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Mt. Blanc Q's

Discussion area for peaks outside of the USA.
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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby CampoVail » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:13 pm

I have only recently become an active member and know that you asked these questions some time ago however I climbed the Mont Blanc area quite extensively back in the early 90's. Here is my take, equip yourself with Gaston Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes of The Mont Blanc Massif, it is a great book and a must have for any aspiring alpinist.
I believe that you can climb Mont blanc without a guide if you are of moderate experience, I first went there having only worn crampons twice on a Scottish ridge and snow gully. Although I was quite experienced on rock having lead up to 5.10 and climbing weekly. The area is so well populated that you cannot go off route unless there has been an abundance of snow.
In 92 I traversed Mont Blanc via the Gouter route up and continuing accross Mt Maudit and Mt Blanc Du Tacul. It was hard but never technical, I caught the tramway from St Gervais up to the Nid d'Aigle, which was way less crowded. From here head up to the Gouter Hut, the huts are great places to replenish food and liquids but I have never slept in one, I always took a tent or bivvy bag. The couloir that you cross to reach this hut is notorious for bad accidents, clip the fixed lines and move fast. The summit is a good snow plod but the views are worth it, enjoy the 200 or so new friends you have met on the top and journey on. You will cross snowfeilds below the next two summits, I was too tired to hit these but they are deffinately doable. I camped at the Col Du Midi late afternoon and then hit the Arete Des Cosmiques early the next day, great route and a must do. Have a big feed at the Aguille Du Midi cable car station and then back down for a Bivvy on the Col. The next day do the Midi Plan traverse in the early hours then hit the Vallee Blanche 26 km to the train at the bottom. My favourite routes were Petite verte, Aguille Du Argentiere by the Milleu Glacier, Aguille Du Cardonnet by the Forbes arete, Petis Charmoz traverse, Aguliie De Lm North Ridge, Tour Ronde and the Aiguille De L'index and the Chapelle De La Glere located on the north side of Chamonix. They provide a great warm up to the altitude and the Granite, which is Tres magnifique.. Know that the snow and conditions change always, have a game plan and a back up too. One year the weather got so bad that we left and went rock climbing in the Orgon. I concur that Argentiere was my favourite place to stay.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby pvnisher » Wed Jun 20, 2012 1:36 pm

Where do you stash your stuff whilst you're out climbing? Like, you go up to Tete Rousse or Gouter, stay the night, and then want to summit and descend the same day.
You're doing an out-and0back, so is there any way to leave your "hut junk" (pillowcase, sheets, etc) behind somewhere? In the hut? Stashed along the route? I don't want to leave it along the route with that many people, but don't know if the huts would be overloaded from people leaving bags of junk everywhere.
What's the standard?

That reminds me, I need to make my Cosmiques reservations. I hope its not too late, I don't want to sleep on the floor or the dining room table. [-(

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby krs1 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:27 pm

When we stayed at the Cosmiques last year, there were baskets in the gear room where you could stash stuff/gear while you were climbing. Also, make your reservations soon for the Cosmiques cause you won't be sleeping on the floor or on the dining room table, you'll be sleeping in the tunnel back at the Midi i.e. cold concrete!!! We took a harsh reprimand from the hut master for not making a reservation last year even when it wasn't full.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby Carl » Wed Jun 20, 2012 4:20 pm

Agreed about having to sleep at Midi if hut is full. Although I still got a reservation calling 3 days in advance for a friday in August last year. Only thing I brought for the hut I didn't need for the climb was ear plugs, tooth brush, tooth paste. Tried not to think about how clean pillows and blankets might be.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby devo » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:02 am

We just got back from Mt. Blanc. Definitely do the 3 monts route. That was our intent but the weather wasn't cooperating and this early in the season they were having trouble with big snow and icefalls messing up the route. You shouldn't have those problems in August. We ended up attempting the Gouter route because we thought we would have a better chance of reaching the summit but ended up being turned back on top of the Dome de Gouter by a freak ice storm. Covered us and everthing else in a lovely layer of ice. The Gouter route is a bit of a slog, especially since the train isn't running up to it's normal drop off spot which made for about 7,000 vertical feet for the first day getting up to the Gouter hut which wasn't on snow with some interesting climbing up a class 3/4 ridge for the final 2,000 ft. The hut situation was easy for us as we were making and changing resevations daily at both huts trying to catch a weather window but I'm guessing in August you won't have that luxury when it gets busy. Expect to wait awhile at the cable car getting up to the Aiguille du Midi which gets a little busy and costs about $60 round trip but that's a spectacular spot and one of the highlights of the trip especially walking that ridge. Here's a little GoPro video to get the juices flowing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksbTDU87o7k
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summit day.jpg
Our Summit Day
summit day.jpg (74.57 KiB) Viewed 440 times

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby MuchosPixels » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:47 am

I just got back from the Bernese Oberland. Went to Schilthorn by cable car (2900M) last friday. It was misty, cold (4C) and windy (40kmh+) even though it was the warmest part of the day. The next day I went to Grindewald to take a look at the Eiger, Wetterhorn and other peaks in the area and the day was amazingly beautiful although windy and when I left at 4pm it was getting quite cloudy again and the summits were obscured by clouds. I saw fresh snow on the summits that probably fell the night before.

The area is AMAZING. I would go there. Grindelwald is quite mellow. Yea there are tourists but its not crazy and it still feels like a small town (it is) and not a zoo like some other towns in the alps during summer. Lauterbrunen (valley next door) was also quite mellow. There are very cool places to stay there. The area is not cheap but IMHO not as crowded as it could be given the beauty and easy access to the alpine.

Saw Mont Blanc from the plane from Nice and it was really snowy.

Snow levels in the area look to be around the 3400M level (although Glaciers reach lower obviously) and there was water everywhere so it has been warm and wet.

If you have never been to the Alps before wow they are stunning. The valleys are waaaay deeper and the mountains continuously steeper and more rugged than anything I have seen before. Most valleys are at the 1000M level (or less) and the peaks are close to 4000M so many routes have 3000M of climbing. Sorta like Rainier. But Rainier is a single peak. You will see continuous ridges connecting many peaks and glaciers in the Alps with some huge walls and incredible north faces so expect incredible exposure on some routes. The rock quality did not look great in most areas and most glaciers looked nasty and hard to navigate.

Photo from the top of Schilthorn looking east friday afternoon.
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same day heading down looking at the Valley where Lauterbrunnen is located
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Saturday morning/noon from Grindelwald looking at the Wetterhorn on the left:
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The Eiger North face, all 3000M of it.
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When I drove out saturday afternoon the weather was going downhill again.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby pvnisher » Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:56 pm

What weight jacket(s) did you guys bring for Mont Blanc?

I've done Rainier twice (guided and unguided), and both times brought a fairly thick down jacket. I was happy to have it, and most of the guide services require it. http://www.rmiguides.com/mt-rainier/4-day-summit-climb/#equipment

But as I'm getting my gear ready for France I notice that most guides don't really list it as an item to bring along, or at most say it is optional, which seems odd. One site even says, "you also do not need a heavy down duvet jacket."
So what did you bring?

http://www.montblancguides.com/index.php/eng/EQUIPMENT#tab1
http://www.mountainvision.co.uk/Mont%20Blanc%20KIT%2007.pdf

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby Carl » Tue Jul 17, 2012 6:53 pm

pvnisher wrote:What weight jacket(s) did you guys bring for Mont Blanc?


I packed similar to a Rainier trip. Brought a 12 ounce hooded down jacket (Sierra Designs Gnar) and an 11 ounce shell (Westcomb Specter LT). My thought is go light but be prepared to survive a night out if necessary, albeit uncomfortably. Matt borrowed that lightweight down jacket on Rainier a week or two ago and I think he was happy with it. I assume you have a similar one in your down jacket quiver, but if not, and you live in Denver, you can grab mine from Matt. Only thing I wished I had was a warmer balaclava to keep my face warm. Goggles helped but it was damn windy both times I was on Mont Blanc. Friends have had similarly windy and cold conditions in summer on MB.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby pvnisher » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:24 pm

Fortunately, I do have quite a selection of jackets. Sometimes its embarrassing.
Just looking to see which one(s) to bring. I tend to bring too much.

Have you done the Aiguille du Midi-to-Point Helbronner (Vallee Blanche) Traverse? We're planning on doing it N-S for one day of acclimating, then S-N the next day, then heading up after that. Since it'll be 4 days on the mountain lugging all my loot, I don't want more than I need. But I also don't want to freeze!

How about water, specifically water treatment? Since we'll be up there a number of days, I'm planning on bringing 3L bottles (up from Cham), and a JetBoil to melt since I don't want to pay $5 per glass at the huts.

Was it easy to find clean snow, and are they cool with you melting snow on the patio (if there is one at Cosmiques or Torino)? Did you bring water treatment (tabs or UV), or just melt and drink?

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby Carl » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:14 pm

^^^^ I haven't done the traverse. Looked sweet though. Another option would be staying every night at Cosmiques. Then you could leave a bag there with a bunch of water in it that you brought up from town and go light. Traverse one day and take the cable car back. Summit Mont Blanc du Tacul the next day. It's a popular acclimatization climb at 13,900. Although switching it up and seeing another hut would be cool. Cosmiques was selling water by the liter, but it was spendy. If you have to melt, I'm sure you could find clean snow.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby pvnisher » Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:43 pm

That was my original plan (Cosmiques the whole time, or Torino the whole time), but couldn't get a reservation for 2 consecutive nights when I needed them. I was only able to get 1 night at each. Figure it'll still be a good time, and the traverse looks great and not much elevation change, so good warmup.

Did you bring a map? If so, where'd you get it?

Pretty easy to get around on the mountain? I figure there will be pretty big trenches in the most popular areas, but I still don't want to get off-course, or headed to the wrong place.

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Re: Mt. Blanc Q's

Postby Carl » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:30 pm

pvnisher wrote:Did you bring a map? If so, where'd you get it?


Check out the TR I put up from a Mont Blanc climb last summer. We took the last cable car up, walked onto the glacier, and visibility was about 100 feet. Pulled out the map Marc bought in town and got a kick out of the fact that since it was the entire Mont Blanc range, it was a very little value (I left that fact out of the TR). There were tracks leading in nearly every direction. We had a gps, noted our compass bearing, and began walking in the direction that we thought the hut might be based on looking at countless pictures online before the trip. Luckily the weather cleared, since we had to make a much harder right hand turn to get to Cosmiques than I would have guessed. If it hasn't snowed recently you'll have an obvious track in the snow higher up on the 3 monts traverse, but down near the huts you've got people heading all over the place to climb a bunch of cool looking peaks, spires, couloirs, faces, ridges, etc.

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