Mont Blanc Diary


The Journey

Fri July 05
Sat July 06

Mer de Glace

Sun July 07

Albert 1er

Mon July 08

Aig du Tour

Tue July 09


Wed July 10

Mont Blanc

Thu July 11

The End

Fri July 12




Al and I met up at Waterloo around 16:00 and were delivered to Paris Gare du Nord by 21:00, courtesy of the Eurostar.


Unfortunately the ticket machines for the Metro proved a little too complicated for us, and the friendly chap who offered to help managed to con us out of €30 before we’d worked out that we’d just spent £20 on a trip across Paris.


On arrival at Gare d’Austerlitz we discovered that the train we were booked on (to Bourg St Maurice) was actually half of a train leaving Paris, the other half of which went to St Gervais Le Fayet (where we actually wanted to end up).  Our attempts at changing destination failed, so we found our reserved couchette, and decided to try and wake up at 04:00, when we thought the train was going to split.  Within about 30 minutes, however, we changed our mind, decided to stay on the train to Bourg and settled down to a decent night’s sleep.



We woke up in Bourg St Maurice at about 08:00, having both slept reasonably well.  We caught the first train to Chambery at about 08:20, then on to Aix Les Bains and St Gervais Le Fayet.  We finally arrived in Chamonix by bus in the middle of the afternoon and soon found our hostel, La Bagna, in Les Praz, about 5 minutes’ drive up the valley from Chamonix.


The hostel was closed until 16:30, so Al sat and guarded the kit while I caught the bus into the main town to find hire-shops, cash machines and the Association Internationale des Guides de Mont Blanc (AIGMB), which we had used to organise our guide.  Having discovered what I needed to, I returned to the hostel and we moved into our room, then headed back into town to meet our guide, Lisa, at the AIGMB.


Lisa turned out to be an Australian, guiding her seventh season in Chamonix.  She guides off-piste skiers for the second half of the ski-season in Chamonix then stays on for the first half of the climbing season, before switching to New Zealand to work the second half of their ski-season and the first half of their climbing season.  Not a bad life!


We had a few beers with Lisa as she told us what we’d be doing during the week.  She explained that reaching the summit of Mont Blanc would depend on our acclimatisation to altitude, our general fitness and the weather. She also described the choice of routes.


There are two main routes up Mont Blanc, defined by the refuge used the night before the climb. The Refuge de l’Aiguille du Goûter (3817m) lies north-west of Mont Blanc, down the Goûter ridge.  It is reached by a train from St Gervais Le Fayet to Nid d'Aigle (2372m), followed by a seven hour climb via the Refuge de Tête Rousse.  The main ascent from the Goûter hut is a long, dull slog up the knife-edge ridge, over the Dôme du Goûter to the Refuge-Bivouac Vallot (4362m) then on over Les Bosses to the summit.  The route is not technically challenging, and by all accounts the hut is not very pleasant.


Lisa’s preferred alternative was to use the Refuge des Cosmiques (3613m).  This modern refuge is on the side of the Aiguille du Midi, and is reached by a quick descent from the top of the télépherique (3777m). The hut has very good facilities and excellent food, and the climb from the refuge is considerably more interesting than that from the Goûter hut.  Some guides describe this as the hard-core alternative.


There is a third route which starts from the Refuge des Grands Mulets (3051m), climbing up to Refuge-Bivouac Vallot from the north then following the same route over Les Bosses as the Goûter climb.  Although this can be found described in various places, none of the guides we spoke to in Chamonix mentioned using it.


Sitting in the bar we weren’t sure which route we’d end up taking, but secretly Al and I both liked the sound of the more challenging Cosmiques route.


Following our discussions with Lisa, Al and I went for a pizza at a restaurant she recommended, then made the slightly foolhardy decision to walk back to the hostel.