A bit of geography and geology
The Mont Blanc chain is about 40 km long and 13 km wide at its widest point. It has a fairly linear trend from South-West to North-East. With its compact mass, it closes the Aosta Valley at the north-west end, separating it from Haute-Savoie. At its end, the Aosta Valley branches into two sub-valleys on the right and left, which flank the massif. The first, the Val Veny, goes south-west, up to the border with France. The second, Val Ferret, goes in the opposite direction, up to the border with Switzerland.
On both sides, the huge bastion stands imposingly with a succession of snow-capped peaks, rocky spiers, ridges, inaccessible valleys and ice flows, which is unparalleled in Europe. Of the two sides, the French one to the north is sweeter, wavy and snowy. Courmayeur’s, on the contrary, appears more impervious, powerful and, in general, more impressive.
In the central part, the massif is carved out by a deep valley in French territory, crossed by a long system of glaciers that winds down the valley, just north of Chamonix. These are the Vallée Blanche and the Gigante glaciers, which join together to form the famous Mer de Glace.
From a geological point of view, the Mont Blanc massif is made up of various rocks. The predominant and most characteristic type is protogynous granite, a very hard and solid rock, which can take on shades from gray to yellow, up to reddish. Its compactness is such as to make it very resistant to atmospheric agents. This fact, together with the continuous upward thrusts of the entire mountain mass, explains the particular grandeur of the chain.
Another feature is the frequent presence of quartz crystals, especially on the Italian side.
Mont Blanc and its chain of peaks
In addition to Mont Blanc itself, there are about twenty peaks that exceed 4000 m in height. Among them, the Dent du Geant, Les Grandes Jorasses, the Aiguille Blanche de Peutérey, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Aiguille Verte (the last two entirely in France) stand out for their fame and beauty. Below 4000 m but equally famous, are the Aiguille Noire de Peutérey, the Aiguille de Trélatéte, the Aiguille du Midi, the Aiguilles du Dru, the Aiguille du Triolet, the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Mont Dolent.
Famous ridges descend from the sides of these peaks, such as the Peutérey ridge, the Innominata ridge, the Brenva ridge, the Rochefort ridge and the Aiguilles de Chamonix ridge.
Ice and snow are one of the most fascinating aspects of Mont Blanc.
In general, the glaciers are wider and longer on the colder French side. Here, in addition to the Mer de Glace, we find the Gigante glacier, the Argentière glacier, the Bossons glacier and the Trélatéte glacier. On the Italian side, the Miage glacier, the Brenva glacier, the Toula glacier and the Pré de Bar glacier should be remembered. In the north, in Switzerland, the most important are the Saleina glacier and the famous Trient glacier.
Mont Blanc and mountaineeringFor mountaineering, the Mont Blanc massif is the environment of excellence in Europe and one of the most important in the world. Mountaineering activity officially started here in the second half of the 18th century, when explorations began in search of the way to reach the summit of Mont Blanc. The dream was fulfilled in 1786, when Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat reached the summit from the Chamonix side. Since then it has been a succession of exploits, which have involved the greatest mountaineers in the world. Even today, Courmayeur and Chamonix are considered the world capitals of mountaineering. An infinite number of routes and itineraries spread over all the peaks, walls and ridges of the group. Classic itineraries, which have always been the dream of all those who love the mountains. But also recent itineraries, which overcome difficulties once unthinkable and now possible thanks to modern training and progression techniques. Today more than ever, throngs of mountaineers from all over the world stop every year in Courmayeur and Chamonix, to experience the thrill of being face to face with the mountain par excellence. As support points, they use a wide choice of refuges and bivouacs on each side. To shorten the approach routes, it is possible to take advantage of lifts, such as the Skyway or the rack railway in France. But Mont Blanc is not a universe only for experienced mountaineers. Even the many who do not have the experience or do not feel like venturing alone can aspire to climb it or to conquer one of the superb peaks that surround it. Courmayeur and Chamonix guides are the best in the world. And their associations, the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix Mont-Blanc and the Società Guide Alpine, are the oldest and most famous.
Enjoy Mont Blanc and its glaciersSeen from every point of the Courmayeur area, Mont Blanc is always suggestive. But seeing it at high altitude and being in the middle of it is another point. For those who have no way of facing it with a rope, crampons and ice ax, the ideal system is to climb it with the legendary Skyway. From Pontal, an offshoot of Entrèves, the first section climbs to the Pavillon du Mont Fréty (2173 m), from where you can continue with the second jump up to 3462 m of Punta Helbronner. On the other hand, Mont Blanc can be admired in many other ways. Looking at it comfortably lying in the meadows of the Val Ferret or sitting at the table of a chalet in Val Veny. Or you can enjoy it by hiking through the mountains and valleys around. The Courmayeur area has an endless network of paths that make hikers from all over the world happy. Some of these trails are part of the most important hiking itinerary in Europe: the Tour Mont Blanc. Thousands of hikers face it every year to live the magical experience of walking around the group, staying overnight in the refuges and crossing three countries.
Images of Mont Blanc and its chain
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