European Summit Challenge
France - Mont Blanc 4810m

Last updated January 2007

Mt. Blanc, click to view QTVR panorama How high is Mont Blanc? This not an easy question to answer, for the summit of Mont Blanc has a permanent covering of ice and snow, gauged in places to be 23m thick. The depth of this glacial hood varies depending on prevailing summer and winter temperatures, and thus the height and position of the summit alters over time. For many years the official altitude was 4807m. However in 2002, surveyors from the IGN measured the summit to be 4810.40m. In 2003, a heat wave saw summer temperatures soar, and in September that year, the summit height was surveyed once more and found to be 4808.45m and 75cm from the 2002 summit. In 2005 the summit altitude was measured again and found to be 4808.75m. For those preferring firm ground, a rock summit at 4792m lies 40m away from the ice summit.

So now we know how high Mont Blanc is. But where is it? Sounds like another a daft question, but ask a Frenchman and an Italian, and you might get different answers.

French for White Mountain, Mont Blanc is known in neighbouring Italy as Monte Bianco, which has the same meaning. According to the French, the border between the two countries skirts around and below the summit of Mont Blanc, leaving it entirely in French Territory. Italian cartographers draw the border line through the summit placing it both in France and Italy.

Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard are credited with the first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc, reaching the summit on August 8th 1786. It would be interesting to know how high Mont Blanc would have been two centuries ago, but however high it was, they certainly set a trend. Today around 20,000 people summit the mountain each year.

There are five main routes to the summit, none of which should be regarded as an easy stroll.

The Goûter Route (PD)

First climbed in 1861 by L. Stephen, F. F. Tuckett, M. Anderegg, J. J. Bennen, and P. Perren, today’s climbers have a mechanical advantage as well as accommodation on the mountainside. Typically, one starts at Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley and takes the téléphérique (cable car) to Bellevue (1790). Bellevue has a station on the tramline that runs from St. Gervais to the terminus at Nid d’ Aigle (2386m), and you should hop on for the ride. Arriving at Nid d’ Aigle, the foot work starts in earnest with a zig-zag ascent past the Tête Rousse Hut (3167m). Then cross the Tête Rousse Glacier to the summit of the Aiguille du Goûter and along a connecting ridge to the Goûter Hut where it is typical to spend the night. Early the following morning, traverse a broad snow ridge to the Dôme du Goûter (4303m), descend to the Col du Dôme (4240m) and then ascend past the emergency shelter of the Vallot Hut (4262m) to the Bosse Ridge with it’s two summits (4513m and 4547m) where a narrow ridge leads to the Mont Blanc summit.

The Grande Mulets Route (F)

First climbed in around 1840 by M. Couttet.

The Miage-Bionnassay Route

The Three Monts Route

The Italian Route aka The Pope Route

First climbed in 1890 by A. Ratti and his guides.


The IGN produce good 1:25,000 maps.

2 (Dutch & French only)
Buy from Stanfords, London, UK.

Map Sample of the IGN 1:25,000 map.

The Alpine 4000m Peeks The Alpine 4000m Peeks

Richard Goedeke's clasic "The Alpine 4000m Peaks, by the Classic Routes" is an excellent place to start researching routes to the summit of Mont Blanc. There are at least two editions.

Mont Blanc, 5 Routes To The Summit

"Mont Blanc, 5 Routes To The Summit" by Francois Damilano, helps you to better understand the mountain and to choose among the five classic routes. These include the ordinary route through the Auiguille du Gouter, the Aiguille du Midi traverse, the historical route through the Grands Mulets, the normal Italian route and the Miage – Bionnassay – Mont Blanc traverse. ISBN: 2952188106 Cordee

For an on-line, scaleable map visit MultiMap.

French Tourist Office.