There are so many superlatives to use when describing the Mont Blanc. The snow-covered dome of the Mont Blanc has always intrigued adventurers and its first ascent was followed shortly thereafter by the birth of the mountaineering sport. As a result, the villages of Chamonix and Courmayeur received a tourism boom still profit from itto this day.
About the Mont Blanc
Reaching 4810 meters of altitude, the Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps and in Western Europe. Yes, we do say Western Europe since Mount Elbrus in the Kaukasus region in Russia is considered the highest peak in Europe—a fact questioned by the people of Chamonix as they consider the Elbrus to be in Asia. The Mont Blanc is part of massif which contains many peaks including Aiguille du Midi, Grandes Jorasses and Dent de Géant.
The peak is located on the border of France and Italy, although the normal route is the Gouter Route which starts at the French side of the mountain. Despite being the highest mountain in the Alps, the Mont Blanc is technically not that difficult and is rated PD. However, climbing it should not be underestimated as the route traverses crevasses and requires a basic knowledge of alpine mountaineering. Mont Blanc is one of the mountains with the highest number of deaths. Every year, several climbers die on the Mont Blanc massif.
The summit was reached for the first time on August 8th, 1786 by two local people of Chamonix: Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard. Due to this feat, they could claim the price that Horace-Bénédict de Saussure had promised.
Accommodations around the Mont Blanc
Both Chamonix and Courmayeur are great places to stay to explore the region around Mont Blanc, with Chamonix in France being the best, if you are looking for a fine hotel, these are worth checking out:
Hotel Mercure Chamonix les Bossons, a 4-star contemporary chalet atmosphere at the foot of the Bossons and Taconnaz glaciers, close to the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Mer de Glace train. Relaxation is guaranteed in the wellness area with sauna, indoor pool, whirlpool bath and a view of Mont Blanc.
Le Refuge des Aiglons, this 4 star establishment, resolutely contemporary, in the heart of Chamonix gets a makeover before the winter.
Hotel Le Morgane, a 4-star hotel with the sporty atmosphere of Chamonix. The style and concept of the Morgane stand out from the traditional Alpine hotels.
The valley in the Haute Savoie is one of the top destinations in the French Alps for hiking, paragliding, biking, and as a starting base for an ascent of the Mont Blanc. The reputation of this large village mainly comes from the first ascent in 1786. This was the birth of mountaineering as we know it today. The main street of the village is full of bars, restaurants, and outdoor shops offering the best gear for your hiking or climbing adventure. Accommodations in Chamonix are – as you can expect – pricey. The high number of campsites offer a budget alternative but for thoselooking for a cheaper place to stay; the neighboring villages of Argentière and Les Houches is your best choice.
Courmayeur is to Italy what Chamonix is to France. It is the base for Mont Blanc ascents on the Italian side of the massif. The village is situated at the end of the Aosta Valley, near the entrance of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Views on the Mont Blanc are more impressive from Courmayer due to the steeper Italian face. Accommodations are similar to those in Chamonix.
The Refuge des Cosmiques is located on the shoulder between Col du Midi and the southwest ridge of Aiguille du Midi. This makes it the the second highest mountain refuge in the French Alps. It is located at an altitude of 3593 meters and is often used as a starting base for Mont Blanc ascents (Three Monts route) . The hut has about 140 beds costing 42 euro (breakfast included) to 66 euro (half pension).
The Gouter Hut is a mountain refuge located on the normal climbing route to the summit of Mont Blanc. In 2013, the old Gouter Hut was replaced by a new, more modern-looking building thatopened that same year. It is the highest refuge on the trail and offers a great alternative for the Tete Rousse hut, situated a few hundred meters lower. The Gouter Hut has 120 beds available for mountaineers.
Refuge du Lac Bleu
This mountain hut can be found in the heart of the Aiguille Rouges mountain range close to Lac Bleu, a popular hiking destination. This makes the refuge a popular lunch stopover during a hike to Lac Bleu. Besides lunchtime meals, the 2352-meter high mountain hut can accommodate up to 40 people. It can easily be reached from the Plan d’Aiguille cable car station.
The Bellachat Refuge is a very basic mountain cabin at 2152 meters of altitude. There are no hot showers and the only restroom is an outside toilet. The three dormitories available for overnights are side by side, and you should bring your own sheets. Still, the Bellachat refuge is a popular place to visit due to its exceptional views of the Mont Blanc. The sunny terrace is a great place for a lunch stop. Lunch includes typical alpine food such as homemade soups, salads, local cheeses, meat and blueberry tarts.
Hiking in the Region of Mont Blanc
Grand Balcon Nord to Montenvers
The hike starts from the Plan d’Aiguille cable car station and leads via the Grand Balcon Nord to Montenvers near Mer de Glace. Most people hike the trail oneway before returning with the Montenvers scenic train to Chamonix station. The hike takes about 2.5 hours and is a great way to admire the impressive mountain ranges of the Chamonix Aiguilles and Mont Blanc.
Lac Bleu trail
Views on the Mont Blanc massif from Lac Blue can be found on many postcards in the village streets. Needless to say, Lac Bleu is a popular hiking destination amongst active travelers. The lake itself is not big nor impressive, but this is the way to it; and the views on the nearby Mont Blanc makeit worthwhile. Hiking from the Plan d’Aiguille cable car station requires only a 15-minute walk, making it an option for families with children.
Hike to Refuge des Grands Mulets
Another – though more challenging – hike from Plan d’Aiguille is the 3.5 hours hike to Refuge des Grands Mulets. The hut is located just above 3000 meters,requiring a big ascent and a glacier crossing. It is a popular route in winter for ski descents from Mont Blanc.
The other side of the valley offers splendid views on Aguille du Midi and Mont Blanc. The hike to Lac Noir (2540m) is not an easy one, but has great rewards. From Col Cornu, you head towards Col de Gliere via a marked path. To complete the trail, it requires about 2hours 30minutes from PlanPraz. The lake is a beautiful but not a crowded picnic setting since it’s often partially covered in snow and ice.
Tour du Mont Blanc
The tour du Mont Blanc is a multi-day hike often completed in ten days. This is one of the best options for experienced hikers with enough time on their hands. It is regarded as one of the best hikes in Europe. The trail contours the Mont Blanc massif and crosses three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy. Nights are spend in mountain huts or accommodations in the valleys. The many different angles of Mont Blanc make it a hike with diverse views.
Things to do in the Mont Blanc region
The cable car leading to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi is without doubt the top tourist attraction in Chamonix. Return tickets cost about 58 euros. From this point, you can take an elevator that goes through the rocks of the peak to a viewing platform, some 42meters higher, where you get to see Mont Blanc up close. On clear days, views on the Grand Combin and the Monte Rosa are no exception. The restaurant is a great place to have lunch before taking the Panoramic Mont Blanc tramway to Hellbronner on the Italian side of the massif. This way, you can descend all the way to Courmayeur.
Another main tourist attraction is the Mer the Glace train to Montenvers. This train departs from the Chamonix train station and leads to the famous Mer de Glace, a glacier between Aiguille du Midi and Les Drus that used to reach all the way to the valley base.
Hiking with kids
Hiking with children in the French Alps may seem difficult due to the altitude difference; however,quite a few trails are suitable for families. Fortunately cable cars will help you gain most of the elevation without too much effort. For this reason, the Lac Bleu hike is well worth mentioning, since it only requires 15 minutes to reach from the cable car station. Whether you want to add more kilometers / hiking hours is up to you.
Lac Blanc is a 2-hour easy hike from the Flegere lift station. The nearby Lac Blanc hut offers facilities and refreshments well earned.