6 Ski Days | April - June
Ski Mont Blanc - Ski Touring Week
Mont Blanc - The highest mountain in Western Europe, provides a huge draw for many people; winter and summer, to climb to its summit and to ski the mythical North Face back to Chamonix.
Our program is designed to give you the best chance of success with a number of days of ski touring and acclimatization prior to a summit attempt. We typically spend a minimum of 4-days ski touring some of the other classic routes in the Chamonix Valley, staying a couple of nights in mountain huts; sometimes we may have a heliski day in Italy or Switzerland prior to the summit days.
We try to offer the flexibility of either a 2-day summit attempt via the Grand Mulet hut or a heli drop to the Piton des Italiens where the summit can be done in just a day. This option gets you higher on the mountain but you still have to climb to the summit, a 1000m height gain, before skiing down.
Day 1: This is the day you should plan to arrive in Chamonix.
Geneva is the closest airport to fly to, for onward travel to Chamonix we recommend using one of the minibus transfer services that run shared transfers up to Chamonix. We can help arrange these for you if you contact us for further details, private transfer options also exist.
We will have a meeting with your guide at the hotel around 6-7pm where the guide will run through the plan for the week, update you on the weather forecast and snow conditions and do a kit check. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have related to any aspect of the tour.
Day 2: This is the first ski day of the tour.
Today we will head out to one of the ski areas in the Chamonix Valley for a warm-up ski, kit shakedown and some skills training. This day gives us time to have a good ski around on and off-piste, check all the kit and do some skills sessions on ski touring, avalanche safety, crevasse rescue and generally getting set up for the week ahead.
You will return to the hotel for night.
Today we head out for the first of 3 ski touring days and 2 hut nights. There are many options to choose from and we often use a combination of the Argentiere huts and the Albert Premier hut and ski tour some of the classic routes around the Argentiere basin. Examples are:
Col du Tour Noir, Col d'Argentiere, Col du Passon, Col Superior du Tour, Col du Midi des Grands
All of these routes offer great preparation for Mont Blanc, they are fairly long in duration with around a 1000m height gain, they are on reasonably technical glaciated terrain and there are some options for short climbs to cols using crampons and axe, carrying skis on your packs.
On the afternoon of day 5, we will return to the hotel. There will be some time to rest and prepare for the next 2 days for the Mont Blanc.
Today is the approach day to the Grand Mulets hut. There is no rush to set off early as we have a 3-4 hour skin to the hut from the cable car. We will take the first section of the Aiguille du Midi lift to the Plan d'Aiguille at 2310m, here we ski tour to the Grand Mulet hut situated on a rocky outcrop on the far side of the Glacier des Bosson at 3051m. The first part of the skin is relatively straight forward, then we reach the technical section as we go onto the glacier. Here we rope-up with your guide and there are often narrow passages around the crevasses and ice to negotiate.
There is a further 1 - 1.5 hours of skinning to get to the hut. We usually leave our skis are the bottom of the steps and climb up to the hut.
Dinner is served early around 6pm and then it's straight off to bed as we will need to be up around 2-3am to start our climb to the summit.
Summit Day - we leave the hut after an early breakfast, usually around 2-3am depending on conditions. Once we have descended back to the glacier and put our skis and skins on, we start our climb towards the summit.
Two route options exist, the first via the Le Petit and Le Grand Plateau to the Col du Dome, the second and more preferred option is via the Arête Nord on the Dome du Gouter. This option does require the arête to be in good conditions, often it is icy and technical to negotiate so not always in condition to climb. It's steep and you will be climbing with your crampons on, axe in hand and skis attached to your pack.
Both route options arrive at the Col du Dome just below the Vallot refuge at 4362m. Here it's possible to have a quick stop in the shelter for some food and water. From here you have a further 500m vertical to climb to the summit, this is done on your feet with your skis on your pack.
We hope the snow conditions will be favorable and allow us to ski from the summit down the north face. In the event they are not, possibly due to too much ice on the descent route, strong winds; we may have to leave our skis are the Vallot Refuge and climb and descend back here. It's then possible to ski from the refuge onto the Grand Plateau and continue our descent towards Chamonix. We will ski below the Grand Mulet hut and re-cross the Junction on the Glacier des Bosson. We then have to skin back across under the Aiguille du Midi to return to the lift station. Depending on the snow conditions and time of year it maybe possible to ski lower down towards Chamonix and be collected from the road.
Heli Drop Option
If you want to choose, or we feel there is a better chance of success due to weather, then it is possible to take the helicopter from the Italian side of Mont Blanc in Val Veny to the Piton des Italiens at 4000m, close to the Col de Bionnassey. From here there is a mixture of some skinning but mostly climbing on your feet with your skis on your pack, to the summit. You will join the Gouter route around the Col du Dome and pass the Vallot refuge on your way to the summit.
The heli drop option puts you higher on the mountain and gives you flexibility with the weather and conditions but you still have a long day with a lot of climbing to achieve the summit.
The ski route down is the same as above via the Plateau and back to the Plan d'Aiguille.
Day 8: This is your travel day home, the tour finishes after breakfast and your free to make your onward travel when it suits you. Typically you need to check-out of your room at the hotel by 11am.
*Please note that the itinerary can change along the way due to changes in weather, mountain conditions and any other unforeseen circumstances.
Please contact us for a price for this trip, prices are costed individually on personal requirements.
Usual Price Inclusions:
6 days of skiing with a UIAGM/IFMGA certified guide
Mountain hut accommodation with meal
Local transport in Chamonix
Use of avalanche transceiver, climbing harness, shovel, and probe
Flights and transfers to and from airport to Chamonix
Lift tickets where required
Hotel accommodation in Chamonix
Lunches and drinks each day
Heli-drop if taken for the summit day
Ski/boot hire if required
We grade this as an advanced level ski tour. Participants should have previous ski touring experience, be able to execute a good up-hill kick turn and be familiar with using boot crampons and carrying an ice axe. Skiers need to have a good ski level where you can ski off-piste in all snow conditions including powder, crusty and heavy snow where you can link controlled parallel turns in the fall line at a regular speed and stop in control. It is useful to have previous experience of using crampons on steep ground (snow, ice and rock) as well as some basic rope skills.
The summit day on this trip, regardless of if you take the heli drop option is long, typically 8-10 hours with plenty of climbing and at high altitude and should not be under estimated.
We will be touring through various snow conditions (possibly including everything from deep powder to ice). You should be comfortable touring on slopes up to 40 degrees, using ski crampons, and making kick turns. If you have not had much experience ski touring, we recommend going out with a guide in your local area for a day or two before the trip. Alternatively, if you are a good athlete and a quick learner, you can hire one of our guides for a day or two before the trip to help nail down some of these important touring skills.
The downhill skiing component of this trip is also very important. You should be comfortable skiing black diamond runs in the ski area in any condition (crud, powder, ice, etc). It is very helpful to practice skiing on your touring skis to get used to their performance as it may differ from your typical downhill skis. If you feel comfortable on them on black and double black runs as well as crud and powder, you should do well.
We run this tour on a maximum ratio of 1:4 for the first 4 ski days then the summit day is guided on a maximum of 1:2
Spring weather in the Alps can vary from hot and sunny to cold and stormy very suddenly. The temperatures can fluctuate between highs in the 70’s and 80’s (Farenheit) during the day to lows below freezing at night. If we are touring on the glacier in the mid-day sun, it can feel extremely hot, but a strong wind or cloud cover can cause the temperature to drop drastically. We could also encounter stormy conditions that could be bad enough to make us abandon the route and search for skiing at lower elevations or in marked ski areas.
For the Mont Blanc summit to be achievable then not only do participants need to be fit, strong skiers with good mountain skills but conditions and weather need to align too. In the event that weather and/or conditions are not suitable for Mont Blanc then there are alternative peaks that can be attempted. These include the Gran Pradiso in Italy at 4061m, the highest mountain entirely within Italy. The Monterosa massif that crosses Switzerland and Italy offer a host of 4000m that can be climbed and skied from both the Swiss and Italian sides.
The mountain huts in the Alps are essentially basic high alpine hotels. The provide dormitory-style accommodation with basic washing facilities. Pillows, duvets (or 2 blankets) are provided, you just need to bring your own cotton or silk sleeping bag liner. They serve breakfast and dinner and plenty of other hot and cold food on request. Lunches, drinks, beer, wine etc can all be brought in the huts. These huts are typically big and will sleep up to 120 people each night, so they can seem busy and noisy (bring your earplugs for nighttime).
We do not put together groups of skiers who do not sign up together. We have found that trips are much more enjoyable when you do them with friends. All you need is a group of 3 or more and we will run a trip for you. We can run the Ski Mont Blanc Touring Week with 1 or 2 people, but the price changes so email us for more information about that.
We suggest you fly into Geneva airport and book a seat on one of the shared minibus transfer services that operate. If you require assistance with this please let us know and we can book it on your behalf, you will need to provide your full flight details (including flight numbers) and payment in advance of travel.
During the week in Chamonix, your guide will provide local transport from your hotel to ski and back. There may be some instances where you will use the local bus or train service to return from a ski tour.
We will book the mountain huts required for this trip. It is your responsibility to book the necessary hotel accommodation in Chamonix for this trip.
There are 2 different types of insurance: Travel or Trip Cancellation insurance and Rescue insurance. Typical travel insurance will cover the cost of the trip if you have to cancel before or during for any reason. There are many companies that offer this type of insurance such as Travelguard and Travelex. For rescue insurance, we recommend getting the Swiss heli rescue insurance (http://www.air-glaciers.ch/sion/carte-de-sauvetage/charte-du-sauvetage/english). If you have rescue insurance through an Alpine Club or your own provider, that should work also.