FATMAP difficulty grade
Although this is only the access day for Mont Blanc it is still a big day with significant height gain.
Ideally take the first lifts to Nid d’Aigle, arriving at 9.30am (summer 2019).
This is either via the train direct from Le Fayet or St Gervais, or cable car from Les Houches, then train from Bellevue.
If you want an even earlier start in really hot weather, then an alternative would be to get the first cable car from Les Houches to Bellevue at 7.30am, then take the direct footpath from there to the Tête Rousse Hut.
This would only save time for the fittest, as it adds significantly to the height gain.
Follow the well-marked footpath from Nid d’Aigle towards the Tête Rousse Hut at 3167m.
Bypass the hut in order to save time, as being as early as possible on the next section is advisable.
Put your crampons on just above the hut, as on the next slopes you will need them, and you want to minimise the stops from here on up.
Ahead lies the infamous crossing of the Grand Couloir, which is a well-known accident blackspot.
Indeed from time to time it becomes so dangerous that the Mayor of St Gervais forbids access to the hut, closing this approach.
There is a cable that traverses the couloir, which some people clip into, though it is debatable if this makes it safer, as you may be quicker crossing without it.
Certainly don’t stop in the couloir but quickly head to the relative safety of the other side.
The danger is rockfall, mainly spontaneous from the slopes high above the couloir, but some is from other climbers.
From the far side of the couloir is 600m of steep easy scrambling on mixed rock, snow and sometimes a little ice.
There are numerous sections of cable to follow and you may also choose to clip into some of them for security.
The route itself is self-evident, leading to the ridge of the Aiguille du Goûter, followed by a short snowy walk to the hut itself at 3835m.
It is a masterpiece of engineering, built at great expense in 2013, with a commanding position and view, visible from afar.