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Climbing Mont Blanc – FAQ’S

Here are a few answers to the most commonly asked Mont Blanc related questions...

How will the altitude affect me?

The altitude affects everyone, certainly you will breathe more and move slower than you would at a lower altitude. One of the purposes of the warm up phase is to get acclimatized to a moderate altitude before attempting Mont Blanc. Indeed, if you are unable to get high enough for acclimatization, then you wouldn’t be able to attempt Mont Blanc, as it would be unsafe because you would be very likely to develop altitude sickness. During our initial meeting in Chamonix we talk about altitude and acclimatization in detail.

How technical is the route?

Mont Blanc certainly isn’t just a walk. Taking the Gouter route as an example, there is some rock and snow mixed ground to scramble up for about 600m from the Tete Rousse hut, which would be about a grade II scramble in the UK. Often we wear crampons for this section. Higher up on the Bosses ridge, there are some narrow sections, and here you will need good crampon skills and a head for heights. It’s not nearly as exposed as some alpine ridges, but you will need to be happy on a reasonably narrow ridge.

What equipment would I need?

View our Kit List page.

Can I hire equipment for the climb?

Yes – we hire all technical equipment such as ice axes, crampons, harnesses and helmets etc. You can hire mountaineering boots in Chamonix at the beginning of the trip.

What are the “huts” like?

The mountain huts, or refuges, are more like basic hotels. Certainly not like a garden shed/hut! They have dormitory style sleeping accommodation and often sleep around a hundred people at a time. The breakfasts and dinners are served on a set menu basis, and you can buy lunches, soft and alcoholic drinks and snacks. They are pretty comfortable, but can get quite busy in the main season, where you may be sleeping in a room with twenty other people, all getting up in the middle of the night to climb Mont Blanc!

How much food should I carry with me on the climb?

We very rarely stop for a proper lunch stop on the mountain. Instead we have lots of small natural breaks where you can have a snack and a drink of water. It’s important to keep moving and not get cold as well. As such it’s best to have food that you can eat on the go, and won’t get too cold. I normally avoid fruit on the mountain, but eat snack bars, flapjack, sandwiches and sometimes a fruit smoothy.  During our meeting and the warm up phase you can experiment and be advised by us on what and how much to take.

What time of year is best for climbing Mont Blanc?

The main climbing season is the beginning of June to the end of September. It is possible to climb outside of this main season, but often the main huts are shut and there may be more snow, or colder weather on the mountain. July and especially August are the most popular months.

Is Mont Blanc a dangerous climb?

Mont Blanc certainly is a serious mountain, it’s height means it catches weather and snow fall all year round. Obviously if you’re hiring a guide then it’s one of our main jobs to assess any hazards and plan appropriately. We generally use the classic Gouter route as it’s much less avalanche prone than the other routes on the mountain. Safety is certainly our number one priority, and we wouldn’t even set foot on the mountain if we thought conditions were unsafe.

What are my chances of summiting?

It depends! On weather, conditions, your fitness etc. In 2014 I summited on eight out of ten attempts, but it’s worth noting that all of my clients had been well trained, vetted and acclimitised before the trip. If you book a six day course, and therefore have two potential summit days, you stand a pretty good chance. The uncertainty is an integral part of mountaineering.

What happens if the weather/conditions/fitness prevents a summit attempt?

What happens if the weather/conditions/fitness prevents a summit attempt? Before the summit attempt we give you an honest prediction of weather, conditions and your fitness, meaning we can make a team decision if something isn’t looking ideal. We would then switch to a different mountain, near Chamonix or Switzerland, there are a lot of very good options.

How fit do I need to be?

The fitter the better depending on the route, Mont Blanc is around a twelve hour round trip, with about 1700m of ascent. So your training needs to reflect this. The fitter you are the more chance you have of summiting, and the more you will enjoy the ascent and descent.

Guided Matterhorn Ascent – FAQ’s

Before reading the Matterhorn FAQ’s, you should read through of our main Matterhorn Ascent page...

I want to hire a guide just for the summit day

Yes you can, but not with us. We vet and train all our clients no matter what your previous experience. This is for the safety and security of the whole team, both you and your guide. Our minimum Matterhorn booking is five days.

Can I hire the equipment required from you?

Yes, we have a large range of hire equipment available to rent which is suitable for the ascent of the Hornli ridge. Click here for more details.

Do you have turnaround times?

Absolutely. The main turnaround point is the emergency Solvay hut which is at roughly 4000m. Before the climb your guide will discuss the turnaround time depending on conditions and other parties on the route. These timings must be adhered to, as they give a very good indication of the total time you would be climbing for.

What is the best time to climb the Matterhorn?

The Matterhorn and the Hornli ridge are graded for good conditions, when the rock is dry and the only snow is on the shoulder and upper slopes. These conditions are mostly found during July and August. But can vary every season.

I’m thinking of climbing with a friend, can we hire a guide between us for the summit day?

No, the Matterhorn is guided at a 1:1 ratio. You can climb the first three days of our Matterhorn programme at a 1:2 ratio, and the last three days at 1:1.

I’ve heard the Matterhorn is a very busy climb, is that true?

Well, it’s the famous mountain in the alps. So yes, it can be. Often, if you climb early or mid week it can be quieter. I’d like to make a traverse of the Matterhorn, up the Italian lion ridge and down the Hornli ridge on the Swiss side. Yep, we can guide you on the traverse if the Mountain. We would do this on a private guiding basis on a six day booking. The price is the same as our Hornli ridge normal programme.

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