III, 15km there and back, 1 day. The most popular and straightforward route up Mont Blanc is often busy. The description starts on the approach slopes just above the Refuge de Tête Rousse.
Approach - Take the Tramway du Mont Blanc to the Nid d'Aigle at 2372m, either by boarding it at St Gervais, or by meeting it half way having taken the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches (this has the advantage that it can be reached from the rest of Chamonix Valley using public transport). From the Nid d'Aigle, walk south for 50m on the wide track before branching off left on a smaller path, which is marked with regular dabs of red paint. Initially the path twists and turns, before straightening to reach the Baraque Forestière des Rognes (a small, unmanned hut). From here the path gets gradually steeper and more exposed as it zigzags up to the ridge of the Aiguille du Goûter. The ridge divides the Griaz and Tête Rousse Glaciers. Both have shrunk considerably in recent years and are not especially attractive, although the rest of the scenery around here is excellent.
At the top of the ridge is a warden's hut, where you may have to show proof of a hut booking, or at least demonstrate that you are not planning to camp in the vicinity of the Refuge du Goûter. Camping seems to be tolerated around the Refuge de Tête Rousse, and there is normally a large collection of tents just east of it.
If you are stopping at the Refuge de Tête Rousse, cross the Tête Rousse Glacier easily to reach the refuge (crampons may be necessary). Reaching the hut should take 2 to 2.5 hours from the Nid d'Aigle. Staying at the Tête Rousse has two main advantages - it is quieter and therefore easier to get a reservation (and a good night's sleep), and it allows you to cross the Grand Couloir in the cooler temperatures of the night rather than in the heat of the day when rockfall is worse. The glaring downside is that it adds three hours of uphill to your summit day.
If continuing up to the Refuge du Goûter, take a more direct line towards the west face of the Aiguille du Goûter, and cross the Tête Rousse Glacier diagonally, heading for its southeast edge, and the ridge which divides it from the Bionnassay Glacier. Having reached this ridge, follow it to the Grand Couloir, which is made obvious by the metal wire which crosses it. The route description begins from here.
1) Move quickly up to the Grand Couloir, pause to check for rocks, and then move quickly across it. This is the most dangerous part of the ascent to the Refuge du Goûter, and some of the path before the couloir is exposed to rockfall, with only the very last few metres before the crossing being sheltered.
Having crossed the couloir, a vague path leads you up and right onto the south side of the ridge up to the Aiguille du Goûter.
Crossing the Grand Couloir Safety Notes
- The couloir is often busy, wait in a safe spot until you have an opportunity to cross without affecting others.
- Don't be afraid to jump the queue; if a group is putting you in danger by making you wait, ask to go ahead. Etiquette and a desire on everyone's part to keep moving normally ensures that you don't wait around for long.
- The wire across the couloir can be useful, but consider whether you need it. The couloir is roughly 30m wide, and 40 degrees, usually with a very good path across it. Many people prefer to quickly dash across rather than introduce ropes and other things that may slow them down. The best way of staying safe is to be quick.
- If you use the wire, clip a karabiner to it, clip your rope through the karabiner and then tie each party member on to the rope with plenty of slack and carry the slack in your hands to avoid tripping over it. The wire is only there for an emergency in case of a fall and it is not to be used like a via ferrata. Do not clip into the wire with a sling - the wire is several metres away from the path across the couloir, so if you clip into it with insufficient slack it will pull you off the path and leave you hanging in mid-air.
- Once across the couloir, and headed for the Refuge du Goûter, you are still threatened by stonefall (but less so) for the first 50 vertical metres or so. Keep moving!
- Higher up the ridge, you can often see into the couloir, and will be able to shout to people crossing lower down if you see any rocks falling. The word normally shouted is "caillou" (French for pebble/stone, pronounced "kai-oo"), but any loud expletives should work.
2) From here follow the vague path, polish, crampon scratches and occasional red paint marks up the ridge, over some enjoyable and straightforward scrambling, until roughly 3600m, where cables have been installed as handrails. Follow these to the now disused old Refuge du Goûter (which is now completely locked up and can't be dossed in, but which does have a fantastic view of the route you have just completed). Go around the hut to the right and climb a short snow slope (often equipped with a handrail) to reach the top of the Aiguille du Goûter.
3) Having taken in the superb view of the Aiguille du Midi, walk south for 100m along the flat snow ridge to reach the new Refuge du Goûter. Getting to the Refuge du Goûter takes roughly three hours from the Tête Rousse. Breakfast is served in the small hours of the morning at the Goûter (the exact time depends on what month it is and when the sun will rise) so the approach to the Dôme du Goûter is usually climbed in the dark. Luckily the route finding is straightforward.
4) Immediately after leaving the hut, pass two rises on their eastern sides and then climb up the Northwest Face of the Dôme du Goûter. There are occasional crevasses, but generally the climb is a series of gentle switchbacks with little to worry about.
5) The route narrowly misses the summit of the Dôme du Goûter, and few people bother tagging the top. Having passed under the Dôme, descend gently to the Col des Dômes, at the foot of the Bosses Ridge - 2.5 to 3 hours from the Refuge du Goûter.
6) From here, 100m of steep snow leads up to the Bivouac Vallot. This is an emergency shelter but some climbers sleep in it. As a result it has become fairly disgusting, with human waste and rubbish piled up in the corner. It does provide some shelter though, so most people pause here for a bite to eat before the Bosses Ridge.
7) Having passed to the right of the Bivouac Vallot, a short, steep snow slope leads to the two distinctive 'bosses' (humps) which mark the beginning of the Bosses Ridge. Go over the Grande Bosse and the Petite Bosse (which, confusingly enough, is the higher of the two) and follow the stunning and exposed snow ridge to the summit, staying mainly on the west side of the ridge. 5 to 6 hours from the Refuge du Goûter.
Descent - Either descend the route (no abseils required) or follow the Trois Monts Route down to the Aiguille du Midi. © Rockfax
UKC Logbook Description
From Les Houches, cable car and train take you to the start of the walk up to the Gouter Hut. Best to be early as possible in the day as the couloir before the steep hike up the Aig. du Gouter can be a shooting gallery. 4 hours from end of train to Gouter Hut.
From the hut, follow the tracks towards the Dome du Gouter, passing underneath and then down to the Col du Dome and then continue on toward the Vallot Bivouac Hut. From here the trail becomes more steep as you ascend the Bosses Ridge over two "false" summits to the snowy ridge that leads to the top. 6 hours from the hut to the top.
L. Stephen and F. Tuckett with M. Anderegg, J Bennen and P Perren 18/Jul/1861.
Rebuffat's 100 Finest Routes in the Mont Blanc Massif , ROCKFAX Chamonix: Top 50 , Big Routes , Rosie's Broken Alpine Dreaming , Alpine Progression , A mix of routes to the summits of great Peaks in the Alps via standard'ish routes , Batoux's 100 finest routes in the Mont Blanc massif
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