One of Europe’s most amazing natural sights is surely Mont Blanc; trekking it is a wonderful adventure, and can be as tough or as leisurely as you want it to be. The Alps have routes to suit every level of trekker, and enough sumptuous scenery to keep all visitors to the mountains, lone or in a group, enthralled for days. Mont Blanc itself, standing 4,810 metres above sea level and covered with dazzling white snow, has fired the imaginations of artists and poets for centuries.Before going, it’s worth thinking about what you want most from the experience – a challenging climb, a pleasant ramble, a chance to sample Alpine life in several countries, or inspiration for your masterpiece?
Pick your route and pace accordingly and you’re off! Read on for some points to consider when planning for the Mont Blanc trekking experience that suits you best.Choose your route. A favourite route for many is the Tour du Mont Blanc. Trekking this circuit around the mountain lets you travel through Switzerland, Italy and France, staying in comfort at charming Alpine hotels along the way.
This route is famous for the bonhomie of locals and fellow travellers, the variety of scenery, and the chance to sample the life (and cuisine!) of three countries. The walking is easy in some places and strenuous in others, so a good strategy is to leave the toughest parts to last. Another classic trek is the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, with more ascent and higher altitudes than the Tour. Then for the truly adventurous there’s the summit trek, as rewarding as it is challenging with stunning icy vistas – you really need to prepare and pace yourself for this one, so try reading some successful climber’s accounts to get you into the right mindset.
What to take?
This depends on your route! Conditions vary hugely between altitudes. Serious winter gear is of course essential for the summit. While much of the Tour de Mont Blanc can be done warmer garb for the high points (like the Fenêtre d’Arpette, at 2,665 metres). Waterproofs are vital wherever you go, as are good boots. How much camping equipment again depends on your route and style – one of the joys of the Tour is that you don’t need to carry much gear with you, as you can stay at hotels all the way. The other great essential for Mont Blanc trekking is a means of recording your experience – a camera, or if you’re feeling especially creative, a notebook or sketchpad. You never know; works composed here before, like Shelley’s poem Mont Blanc, have gone down in history…Aim for the top! For trekkers hoping to reach the summit, being well prepared in body and mind is vital. Some ‘technical’ experience is also essential such as the use of ice axe, crampons and rope work; this is a serious undertaking. Make sure you work your way up to it with smaller, but still challenging, acclimatisation climbs; your hard-won Alpine sunrise will make every step feel worthwhile. Those following less strenuous routes don’t have to miss out on the view, though! Cable cars are available to take you from Chamonix to Aiguille du Midi – save this for the end, so you can treat yourself to a glorious panorama of the mountain you’ve walked around.
Jude Limburn Turner is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company who run several Silk Road tours. Operating in Asia for over 20 years, they now offer treks and tours worldwide, including destinations in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central and South East Asia.