Ascent of Mont Blanc on 2010-06-26

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Andrew Tibbetts
Dave Kenyon
Date:Saturday, June 26, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Ski Lift
Peak:Mont Blanc
    Elevation:15781 ft / 4810 m

Ascent Trip Report

(Overall timings include hut climb and descent)

Having summited Gran Paradiso and Dufourspitze we were now ready for the Alpine highpoint. We took the cable car from Les Houches around midday on Fri 25, then walked from Bellevue (Le Chalette) to the Nid d'Aigle station, understanding that the train was still out of action due to recent snow - although it passed us on the way up! The walk was pleasant enough, taking 1h10m; we then walked up to Tete Rousse hut (mostly in soft snow) in 2h10 (3187m). Dave had booked the Tete Rousse a few days before: it is pretty much impossible to book the higher Gouter hut as it tends to be block booked by Chamonix agencies. The Tete Rousse is quite comfortable and wasn't particularly crowded; food was fine.

The relatively low base means an early start: Sat a.m. we were away at 02:25, in rope and crampons from the start. The route initially ascends the glacier (no crevasses in evidence), crosses a rock rib then the notorious couloir, source of many a rockfall fatality over the years but no threat during the pre-dawn freeze. Once across, we climb a steep rock rib, quite loose, with fixed ropes. All parties seem to rope up for this although it seems unnecessary as the scrambling is simple. There are quite a few parties but it is by no means crowded. We are at the Aiguille de Gouter hut (3786m) in 1h 50mins. We stow our helmets, take a snack break then continue, following a nice snow arete. The shapely Aiguille de Bionassay is captivating, with full moon for added effect. A couple of parties pass us, heading down, apparently aborting their ascents. A longish plod leads to the rounded Dome du Gouter (4258m), with the bulk of Mont Blanc rising ahead, still 550m above us. We climb past the Refuge Vallot (bivi hut) then the ridge narrows, we cross the two minor Bossons bumps and overtake a few parties on the final steep climb. We summit at 08:10, in 4h from the Gouter hut. Views are impressive, although I can't help feeling that tne chaos of pinnacled summits compares poorly with the distinctive elegance of the Valais peaks seen from Dufourspitze two days previously. We have the summit briefly to ourselves; one or two other parties arrive. A group of parascenders prepare to take the easy / spectacular way down - envy!! Anyway this is my 10th World Fifty Finest summit - and "young Andrew"'s first.

Before descending, we attempt the Courmayeur summit but its long narrow virgin snow arete is a little too intimidating. We head down, easily and fairly quickly, getting back to Tete Rousse at 13:06. The couloir above the hut is harmless, thanks mainly to the recent snowfall which has yet to become hard and slippery, although there are already a few debris trails. The descent to Nid d'Aigle takes an hour; from here the train is packed with summiteers and day trippers, as is the cable car; we are soon at Les Houches in sweltering mid afternoon heat. We have a farewell drink with Dave Kenyon, our guide for the week who made our three high Western Alps Ultra-prominent summits pleasant and straightforward - then head to Italy for the first of our planned week two 600m prominence summits.

Below is a summary of our two-week trip:

Sat 19 June: Pointe Percee

Sun 20: Haute Cime Dents du Midi

Tue 22: Gran Paradiso (Monday hut climb)

Thu 24: Dufourspitze (Wednesday hut climb)

Sat 26: Mont Blanc (Friday hut climb)

Sun 27: Grande Rochere (Aosta valley)

Mon 28: Testa Grigia

Tue 29: Grand Muveran (Martigny)

Wed 30: Tour Salliere

Thu 1 July:
a.m. La Catogne
p.m. Sommet des Diablerets

Fri 2:
a.m. Le Tarent
p.m. Vanil Noir

Sat 3:
a.m. Albristhorn
p.m. Schafberg
late p.m.: Les Arales, the Geneva canton highpoint
evening: le Grand Piton, the Saleve ridge highpoint

Sun 4: Tour d'Ai

Overall a nice trip with a good mix of summits and a nice variety of cultures and meals across Italy, France and French and German speaking Switzerland.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:10485 ft / 3194 m
    Total Elevation Loss:10462 ft / 3187 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13 mi / 20.9 km
    Grade/Class:PD, YDS3 (fixed rope
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Guide, Hut Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Cool on summit, hot on descent
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:10190 ft / 3105 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 9895 ft / 3016 m; Extra: 295 ft / 89m
    Loss on way in:295 ft / 89 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:Gouter route (NW ridge)
    Start Trailhead:Bellevue  5886 ft / 1794 m
    Time:9 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:10167 ft / 3098 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 9872 ft / 3009 m; Extra: 295 ft / 89m
    Gain on way out:295 ft / 89 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:Gouter route (NW ridge)
    End Trailhead:Le Chalette  5909 ft / 1801 m
    Time:5 Hours 

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