiking trousers over thermals fine. Gaiters (to keep snow out of boots), good gloves (I prefer mits) and a spare pair, fleece hat and a sun hat. Maybe carry some light overtrousers. Nothing I wouldn't be using for UK hill walking.

A down jacket if you must but beware of carrying too much stuff (as most Brits will do) at altitude. If its that cold when you are moving and active then it might not be the best day to be on the mountain !
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thlcr1 on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

Ermm. Well I agree that being to hot can be a problem at some times of the day, and keeping things as light as possible is really important because you spend most of your time carrying it. However no way I'd agree that a baselayer, mid layer and shell would suffice on there own. Even in good weather it will be very cold leaving the hut at 2am or whatever and it will probably stay cold until maybe 7am. As for if it's that cold maybe it's the wrong day, well as I've said it's always cold at 2am, if it's still cold later or the weather turns bad you'll be a long way up by then and getting back might be a problem. On my only ascent the weather was terrible, but wasn't to bad when we left the hut just normal cold and a bit breezy. No storm was forecast and probably a 100 or more people left the hut and headed up at the same time as us. By the time we realised that shit was happening it was to late to turn back and we ended up in the Vallot with so many others we were all standing shoulder to shoulder, and were stuck there for 24hrs. I wore baselayer, thin mid, box wall down jacket and shell from leaving the hut to arriving at the summit approx 30hrs later. I was cold the whole time. Quite frankly if I'd had one of those one piece down suits meant for 8000m peaks I'd have not thought it overkill. However on the way down it was boiling and it all had to be carried, but still glad I'd taken it

Lee
GrahamD - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to thlcr1:

For an early start (and well below zero) I found that it was only really extremities that felt it and legs and trunk quickly warmed up from walking. I guess technical climbing would be different.
Mark Haward - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

What you choose to purchase, borrow or even hire depends on what other, if any, climbing you intend to do. So it is hard to answer your question without a profile to refer to. If you are only likely to do Mont Blanc or something similar this once I suggest you borrow or hire a warmer down jacket if you can.
However, here are some thoughts:

Baselayer:
Personally I find Merino 200g too warm for alpine summer including 4,000 metre peaks. I would normally wear a synthetic baselayer ( wicks more efficiently than Merino ) that has long sleeves I can roll up, thumb loops and a deep chest zip for venting. In my opinion it covers a wider range of likely temperatures. Great on it's own on walk ins, wicks very efficiently and other layers provide the insulation.
I've climbed many alpine 4,000 metre peaks in the summer months and have never needed or used a base layer on the legs. I personally would get too hot and removing them would be a faff. Lightweight softshell trousers are fine most of the time and, should it get cold, lightweight full length zip overtrousers can be put on for the night time start or if very windy / cold and can be removed very quickly and easily when the sun is up or the wind stops.

Mid layer:
Personally I find a lightweight softshell jacket (with a hood) is lighter, more packable and versatile than a fleece. I have done Mont Blanc with the baselayer mentioned above and a light softshell. However, other times I've needed to add a much warmer layer or two.

Outer / insulating layer:
You might get away with using the Ghost Whisperer as long as the shell jacket can go over the top of everything - you may not need to wear it at all but absolutely must take a really good insulating layer. As others have said, it can be damned cold and exposed to wind for long sections. Personally I would take a medium weight synthetic or down belay type windproof jacket that goes over everything. I use synthetic because it suits my other climbing better but down works really well on Mont Blanc. I rarely carry a hardshell top in the alps for a day route, but may if the forecast is dubious or I'm high for several days and the weather could change. Mont Blanc is not one to do in a dubious forecast! I don't know if you are with a guide or not, if not make sure you know the signs of impending worsening weather on Mont Blanc and seek shelter / turn around sooner rather than later. Depending which route you do losing height quickly is not easy.
However, since you've already purchased the Ghost whisperer you may find a lightweight down gilet or jacket that can go over the softshell and act as an extra midlayer boost would work. Your ghost whisperer then can go over the top of that if required.
Several people have mentioned the benefits of hoods. I find a lightweight hooded softshell with the hood on the belay jacket ( both must be helmet compatible ) are usually fine. I will sometimes carry a very thin hat or balaclava that can go under the helmet if the forecast indicates it is going to be very cold. However, for many parts of the route where I don't need to wear a helmet or hood a peaked lightweight sunhat can be very useful. So I wouldn't get a hood on the extra mid layer - too many hoods!
A pair of thin or medium thickness windproof gloves plus a spare pair are usually fine. Have an extra pair of thick gloves or preferably mittens that can go over the top in case it is very cold.
Although the categories are not as clear cut as you might think I suggest you hire B2 boots rather than B3. More importantly, make sure you get a comfortable pair that suit your feet and wear them as much as possible before doing MB. Loads of places hire out boots in Cham ( if that is your base ). I would suggest medium weight socks that you have already used and you know are comfortable. Thick socks will be too hot on the approach - if doing the Gouter Route, and your boots should have good insulation too. Take two pairs of socks. If doing the Gouter you could wear one pair on the approach, switch to a dry clean pair for the summit day.
Gaiters can be useful but often not necessary. Very small / lightweight gaiters are fine.

Hope this helps
Robert Durran - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

> If you are doing the 'normal' route in good conditions, being too hot rather than too cold is a problem. So for summit day a base layer, a mid layer and a shell are fine for the top half.

You might just about get away with that, but it could be pretty miserable if not dangerous if you stop for a pic-nic or to enjoy the summit or to puke up from the altitude or whatever. Definitely take a proper warn layer.
thlcr1 on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Mark Haward:
Nicely put.

Lee
GrahamD - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> You might just about get away with that, but it could be pretty miserable if not dangerous if you stop for a pic-nic or to enjoy the summit or to puke up from the altitude or whatever. Definitely take a proper warn layer.

That is probably sound advice but I would say that it is unlikely to be worn much whilst moving and probably isn't worth agonising too much over fine details of the spec.
thlcr1 on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

You must run a lot warmer than me. On many subsequent ascents if lower Alpine peaks I never expirenced such extreme cold again. However I was always happy to have an proper insulating jacket when setting off from the hut in the middle of the night

Lee
nniff - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

Madly cold when I did it - base layer, thin mid-layer, fleece and a very thick duvet jacket with a hood for climbing up, brief loiter on the summit and scurry off back down. Dachstein mitts dusted with snow to keep the wind out were ok.
GrahamD - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to thlcr1:

I'm talking Mt Blanc in particular where there really isn't any technical ground to slow you up and its basically a constant up hill slog. As I say extremities need to be warm ! I'm obviously in the minority here though so happy for the group concensus to prevail.
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teh_mark on 10 Jan 2017
In reply to rss91:

I'd personally err towards Graham's end of the spectrum than the consensus, with the caveat that if for whatever reason you end up immobile in less-than-forgiving weather the situation could turn very serious quite quickly. I'd personally go with long-sleeved T-shirt, mid layer and softshell, and a warm layer (a fairly light down or synthetic jacket) in the bag. Long-johns and softshell trousers for the bottom half, liner gloves, warm gloves and 'emergency' mitts, a buff (worn as a hat under helmet), and a warm hat in the bag. I'd also take a spare pair of sunglasses - small detail, but losing yours could really ruin the day.

In my limited experience, I can't say I've ever been cold enough on an early start to wish I had more than a fleece and softshell - but the theme of most alpine starts for me has been trudging steadily uphill for 2-3 hours to reach the route. Absolutely no danger of being too cold when all you can see is endless uphill snow!
Mark Haward - on 11 Jan 2017
In reply to GrahamD:

I agree in that many times I have not worn my lightweight 'belay jacket' layer. Base and softshell has often been enough even on slower, more technical routes. However, there have been times when I've absolutely needed it.
Last year I took a friend up the Trois Monts Route. From the shoulder at Maudit, to the summit and back down to the Vallot hut we did ( as did every one else who had one ) need to wear the extra boost layer whilst moving. Windy and very cold, especially when descending. Those who didn't have an extra layer turned around.
Obviously this will vary not just dependent on conditions / weather / route but also personal experience and preferences. I would know what clothing works for me. I'm assuming the OP is a novice, does not know how they will feel in the clothing they have or have yet to get and so would suggest to them to err on the side of having a 'booster' layer even if they end up not needing it.
GrahamD - on 11 Jan 2017
In reply to Mark Haward:

I'm inclined to go with that on reflection. Carry a down jacket as back up but I don't think its worth over spendinding on Himalaya rated gear for a standard ascent of MB.

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