Mont Blanc North Face

Aiguille du Midi

Chamonix

A satisfyingly long descent from the Alps' highest summit.

Ski Touring Difficult

Distance
22 km
Ascent
2.9 km
Descent
2.9 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
2.3 km
High Point
4.8 km
Gradient
37˚
VIEW ON MAP
Mont Blanc North Face Map

Description

This ultra-classic ski mountaineering itinerary gives one of the longest possible descents in Europe. It is also the only way to ski Mont Blanc from its summit without engaging in true extreme skiing. This route is very popular when in condition, however it should by no means be underestimated. The climb up is very arduous and can present some mountaineering challenges; an often-icy ridge on the Dôme de Goûter and the final Bosses Arête leading up to the summit. While the descent rarely exceeds 35 degrees in steepness it is a very serious high mountain route with significant serac and crevasse hazard as well as problems associated with high altitude.

Steeping into skis on the summit is guaranteed to be a memorable experience for any ski mountaineer. Good powder conditions can sometimes be found top to bottom in spring time and the descent offers many good pitches between 25 and 35 degrees. Competent split-boarder mountaineers should not be put off attempting this route but with the caveat of being prepared to deal with a couple long flat sections.

This route is normally done over two days. Starting from the Plan d’Aiguille skin under the north face of the Aiguille du Midi and out onto the impressive Bossons Glacier just above La Jonction. Stepping off the Bossons Glacier, crossing it and getting onto the slopes leading up to the Grand Mulets hut can sometimes be tricky due to crevasses. Most parties spend a night at the stunningly positioned Grands Mulets hut before getting a very early alpine start the next day.

There are two options on the way up. Climbing the North Ridge of the Dôme de Goûter has less exposure to objective hazard and is becoming more and more popular. However, it can sometimes be very icy for a short passage (aluminum crampons are not recommended). The alternative option is to skin up all the way to the Vallot hut by way of the Petit and Grand Plateau. This route is technically easier but far more exposed to objective hazard due to the active serac band on the Petit Plateau.

Both routes converge just below the famous and historic Refuge Vallot, which began life as an observatory and is now an emergency shelter. After climbing this far, most parties take the opportunity to have a rest in the Refuge before climbing the iconic and exposed Bosses ridge to the summit of Mont Blanc.

From the summit of Mont Blanc ski down the north face trending slightly rightwards, and then back left on the ramp. This ramp is the steepest section of the entire descent and soon brings you out beneath the monstrous seracs of the north face. Don’t linger here! Continue the descent on beautiful glacial slopes taking care to avoid the odd large crevasse. Retrace the same route back to the Plan d’Aiguille, transitioning to skins after crossing the Bossons Glacier. If conditions allow (possible in March or April) continue down the Bossons Glacier and down to the Tunnel du Mont Blanc.

Difficulty

Difficult

Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

March, April, May, June

Features

  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area