Food and Water
How much water should I carry each day?
Do not carry too much water – it is very heavy. As a general rule 1-2 litres is the right amount. Avoid using Camelbak style systems with drinking straws. They leak, the tubes freeze, and they will always let you down when you need them most. Nalgene style plastic bottles are the best.
What type of food should I carry?
Everyone is different, however it is essential to eat well in the mountains. Sandwiches are hard to beat, supplemented by fruit and chocolate bars. Don’t carry too much food, and remember that some foods will freeze solid unless kept in jacket pockets.
Where can I get a packed lunch for each day?
You can buy a good packed lunch directly from the chalet. Please let them know the day before.
What are the mountain huts like?
Mountain huts are mostly owned by the Alpine Clubs. They are there to provide accommodation and food for mountaineers. They often cater for large numbers (>100), and hence can be quite busy. Meals are usually simple but plentiful, and anyone with special dietary requirements must let us know in advance so we can inform the hut guardian. Please note that while huts will usually try and accommodate vegetarians etc they do sometimes struggle with more specialised requirements such as gluten free. Showers and running water are not usually available. Meals, drinks, and snacks can be purchased for cash. As an indicative cost, a 1.5 litre bottle of mineral water typically costs 6-9 Euros and a bar of chocolate 2 Euros. The rooms are usually dormitory style, with large alpine bunks (up to 15 people in a row).
If there is no water in the huts for washing, what should we do?
Take some wet wipes to give yourself a clean in the evening. A toothbrush, some wet wipes, and a small tube of toothpaste (shared between several people) is plenty. Some alcohol hand gel is also handy.
Why do some people use different huts to us?
All huts have their advantages and disadvantages. The approach route for the Tete Rousse (2-3 hrs) and Gouter Hut is the same, with the Gouter being 400m higher (an extra 2hrs climbing) on the same route. While the Gouter is higher (and thus a shorter summits day) it is not quite as comfortable as the Tete Rousse. The Cosmiques Refuge is comfortable, and has a very short approach (<30mins), however the route from there to the summit is longer and more technical than the Gouter Route. Choice of hut depends on group fitness, technical ability, conditions on the mountain and availability of spaces. Approx timings for routes are as follows:
Cosmique to Summit 6-9 hrs Tete Rousse to Summit 5-8 hrs Gouter to Summit 3-5 hrs
Once descent times are added (approx 4-5 hrs) it becomes a long summit day! If climbing from the Cosmique Hut you will traverse Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit before reaching the summit. If climbing from the Tete Rousse you will initially cross the “Grand Couloir” before scrambling up a rocky buttress to the Gouter Hut. This couloir is not difficult to cross, but can be prone to rock fall in warm temperatures. From the Gouter Hut the route is relatively straightforward to the summit although the summit ridge is exposed and can be icy.
Is a laundry service available?
An overnight laundry service is available in the chalet for essential items required for the summit phase (thermals and socks etc). Please note a small charge is levied for this service.
Do we have to move out of our rooms when we are on the mountain?
No. Your room in the chalet is yours for the week and is your home away from home.
How easy is it to get out and about?
Guest cards will be issued upon arrival which means the local buses and trains are free of charge if you fancy trying out the public transport. The chalet is also licensed to provide a private in-resort taxi service at a cost of €25 per journey in the valley.
How do hut bookings work?
Please note that there are now new regulations for Mont Blanc and we cannot make hut bookings until we have your full name and your deposit has been received.
In the event that the huts are unavailable, we will suggest alternative dates or alternatively refund your deposit in full.
Health and Safety
What sun cream do you recommend?
Any brand will be fine. The most important thing is the SPF – Do not bother with anything under SPF 30. Creams with UVA and UVB protection are best. And don’t forget lip salve.
Is it really necessary to spend so long acclimatising?
Yes. Acclimatisation is absolutely vital for Mont Blanc. Many people spend insufficient time up high before attempting the summit, and often fail as a result. Failure to acclimatise properly can lead to sickness and even death.
Am I likely to suffer from altitude sickness on this expedition?
There are different types of altitude sickness. Although our acclimatisation regime ensures that everybody enjoys the best possible chance of getting high on the mountain, altituderelated problems can happen. The most common of this is high altitude sickness, (AMS – acute mountain sickness).
Symptoms for this generally include:
Headache Nausea Vomiting
It all sounds quite dramatic but generally this is just the process your body naturally goes through to adjust to the higher altitudes and the reduced partial pressure of the atmosphere. For some people the acclimatisation process is a little longer and harder than others.
For our guides this is all part and parcel of trekking at relatively high altitude and although we assess each client’s personal situation carefully we also further consider the compounding affects of dehydration brought on by excessive vomiting and lack of appetite.
AMS might sound frightening but our guides are fully trained (and experienced) in helping relieve your symptoms and providing advice on how to best proceed.
Please note that we don’t recommend using Diamox as a prophylactic and if you have been prescribed it by your GP, please raise this with your expedition leader.
What kit should I bring?
As outlined in the kit list.
Can I hire equipment in Chamonix?
Anyone wishing to hire equipment in Chamonix rather than buy it can do so. We use a local shop for boot hire (allow €50 for the week), and other items are available as follows:
Ice Axe €22
Duvet Jacket €28
Full Package: Duvet Jacket, Mitts, Axe, Harness, Crampons, Helmet – €99
How long are the days?
The length of days will vary when Alpine climbing. Training days will usually start between 06:00 and 08:00, and last for 6-8 hours. Mont Blanc summit day will usually start very early (around 03:00), and can easily last 12 hours.
How does every company claim to use the best mountain guides?
SBA always use the very best mountain guides possible. But then every company says that don’t they? To ensure we genuinely do use the best guides, we pay our guides more than any other guiding company operating on Mont Blanc. That way we always have the pick of the very best.
Are all mountain guides certified?
All guides operating in the European Alps must be internationally certified. Training and assessment takes a minimum of three years and anyone caught operating without a license will be prosecuted.
Occasionally we employ trainee guides (known as Aspirants). They are in the final stages of qualifying as guides and are allowed to operate under the tutorage of a fully qualified Guide.
What if we summit early?
If you summit early you may have a spare day in Chamonix. If so, there are numerous options for rock climbing, via ferrata, or alpine climbing for the day. The group would not all have to do the same activity as we would still have 1 guide per every 2 team members. There are also plenty of less physically demanding options in or near the Chamonix Valley.
What if the conditions are too bad to attempt the summit?
If conditions are really bad we will find an alternative plan. This would usually involve climbing in either Italy or Switzerland. If possible we would still try and climb a major peak >4,000m high.
How do I get from Geneva Airport to Chamonix?
Please contact the SBA office for advice on transfers. There are many options available.
Do I need special travel insurance for the expedition?
You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the expedition. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.
Your insurance details are requested on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date. 360 Expeditions will be requesting your insurance details 8 weeks before your departure.
Will I need an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for this expedition?
As the trip is based in France it is also worth having a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as this “gives card holders the right to access state-provided healthcare on temporary stays in other European Economic Area (EEA) countries or Switzerland. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would be to a resident of that country and is provided either at reduced cost or, in many cases, for free. The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until the card holder returns home. This includes treatment for pre-existing medical conditions.” If you don’t already have one, you can apply for one here and it is free. Many travel insurers won’t cover your medical costs in the unlikely event that you need medical treatment whilst you are away which could have been covered by an EHIC.
What camera should I take?
Avoid carrying bulky SLR style cameras. They are too heavy, and slow to use. Compact cameras that fit into a pocket are best. Cameras in rucksacks never take photographs. Digital cameras must be kept warm in a pocket or they will freeze and cease to function.