Mont Blanc and mountaineering are an indissoluble combination.
The group is so vast and imposing that anyone who is in the middle of it feels like in contact with the mountain like nowhere else in Europe. Those who have been there know this feeling very well. And we can understand why the dream of setting foot on the summit of the giant at least once in a lifetime is hidden in the heart of every true mountain lover.
Mountaineering routes in the Mont Blanc group
The greatness and variety of the itineraries in the Mont Blanc group have contributed to establishing Courmayeur and Chamonix as the world capitals of mountaineering. At the same time, the different morphology of the two sides determines the conditions for different types of climbs.
The Chamonix side, sweeter and snowier, is characterized by less arduous itineraries. From this side, for example, the most popular routes to the summit of Mont Blanc rise: the routes for the crest of the Aiguille du Gouter, the Grands Mulets and the route of the “Three mountains” from the Aiguille du Midi, which can be reached going up by cable car from Chamonix.
The impervious physiognomy of the Italian side means that the most demanding mountaineering itineraries towards the summit develop on its side: the Peutérey ridge, the Innominata ridge, the Pilier Central of Freney, the Mayor route, the Red Sentinel, the spur of the Brenva. Obviously, simpler and beautiful at the same time itineraries can also be climbed from this side. For example, the Mont Blanc “italian normal route”, from the Gonella Refuge.
On the side of Val Ferret, highly satisfying routes climb to Dente del Gigante, Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille de Lechaux, Mont Maudit and Mont Dolent. On the Val Veny side, in addition to the routes to the summit already mentioned, we can remember the routes on the Aiguille Noire and the Aiguille Blanche de Peutérey, on the Red Pillar of Brouillard and on the Aiguille de Trélatéte.
Climbing on Mont Blanc and on the cliffs
For climbing enthusiasts, the red granite of Mont Blanc has a magical flavor.
To experience it in all its essence, you don’t need to go a long way. From Courmayeur just take the Skyway and go up to Punta Helbronner. With a short walk on the glacier you reach the Grand Capucin and its satellites. A little further, and you arrive at Mont Blanc du Tacul, the Aiguille du Midi and the other peaks that surround the Vallée Blanche. Not to mention the web of rock routes that run on the vertical walls of the Aiguilles de Chamonix!
In the Courmayeur area, sport climbing can be practiced on various cliffs and walls at medium-low altitudes.
Near La Saxe stands the wall that served as a historic climbing wall.
In recent years, numerous itineraries have been traced on various slabs of the valley floor in Val Ferret. The main ones are located after the village of Arnouva, on the right orographic side. A first group, more vertical, is located at the mouth of the Triolet valley and can be reached by following the path to the Dalmazzi Refuge. A second group, consisting of more inclined slabs, is located a little further and can be reached by following the path to the Elena Refuge and then crossing to the other side of the valley.
A large number of modern routes have been traced on the walls around the Dalmazzi Refuge, which can be climbed just like on a cliff. Many others are located above Le Pavillon, the intermediate station of the Skyway.
Those who do not stop even in winter and on rainy days can indulge themselves on the climbing wall set up inside the Courmayeur Sport Center. During the summer climbing instructors organize courses for adults and children.
Approaches, refuges and bivouacs
The Skyway (Mont Blanc cableway) is certainly a very easy and fast way to the top and to get closer to the peaks.
In any case, on the Italian side, the mountaineer can count on a vast system of refuges and bivouacs as support points. Some are located in convenient and easily accessible places, within the reach of good hikers. Others are located in daring positions, on ridges and spurs.
In Val Ferret there are 4 refuges (Turin, Boccalatte, Dalmazzi and Elena) and 5 bivouacs (Comino, Fiorio, Gervasutti, Canzio and Jachia), the last two in truly inaccessible places. In Val Veny there are 3 guarded refuges (Elisabetta, Gonella and Monzino), 2 unattended refuges (Borelli and Quintino Sella) and 7 bivouacs (Alberico and Borgna, Brenva, Hess, Rainetto and the daring Craveri, Crippa and Lampugnani).
The Courmayeur Society of Alpine Guides
The importance of Courmayeur for mountaineering in all its forms is well represented by the large amount of activities and services associated with it.
The most important and historic institution in Courmayeur is the Society of Alpine Guides. Built in 1850, it is the second in the world, after that of Chamonix. Today it is housed in the historic building of the House of Guides, where the Duca degli Abruzzi Alpine Museum is also located.
The Courmayeur guides are the main reference point for those who wish to climb high mountains in safety conditions. Obviously, the most requested climb is the summit of Mont Blanc, even if, due to its height, it is not for everyone and requires a habit of climbing at high altitudes. Common routes from the Courmayeur side are the “Mont Blanc Italian” from the Gonella Refuge and the Brenva spur. Other popular routes are the traverse from Punta Helbronner to Aiguille du Midi, the climbs to the Tour Ronde and the Dente del Gigante, the beautiful and difficult Rochefort ridge, the normal routes to the Grandes Jorasses, Mont Dolent, Aiguille de Trélatéte, climbing the Pyramide du Tacul and the Aiguille Croux.
Among its tasks, the Society of Alpine Guides also deals with climbing training and the mountain rescue system. In recent years, many of its members have also specialized in other mountain disciplines, such as training in canyoning, mountain biking and long trekkings (Mont Blanc Tour).
Equipment: purchase and rental
Mountaineering requires highly specialized equipment, moreover in continuous evolution. In Courmayeur you can find some of the best shops of Italy.
Buying equipment can be too expensive for those who do not practice mountaineering continuously. As in the case of other sports, rental can be the ideal solution. In Courmayeur and Dolonne there are specialized shops, where you can rent all the equipment.
In Courmayeur you can also find bookstores specializing in the sale of maps, guides, magazines and all kinds of publications on the mountains and mountaineering.
The Aigle Hotel is an excellent base for mountaineering.
Many of the most famous itineraries start from Punta Helbronner, the arrival station of the Skyway: Dente del Gigante, Grand Capucin, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacul, many itineraries for the summit of Mont Blanc. The departure is in Pontal, just 800 meters from the hotel.
Near the hotel is the bus stop for Val Ferret, a starting point for facing giants such as the Grandes Jorasses and Mont Dolent, or for having fun climbing on the walls of the valley floor. Not far away is the bus stop for Val Veny, the starting point of the Italian route to Mont Blanc and of many famous routes in the valleys of Freney and Brouillard.
Of course, the support by the Hotel does not only consist in an optimal position, but also in the search for a mountain guide or in the eventual rental of equipment.
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