I had 4 days of July allotted for the ascent but at a holiday pace, without the slightest intention of taking time off. In fact, in the 9 days allocated for the trip from France. i climbed mont blanc, walked a bunch through saint gervais, chamonix, one day was set aside just for the pool and i still managed to get bored. 5 – 6 days would have been more appropriate. Mont Blanc – doable if you can manage on the ridge, in winter, in Romania, with beavers and ice axes. Overrated in weight, underrated in beauty, dangerous in places but not difficult, expensive if you count the boulangeries, wine, French refuges and glacier water beer.
At 4809 or 4810m, Mont Blanc is not the highest peak in Europe. The 4th I think. But it is the highest in the European Union. And certainly the highest alpine peak in the world :)). Alps.. alpine..
Don’t laugh but some of the discussions after my ascent of Mont Blanc were like this: “but it doesn’t have 4809, it has 4810!”.. well the snow cover varies.. “but it’s not the highest in Europe!”. . yes and no.. What I mean is that Mont Blanc is not a destination to brag about, if you climb it like a normal person, with refuges and on the standard route. In fact, in good weather there are groups of tourists / guides, climbers every 100 m. There are many who make the ascent of Mont Blanc a sporting performance, with tears and crying at the top. They seem exaggerated to me. Maybe the standard route is not for beginners. But it’s not just for performance athletes either, it’s not that big of a challenge. And anyway it’s not cool to do it for performance.
Anyone who wanted performance and professionalism had to become a performance athlete, climber, guide or mountain rescuer. Now I find that superheroes appear like mushrooms after the rain, pseudo-performers who boast of all kinds of achievements that are actually intended for amateurs – and the world confuses them with the real athletes and professionals.
Performances get mixed up, credits the same because people have no general culture and swallow everything that is delivered to them in the public space. Maybe not to the delivery people, but to the word-of-mouth world. But that is less relevant here.
Mont Blanc is worth all the effort, the landscapes are incredible, the feeling of grandeur, immensity, being above the clouds is brilliant. The reverberating crackle of glaciers, alpine ibex on the road, the dangerous fall of boulders, cozy refuges with food and glacier beer at 3815 m, falling stones – all this characterizes it, makes it unique. But the view and feeling at the top is worth it the most.
The chances of reaching Mont Blanc depend most on the weather. In general, there is about a 66% chance of reaching the summit without problems, according to montblancguides.com, but the probability fluctuates greatly from year to year. Technically speaking, the mountain does not pose any particular difficulties. We can’t talk about rock climbing or climbing techniques, although climbing, in the gym at least, could help. At most you use your hands a little on the Tete Rousse – Gouter Refuge route. Instead, keep cool and don’t be sick of heights because there are narrow sections on both gravel and snow. The bad attitude is relative but I haven’t seen people who complained about it specifically.
We left 8 people from Bucharest, with a guide and everything. In total it cost me about 900 euros including the Bucharest – Geneva flight and return, car to Saint Gervais, camping in Saint Gervais and refuges, but I kept spending extra there, so I ended up taking out of my pocket about 1500 for the whole 9 day trip.
At the airport, packed and put on the scale, my bag (60+ liters) weighed 23 kg: clothes, ice axes, poles, helmet, harness, corners, tent, mattress, sleeping bag, technical boots, jacket, other equipment items . I then had to manage with it until the campsite, where there were still a few pieces of equipment left somewhere up to 18-19 kg, which I then managed with until the last refuge before the summit where I spent the night.
From the last refuge to the summit and back I had a small lap bag. On the way back it was probably 24 or 25 kg considering I couldn’t resist doing some shopping at the huge Quechua store near Saint Gervais (fluffy, cool mountain sunglasses).
From that Quechua mountain mall I got the Aveo glasses from the pictures with very nice blue plastic, replacement lenses, removable anti-fog protection with magnets and replaceable click ears with elastic. If you do not intend to stay in a tent, in a campsite or near refuges, you can leave your tent and sleeping bag at home. Hint 1! For retreats it wouldn’t hurt to have a travel sheet – you can find them at Decathlon silk – very light but a bit expensive.
When we arrived in Geneva, we took a pre-paid minibus that took us directly to the campsite in Saint Gervais. In the campsite, the cost was about 27 euros per tent day. Don’t imagine a Romanian campsite. It has showers, moon clean toilets, cooking area, machines with washers and dryers and lots of bright smiling blond people, kids running around in one and I think every type and brand of caravan in the world.. a lot Dutch, it would have gone from word to word.
July 23-24: Camping Les Dômes de Miage – Saint-Gervais
July 25: Day 1 – Saint Gervais – 1 h (by tram) – Nid D’Aigle (2372 m) – 2.5 h – Tete Rousse (3167 m)
July 26: Day 2 – Tete Rousse (3167 m) – 3 h – Gouter (3815 m)
July 27: Day 3 – Gouter – 5 h – Mont Blanc (4809 m) – Gouter – Tete Rousse
As I said, the route Nid D’Aigle (2372 m) – Tete Rousse (3167 m) is not difficult, being full of boulders but without steep slopes. It takes about 2.5 hours (800 m altitude). Keep in mind, however, that calculating the route in hours on a mountain like Mont Blanc is very relative. 3 hours for you may be 1 or 5 for others. The landscape gradually changes from grass to rocks and finally ice. We had the opportunity to pass the ibex goats which, unlike the black goats in Romania, are very Zen, being able to approach them a few meters only to have them take a step back.
At Tete Rouse you will be first introduced to the reverberating crackle of massive chunks of ice and the breathtaking views. Stones are periodically heard rolling and ice cracking with an impressive sound. If it’s sunny, the tan of the skin is guaranteed. The refuge itself is ok compared to Romania – more like a cabin. The meal is served but the food is not that tasty and the hosts, unlike the next refuge, are not that friendly. 16 beds in the room or more are shared. They don’t have running water but they have snow near the refuge. That was about the first day – woke up in the morning, packed again, tram, Tete Rousse – quite easy. At night in the refuge don’t forget earplugs – one of the most important pieces of equipment. If you don’t wake up rested the next day, you can’t do much or enjoy the sights properly.
From Tete Rousse to Gouter (3815 m) the route takes about 2-3 hours. It starts interestingly, with the Grand Couloir – a kind of crack that runs through the vertical mountain and on which stones fall under specific conditions. The most dangerous part to cross is about 40 m and must be crossed quickly, without blinking, because boulders fall. Fall – to say the least, fly at high speed about the height of a man. What we have done is to listen if something is heard. From the moment you hear the boulders starting up until you reach the crossing, it takes a while. So if nothing is heard, you have time to pass even if let’s say that the boulders start halfway up. The idea is not to trip, linger on the Grand Couloir passage or panic. Boulder falls near the Grand Couloir exposed passageway fluctuate from year to year. However, it does not mean that the danger of falls is completely gone once you pass the Grand Couloir exposed passage. The person in front of me dislodged a boulder of about several hundred kg, in which I hardly propped myself – being right behind her – so that it did not gain momentum and take her downhill but settled easily on the narrow path and stay there. I tore my shirt at that point in the process because the prop was full body to guide the boulder rather than resist it. If until this episode I was hopping from stone to stone, from this point on and especially on the way back, I started checking every stone I put my hand or foot on for stability.
A possible advantage of staying at Tete Rousse overnight without trying to reach Gouter directly, is that rocks fall less often in the morning than later in the day. Thus, leaving in the morning for Gouter, the risk is somewhat lower.
What I didn’t say until this point, we had met some friends earlier – they stayed in the tent the whole time and thus cut down the time and costs a lot. They basically set up their tent in the campsite, then at Tete Rousse, went straight up the summit (some of them) and came down much earlier than us, back to the campsite. It can be done that way, but it’s less comfortable, obviously.
Once we arrived at Gouter, we started eating, drinking beer and sleeping again. In fact, the whole expedition was much more relaxing than I expected and the pace was one of leisurely vacation. As a rule, the classic route is Tete Rousse – Varf – Tete Rousse and you only stop at Gouter (or not). I have practically never been lazy for a day. Hint 2! Reservations at refuges such as Tete Rousse and especially Gouter are made several months in advance and cannot be changed a few days in advance. Prices are somewhere around 45 – 50 euros if you don’t have special discounts (due to guides or other discounts).
On Wednesday, with the night in our heads, we got up and started for the summit. It went safely for a few hundred meters, then I left it alone with the safe. The insurance works as the French do – a guide for 2 or 3 people, because otherwise the rhythm is very destabilized and there are other risks. If Westerners climb only secured in the rope, about two tourists to a guide, we climbed pretty much the way we wanted.
The zig zag formed by the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of climbs to the top, with frontals on, was especially interesting. That’s how it is with Mont Blanc. When the weather is good, the classic route is the highway. We beat a lot of groups, others beat us. It can be said that we caught the sunrise on Mont Blanc :)).
From Gouter to the top, there is no longer the problem of bare rock, everything is ice and snow. It is healthy to avoid crevasses and trips in steep corners. There were also quite narrow passages in which you had to stick well with the ax and the anglers in the snow, further to the side
, more to the right, to make way for those coming from the opposite direction to pass. Hint 3! Most leave Gouter for the summit around 2-3 in the morning. From Tete Rousse they leave around 1 am. There is a kind of synchronization of tourists. That’s simply how it’s done. If you don’t want to leave at 2-3, you can leave around 5 in the morning from Gouter and thus intersect with those coming in the opposite direction on the wide slopes and not the narrow ones.
We also stopped at the Vallot bivouac refuge (4362) to warm up and rest. There were some people who had stayed there overnight, with the sack. Kind of cold for that.. I personally had no problems with the cold at all and hardly any with the altitude. I had even slept excellently at Gouter, earlier. I said hardly at all because towards the top I kind of felt like I was running out of gas. I had almost stopped at 20 steps, several times even at 5 steps. You somehow have to breathe more forcefully, at a higher rate than normal, to ensure the necessary amount of oxygen.
On top it’s pretty bad, it’s no exaggeration to say fascinating. You are above the clouds. I took some pictures there and took it downhill.
In some places, defying the groups of tourists roped to the guide, I went on the bottom a few tens of meters at a time, turning or braking with the ice axe. Bad idea if you’re into pants – they fray a bit. The descent is downright boring if the weather is good. Ok, nice view, but it doesn’t seem to end on the way down. It’s like after a night with a diva. After you reach the top you just want to drink something and tell someone about it but you don’t want to repeat :)). Anyway from the summit down, there is also the option to go down to Aiguille du Midi – Chamonix.
However, we regrouped at Gouter. Then we went down to Tete Rousse where we spent the night. Then, on July 28th, we went down to Nid D’Aigle, from there by tram and by 12-13 we were already in the campsite.
Two days of holiday consumption followed, on terraces, boulangeries and shops, and laziness. On the 29th I spent a lot of time at a swimming pool (with a semi-Olympic pool, beach and sauna) in Saint Gervais – 5 euros entrance plus briefs (you are not allowed to wear briefs like shorts, only sleeveless). It’s cool to sit by the pool in the Alps. But the French are a bit strange when it comes to business – it’s as if they don’t even need customers, they’re not welcoming hosts at all, just about nowhere. Then on July 30th we visited Chamonix where we ate very well and bought some cheap but old gear – Hint 4! it’s a cool store Peak Performance on Rue Paccard 231. I got a 39 euro puffer and some 39 euro fur hardcore gloves.
So, then on the 31st – it was a bad day, we were wandering through the airport in transit and we got home late, tired of sitting in the chair.
The slightly lower price of the whole trip was reflected in the rather poor quality of the guide’s services, the guide who also descended from the summit before us, but that’s another story. Basically, we kind of went up alone, we kind of came down alone. How are Romanians in general to say thank you for not running away with the advance? Anyway, guides from Romania are not allowed to practice guiding in France without some kind of international certificate (such as IFMA or others), but that matters less. Honestly, the services of a Romanian guide would only be for reservations and to show you the way, otherwise you don’t benefit from anything special.
That was about it. Mont Blanc – overrated in weight, underrated in beauty, expensive if you don’t skimp on boulangeries and wine. We went relaxed so the times shown here are not relevant if you want to perform. Actually don’t bother me with the technical details. I just hope it helps your overall impression.