Ski from the summit of Western Europe with one of our IFMGA Mountain Guides
It’s the highest mountain in Europe – and yes, you can ski from the very summit.
This is classic ski mountaineering, snow aretes, crampons, crevasses and variable snow. All combined to give an extremely memorable day out in the high mountains. Mont Blanc is a big mountain, and the ski ascent is a tough proposition and the potential ski mountaineer needs to be fit, able and experienced.
We ski guide Mont Blanc each spring, and provide a acclimatisation and training package beforehand. You will need to have slept at altitude (above 3000m) for at least one night, preferably two. We practice with crampons ascending small peaks around Chamonix before making the two day ascent of Mont Blanc itself.
Ski Mountaineering on Mont Blanc – Route description
The classic ski route ascends to the Grand Mulet refuge on the first day, an ascent of around 800m. After catching the first section of the Aiguille du Midi lift we make a long rising traverse to reach the Bossons Glacier. Here we normally rope up to go through a particularly crevassed zone and then up to the refuge itself.
Very early the next morning we have a small breakfast, and then with head torches on, we start the actual ascent. After some skinning we climb the Arete Royale to the Dome du Gouter, where we then put the skis back on to get to the emergency Vallot refuge. From here the snow ridges are narrow, and we continue on foot to the summit itself.
Depending on conditions and ability we can either ski the north face from the summit, or reverse our route in about an hour to the Vallot refuge before donning skis and joining the descent route.
The ski down is full-on glacial terrain, so we keep an eye out for the best route to avoid crevasses and seracs. We quickly pass the Grand Mulet refuge and normally press on to the mid station lift at the Aiguille du Midi. A normal round trip from the refuge to the mid station is done in a little under twelve hours, around 1900m vertical ascent, 2540m descent.
The maximum ratio for a guided ascent is 1:2. Clients cover the guides and their own hut expenses, plus they’re lift passes for the Aiguille du Midi.
The training and acclimatisation phase is flexible, and tailored to your prior experience and acclimatisation. Our five day programme is designed to give you some training and acclimatisation whilst arriving at the foot of Mont Blanc with energy for the big day.
The best time of year is normally mid-April through to mid-May. It does vary from season to season and is totally dependant on conditions. The second half of April is a good bet.
Example Ski Mont Blanc five day Itinerary
Day 1 – A morning meeting and equipment check in Chamonix with your guide for the week. We then head out for some skiing and skinning at moderate altitude, the Grand Montet being a favourite. Checking the gear and getting your ski legs again is a good idea before we head into the mountains proper. It also gives us a good chance to check out your skiing and touring too.
Day 2 – We head through the Mont blanc tunnel to the Helbronner lift to access to Italian side of the Vallee Blanche. We will do some skinning and skiing on the glacier. We then spend a night in the Torino refuge which at 3650m is very good acclimatisation.
Day 3 – We do some more skinning and skiing from the refuge whilst this time incorporating some mountaineering training. There are lots of possibilities from the Torino refuge including the Aiguille Marbarees, Entreves, Tour Ronde etc. Again, the aim of the day is practice whilst getting used to the altitude. Night in Chamonix
Day 4 – We catch a morning lift up to the Plan d’Aiguille (Aiguille du Midi lift) where we can then skin across and up to the Grand Mulet refuge. This takes us around three – four hours and is quite an involved Ski Tour. The glacier is quite crevassed crossing the “Jonction” and we normally skin roped up across this section.
Day 5 – A very early start means skinning in head torches right from the hut, around crevasses and on up the north ridge of the Dome du Gouter. This soon steepens and we put skis on the rucksacks and start climbing roped up on crampons. As the ridge leans back the skis go back on and we cross the shoulder of the Dome du Gouter, just as the sun starts to rise.
The route now joins the standard Gouter ridge climb, and we normally finish up the Bosses ridge with skis on the sacks again. The ascent from the Grand Mulet is tough, with a large amount of height gain (1800m+) with a lot of it at high altitude. Seven to eight hours is a good time to have in mind.
Depending on snow conditions and your ski ability we may ski from the summit down the north face (slopes up to 45 degrees and crucial turns above crevasses) or we quickly descend back to the emergency Vallot refuge where it is much easier to ski down to a junction with the north face route and the down the “corridor” back to the Grand Mulet refuge and then on to the Plan d’Aiguille and Chamonix.
Mont Blanc on skis is extremely physical and tiring. It is common to spend tweleve hours for the ascent and descent and you must be capable of making good safe turns with a rucksack, in any snow conditions and at altitude. All after having done eight hours of ski mountaineering! Not that we want to put you off, but you must be well prepared before the trip. If your not sure, then a weekends ski touring with us prior to attempting Mont Blanc is a very good idea.
Ski Mont blanc 2017 Dates and Prices
Monday 1st – Friday 5th May 2017. Price per person – £1395
Private guiding is available on other dates upon request.
Our prices are for guiding only and include Guiding fees, Travel within Chamonix/Courmayeur and Guides lift tickets.
You will need to split ongoing costs between the group such as Hut Fees (typically 65€ half board) and Lift tickets. Other expenses to consider are equipment hire, rescue insurance and accommodation in Chamonix.
Please do contact us with any questions you might have.