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 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.
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 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 “Chamonix
with it in the background, your only real choice if you’re not a mountain man
) is to take the excellent lift up from Aiguille du Midi
. Again, see the writeup
in that node for more information.
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 http://www.thebmc.co.uk/world/alps/mtblanc.htm
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.