The mighty Mont Blanc has captured the imagination of climbers for centuries and each year continues to draw mountaineers from all over the world.
Climb the Mont Blanc in France!
At 4810 m the Mont Blanc is Western Europe’s highest mountain. It’s nearly 200 m higher than Switzerland’s Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in the Alps. Dominating the climbing mecca of Chamonix, a successful ascent is a hugely rewarding experience and the Mont Blanc should be on every keen climber’s bucket list.
Mont Blanc summit climbing trips can take anything from 2 to 6 days depending on your fitness, level of acclimatisation and high altitude mountaineering experience.
For most people a 5 or 6 day trip works well and gives you the best chance of reaching the summit. You spend a couple of days acclimatising and practising ice axe and crampon techniques on the Mer de Glace. The summit is then attempted over 2 days, usually via the Gouter or Cosmiques routes, with the best weather window chosen for the final push.
To build confidence and help with acclimatisation, some mountaineering companies will also include a warm-up peak like the Tête Blanche. The traverse via the east and north-west ridges provides a good introduction to PD Alpine mountaineering.
Rated PD on the Alpine Grades scale, the Mont Blanc via the Normal Route isn’t a very technical climb, but it does require sustained effort at high altitude. Summit day can be as long as 13 hours, so you need to be in good shape to enjoy the climb. The first few hours in the dark are very tough. Until the sun comes up, you’ll be walking in freezing temperatures with a head torch. The guides take it slowly, but with strong winds, your backpack weighing you down and the steep terrain, be under no illusion, it’s seriously hard work.
The key to success is preparation and acclimatisation. Although the normal route to the summit isn’t technical, it does require sustained physical effort. Make sure you get plenty of training walks in before your trip and aim for one or two longer days in the mountains during the month before your trip. Despite the fact that a 5 day trip will include some ice and snow climbing practice, guides can’t cater for complete beginners in that time-frame and it’s recommended that you have some high altitude mountaineering experience and know how to use your kit prior to joining a Mont Blanc expedition.
Book a Mont Blanc mountaineering trip
Our mountaineering partners offer Mont Blanc summit ascents from 2 to 6 days depending on your level of experience and acclimatisation. If you want to stand the best chance of conquering the summit, it’s a really good idea to employ a high altitude mountain guide. All the companies listed here use fully qualified UIAGM mountain guides. They’ll be able to vary the route and rate of ascent to your ability, navigate in bad weather and keep you safe on steep snow and ice.
Different packages are available from 2 day straight ascents to 5 and 6 day mountaineering courses that include snow and ice climbing instruction and acclimatisation. Whichever package you choose, the guides all have one goal, to get you to the summit and back down again safely. Typically, a 5-day Mont Blanc trip will cost upwards of 1200 € per person, including accommodation, food and guiding, and excluding insurance, drinks, and personal equipment. Take a guide, you’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun.
Mont Blanc Routes
There are 2 different routes to climb Mont Blanc from Chamonix – the Normal Route via the Gouter Refuge and the Cosmiques route via Mont Blanc du Tacul and Col Maudit. Overall, both routes are just as demanding. The Gouter route has a longer first day and a shorter second day, while the Cosmiques route is the opposite. The Cosmiques route is also a bit more technically demanding with with a steep slope of 150 m on the Mont Maudit. Be aware that the Gouter route is busy throughout the summer and the mountain hut gets booked up early. For that reason, availability in the refuges may dictate your itinerary.
Day 1: Climb to the Gouter Refuge (3800 m) + 1500 m – 5/6h
Day 2: Mont Blanc summit ascent via the Dôme du Gouter +1000 m, -2500 m, 10-12 hours
Day 1: Short walk to the Cosmiques hut (3600m) 40 mn. In the evening snow training on glacier and rest.
Day 2: Tacul, Col du Maudit, Montt Blanc +1400 m, -2500 m, 10-12 hours
The Italian Side
If you want to ramp up the adventure and climb a longer, more challenging route, summiting from the Italian side is a great option. You’ll start in Val Veny and climb via the Gonella mountain refuge, following the Aiguilles Grises route. The path is less trodden and it feels wild. Although it’s not technically difficult, this routes remoteness means it’s only recommended for experienced mountaineers.
Day 1: from Val Veny in Italy climb to Gonella mountain hut. +1400 m 6 hours
Day 2: ascent of Mt Blanc by the Aiguille Grises ridge. +1800 m 12 hours
Mont Blanc 5-Day Mountaineering Course
If you don’t have much high altitude mountaineering experience, this course is ideal. It gives you chance to acclimatise and build confidence in a mountainous environment whilst reinforcing snow and ice climbing skills. Days 4 and 5 are dedicated to the ascent itself. A 6-day trip will include an extra night on the mountain on the way down, and provide a broader weather window if conditions are poor.
Days 1-3: Expect a mix of snow and ice climbing training on the glacier with glacier hiking and warm-up summit ascents. Depending on the conditions and the group’s ability, your guide will decide on the area for the training. Le Tour, Argentière and Miage in the Chamonix Valley each offer straightforward snow climbs. You’ll spend 2 nights in high altitude refuges to aide acclimatisation. The third night is typically spent back down in the Chamonix Valley in preparation for the Mont Blanc summit ascent.
Day 4: Climb to either the Cosmiques or Gouter refuge.
Day 5: Ascent of the Mont Blanc and back to Chamonix.
Mont Blanc Ascent FAQs
Mont Blanc Mountaineering Kit List
Climbing the Mont Blanc is a high altitude mountain expedition and you can face high winds and temperatures as low as -20 °C. To enjoy the trip and give yourself the best chance of reaching the summit, you need to bring the right gear.
Clothing wise, you’ll need good technical trekking and mountaineering layers including thermal base layers, wind proof mid-layer and breathable waterproof jacket and trousers. Several thin layers are preferable so you can adjust your clothing according to the weather conditions. Also essential are walking socks, a warm hat that covers your ears and mittens rather than gloves. Ski goggles are better than sunglasses in cold, windy conditions.
Bring a sleeping bag liner for the mountain huts, a lightweight technical 40 litre backpack and walking poles, given the gradient of the trek.
There are plenty of options for hiring good quality gear in Chamonix. Ravanel & Co, Sanglard Sports and Cham3S in Chamonix each have technical mountaineering kit for hire and you can pre-book your gear online.
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your Mont Blanc Ascent, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Good luck!