Climb Mont Blanc in Autumn / Winter / Spring
Mont Blanc is a popular goal for mountaineers from all over the world. It is also a magnet for thousands of fit and determined people with little or no climbing experience seeking a tough but, hopefully, manageable, mountain challenge.
For folk with no existing mountaineering experience the high summer months present the best chance of actually reaching the summit. The mountain is essentially "open" with the lifts running and huts fully staffed and serving meals etc. This generates lots of traffic which in turn usually results in a well worn track snaking its way up the entire mountain. Along with the mountain factors of summer weather and snow conditions these issues do generally improve the overall chance of reaching the summit.
By contrast the "off" season is characterised by no lifts, winter rooms only at the huts and very few other climbers on the mountain. As well as these 'human factors' there are the even more significant 'mountain factors' such as potentially very harsh, cold & windy weather and a cold, deep snowpack which can be extremely difficult to break a trail through.
Climbing Mont Blanc outside of the high summer months is tough!
However, it can, sometimes, be done.
Commensurate with the level of challenge involved, the rewards of an off season ascent of Mont Blanc are also very high. The attractions of climbing at this time are significant and include:
- Few or no other people in the huts and on the mountain and thus a relatively very quiet climbing experience. Often teams encountering each other at this time of year will stop for a chat & discussion on conditions. This does not happen much in summer!
- An expedition atmosphere prevails as, with all the lifts shut, a long approach trek from the valley is required. This is a tough but beautiful walk through woods & alpine meadows and provides a great contrast to the glittering glaciers above. The expedition theme continues as several days are required for the ascent and larger packs needed for carrying both warmer gear and food for several days on the go.
- A pristine feel to the upper mountain, with an almost Himalayan feeling of scale of being on such a large alpine peak out of the summer season.
- A greater physical challenge.
- A higher comittment factor and greater sense of isolation with fewer teams about, no staff in the huts and potentially much harsher weather.
Climbing Mont Blanc in Autumn
As with with many aspects of alpine mountaineering, autumn can be a great time to climb Mont Blanc. The huts and lifts mainly close around the 3rd week in September and it feels like the mountain is being shut down for the season. However, conditions can remain good long in to the Autumn. Late summer or early autumn snow arrives, turning the mountain brilliant white again, and is often followed by sustained periods of high pressure in late September and October. This can be a fine time to be on the mountain and the objective danger e.g. from stone fall in the Grand Couloir is often heavily reduced due to the cooler and more snowy conditions. Conversely this early autumn snow can mask the large crevasses which have formed over the summer, without providing the strong snow bridges more associated with spring. So great care is needed route finding on the glaciers.
Climbing Mont Blanc in Winter
Winter ascents of Mont Blanc are relatively rare, especially for folk not travelling on skis. The complications of deep snow, avalanche risk and cold, windy weather make a winter attempt a full on expedition and one that is frequently underestimated and rarely completed! A successful ascent would require perfect weather, good snow conditions, great fitness, determination and experience in the team.
Climbing Mont Blanc in Spring
During periods of sustained good weather and stable snow conditions in April and May many ascents of the mountain are made and spring is the second most popular season after summer. However the vast majority of these ascents are made on skis. See our Ski Mont Blanc page. For non skiers there is some advantage to this ski traffic as a track will often be established on the Bosses Ridge for example and the Cosmiques and Grands Mulets Hut are generally open for ski mountaineers.
Mont Blanc. The highest mountain in Western Europe and a true challenge for the dedicated ski mountaineer. A magnificent objective for those with the skills to do it. Late spring often provides the best snow conditions for a ski ascent of the mountain and we offer two 6 day cour... more>