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The Ascent of Mont Blanc:



France - Lonely PlanetTrekking & Climbing in the Western AlpsTour of Mont BlancMont Blanc The French Alps Walking in the French Alps - GR5Mont Blanc - Discovery & Conquest by Stefano ArditoAlpinism: Introduction to Safe Alpine Mountaineering

Mont Blanc - Grand Combin Walking / Hiking Map Alpine 4000m Peaks - Classic Routes Climbing all the 4000m AlpsWalking the High Route: Chamonix to ZermattMont Blanc Massif - 100 Finest Routes Walking in France - Lonely Planet Walking Easy in French and Italian AlpsMont Blanc Massis - selected climbs - Col de Telefre to Swiss Val Ferret


As the highest summit in the Alps, although less high in continental Europe than the 5633 metres Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus and thereby failing to qualify as one of the Seven Summits ( the highest peaks of the seven continents ), the 4807m Mont Blanc straddling the French-Italian frontier is a natural magnet for international peak baggers and high on "To Do" lists of alpine forays.

Like Ben Nevis in Scotland and the principal peaks of other countries it attracts considerably more attention than lesser but more aesthetically appealing targets. On a good day some 200 climbers can make their way to its top and there is severe over-crowding in huts. However despite the lowly F+ rating on the alpine grading system of its voie normale its conquest is never a foregone conclusion.

Normal route of ascent on Mont Blanc

Normal route

on

Mont Blanc

Three abortive attempts preceded my first successful ascent. While several peaks in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, including the 3800m Balmhorn, had been climbed with the 24th Glasgow ( Bearsden ) Scouts without the aid of crampons - our Swiss guide Hans Hari had cut steps all the way to the top - a similar assault on Mont Blanc from Courmayeur failed to reach the intended hut. A second attempt never got off the ground - the Aiguille du Midi cable car had broken down.

Next morning we took the rack and pinion train from St. Gervais les Bains on the outskirts of Chamonix to its upper terminus at Nid d’Aigle and climbed the steep, spiralling trail winding up to the hut at Tete Rousse. Beyond a snow slope we headed into thickening mist and followed paint marks leading up a rocky ridge. Becoming increasingly difficult and exposed we eventually realised we had taken the wrong route when figures were spotted through the mist moving easily on a parallel ridge. A delicate traverse of a boulder and ice filled couloir ( The Grand Couloir ) regained the correct path only a short distance below the higher hut perched on the Aiguille du Gouter.

View of Aiguille de Midi from summit of Mont Blanc

Aiguille du Midi

from

Summit

of

Mont Blanc

Others have not been so fortunate. Safely ensconced within the hut on a later trip we were shocked to hear that a pair of climbers on their way up had made the same mistake but one had slipped while attempting to cross the couloir and fallen to his death. The continental practice of painting signs on rocks and trees to mark routes can have unforeseen consequences.

Overnight a blizzard blew enforcing a treacherous and time-consuming retreat on snow-covered footholds to the valley.

On the correct access route a wire hawser affords protection for crossing the couloir although only professionally guided parties tend to take advantage of it - most others disdain to waste time roping up and putting on crampons - on one occasion we helped rescue one such party that had run into difficulties.

On descent from summit of Mont Blanc

On descent

from

Mont Blanc

Returning the following year with two different companions I repeated the climb to the Refuge du Gouter but not having undertaken any preparatory acclimatisation ascents on lower peaks we all suffered varying degrees of altitude headaches - Bruce turned a delicate shade of purple. Many stay the night at Tete Rousse to avoid this problem.

Joining the pre-dawn, torch-lit, single-file procession we trudged relentlessly upwards under a grey, inauspicious, threatening sky and along the final narrow arete to stand at last atop the broad summit snowfield - amid heavy cloud - two more attempts were required before enjoying the view of the long ridge, crested by the subsidiary peaks of Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc du Tacul, extending to the Aiguille du Midi far below.

On descent from summit of Mont Blanc

On descent

of

Mont Blanc

On a subsequent planned traverse of Mont Blanc the Aiguille du Midi cable car was successfully used to gain access to the Refuge du Col du Midi but only to learn that a party of eight had been killed by an avalanche on our proposed route - now out of the question. Moreover a thunder and lightning storm raged throughout the night quashing any lingering aspirations. By mid- morning however all was serene and tranquil when we emerged to a dazzling-white snowscene.

Mont Blanc du Tacul

Mont Blanc du Tacul

from

Col de Midi

From the observation platform atop the Aiguille du Midi a spectacular view unfolded across the sparkling Vallee Blanche to the enclosing needles and spires culminating in the great fang of Aiguille du Geant and the huge massif of Mont Blanc soaring immediately overhead.

Aiguille du Geant

Aiguille du Geant

from

Aiguille de Midi

After one alpine tour we returned to find friends and colleagues highly concerned about our well-being - there had been a major tragedy on Mont Blanc with multiple deaths - one roped party had fallen and brought down others - as with Everest and K2 or other major mountains the probability of disasters increases with the number of people on the same route at the same time. Mont Blanc had not been on our itinerary that year.

( The Commentator, The ( Glasgow ) HERALD, Saturday 3rd June 2000 )


Deaths on the Mont Blanc Massif:


Location map of deaths on the Mont Blanc Massif

Location map of deaths on the Mont Blanc Massif

July 2004: French guide and client killed in an avalanche

July 2005: British soldier killed in an avalanche.

July 2007:  A woman hiker killed by an avalanche.

August 2008: Five Austrian and three Swiss climbers killed in an avalanche



Maps for Mont Blanc:-


Mont Blanc - Grand Combin Walking / Hiking Map Chamonix Massif du Mont Blanc ( IGN Top 25 S ) Monte Bianco-Courmayer-Chamonix M.B.-La Thule: Mont Blanc Massif - MapMont Blanc Hiking MapKompass Mont Blanc MapEuropean Alps Map


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Travel & Guide Books & Maps - France:-


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Chamonix Massif du Mont Blanc ( IGN Top 25 S ) Mont Blanc - Grand Combin Walking / Hiking Map Mont Blanc Massif - MapMonte Bianco-Courmayer-Chamonix M.B.-La Thule: Mont Blanc Hiking MapKompass Mont Blanc MapEuropean Alps Map




The Alps - A Cultural History  Mont Blanc Range  Mont Blanc - Selected Climbs  Mont Blanc - Discovery & Conquest

Walking in the Haute Savoie  French Alps - Michelin Guide  French Alps & Jura  Trekking in the Vosges & Jura - GR5  GR5: French Alps - Lake Geneva to Nice  Chamonix to Zermatt: Walkers Haute Route

Mont BlancAscensions au pays du Mont Blanc Mont Blanc - Discovery & Conquest by Stefano Ardito Alpes - Parcs et Reserves La Chaine du Mont BlancExplore the Tour of Mont Blanc Mont Blanc Walks Mont Blanc Range Easy Ascents

Tour of Mont BlancChamonix - Mont Blanc: Walkers Guide Tour of Mont Blanc - Andrew Harper Mont Blanc Mont Blanc Massif - 100 Finest Routes Walking in the French Alps - GR5Walking Easy in French and Italian AlpsMont Blanc Massis - selected climbs - Col de Telefre to Swiss Val FerretSnowmole Guide to Chamonix Mont Blanc

Alpinisme des premieres pas aux grandes courses Retour a la montagneSki de randonnee - Ouest Suisse - Ski alpinisme Alpiniste Chemins du ciel - d'aretes des Alpes Encorde mais libre - La traversee des alpes Les Alpes a l'afficheHautes Alpes 107 Via Ferrata - Val d'Aoste

Alpine 4000m Peaks - Classic Routes The High Alps Ice & Mixed Climbing How to Ice Climb Alpinism: Introduction to Safe Alpine MountaineeringMountain NavigationThe Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt France - Rough Guide

France - Lonely PlanetLet's Go France The French Alps - Michelin Green Guide French Alps - Vacances Walking in France - Lonely Planet Walking Easy in French and Italian Alps Through the French Pyrenees - GR10 Trail The French Alps LP Cycling France

Lonely Planet - Walking in France The Alps Adventure Guide Trekking and Climbing in the Western AlpsTrekking & Climbing in the Western AlpsWalking the High Route: Chamonix to ZermattThe Ecrins National Park Climbing all the 4000m AlpsGlacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue

Walking in the Alpine Parks of France and NW Italy Walking in the Alps 100 Hikes in the Alps Alps 4000 100 Hut Walks in the Alps Alpine Ski Mountaineering - Western Alps Vanois Ski Touring Snow Shoeing in the Western Alps

Handbook of Climbing - Hamish MacInnes Mountain Travellers Handbook All Mountain Skier Off Piste Rope Techniques: The complete guideMountaineering: Freedom of the HillsHistory of Mountain ClimbingWorld's most significant Climbs

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the HillsConquistadors of the Useless The Naked Mountain - Reinhold Messner Scrambles in the Alps - Edward WhymperStarlight & Storm: Gaston RebuffatAlpine / Himalayan Climbing Killing Dragons - Conquest of the Alps

High Mountains of the Alps Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast & High Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical WorldBeyond the Limits - Randolph FiennesSurvival of the Fittest Through the French Pyrenees - GR10 Trail Backcountry Skier - Guide to Ski Touring

World Mountaineering Epic Stories of Survival on the World's Highest Peaks Climb: Stories of Survival Wilderness Mountaineering Wilderness First AidMountain Skills Training Handbook Distant Mountains - Encounters with the World's Greatest Mountains










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