Climbing Mont Blanc Alternatives
There is no denying Mont Blanc is a magnificent mountain, it holds some of the world’s greatest climbs pioneered by some of the world’s greatest climbers. The normal routes up it however do not fall into this category; they are unbelievably popular only as a means to summit, and not for their quality. Each summer season will see the two main options full to the brim with hopeful summiteers all vying for space on the mountain and space in the huts. You can, if you’re lucky, have a magnificent experience making an ascent by the normal routes but this is down to good luck both with timings and weather.
Why put it down to luck?
Why not get enough experience under your belt elsewhere and come back to Mont Blanc when you have the skills to tackle one of the world-class grand courses. With a number of Alpine seasons in the bag and the company of a good mountain guide, once in a lifetime routes like the Innominate Ridge or the Brouillard Ridge should be well within your grasp. The Alps are thick with top quality alternatives to the normal route up Mont Blanc and with the right guidance and skill-set there are lots of quality routes to progress through. We’ve picked three to get the thought process rolling.
Weissmies - Sass Grund (grade PD)
This snowy giant is the perfect introduction to high Alpine peaks. It has all the essential elements to kick-start your Alpine mountaineering career but with none of the hassle you’ll experience on Mont Blanc. Located in the Swiss Valais area it is easily reached by flights to either Genève or Zurich from where trains straight off the concourse whisking you effortlessly to a short bus transfer and your valley base in Saas-Grund.
The approach involves a good days walk (great for acclimatization) to get you to the superbly positioned Almageller Hut. You’ll then overnight at the hut and make a pre-dawn start to ensure stable snow conditions. Boulder fields then a pleasant rocky scramble lead onto the South Southeast Ridge. This is followed first on rock and then a narrow snow crest to the summit. The descent is down the West Northwest Flank which is essentially a steep snow slope followed by a dramatic glacier. Cable cars then give access back to the valley.
Saas Grund is the perfect base for a first season in the Alps there are lots of peaks at the easier end of the grade scale including other 4000m peaks. There are also plenty of training opportunities including lower level walks and Via Ferrata routes. The season runs from June through September depending on snow conditions and hut opening and closures.
Monte Rosa - Zermatt/Gressoney/Macugnaga/Alagna (grade PD II+)
Mont Blanc might be highest but Monte Rosa is bigger, way bigger. Within its massif it has eight of the Alps’ 4000m summits, two of which hold second and third place in height terms respectively. The brilliance of this mountain is there is ample opportunity to lose the crowds. There are lots of superb huts and the quality of the climbing is world-class allowing the climbers to be spread out thinly over multiple options. The normal route up the highest summit, Dufourspitze, is a tad harder than the normal route up Mont Blanc, but if you’ve been preparing for Mont Blanc you’ll have no problem climbing it and the slightly elevated technical bits make it a more interesting proposition.
Aiguille Verte – Chamonix (grade AD III)
The Aiguille Verte is a real Alpinists’ mountain. It shares the Chamonix Valley and the same magnificent outlook with Mont Blanc but, by its normal route, is a far greater challenge. The route is committing, a full grade harder, the approach is longer and the hut that services it is smaller and more relaxed, which in total makes its ascent one of the most sought after and rewarding in the Alps.