Fly to Geneva; transfer to our hotel in Les Houches, just outside Chamonix. Those not flying with group will rendezvous with us at the hotel. You can have an optional lunch here, which will be followed by a full briefing and introduction to the trip. After this you will have the opportunity to hire technical equipment with our local partners and enjoy some free time in Chamonix, before driving back in time for dinner.
NB: You can leave any items that you don't need for the expedition in a bag/case in the hotel as we return here on day 4.
After a hearty breakfast the guide will meet us at the chalet and check that everyone is correctly equipped. Weather permitting, this is the start of the three-day circuit that is planned to give you the opportunity to acclimatize to the alpine altitudes in preparation for an attempt on Mont Blanc. We will take a short transfer up the valley to the village of Le Tour, then take a small two-stage cable-car to the Col de Balme. From here we begin our walk to the Albert Premier refuge, located at 2702m on Glacier du Tour. Here we spend the afternoon training in snow and ice climbing techniques on the surrounding glacier.
Walking time: 4h
Altitude gain: +450m
Maximum Altitude: 2702m
Today is a great opportunity to put yesterdays lessons into practice as we ascend from the refuge to make an attempt on Tête Blanche (3422m). The route is not too steep but most people will begin to feel the effect of altitude. From here we continue through the Col Supérieur du Tour to reach the Trient refuge in neighbouring Switzerland. There will be time to rest or relax during the afternoon.
Walking time: 6h
Altitude gain: +700m / -700m
Maximum Altitude: 3429
Starting from the Trient refuge, depending on weather conditions we steadily climb either the Col du Midi des Grands (3523m) or return over the Col Supêrieur du Tour. We then descend past the Albert Premier refuge where we can take a short break before continuing our descent all the way back to the village of Le Tour. From here we transfer back to our hotel in Les Houches.
Walking time: 6 to 7h
Altitude gain: +400m / -1000m
Maximum Altitude: 3235m
NB: The itinerary for the next three days will depend on the weather and the route that your group will be attempting. This decision is made by our local partners and can depend on both weather forecast or availability in the relevant mountain refuges. It is unlikely that we will be able to confirm the route at the time of booking, but the plan for 2013 is that most groups will attempt Mont Blanc by the Gouter route.
This is the first step of the Mont Blanc ascent and it is relatively easy. Starting from Les Houches we take the Bellevue cable-car to reach the Bellevue train station where we catch the Victorian Rack railway train ('Tramway du Mont Blanc') to Nid d'Aigle (2372 m). From here we walk up a winding track offering a stunning view over the Chamonix valley. Shortly we arrive on a snow-covered area approaching the brand new Tête Rousse refuge (3167 m). We spend the whole afternoon relaxing, acclimatising, and contemplating the wonderful view of Aiguille de Bionnassay's North face.
Walking time: 3 to 4h
Altitude gain: +800m
Maximum Altitude: 3167m
Leave the chalet in the morning and travel to Chamonix, where we take the Aguille de Midi cable car to Aguille de Midi (3842m). From here we make a short descent to the Refuge des Cosmiques (3613m). This will only take about 1 hour and the rest of the day is spent resting at the refuge and acclimatising further.
Walking time: 1h
Altitude gain: -250m
Maximum Altitude: 3613m
This morning (between 10 and 11am), additional guides will join us at the refuge for the next couple of days and hopefully the summit of Mont Blanc! Once it has been decided who will be roped up with who, we start our ascent to the Goûter refuge. Soon we have to cross the famous 'Grand Couloir' where there are many loose stones and possible rock fall. Extreme care must be taken here and the guides will give precise instructions. A rocky scramble across a steep arete brings us to the Goûter refuge. This section would be problematic for anyone suffering from vertigo. From the refuge, we have an outstanding panorama of the surrounding mountains.
Note : In case bad weather is forecast for the next day, after a short break in the Goûter refuge it may be possible to go directly to Mont Blanc summit this afternoon, although this would make for an extremely tough day. The main guide will make this decision according to the conditions and the level of the group.
Walking time: 3h
Altitude gain: +600m
Maximum Altitude: 3817m
An early start (approx 1.00am). We have a quick breakfast (it's important to eat something) and then with head-torches start our ascent of Mont Blanc by the 'Three Summits of Mont Blanc' (Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc itself). Within 2 hours we should reach the shoulder of Tacul, before descending a short distance and climbing the slope towards Mont Maudit. The last 50 metres of this is quite a steep pitch. From here we descend again to the Col de la Brenva before making the final push to the summit of Mont Blanc (4810m) via the rocks of les Petits Mulets. The whole climb should take approximately 6 hours. There are two possibilities for the descent: either we descend the same way and spend the night in the Cosmiques refuge, or we descend by the Goûter route, in which case we'll spend the night in the Goûter refuge. The guide will decide which way it is better to go.
Walking time: 8 to 9h
Altitude gain: +1350m / -1350m or -1000m
Maximum Altitude: 4810m
Waking-up at 2am, we eat a quick breakfast and start the ascent to Mont Blanc. We walk quietly and regularly, with the route lit by our head torches, to reach the Dôme du Goûter (4304m). Dawn usually arrives and the sun starts to shine as we reach the Vallot emergency shelter (4362m). The summit is now within range as we start our ascent of the majestical and often exposed Les Bosses ridge before suddenly discovering the summit at 4810m. Welcome to the highest point in Western Europe! We descend by the same way with a break in the Goûter refuge, before continuing all the way into the valley at Les Houches. You shouldn't underestimate how physically challenging this day will be and the descent in particular can be very tough and tiring. Back in the comfort of our hotel we enjoy a well earned shower, dinner and presentation ceremony.
Walking time: 10h
Altitude gain: +1000m / -2500m
Maximum Altitude: 4810m
The descent depends on the refuge we chose the day before. If we slept in the Cosmiques refuge, we will reach the Aiguille du Midi cable-car (after having climbed the Aiguille du Midi ridge). And if we slept in the Goûter refuge, we will have to descend through the Aiguille du Goûter road to reach the Nid d'Aigle and catch the train down to Les Houches for a well earned shower, dinner and presentation ceremony.
Transfer to Geneva. Fly to London.