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  • Any Alpinists here Mont Blanc ish
  • stevedoc
    Free Member

    Im just putting together a trip to Chamonix with the boy for some hiking and Climbing . Ive done a fair bit in the UK The likes of Crib Goch Tryfan The edges on Helvellyn and a few Munros. So the next step is the likes of Grand Paradiso and Mont Blanc. I know there are companies that charge a fair price for these trips and while my lad is well taught in rope and cravas work and a good climber, im looking for advise from those who have a head for heights. More importantly insurance.
    Any reccomendations greatly received 🙂

    slowol
    Full Member

    BMC for insurance (thebmc.co.uk). I know a couple of people who needed big rescues and they just sorted it.
    John Barry’s book used to be the sort of text book for DIY alpine climbing and whaty mate and I read before our first Alps trip.
    Start small and acclimatise a bit, both for altitude and your head.
    Don’t be afraid to turn back.
    Apart from that have fun.
    Hope that helped.

    stevedoc
    Free Member

    When I went to Morzine last July I left the bike and headed up Les Hant forts and happliy did the ridge line and back into town. I know that was only about 2,500m but felt great for the 8 hours I was out.

    BMC was my first port of call and prices seemed very good.

    thelawman
    Free Member

    As i recall, neither the Gran Par, or Mt Blanc involve any significant ridges or exposure if you do them the normal, tourist routes. They’re just a long way up, and are best done with a night at one of the huts (bivvied outside the Gouter on our ascent) and an early start in the dark. Both great days out

    Spin
    Free Member

    Quite a lot has changed on Mont Blanc in the last few years due to climate change. Rock fall in the Grand Couloir on the normal route has become significantly worse to the extent that local guides are exploring alternatives. People continue to do the normal route in large numbers but the above is worth knowing about.

    The Grand Paradiso is a shorter climb with less objective danger.

    Spin
    Free Member

    Just to be clear, are you planning to do this independently or with a guide?

    stevedoc
    Free Member

    I would say Gran paradiso independently but my lads looking into the guide situation. As for MB that would be with a Guide.
    Ive read up about the melting on the Grand Couloir and rock falls being more and more common place not one to risk without local knowledge.

    Spin
    Free Member

    I would say Gran paradiso independently but my lads looking into the guide situation. As for MB that would be with a Guide.
    Ive read up about the melting on the Grand Couloir and rock falls being more and more common place not one to risk without local knowledge.

    Sounds sensible. The GP is pretty straightforward, not threatened by rockfall and not heavily crevassed. The route also starts from one of the most stunningly beautiful valleys in the whole of the alps with some great acclimatisation options. Far nicer than the zoo of Chamonix. I may be biased. 😀

    Edukator
    Free Member

    Mont Blanc: went for a look see in 95 but there was too much crap flying down bomb alley in August so we watched those playing Russian roulette and turned back.

    In 96 we were on the beach on the south coast in early July when we saw a one-day weather window the next day. We drove up to St Gervais, geared up and caught the last tram. It was below zero and lightly snowing for the climb up to the Goûter, quite an interesting climb in the conditions. After a few hours napping we joined all the others leaving the refuge well before dawn on a crisp cold clear night. Tramped up to the top in perfect conditions and back down for a rest at Goûter before heading on down for the last tramway.

    Some considerations if you do the tourist route up Mont Blanc:

    Weather windows can be quite short and the mountain can be stormy for days on end even in Summer, if you have a short holiday have other things to do if the mountain isn’t in conditon for you.

    Rock and ice fall are becoming a major problem in mid Summer, last year they closed the mountain, our decision to go earlier made the route more technical but much safer.

    If you haven’t spent much time at altitude you’ll probably get a head ache. Sea level to 4 800m in less than 24h wasn’t ideal but living in the Pyrénées we no doubt had some residual acclimatisation.

    The climbing isn’t hard but very weather dependant. We roped up and used axe and crampons (clatter, clatter mixed climbing) from just above Tête Rousse. No belays but I took a few stances to bring Madame up/down.

    It’s quite a big day, we were really fit but very glad to sit down in the Tramway. The descent from the Goûter was slow and hard work. I’ve seen recent vids and they’ve added quite a lot of fixed aids to the awkward bits since we went.

    Insurance, didn’t bother.

    Guide, nope, just followed the elephant trail and had the usual map, compass and altimeter in case.

    supernova
    Full Member

    If you want cheaper insurance than the BMC have a look at the Austrian Alpine Club.

    slowoldman
    Full Member

    From your post I’m sure you have lots of experience but this:

    Insurance, didn’t bother.

    is surely foolhardy?

    Spin
    Free Member

    Any reccomendations greatly received

    Be wary of advice from anyone who did it 20 odd years ago or anyone who sounds like they’re bigging themselves up.

    Spin
    Free Member

    If you want cheaper insurance than the BMC have a look at the Austrian Alpine Club.

    But check it offers the kind of cover you want/need. It’s cheaper because it doesn’t offer the same level of cover.

    martinhutch
    Full Member

    How much roped climbing/scrambling have you done? Are we talking about Crib Goch/Helvellyn edges in winter condition? And although you say your lad is well-trained in glacier travel etc, how much actual alpine-style mountaineering has he done?

    I know Gran Paradiso is badged as one of the ‘easiest’ 4000m peaks, how much of a step up in difficulty will it be for you, particularly approaching it potentially unguided?

    timbog160
    Full Member

    MB – done it 3 times though not recently. Once guided, twice independently. Your choice but I think you’d be daft not to get insurance, which is pretty cheap. It’s a BIG step from Helvellyn to MB, even though, in Alpine terms it’s not that technical. For that reason I’d recommend a guide, but I waited til I got out there, got a local guide, explained I wasn’t a complete numpty over a beer and had a great trip.. also if you’re on a limited time trip a guide makes sure you get best value out of the time you do have. To acclimatise I popped up the Aiguille du midi and pottered about on the plateau for a bit then did MB du Tacul…. That way I only had to pay the guide for 24 hours! Good luck and enjoy – even with crowds the alps is fab..

    TheDTs
    Free Member

    No direct experience other than from talking to my uncle, who was a guide in Argentiere for most of his working life. There are many other mountains in the valley which are a better climb and nicer in most respects than MB. No disrespect to those that have done it. Educators description sounds like a great trip. And it is the highest, obvs!
    Would recommend him (EDIT:My Uncle Terry the is, Not Ed!) as a guide but he is now retired and uses a mobility scooter!

    boblo
    Free Member

    I’ve done both (different trips) guideless. Grand Paradiso is a good slog from the valley to the hut then just a standard alpine PD (IIRC) plod. Nothing notable from a difficulty perspective. Bit of rock at the top, that’s all.

    For Mont Blanc, we took the frique up the Midi and stayed in the Cosmiques. The trickiest bit was descending to the Mer de Glace in the late afternoon as its quite steep, exposed and not very stable. The ordinary route is straightforward save for altitude and the Grand Couloir. Just a slog. Mebbies do something else to acclimatise on first. We dint and it would have been better if we had.

    Oh and I used BMC for insurance. A heli rescue was in the £20k’s when I was last out there so unless you want to self insure for double this sum (ie there’s 2 of you), pay the premium.

    slowol
    Full Member

    Austrian Alpine Club insurance used to be rescue only, not medical care or repatriation. It is primarily mountain rescue cover for those who already have full medical insurance (such as those who live in Austria). Check carefully!

    Edukator
    Free Member

    Madame just after l’Abri de Vallot. As we passed people were emerging who’d been stuck in it for four days due to the storm we’d waited to let pass.

    martinhutch
    Full Member

    The ordinary route is straightforward save for altitude and the Grand Couloir.

    God knows what the Couloir is like these days with higher temps and less ice to hold shit together.

    boblo
    Free Member

    The Vallot hut is a toilet, I’d avoid it. I stuck my head in on the way past and it was 50% bivvying climbers/50% excrement…

    Edukator
    Free Member

    The Vallot hut is a toilet, I’d avoid it.

    And also potentially a life saver, it’s quite reassuring that it’s there.

    FunkyDunc
    Free Member

    The Grand Couloir just looks like an excuse for a game of Russian Roulette. A guide won’t be able to help when a boulder bigger than your head is hurtling towards your head!

    Not suggesting you shouldn’t take a guide !

    Has your son been to altitude before?

    stevedoc
    Free Member

    My experiences of the fells is limited to the Edges in winter on Hel and the Cobbler 3 weels back in snow and ice . I big step up for me but I dont think fitness is the problem just hands on experience. My lad is course taught but real world lacking on glacier. Im now almost sure guide is best for the first time out, yes it will cost extra but will give us a sense of what involved rather than winging it. I dont think in the 6 days we have there Mont Blanc is doable as there are a few other day hikes Id like to do so Paradiso over the 36 hours seems the best use of time.

    martinhutch
    Full Member

    Im now almost sure guide is best for the first time out, yes it will cost extra but will give us a sense of what involved rather than winging it.

    That’s a good decision. Winging it on your first Alps trip can involve getting into some ‘interesting’ situations.

    Spin
    Free Member

    My experiences of the fells is limited to the Edges in winter on Hel and the Cobbler 3 weels back in snow and ice .

    Based on that level of experience I’d say a guide for your first 4000er is probably a good idea. How long are you out for and will you have a car out there? You could consider doing MB with a guide then the GP independently. Also consider spending a week in the GP area, there are lots of easy peaks you could do independently as acclimatisation.

    Spin
    Free Member

    GP panorama

    pano-share

    diggery
    Free Member

    Sounds like a fantastic plan with your son.

    If you are looking for a starting point on guides, Stuart is a good guy and quite a CV.
    British, based in Les Houches. I’ve not used him for climbing but had fantastic experience in the winter with him on skis.

    https://www.stuartmacdonald.org/

    NewRetroTom
    Full Member

    A heli rescue was in the £20k’s when I was last out there

    This is a common misconception. Heli rescue is free if you need it. There have been cases where folks have been billed for the ride down, but this has been where they basically decided they couldn’t be arsed walking off – no injuries, no weather coming in, they just didn’t fancy a cold, dark night shivering on the mountain and then hiking out in the morning.

    boblo
    Free Member

    I think in this circumstance, the OP is going to feel/be responsible for his son and the OP seems to have very limited experience. Not sure of the sons but it doesn’t matter.

    We used to work up to the Alps via English/Welsh Summer, English/Welsh Winter then Scottish Winter. We went out and plodded up F snow plods then PD mixed stuff then onwards and upwards as we got more experience trying not to have an epic – not always succesfully.

    In the absence of this, someone of sufficient knowledge (AKA ‘a Guide’) might be wise even though the two bumps in question are fairly straightforward. The penalty for error can be pretty high.

    The only time I’ve used a Guide is ski mountaineering as they know the geography of the area. This means if its crap in area A, they know an area B which will be good (or safe) etc. That’s what I wanted from the Guide.

    If that’s true about heli rescue ‘then’ (rather than ‘now’), it was a very popular misconception as we ‘all’ believed we were responsible for the costs of rescue presumably which is why the BMC sold insurance to cover it.

    cat69uk
    Free Member

    Talking of refuge, this place looks amazing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0PTWu_8SKs

    stevedoc
    Free Member

    We are only in the valley for 6 days so time is limited. The plan seems to be along the lines of a couple of days hiking walking, La Jonction looks like a good place to start. Then a couple of days guided on Grand Para. I think thats the best idea to get the most from it and a learnng curve for both of us. We are both happy for long days hoofin and fairly fit .. we did Nevis last April in 3h 15 up and down in the snow and ice, Ok not world record times but still quicker than the guide books 🙂
    Day 5 food and a few relaxing drinks

    Add the fact my wife will kill me if blue eyed boy gets hurt in any way shape or form. Guiding seems to be the way forward

    Marin
    Free Member

    Austrian Alpine used to offer a good discount on huts. Altitude may kick your arse worse than the Mrs. It’s getting back down that’s the most important part, have a great trip.

    Spin
    Free Member

    I’d say that if the GP is the main target and you only have 6 days just go to that area and don’t bother with Chamonix. I know Chamonix is a big draw but the GP area is much quieter much prettier and often has better weather. Valsavarenche where you access the GP from is the most beautiful alpine valley I’ve been to. Lots of ideas for walks and other activities here: https://www.lovevda.it/en/summer-sport

    boblo
    Free Member

    If you’re staying in the huts the BMC does a reciprocal rights card for cheaperer overnights.

    Superficial
    Free Member

    If you want to do Mont Blanc, check out the UCPA in Chamonix. When I went a few years ago now, they ran a summer guided package inc all the equipment, guide and a bit of training etc. I think it’s a 2 week stay and they hope for a weather window within that. I always thought that looked like fun.

    wbo
    Free Member

    I’ve been up Mont Blanc a few times. I don’t think you need a guide for route finding as it’s very straightforward, and there’s a good number of people around. I’ve been to the top via the normal route from the Midi, the Kuffner arete to Maudit, Gouter and I’ve been down the original Grands Mulets route as well. I’d personally go UP from the Midi, and then down the Gouter route, limiting Grand Couloir crossings to one, and hopefully in the morning. I’ve linked a UKC article below, Understand that guide or no guide the Couloir is simple gambling. That’s also true of the serac on the Trois Monts route, but that’s a smaller risk i.m.o. (though with bigger consequences) Also a guide isn’t going to have any magic when you get very, very tired.
    Where a guide is useful is getting you across a glacier as that is one thing you won’t have learnt in the UK. The walking bit is easy, the ropework to rescue someone is not. Get that taught by a guide and you’ve got your moneys worth.
    I’ve always used BMC insurance.

    https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/destinations/how_to_climb_mont_blanc_-_the_two_easiest_routes-5784

    If you want easier and full mountain days out with or without glaciers there are plenty around Cham. I actually like the place. Hows your climbing – Aiguille de l’M?

    slowol
    Full Member

    With insurance remember don’t be too concerned with rescue costs as they would be dwarfed by any potential hospital stay or repatriation following injury. It is insurance so unlikely to be needed until it is!

    Definitely plan some smaller objectives to plod up for acclimatisation and get your feet used to crampons again.
    Link to the book I mentioned above. Probably slightly more up to date ones available but it’s a readable book not just instructional.
    https://www.abebooks.co.uk/9781852238889/Alpine-Climbing-Barry-John-1852238887/plp

    Edukator
    Free Member

    Understand that guide or no guide the Couloir is simple gambling

    However the odds depend on the conditions. On a warm August afternoon when most people are heading up to the Goûter there was sporadic rockfall the whole time we were within earshot of the couloir, we turned back whilst others ran across between volleys. On a freezing evening in early July nothing moved, silence. The next day it was warmer but again, silence.

    Another factor in deciding if a guide is needed is the advent of GPS. Back in the day people would have the bearing of Goûter from Vallot preset on their compass because getting back down the dome without getting lost and/or falling off the edge in a white out was not easy. Local knowledge was definitely an advantage and if in doubt people holed up in Vallot. These days you can run a track back and follow it back down no problem.

    wbo
    Free Member

    There is a fair old path/trench to follow on the popular routes so nav isn’t a big deal on the popular routes, and it’s hard to lose the track. And you really shouldn’t be up there in a white out, and the meteo is pretty good (and was 30 years ago too). A guide certainly won’t take you up if the weather looks a bit ropey.

    Agree that time of day matters on the couloir but most people cross it late morning (descending after sunrise on the summit) or in the afternoon (going up) , when it is likely to be warming and dumping stuff.

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