Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps, i.e. lots of guiding work! At 4,810 meters (15,782 ft) Mont Blanc is possible with a few days of acclimatizing for altitude and some mountaineering practice. I took a job with Mont Blanc Guides for their six-day summit package. We spent the first three days acclimatizing around the Albert Premier and Trient Huts, then we tackled the Gouter Route on the Great White Whale.
The honcho guide was Graham McMahon, a Welsh IFMGA guide based in Chamonix. Ben Mitchell and I were the new American guides, working our first summer job in the Alps as IFMGA guides. Ben lives in Tahoe and works for Alpine Skills International, Mountain Madness, RMI and Points North Heliski. When not guiding Ben flings himself off cliffs wearing a wingsuit and BASE rig.
On the third day of acclimatizing we left the Trient Hut (3,170m) in Switzerland and crossed the Trient Glacier to climb Aiguille du Tour (3,529). In the background are the Aiguilles Dorees.
Nigel, Wendy and Ellen scrambling to the summit of Aiguille du Tour (3,529). Perfect practice for the Gouter.
Mont Blanc above Chamonix seen from Le Tour. The Gouter route is the right skyline.
Ibex (Bouquetin in French) on the three-hour hike from midway up the Mont Blanc Tramway to the Tete Rousse Hut. A glacial lake outburst flood is threatening the upper portion of the tramway.
The Tete Rousse Hut at 3,187 meters on Mont Blanc where we based for the climb. The hut was built three years ago and has 75 beds.
The Grand Couloir above the Tete Rousse Hut. The route crosses the gully down low, then climbs third and fourth class to the Gouter Hut (shining at the top of the gully). Graham said the Grand Couloir was subdued compared to normal. During our 30-second sprint across the gully we missed the volley of rocks than came down every 15 minutes or so. This gully is the real deal.
Stephane Comte and some cheesy potatoes at the Tete Rousse. For summit day we had five guides including Stephane, Yannick, Dylan Taylor, Graham and me giving us a 2:1 ratio for the technical section between the Tete Rousse and Gouter huts.
Nigel and Gary climbing cables below the Gouter Hut at 7AM. I'm using the cable stanchions as short-pitching anchors.
Looking down the Grand Couloir from the Gouter Hut. Six hundred meters of "eeeep!"
Gary Sloan from England downing a strategic Red Bull near the summit. Gary and I summited together. Thanks for a great day Gary!
Gweeds on Mont Blanc summit: Joe, Dylan Taylor and Graham McMahon. Round trip to the summit from the Tete Rousse took 14 hours.
Walking the upper portion of the Mont Blanc tramway back to the Bellevue Telepherique and down to Les Houches near Chamonix.