Hiking Mont Blanc

Getting to the top of the Alps’ highest mountain involves rigor and training, but some creature comforts line the way there.

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Mont Blanc Massif reflects in the still waters of Lake Blanc (Lac Blanc).

A specific hiking trek takes intrepid souls to the breathtaking vistas of Mont Blanc, the highest of the Alps. The snow-capped peaks inspire the French name for white mountain.

Hikers flock to Mont Blanc because of the challenge. For those not quite ready for Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc seems like the perfect start: challenging, yet luxurious. One theory is that it’s a “step above camping” by using hostels or simple, mountainside hotels.

Besides airfare, there’s the price for the excursion, food and lodging. Three meals daily consist of delicious fresh foods. Hefty bovines on the mountain supply the milk, and there’s a full variety of breakfast items.

Chamonix has charming inns balanced by exalted scenery.
The stunning scenery provides a romantic backdrop for couples to share a rigorous challenge.
Hikers view this unique, adventurous trip as a victory, pushing them to a new level of fitness.

Excursion

Travelers can research program itineraries online and consult travel agents for flights and hotels to stay at before the trek starts. Arrive a few days early to acclimate to the altitude.

In the rugged terrain, guides provide assistance when needed while hikers carry day packs with about 15 pounds of layered clothing, photographic gear and small amounts of food. A van transports luggage and heavier gear between the lodges, plus food for large lunches. Getting to an ice cave is accomplished by ascending the mountain by train, having lunch and hiking on the glacier. Hikers sleep indoors, which is one of the many reasons they choose this trip – it’s not a tent on Kilimanjaro.

Visitors might enjoy a delicious cake named after Mont Blanc at one of the fine dining establishments along the way.
Farmhouses and chalets adorn the countryside near Mont Blanc.

Training and preparation

To train for this trip, hikers should begin at least three months ahead of time. They should perform at least an hour’s aerobic activity four times weekly. A high-tech workout could include a step machine with an oxygen mask that mimics altitudes of 3,000, 6,000, 12,000 and 16,000 feet. Veterans recommend wearing hiking boots while running, power walking several miles a day, or using the Stairmaster. Since hiking poles are used for pulling and supporting you when you’re tired, you should strengthen your biceps and triceps.

You don’t want to quit after the first day because the guide finds you unprepared. If so, resting hikers can catch up to everyone by car.

The route for this particular trip starts in Chamonix, France, and continues into Italy and Switzerland before looping back into France. The day starts at about 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. The only way to the summit is with ropes and ice shoes because of solid ice at 15,781 feet. Ice rappelling is the method of descent. Guides are a must with three or more people per guide.

Culture

Spending a couple of days in each splendid country makes this a cultural trip as well. The villages you walk through add variety to the landscape.

Chamonix has charming inns balanced by exalted scenery, waterfalls and brooks. Hillsides of pine trees enhance meadows. Farmhouses and chalets adorn the countryside. Savor the cafes’ sumptuous meals of authentic country cooking, including charcuterie, fondue and raclette. Enjoy the Maison Vielle while in Courmayer, Italy. Celebrities frequent this cozy tavern.

Hikers view this unique, adventurous trip as a victory for themselves. It pushes you to a new level of fitness and creates lasting memories. The stunning scenery provides a romantic backdrop for couples to share a rigorous challenge.

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