The Mountain

Mont Blanc towers in at 4807m, or 15,771 feet above sea level. It was the highest peak in Europe until people started including mountains in extreme eastern Europe, but is better defined as the highest mountain in either the Alps or Western Europe. Along the same lines but still a cool thought, it is the first spot the sun hits in Western Europe as the new day begins. Mont Blanc is in western France, just a little south of Switzerland.

The Range

The Alps, are well, I guess one way to get the idea across is to look at the word “alp”-ine. The Alps start in southern France, take up basically the entire country of Switzerland, northern Italy, southwest Germany, run through Austria and the old Czech republic, ending around Yugoslavia.

The History

For a long time Europeans saw the Alps as a nuisance, hindering travel and trade. Gradually the natural splendor was realized by all, and the 8th of August, 1786, Michel-Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat were the first two climbers to summit. The town of Chamonix has been around since before any records date, the first record dating to around 1100 AD. Once the sport of skiing took off, Chamonix blossomed into a resort town, and the lift up to Aiguille du Midi was built.

The Valley

The closest town to Mont Blanc is Chamonix, which has actually incorporated Mont Blanc into its own name Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Nobody calls it that, and it only comes up because of the train stop and official documents. Chamonix is a fairly decently sized town with lots of good resources for climbers and adventurers. Check out its node for more information on Chamonix. There are numerous places to find guides, which are recommended for all climbers. Most veteran climbers prefer St. Gervais (down the valley) as a base camp because of the quieter nature of the less touristy town, or so I’m told.

The Touristy Stuff
If you want to see Mont Blanc or have some random guy take a picture of you with your brand new “Chamonixsweatshirt with it in the background, your only real choice if you’re not a mountain man (or woman) is to take the excellent lift up from Aiguille du Midi. Again, see the writeup in that node for more information.
The Climb

There are several ways to climb Mont Blanc, although all climbers are recommended to have a guide. As I have not climbed Mont Blanc, an excellent source of information is the page

The Impression

You can’t really pick out which peak is Mont Blanc from the valley. You can have someone point it out, in which case you might remark “Wow, that looks so much shorter than those other pointy ones!” The other “pointy” ones like Aiguille du Midi are basically along the lines of jagged foothills. Once you take the lift up to Aiguille du Midi or you climb up le Brévent on the other side of the valley, only then can you really see the impressive height and size of Mont Blanc. Unlike the majority of the other peaks in the area, Mont Blanc is a dome of snow, making it look easier to climb dispite its enormous proportions. The peak is very large, and although a hell of a lot of people climb it, the peak can accommodate 100-200 people simultaneously. I do hope to climb it someday.

A German maker of fine writing instruments. Right now, it is the brand that most people associate with fountain pens, though it is also held in low esteem by pen lovers.

The company started in Hamburg in 1909, though it was not known as "Mont Blanc" at the time. Instead, it was known as the Simplo Filler Company, initially selling products manufactured in the United States. By the twenties, they were making their own pens.

Mont Blanc pens come in a variety of styles, including a series of limited editions named after a variety of authors. However, the archetype of their line is the Meisterstuck. Big and cigar like, it is what is seen in the pockets of many around the world. Mont Blancs are identified by the white, six-pointed start on top of their pens (to represent the slopes of the mountain namesake), called a "snowflake" by collectors. On the fountain pens, the number "4810" is on the nib, representing Mont Blanc's height in meters. Mont Blancs all have serial numbers, which is how one can distinguish the real pen from a fake.

Mont Blanc have become something of a status symbol. Want a good pen? Go get a Mont Blanc. Among collectors, this has made current Mont Blancs a joke (though vintage ones are held in higher regard). Part of this is due the fact that people don't consider other fine pens. Part of it is also due to poor customer support. Further, the resin used to make the barrels has a reputation for being brittle. I personally know someone whose pen broke after a drop that should have, at worst, scratched the pen.

Mont Blanc has ventured into other areas of luxury consumer goods (watches, wallets, etc.). This may also explain some of ill will Mont Blanc generates.

It is generally felt that Mont Blanc is on the bad side of a customer service cycle that occurs not only in the pen world, but in other areas as well. A company produces a good product with customer service. It becomes very popular for that reason. Unfortunately, they are not able to hold on to the service and quality that made them popular.


Le Mont Blanc is a crêpe (French sweet pancake - as opposed to the galette, which is savoury), popular in the crêperies of the Chamonix valley. In addition to the actual pancake, it consists of vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce, almond chips, bananas sliced lengthways and chantilly, otherwise known as whipped cream or squirty cream.

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