FAQs - Climb & Ski Mont Blanc // Haute Route

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1. * Can I really climb Mont Blanc?

Climbing Mont Blanc is something anyone, young or old, can do with a good level of fitness and strong willpower. However, the days will be long - you will be in the mountains every day for 5 days, climbing for between 6 and 12 hours with only short breaks.

Previous mountaineering or rock climbing experience is strongly recommended. High altitude hikes (such as Kilimajaro) are great to know what to expect at altitude, but do not prepare you for the high mountains.

The weather can be extremely hot, or extremely cold. You will be carrying your own pack. You will be sleeping in bunks in mountain refuges with no running water. You will need equal doses of physical stamina and mental determination.

If you don't like sport, cold or windy weather, getting up early, or the idea of 12 hours of continuous effort, then don't fool yourself into thinking you can climb Mont Blanc so you can tick the box.

If you enjoy outdoor activities, don't mind bad weather and a bit of hardship, and appreciate the rewards that an effort such as this can bring, then please take the time to complete our questionnaire, which will give you a better insight into whether this is possible for you based on your current fitness and experience.

You may be ready to take the challenge right away, or we may recommend that you spend some additional time training.

Once you are ready to take on the challenge, click here to book.

* Can I really do the Haute Route?

First of all and the most important is to have previous ski touring experience, master downhill and uphill kick turns, and be able to ski in all snow conditions (style is less important!). You are engaged to do a 7 days trip with up to 8 hours walking with daily altitude ranges from 800 to 1200m. Slopes are up to 40 degrees and you have to be able to ski in varying snow conditions (deep powder, wind crusted, hard packed, etc). The climbing is not difficult in itself, except on technical parts, where you really have to be sure on your kickturns obviously, have a sure settled foot. We climb about 350m per hour and it can be strenuous with backpacks and changing weather and snow conditions. Therefore be sure that you are in good physical conditions and you can keep up physically and mentally with the pace of the group. You are sharing this trip with other persons so it is important that all the participants be aware of the Haute Route weekly program.The high mountain guide reserves the right to modify or interrupt the program at any time for safety reasons, technical or physical problems with one or several participants or due to bad weather and snow conditions.

2. What are the options in case of bad weather?

If the weather is bad (storms, high winds, etc), preventing a summit bid, there are two options.

We can either attempt another summit (for example the Gran Paradiso in Italy) if the weather is better there, or we can abandon the course and retry another time.

In this case we will give you a credit proportional to the number of days lost, to be used for your next attempt.

If you are in a group, this decision needs to be unanimous.

If the Mont Blanc is your exclusive objective, then you should consider the option of the a private guide for the summit bid, and in this case the decision will be yours.

3. What happens if I don't have the required level?

If your fitness or your technical level is not up to the required standard level and to the mountain conditions (ice on the ridge or on the path) to climb Mont Blanc or do the Haute Route then the guide can take the decision stop the climb as for the sake of you, the others in the group, and himself. Security above all. 
The normal route of Mont Blanc gets more and  more complicated and technical from year after year, due to  lack of snow in high mountains, to global warm up, so there are more and more icy passages. Depending on your skill and techniques using crampons, the guide is the only person responsable of the fact that you continue or turn back to the hut. If the guide takes the decision to turn back, there will be no discussion or complaints possible and no refunding.
If you have never down high mountain before, we highly recommend you to do our alpine introduction course before your Mont Blanc course.

Please ensure that when you book you are realistic about your fitness level and motivation.

If you hurt yourself or get ill during the course, the guide can also decide not to continue. In this case you will not be reimbursed but you may be able to claim on your insurance.

4. What's the difference between the 5 and 3 day courses?

From experience we have recognised that there is a wide variation between the mountain proficiency, technical experience, fitness and acclimatisation from client to client.

For this reason we offer 2 courses: 5 days, and 3 days.

The 5 day course is aimed at those with no or limited mountaineering experience, in order to introduce the necessary safety awareness, technical skills and acclimatisation. You will be expected to be very fit and co-ordinated (practice sport regularly), and highly motivated.

The 3 day course is for experienced mountaineers (can use ice axes, crampons, basic rope and safety techniques and have already climbed in the high mountains alpine grade F / PD) and are already acclimatised.

Before booking, please fill out our questionnaire which will help you choose which course is most suitable for you.

5. Is there a summit guarantee?

No, we cannot give a guarantee that you will summit.

Chamonix Mont Blanc Guides have a long history of safe, successful summits and happy clients. We will always make sure that each client joins the right course for them, so that they are climbing with other people with a similar level of experience.

However, there can always be circumstances which are beyond our control, for example weather, or an individual's fitness or motivation.

If the party is forced to retreat, we will give you a chance to return by offering you the lost days as a credit towards your next summit attempt.

Please remember you are not buying the summit - you are paying for the expertise of the guide, which alongside your own competence and determination will give you the best chance possible to succeed.

6. What happens if another client in my group abandons the ascent?

If your climbing partner has to abandon the final ascent, normally you will both have to descend with your guide.

If the decision is made at a manned refuge it may be possible for one client to rest safely while the competent client can ascend with the guide.

If you want to avoid this situation, please discuss with us the option of having a private guide for the final ascent.

7. Who will be my guide?

Your guide will be a UIAGM internationally qualified high mountain guide, who speaks both French and English.

This is the highest qualification for mountain guides, and only they are qualified to take you on high altitude glaciated terrain.

Your safety is your guide's primary concern. We have been working with our guides for many years, and they all have a profound knowledge of the Mont Blanc region.

8. Can I come by myself?

Yes you can. Based on your experience and fitness level we will place you in a group with other people who best match your ability.

For the summit attempt, this means just one other client (2:1 client to guide ratio). If you prefer, you can summit with a 1:1 client to guide ratio for an additional cost.

Please contact us to discuss this and other personalised options.

9. What if the course does not fill up?

For the 5 day Mont Blanc courses, the price is based on a group between 4 and 6 people. In the unlikely event that we do not have the minimum number (i.e. 4) then we will let you know 2 weeks before the course start date.

You will have the option to cancel with a full reimbursement, or to pay a supplement.

We can also see if there are spaces on our competitors courses availaible (please note that if their course is more expensive then you will be obliged to pay the difference).

For the 3 day Mont Blanc course, there is a maximum of 2 clients per guide. The price is based on 2 clients, but for a supplement you can also do this 1:1 which is many climber's preference to maximise their chance of summitting.

For the Chamonix-Zermatt ski course, the minimum number is 4. If we do not have the minimum number (i.e. 4) then we will let you know 2 weeks before the course start date.

You will have the option to cancel with a full reimbursement, or to pay a supplement for running the course with 2 or 3 people.

10. Where is my accommodation?

While in Chamonix you will usually stay in the 3* Hotel Pointe Isabelle, which is excellently located in Chamonix between the centre of town and the train station.

The comfort and service at this hotel is excellent, and the breakfast (included) is a perfect start to a day in the mountains! There are many excellent restaurants, cafes and shops on the same street.

If you have already have accommodation, or you would prefer to arrange your own, we can deduct the hotel night from the cost of your course.

If we have last-minute bookings or if it is a particularly busy period (e.g. the UTMB), the Pointe Isabelle may be fully booked, so we will book an equivalent 3* hotel, e.g. the Hotel Les Aiglons.

In the mountains you will be staying in mountain refuges, which offer simple but hearty dinners and breakfasts. There are toilets, but no showers in the Mont Blanc course refuges.

You cannot drink the tap water so you will have to purchase bottled water or other beverages. Sleeping is in dormitories; blankets are provided but sheets are not, so please bring a sleeping-bag liner.

11. What does the course price include?

  • Organisation of the trip by Chamonix Mont Blanc Guides
  • UIAGM certified high mountain guide for every day of the course. The ratio is 1 guide: 2 clients for the Mont Blanc ascent
  • All accommodation, including the night before the course
  • All meals (breakfasts, lunches, and dinners) except for dinner the night before, and dinner in Chamonix when sleeping in a hotel
  • Mountaineering safety equipment provided by your guide
  • Cablecars and transport within the Chamonix valley, free public transportation

12. What is not included in the course price?

  • Transport to and from Chamonix at the start and end of your course
  • Accommodation on the last day of your course (after the course is finished). We can book this on your behalf if you let us know
  • Dinner in Chamonix on days when you sleep at the hotel
  • Personal expenses (drinks in the refuges, additional snacks, toiletries etc)
  • Personal mountaineering equipment and clothing (equipment can be hired, please ask)
  • Single room supplement
  • Mountaineering insurance
  • Any extra expenses like hôtel in the valley, lift... due to unforseeable circumstances (bad weather, injury, lack of fitness etc...)

13. What equipment do I need?

Technical equipment for the Mont Blanc courses:

  • Mountaineering harness
  • Ice axe, straight handle, max 60 cm long
  • Insulated mountaineering boots with «Vibram» rigid soles
  • Crampons with rubber anti-balling plates
  • Telescopic walking poles (advised)
  • Climbing helmet

Personal equipment:

  • 35L rucksack
  • Sunglasses (100% UV blocking) and ski goggles
  • Wooly hat
  • Gloves: 1 pair warm mountaireering gloves + 1 pair thin lightweight gloves
  • Gaiters (short ones are better than long ones)
  • Thermal underwear
  • Fleece jacket
  • Goretex (or other waterproof & breathable) jacket
  • Goretex mountaineering trousers
  • Headtorch
  • Medical kit to include sunblock, painkillers
  • Water bottle
  • Penknife
  • Sleeping bag liner

14. What equipment do you provide?

Your guide will provide the ropes and additional safety equipment.

You can hire from us the following:

  • Mountaineering harness
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Telescopic walking poles
  • Helmet

We do not rent boots, which you can rent / buy at any one of the mountaineering shops in Chamonix. Equipement for other courses sent by email directly.

15. Can I discuss my specific requirements with you?

Yes, absolutely. We encourage you to contact us to discuss any questions you may have prior to signing up to any of our courses, in order to avoid any surprises later.

We would strongly advise you to discuss in particular any medical issues or questions you may have.

16. Do you run any other courses?

Yes we do. We run various other courses during summer and winter including climbing and skiing, in the French and Swiss Alps, and also expeditions abroad from Norway to the Himalayas to the Antarctic.

We can also organise a private guide for any number of days, at any time of the year. Feel free to let us know if there's something else which interests you.

17. How do I get to Chamonix?

The closest airport is Geneva, and from there you can take a bus or airport transfer to Chamonix.

We have negotiated a special rate with Mountaindropoffs.com (use discount code CHXMBG). Otherwise Ouibus, Easybus, Alpybus and ChamExpress all do the Geneva - Chamonix route.

18. What insurance do I need?

As a minimum, you will need rescue, repatriation and medical insurance.

Check with your credit card insurance, or your local Alpine Club. Otherwise www.worldnomads.com offers global alpine insurance for short or long periods.