Mont Blanc, 4808m. The 3 Monts Route

Aiguille du Midi

Chamonix

Saint-Gervais-les-Bains

Skyway Monte Bianco

A huge day out through very complicated glacial terrain to the highest peak in Western Europe

Also in Haute-Savoie, France

Alpine Climbing Moderate

Distance
15 km
Ascent
1.5 km
Descent
2.9 km
Low Point
2.4 km
High Point
4.8 km
Gradient
41˚
Mont Blanc, 4808m. The 3 Monts Route Map

The route as described here starts from the Aiguille du Midi lift. The vast majority of people will make a very short approach day, and spend the night in the Cosmiques Hut, leaving after a 1am breakfast, in order to complete the descent before it gets dangerous. It may also be prudent to stay in the Goûter Hut after the traverse and descend the following day, before the steep slopes below the hut soften and the rockfall starts.

Description

From the Aiguille du Midi take the exposed ridge down, then traverse the flat slopes over the Col du Midi. From here follow the well tracked route up the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul. This varies in position and difficulty. One of the skills is knowing what length of rope to have between you and the others in your group - is the greatest hazard the steepness of the slope, or the crevasse danger? Bypass the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul by taking a gently descending traverse down to the lowest point below the slope of Mont Maudit. At time of writing (July 2019) the seracs and crevasses on Mont Maudit were in a threatening position, so it is worth seeking bang up to date information from the Guides Office or the guardian of the Cosmiques Hut. Assuming there is a safe way through, negotiate this steep slope, aiming for a weakness on the NW shoulder of Mont Maudit. This is the steepest part of the whole route, but there is a small rock island half way up, which provides intermediate belays if needed. From the shoulder an exposed traverse to the L take you to the flat area of Col Brenva. The final slopes to the summit of Mont Blanc are seemingly endless, as the slope is foreshortened and the altitude will be slowing you down.

Marvel in the incredible views, as if from a plane you are so high, though most don’t linger long as the slightest breeze will feel Baltic at this height. Also the safety of the descent needs to be foremost in your mind, and a big part of that relates to the time of day. Descend the well-tracked normal route towards the Goûter Hut, initially down the Bosses Ridge. This is exposed near the top, but gets progressively easier as you descend, passing the Vallot Hut at 4300m. From there downwards it is quite straightforward to the Goûter Hut at 3835m. If you are not staying here then do not delay, but continue down the steep mixed slopes to the Tête Rousse Hut. This is festooned with fixed cables for most of its length, which can be held or clipped into as desired. Rockfall is a real problem, particularly once the sun gets on it after midday, but can occur at any time. Some of this is from other climbers but some is natural from spontaneous release. Of particular danger is the crossing of the Grand Couloir at the bottom of the slope, where there is a cable that can be clipped into, though it is debatable if this makes it safer, as it may slow your crossing of the Couloir.

Relax once you are on the far side of it and you should be able to remove crampons now. Get some refreshment at the Tête Rousse hut then follow the footpath down to the Nid d’Aigle at 2360m, where you can get the train down to St Gervais, or train and cable car down to Les Houches. An unforgettable day and a huge effort!

Difficulty

Moderate

May involve slightly more complex glacier hikes, easy but possibly long rock ridges and steep snow up to 45 degrees. Equivalent to PD, PD+

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The route features some exposed and/or difficult to protect sections.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

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

Best time to visit

June, July, August

Equipment required

  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

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Guidebooks in this area