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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 7, 2011 - 05:48am PT
Anyone out there with knowledge of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix area? I lucked out and have a conference in Chamonix all of next week, with free time on the weekends before and after. I am going alone and don't have a partner lined up, but did not want to waste the opportunity to do something fun while I am there. I was thinking the Gouter route on Mt. Blanc seems reasonable for a solo ascent. I'm looking for first hand knowledge of crevasse danger (safe for an un-roped solo climber?) and what conditions are like this late in the season. I have no reservation for the hut, so was considering doing it in a single push. (I have my bivy sack so could do that too.)

Also, what else is there to do in the area? I will have my ice axe, crampons, mountain boots, harness, and rock shoes with me. No rope or rack. How hard is it to find partners? I probably can't afford a guide.


Sep 7, 2011 - 06:38am PT
There are crevasses above the Gouter hut, but I imagine that they'll be open and easy to see at this time of year. Doing the whole thing up and down in a push would be pretty stiff: you're likely to suffer a bit from the thin air up there. Watch out for the gully crossing down below the Gouter hut, that place is a bowling alley, and people frequently get knocked off. I recommend a helmet, and running across.

Trad climber
Sep 7, 2011 - 07:16am PT
I also don't think you would have a problem soloing the Gouter Route. I did it alone 40 years ago, from the valley in February, when I was young and foolish.

I was up to my hips in snow, on the lower part and DID fall into a hidden crevase, on the way down, near the Gouter Hutt. I was lucky and managed not to go all the way in. I still remember that incident vividly.

The Hutt was open, and I took advantage of the wine cellar, staying an extra day, on the way down. It was sunny and quite warm, and I sat on the roof sipping wine in the sun.

Have fun!

Mountain climber
there and back again
Sep 7, 2011 - 07:28am PT
I stayed at the Ski Station Chalet in Chamonix. You can get reservations for the hut from town. The Gouter Hut had been recently rebuilt and was like a hotel where we could order anything. There is also camping available around the building. Higher on the mountain is a smaller hut you could get to also. Might shorten the total time you spend on the mountain.

There is a via ferrata but its not bad, Rock fall from the Grand couloir almost creamed 4 of our group who where lagging behind. This was the most dangerous part of the climb although techmically easy. We did from hut to hut in a day. Not so much crevasse trouble. There is basically a trench to the top once you get off the slopes. The views were spectacular.

One day to get to the hut and rest, eat whatever. one day to climb. And a half a day to get back to town. Crampons, helmet and ice axe are all you'll need if your experienced. People solo it all the time in good conditions. As long as you can see there is no way to get lost. People every where.

I loved Chamonix, I can't speak more highly about it. There was a farmers market on Saturdays that had awesome bread and cheese. The views are spectacular. Its probably one of the top 5 climbing towns in the world. There is a little park with a limestone wall in town with sport climbs on it for after work or what ever. Have a good trip its hard not too there.


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Sep 7, 2011 - 08:15am PT
What H says.

Plan on two days as it is 15,000 ft and a long haul.

If the weather forcast is clear, this is not too late in the year.
We did it in October.

If the weather says storm, stay away. Mt. Blanc is a magnetic mountain
and compasses don't work there in a whiteout.

Mountain climber
Sep 7, 2011 - 09:54am PT

I was / am from Truckee. Now in France trying to get back to the states. May be here when you get here. Have been looking on and off for a partner to do some stuff. Have done a little bit of research lately. Have gear. If I do not make it back before you arrive it would be great to hook up with and English speaking / local USA Type to climb with.

E-mail my personal if you like I will give you what info I have.

steve shea

Sep 7, 2011 - 11:33am PT
For ouick access take the Midi Telepherique to the Piton Nord. Descend to the bottom of the Midi. Most crevasses should be open and obvious at this time of year or hook a ride down with another party. It's just a short descent. You will be near the start of the SF Midi for a perfect granite rock route which finishes right back at the tele terminal. Or directly across the valley is the Pyramide du Tacul. Many routes from easy on up with an easy descent and hike back to the Midi pherique. You could also take the Heilbronner tele to the Italian side. Bivy at the Brenva hut and do the Brenva Spur to the Mt Blanc and descend the French side. Plan on a bivy on the descent at the hut. On the Tacul you have Cheres Couloir, a short classic and around the corner further down the Vallee Blanche many good routes starting with Gervasutti all the way to the Super Couloir at about any grade you want with the fast access back to the tele. Have fun Sept. is the best time of the summer alpine season

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Sep 8, 2011 - 12:10pm PT
If you do buy any gear in Chamonix, be sure and ask them for the forms you need to get a VAT (Value added tax) refund. If you fill them out and live in a non EEc country, they will refund you the amount of the sales tax.

Nov 16, 2012 - 12:29am PT
MONT BLANC - twice a week - (Aug 2001)

Nicolas and I left Ljubljana for Venice by rail at 2:30 AM and got there shortly past 7. Having consigned our stuff in a locker at the train station, we went for a stroll through the awakening city and had a nice breakfast on a café terrace. Though we were stuck in Venice for 3 hours waiting for the next train to Milan, I remember being satisfied by the idea of starting at sea level. It took all day. We eventually had lunch in Milan on the way from the train central to the bus stop and reached Courmayeur by quarter to 9, just in time to catch the last shuttle all the way up Val Veny. Soon the stars also appeared above the small island of the Doire that we had chosen for the night.

After a chat and food at the friendly La Visaille ranch, we leisurely headed towards the Miage glacier, chosing the right bank option. Miage is one of the longest glaciers of the Mont Blanc massif and this was a hot day. Moraine drag, then the scramble up to the Gonella hut. I slept in the afternoon and spent the evening listening to the Dôme glacier below us, taking in the awesome views.

Acclimatization day.
We woke up late. One of the crew members confirmed my impression of this being a hot day again, and since we were thinking of also reversing tomorrow's ascent, I realized that no loss of time would have to occur. We inspected part of the Dôme glacier up to the foot of the Tour des Aguille Grises, and on the way down we even placed a few marks for some of the less obvious crevasses. Spent the rest of the day relaxing and scrambling around the hut. I enjoy hut food. Though expensive and basic, I know I'm making the proper investment in life.

The lights go on around 1 AM and everyone rushes down to have breakfast. And then everyone rushes out. The night was very clear, but warm. Nicolas and I left as the last party of five or six. Strangely, ca 15 min later everyone started going way too far to the right, but we stuck to our previewed line and were soon out of sight. The rimaye required a few axe placements and the flank to the col des Aiguilles Grises was nice and crisp. By full daybreak we reached the Bionnassay ridge and now headed East. I remember a sense of achievement appearing along this magnificently exposed snow ridge. Our ascent had been solitary, but after circling the south slopes of Dôme du Goûter we joined the happy crowd up the final Bosses ridge. Unforgetable summit vistas. I even imagined seing Triglav (isn't one self centered?). We hurried down to the col du Dôme and roped in again before the Bionnassay ridge. As expected by such high temps, the snow started drifting by the time we reached the flank below the Aiguilles Grises col, and we eventually enjoyed a ride over the schrund, then swiftly continuing till the major upper crevasses of the Dôme glacier. That's where two dudes were sitting in the snow. Apparently traumatized by the close stop of an uncontrolled slide he had just made, one of them was quite shaky and we helped them down to the hut. The weather forecast for the following week was a deteriorating one, so we were in no hurry any more and decided to stay at the Gonella hut.

It took us two days to get home, first picking up the extra gear we had left at the La Visaille ranch, walking down back to Courmayeur (did I dream or didn't we bump into Bonatti on the street?), next Aosta, Milan, sea level in Venice and finally Ljubljana. The following day Nicolas left for a rock climbing gig in Paklenica, and I was relaxing at home when the phone rang.
-do you want to do Mont Blanc? We're leaving now.
-uh... sure... why not?... hey, how bout the weath...?
A few hours later, four of us were sitting in a car heading for Chamonix.

We reached Les Houches after driving all night long, and even had to wait a bit before the first lift-and-tram up to the Nid d'Aigle station. The standard ascent is really quite a different story, the main prob being the crowd (and I'm part of it). My acclimatization helped me get up to the Goûter hut much faster than my colleagues, and I tried to make some arrangements. The Sherpa that worked there smiled but agreed at my idea of having us first sleep part of the afternoon in the empty dorms. During dinner I heroically cleaned up the potato salad that spilled in the middle of the serving area with bare hands (fast), getting bonus points from the crew in form of an invitation into the kitchen (!). We had no reservations, but since the weather was deteriorating, some space freed and all of us got a bed for the night (though we had been carrying bivouac and sleeping bags in case we had to sleep outside).

The lights went on at ca 2 AM. Gorazd had slight altitude sickness and stayed at the hut. Bošt, Dule and I left quickly, after boiling snow down to water in the stove room. The fog was intense and I remember tripping over a tent cord, which made me think that if I had gone to the trouble of bringing a tent, I'd go pitch it somewhere calmer than right next to the hut. One good thing about a cloudy day is that there's less folks - but we saw nothing all the way up. On the way down, I got back to the hut first. Gorazd was doing better. But Dule and Bošt weren't arriving and I went out looking for them. They then soon appeared through the mist - having lost time going down towards Les Grands Mulets for a while.
Grand Couloir, Nid d'Aigle, Cham, Tunnel du Mont Blanc, Gorazd wakes me up and tells me he'll take the wheel, Aosta, etc, Venice, and back home early enough in the morning for one of the dudes to go back to work.

While I'm at it, let me tell another Mont Blanc related story.
There's this artist and amazing photographer M.M. that calls me one day telling me he needs to urgently make some specific ice shots. We meet in the afternoon (in Ljubljana) and leave for Courmayeur in the evening, driving all night and catching the first lift to the Col du Géant (Torino hut). The visibility wasn't great, but I had walked this stretch once and thought I knew my way around. From the lower construction we headed horizontally to the East, towards the small hanging glacier on the south side of the Col. One crevasse was apparently just the right one: I think it had something to do with the amount of light coming horizontally to the bottom of the crevasse, but I'm not sure. I placed two screws and dipped the magician into the ditch. Just jokin. M.M. is also an experienced caver, and we were having fun.
The reason I'm telling the story is the look on the people's faces when we came back to the hut for a cup of coffee... I looked back to where we had come from, and now, with the visibility, I realized that we had been standing on the outer-most sérac, the overhanging slice ready to peel off.
On the way home we stopped and slept in the car for one hour just before Aosta, and were then back in Ljubljana by sunrise.

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