The "normal" routes to Mont Blanc

Luciano Ratto and Pier Mattiel

Mont Blanc with its 4810,5 meters (last summer satellite detection 2001) is the highest elevation of the Alps between Italy and France, and it is therefore understandable that constitutes an objective framework for all lovers of high altitude climbers (collectors or 4000 not) that, at least once in life, aspire to repeat the feat of Jean Michel Paccard and Balmat that, at 18,23 8 dell'1786 August, first set foot on its summit [1].

But which path to follow to implement this project? André Roch in his book Large companies on Mont Blanc (Dall'Oglio publisher) quoted in the 1982 well 80 different routes; Today we estimate that they more than 100. With these notes, however, we do not intend to turn for expert climbers that do not need some of our tips, but the average climbers some of whom have turned to FORUM for information about the ways "normal" to White.

Therefore we want to open an exchange of ideas among mountain climbers, amateurs and professionals, who know the different climbing routes and descent of the White, about the advantages and disadvantages presented by each of these pathways. To do this, we also relied on the advice of Alpina Pier Guide Mattiel, Member of the Club 4000 and great connoisseur of the itineraries we want to deal with here.

We present then these streets and starting shelters:

1. from Rifugio Gonella (Italian normal route): 3072 m
2. "Aiguille du Gouter: 3817 "
3. "Grands Mulets: 3051 "
4. "Des Cosmiques Col du Midi: 3613 "

-i height differences between the shelters and the summit are as follows:

1. by Gonella: 1735m + 1100m from Combal to Gonella + 350m from La Visaille to Combal
2. by Gouter: 944m + 1421m to climb to the refuge
3. Grands Mulets: 1756m + 741m from Plan de l'Aiguille
4. Col du Midi: 1275m (theoretical), 1450 (real) + 268m descent / ascent from / all'Aig.du Midi

An examination of these few data it is clear the overall benefit of the way of the Col du Midi, but, of course, is not only to vertical meters whereas reference should be (though at a certain age matters, and how!), But also the difficulties, dangers and goals to the comfort offered by shelters from which we start.

-difficulties: By way of guidance only we report the degree of difficulty estimated by some authors for different routes:

1. PD / PD +
2. F + / PD
3. PD
4. PD / PD +

Anticipating the conclusions to which we want to go with this paper, we say that, in our opinion, the most elegant way to climb Mont Blanc has to cross from east to west; then climb up the Col du Midi along the way that the French call the "Trois Mont Blanc"; maybe, if you are in great shape, touching the peaks of Mont Blanc du Tacul and Maudit, before falling to Gonella refuge so as to realize a beautiful crossing and see closely two very different sides, from all points of view: landscapes, conduct of 'route, shelters with relative comfort or discomfort (!), crowding of the streets and shelters, etc.

But going in order we take the list of the normal instructions above:

1-off from the Italian GonellaInstead of climbing to describe it, we follow it downhill:

The first part of the descent is common to the normal French way that l ' "Arête des Bosses". Until just under the Vallot hut at an altitude of about 4300, after which you turn left (north-west), heading for the Dome du Gouter (4304m): no need to climb this peak that view from the Vallot is just over a hump of snow (although for collectors is essential climb it at least once), but it's enough around it on its south-west side, and then descend along the wide ridge that is gradually shrinking to become a real crest and follow it to touch a small top of 4002 m named "Piton des Italiens": from this point it bends decisively to the south and, always following a small ridge, is now descending towards the hill of the Aiguilles Grises (this way is that it also via des Aiguilles Grises). Normally far not encounter great difficulties: the passage upstream, to get around the Dome is sometimes tracked with wooden stakes, the ridge crest and mentioned are not too steep, little more than the famous "humps" dell'Arête Bosse des; at the top of the Piton des Italiens and the hill the path becomes a bit 'steeper and, when there is little snow and therefore outcrops bare ice, you can find the old iron anchors so this is the most challenging part of the descent. From the hill you still encounter a short steep section, and, sometimes, a small crevasse and then you reach the Glacier Dome: this is very crevassed, and, in my opinion, of all the glaciers of the Alps that I knew is that where you can find the deepest ravines and spectacular with a bell shape that is narrow at the top and wider at depth which makes them more attractive but also more dangerous. The route is being tracked but the path is very tortuous especially late in the season, however, following the precautions and driving techniques roped glacier that every good climber must know and apply, there are no particular problems. The situation is different if you must travel this glacier without trace after a snowfall, and perhaps with little visibility ... (to the wise few words).

Reached the refuge Gonella (3072 m) along a marked trail we descend a rocky cliff equipped and you reach the glacier Miage from which easily go down to the bottom of the Val Veny .

2-French normal route from the Aiguille du Gouter: This is undoubtedly the busiest street by mountaineers from all backgrounds, enticed by the lower elevation gain from the hut to the summit, but it is, in our view, a solution not recommended for several reasons: first, because the climb to the refuge of Gouter requires to travel the infamous Grand Couloir that many authors advise against the persistent risk of being targeted by stones discharged from the many climbers who ascend and descend on its shores and natural landslides caused by ice retreat that previously covered the bottom of this canyon and it was holding the stones. Luciano Ratto did not hesitate to write [2] and repeated on many occasions that what is considered by too many for too many mountaineers and guides the easiest way to reach the summit of White It is the most dangerous and deadly path in the Alps.

risky Rat fantasies? Well: we read what they write Devies and Henry, in no uncertain terms, in the guidance Vallot "La chaine du Mont Blanc" vol.1 °, 1973 edition, to pag.109: C'est un des lieux le plus meurtriers des Alpes easy ... mais dangereux et tres ... exposé exposé aux chutes de pierre... We think that the adjective meurtrier does not require translations and explanations.

There is no year in the damn gully do not encounter serious accidents.

But we also read the opinion of Pier Mattiel:

I personally try to keep it from ever rising not only for the Grand Couloir but also for the shelter because this is very bad, the building is outdated but this is less of a problem because the unbearable thing is to be in 200 on a terrace of less than 100 3800 square meters to meters, not to mention the food, inability to sleep because of crowding (average guests are double its capacity), the "sympathy" of the custodian, the various waste organic visitors, etc. In recent years I have made this road a few times uphill sleeping at Tete Rousse where you are very well: from this hut, starting at half past one, you can reach the Gouter at three-thirty-four, with a higher altitude but with better quality of overnight shelter, and virtually eliminating the risk of the couloir that for 90% are due to crowding. I walk down the rather more frequently assuming the risks involved: to note that compared to 15-20 years ago, the Grand Couloir has no more ice at the beginning of the season so the stones are no longer held; its crossing at the base and has to run on the steep and rocky debris along an old iron security cable ground but it is inconvenient to use, but fortunately this crossing takes minutes whereas the danger persists throughout the spur on which It takes place the ascent and descent. and yet - Concludes Pier - ... From the Gouter rise dogs and pigs, to hundreds per day, and there are proportionately few incidents.

What wrote believe that you have no other comments.

3 because of Grandes-Mulets:

This road uphill is good only in the spring if you want to climb to the White ski, otherwise it is far too long (1756 vertical meters). Going up on skis, conditions permitting, you can, come to the Grand Plateau, instead of heading towards the Vallot hut, go along the way of the Corridor and, having reached the Brenva hill, aim for the top along the east ridge (via the Col du Midi). In this way you can climb to the summit of Mont Blanc and down almost always with skis on their feet. If you prefer to go by Vallot you must bring your skis on their shoulders along the Arête des Bosses but still worth it, reached the summit, go down the Corridor.

This way is feasible and can be convenient to go downhill from those who rose from the Col du Midi to reach the Plan des Aiguilles, intermediate station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, but you should follow it only at the beginning of the season because in following the path in the midst of crevasses is complicated somewhat: in the summer of 2002, for example, was viable until mid-July, then opened a huge crevasse impossible to jump between the Grand and the Petit Plateau, for which it was traced a variation that instead of getting out on the Grand Plateau Vallot down from Dome du Gouter directly downstream of the Petit Plateau.

4-via the Col du Midi or the "Trois Mont Blanc"This route has already been briefly described on other pages of" FORUM " by Luke melindo. We integrate those notes with these other :

La Trois Mont Blanc It poses a real drop of 1450 1500-metersAgainst the theoretical 1275 because along its route there are two runs, one to step on the Mont Blanc du Tacul shoulder and another to step between Col Mieulet and Brenva Colle, this course without touching the peaks of Mont Blanc du Tacul and the Maudit because otherwise the gap rises to around 1700 meters. Technical difficulties are not excessive, but still must be prepared to overcome a crevasse and a short steep ice wall which, late in the season, you can also submit with fresh ice, which can then become a serious obstacle, especially downhill : sometimes the Chamonix guides are installing the useful wooden stakes to anchor a double rope, but who goes on a "normal", the White with 100 meters of rope in the bag? We then have to wait for another consortium to join the strings, or make do!

The judgment in this direction has already been expressed at the beginning of these comparisons; Pier nevertheless concludes his notes on this path: OK for an average climber.

In conclusion it is the way "normal" to White that we prefer and we feel to advise us. In addition to what has been written in favor of this pathway, we add the following advantages:

1 ° - fast, convenient, easy access to the refuge Des Cosmiques (base) by the arrival of the Aiguille du Midi cable car,

2 ° - the ability to find, prior booking essential (which is however also necessary in the other of the White shelters, but not exclusively), to eat and to sleep in a decent way and with some comfort (which is not insignificant before that a uphill), in that this is the most modern among the abovementioned shelters,

3 ° - being able to leave for the climb and rested without fatigue caused by long climbs in the previous day,

4 ° - the chance to go, if you for some reason you are unable to reach the summit of White, at least one of the Tacul and maybe even the Maudit, or, at best, the Trois Mont Blanc in one fell swoop,

5 ° - the ease of escape to the cable car Aiguille du Midi, or alternatively, that dell'Helbronner, if due to bad weather, the mountain of challenging conditions, of illness, accident, etc., Has been forced to back to the valley.

That's all. We await comments and observations.


[1] For details of this extraordinary enterprise that gave rise to mountaineering is read by Luciano Ratto: Michel Gabriel Paccard, a "near Turin" first on the summit of Mont BlancOn "scandere", Yearbook 1997 / 99 of the Turin Section of the CAI

[2] See the Magazine of the Young Mountain, October-December 1998, pag.37