Mont Blanc


Mont Blanc (french: Mont Blanc ; it, Monte Bianco , both meaning "white mountain") is the highest mountain in the
Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately across eight Alpine countries (from west to east): France, Switzerl ...

Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on context. Beginning with foreign exploration during the Age of Discovery, roughly from the 15th century, the concept of ''Europe'' as "the W ...

Western Europe
, rising above sea level. It is the second-most prominent mountain in Europe, after
Mount Elbrus Mount Elbrus (russian: Эльбрус, Elbrus, ɪlʲˈbrus; kbd, Ӏуащхьэмахуэ, 'uaşhəmaxuə; krc, Минги тау, Mingi Taw), is the List of elevation extremes by region, highest and List of European ultra-prominent peaks, mo ...

Mount Elbrus
, and it is the eleventh most prominent mountain summit in the world. The mountain stands between the regions of
Aosta Valley , Valdostan or Valdotainian it, Valdostano (man) it, Valdostana (woman)french: Valdôtain (man)french: Valdôtaine (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = Official languages , population_blank1 = Italian French ...

Aosta Valley
, Italy, and
Savoie Savoie (; Franco-Provençal Franco-Provençal (also Francoprovençal, Patois, Gaga, Savoyard, Arpitan or Romand) is a dialect group within Gallo-Romance The Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance languages The Romance languages (less comm ...

Haute-Savoie Haute-Savoie (; Arpitan: ''Savouè d'Amont'' or ''Hiôta-Savouè''; en, Upper Savoy; german: Obersavoyen or '; it, Alta Savoia) is a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France France (), officially the Frenc ...

, France. It gives its name to the
Mont Blanc massif#REDIRECT Mont Blanc massif The Mont Blanc massif (french: Massif du Mont-Blanc; it, Massiccio del Monte Bianco) is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Répu ...
, bordering
Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under a multi-party assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_t ...

and forming part of a larger range referred to as the
Graian Alps , it, Alpi Graie , photo = , photo_caption = , country_type = Countries , country = , subdivision1_type = Provinces/Regions , subdivision1 = , parent = Alps , borders_on = , ...

Graian Alps
. The location of the
summit A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation The elevation of a geographic location (geography), location is its height above or below a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth' ...
of Mont Blanc is on the
watershed Watershed is a hydrological term, which has been adopted in other fields in a more or less figurative sense. It may refer to: Hydrology * Drainage divide, the line that separates neighbouring drainage basins ** European watershed * Drainage basin, ...
line between the valleys of
Ferret The ferret (''Mustela furo'') is a small, domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to s ...
in Italy and the valleys of Montjoie, and
Arve The Arve (french: L'Arve, ) is a river in France, in the ''département in France, département'' of Haute-Savoie, and (for a few kilometers) in Switzerland. It is a left tributary of the Rhône. It is long. Rising in the northern side of the Mon ...
in France, on the border between the two countries. Ownership of the summit area has long been a subject of historical dispute between the two countries. The Mont Blanc massif is popular for outdoor activities like
hiking Hiking is a long, vigorous walk Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gaits of terrestrial locomotion among legged animals. Walking is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendul ...

climbing Climbing is the activity of using one's hands, feet, or any other part of the body to ascend a steep topographical object. It is done for locomotion, recreation and competition, and within trades that rely on ascension; such as emergency res ...

trail running Trail running is a sport-activity which combines , and, where there are steep gradients, , that is run "on any unpaved surface". It is similar to both and (also known as hill running). Mountain running may, however, include paved sections. T ...
winter sports#REDIRECT Winter sports Winter sports or winter activities are competitive sports or non-competitive recreational activities which are played on snow or ice. Most are variations of skiing, ice skating and sledding. Traditionally, such games were ...
skiing Skiing is the use of ski A ski is a narrow strip of semi-rigid material worn underfoot to glide over snow. Substantially longer than wide and characteristically employed in pairs, skis are attached to ski boots with ski bindings, with eit ...

, and
snowboarding Snowboarding is a recreational and competitive activity that involves descending a snow-covered slope while standing on a snowboard Snowboards are boards where both feet are placed, and most times secured, to the same board, which are wider ...

. The most popular climbing route to the summit of Mont Blanc is the Goûter Route, which typically takes two days. The three towns and their communes which surround Mont Blanc are Courmayeur in Aosta Valley, Italy; and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Chamonix in Haute-Savoie, France. The latter town was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics, first Winter Olympics. A Vallée Blanche Cable Car, cable car ascends and crosses the mountain range from Courmayeur to Chamonix, through the Col du Géant. The Mont Blanc Tunnel, constructed between 1957 and 1965, runs beneath the mountain and is a major transalpine transport route.


Since 1760 Swiss naturalist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure began to go to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Chamonix to observe Mont Blanc. He tried with the Courmayeur mountain guide Jean-Laurent Jordaney, a native of Pré-Saint-Didier, who accompanied De Saussure since 1774 on the Miage Glacier and on Mont Crammont. The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc (at the time neither within Italy nor France) was on 8 August 1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel-Gabriel Paccard, Michel Paccard. This climb, initiated by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering. The first woman to reach the summit was Marie Paradis in 1808. Nowadays the summit is ascended by an average of 20,000 mountaineer tourists each year. It could be considered a technically easy, yet arduous, ascent for someone who is well trained and acclimatised to the altitude. From l'Aiguille du Midi (where the cable car stops), Mont Blanc seems quite close, being higher. But while the peak seems deceptively close, La Voie des 3 Monts route (known to be more technical and challenging than other more commonly used routes) requires more ascent over two other mountains, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit, before the final section of the climb is reached and the last push to the summit is undertaken. Each year climbing deaths occur on Mont Blanc, and on the busiest weekends, normally around August, the local rescue service performs an average of 12 missions, mostly directed to aid people in trouble on one of the normal routes of the mountain. Some routes require knowledge of high-altitude mountaineering, a guide (or at least an experienced mountaineer), and all require proper equipment. All routes are long and arduous, involving delicate passages and the hazard of rockfall or avalanche. Climbers may also suffer altitude sickness, occasionally life-threatening, particularly if they do not Altitude acclimatization, acclimatise to it.

Ownership of the summit

At the scale of the
Mont Blanc massif#REDIRECT Mont Blanc massif The Mont Blanc massif (french: Massif du Mont-Blanc; it, Massiccio del Monte Bianco) is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Répu ...
, the border between Italy and France passes along most of the main Alpine watershed, from the Aiguille des Glaciers to Mont Dolent, where it reaches the border with Switzerland. However, its precise location near the summits of Mont Blanc and nearby Dôme du Goûter has been disputed since the 18th century. Italian officials claim the border follows the watershed, splitting both summits between Italy and France, while French officials claim the border avoids the two summits, making both of them in France only. The size of these two (distinct) disputed areas is approximately 65 hectare, ha on Mont Blanc and 10 ha on Dôme du Goûter. Since the French Revolution, the issue of the ownership of the summit has been debated. From 1416 to 1792, the entire mountain was within the Duchy of Savoy. In 1723, the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, Victor Amadeus II, acquired the Kingdom of Sardinia. The resulting state of Sardinia was to become preeminent in the Italian unification. In September 1792, the French Revolutionary Army of the Alps under Anne-Pierre, marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac, Anne-Pierre de Montesquiou-Fézensac seized Savoy without much resistance and created a Departments of France, department of the Mont-Blanc (department), Mont Blanc. In a Treaty of Paris (1796), treaty of 15 May 1796, Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia was forced to cede Savoy and County of Nice, Nice to France. In article 4 of this treaty, it says: "The border between the Sardinian kingdom and the departments of the French Republic will be established on a line determined by the most advanced points on the Piedmont side, of the summits, peaks of mountains and other locations subsequently mentioned, as well as the intermediary peaks, knowing: starting from the point where the borders of Faucigny, the Duke of Aosta, Duchy of Aoust and the Valais, to the extremity of the glaciers or Monts-Maudits: first the peaks or plateaus of the Alps, to the rising edge of the Col-Mayor". This act further states that the border should be visible from the town of Chamonix and Courmayeur. However, neither is the peak of the Mont Blanc visible from Courmayeur nor is the peak of the Mont Blanc de Courmayeur visible from Chamonix because part of the mountains lower down obscure them. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna restored the King of Sardinia in Savoy, Nice and Piedmont, his traditional territories, overruling the 1796 Treaty of Paris. Forty-five years later, after the Second Italian War of Independence, it was replaced by a new legal act. This Treaty of Turin (1860), act was signed in Turin on 24 March 1860 by Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, and deals with the annexation of Savoy (following the French neutrality for the plebiscites held in Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Romagna to join the Kingdom of Sardinia, against the Pope's will). A demarcation agreement, signed on 7 March 1861, defined the new border. With the formation of Italy, for the first time Mont Blanc was located on the border of France and Italy, along the old border on the watershed between the department of Savoy and that of Piedmont formerly belonging to the Kingdom of Savoy. The 1860 act and attached maps are still legally valid for both the French and Italian governments. In the second half of the nineteenth century, on surveys carried out by a cartographer of the French army, Captain JJ Mieulet, a topographic map was published in France, which incorporated the summit into French territory, making the state border deviate from the watershed line, and giving rise to the differences with the maps published in Italy in the same period. Modern Swiss mapping, published by the Swisstopo, Federal Office of Topography, plots a region of disputed territory (statut de territoire contesté) around the summits of both Mont Blanc and the Dôme du Goûter. One of its interpretations of the French-Italian border places both summits straddling a line running directly along the geographic ridgeline (watershed) between France and Italy, and thus sharing their summits equally between both nations. However, a second interpretation places both summits, as well as that of Mont Blanc de Courmayeur (although much less clearly in the latter case), solely within France. NATO maps take data from the Italian Istituto Geografico Militare, I.G.M., based upon past treaties in force. The territory that goes from the Torino Hut to the highest peak of the Mont Blanc massif is under the control of the Guardia di Finanza.


The first professional scientific investigations on the summit were conducted by the Botany, botanist–meteorologist Joseph Vallot at the end of the 19th century. He wanted to stay near the top of the summit, so he built his own permanent cabin.

Janssen observatory

In 1890, Pierre Janssen, an astronomer and the director of the Meudon astrophysical observatory, considered the construction of an observatory at the summit of Mont Blanc. Gustave Eiffel agreed to take on the project, provided he could build on a rock foundation, if found at a depth of less than below the ice. In 1891, the Swiss surveyor Imfeld dug two horizontal tunnels below the ice summit but found nothing solid. Consequently, the Eiffel project was abandoned. Despite this, the observatory was built in 1893. During the cold wave of January 1893, a temperature of was recorded on Mont Blanc, being the lowest ever recorded there. Levers attached to the ice supported the observatory. This worked to some extent until 1906 when the building started leaning heavily. The movement of the levers corrected the lean slightly, but three years later (two years after Janssen's death), a crevasse started opening under the observatory. It was abandoned. Eventually the building fell, and only the tower could be saved wikt:in extremis, ''in extremis''.Janssen et l'observatoire du sommet du mont Blanc (1893-1909)
JM. Malherbe, Observatoire de Paris, section de Meudon

Air crashes

The mountain was the scene of two fatal air crashes; Air India Flight 245 in 1950 and Air India Flight 101 in 1966. Both planes were approaching Geneva Airport and the pilots miscalculated their descent; 48 and 117 people, respectively, died. The latter passengers included nuclear scientist Homi J. Bhabha, known as the "father" of India's nuclear programme.


In 1946, a drilling project was initiated to carve a tunnel through the mountain. The Mont Blanc tunnel would connect Chamonix, France and Courmayeur, Italy, and become one of the major transalpine transport routes between the two countries. In 1965, the tunnel opened to vehicle traffic with a length of .

1999 disaster

In 1999, a transport truck caught fire in the tunnel beneath the mountain. In total 39 people were killed when the fire raged out of control. The tunnel was renovated in the aftermath to increase driver safety, reopening after three years.

Incidents involving children

The record for the youngest person to climb Mont Blanc was set in 2009 by 10-year-old Asher Silver (United Kingdom, UK). In July 2014, an American entrepreneur and traveller Patrick Sweeney (entrepreneur), Patrick Sweeney attempted to break the record with his nine-year-old son P.J. and 11-year-old daughter Shannon. They were caught in avalanche, an avalanche, escaped death and decided not to pursue their attempt. In August 2014, an unknown Austrian climber with his 5-year-old son were intercepted by Mountain rescue, mountain gendarmes at and forced to turn around. On 5 August 2017, 9-year-old Hungary, Hungarian twins and their mother were rescued from by helicopter while their father and family friend continued their summit attempt.


The summit of Mont Blanc is a thick, perennial ice-and-snow dome whose thickness varies. No exact and permanent summit elevation can therefore be determined, though accurate measurements have been made on specific dates. For a long time, its official elevation was . In 2002, the Institut géographique national, IGN and expert surveyors, with the aid of Global Positioning System, GPS technology, measured it to be . After the 2003 European heat wave, 2003 heatwave in Europe, a team of scientists remeasured the height on 6 and 7 September. The team was made up of the glaciologist Luc Moreau, two surveyors from the GPS Company, three people from the Institut géographique national (France), IGN, seven expert surveyors, four mountain guides from Chamonix and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Saint-Gervais and four students from various institutes in France. This team noted that the elevation was , and the peak was away from where it had been in 2002. After these results were published, more than 500 points were measured to assess the effects of climate change and the fluctuations in the height of the mountain at different points. Since then, the elevation of the mountain has been measured every two years. The summit was measured again in 2005, and the results were published on 16 December 2005. The height was found to be , more than the previous recorded height. The rock summit was found to be at , some west of the ice-covered summit. In 2007, the summit was measured at and in 2009 at . In 2013, the summit was measured at and in 2015 at . From the summit of Mont Blanc on a clear day, the Jura Mountains, Jura, the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Massif Central mountain ranges can be seen, as well as the principal summits of the Alps.


A 1994 estimate suggests there had been 6,000 to 8,000 alpinist fatalities in total, more than on any other mountain.Helmut Dumler and Willi P. Burkhardt, ''The High Mountains of the Alps'', London: Diadem, 1994 Despite circular reporting, unsubstantiated claims recurring in media that "some estimates put the fatality rate at an average of 100 hikers a year", actual reported annual numbers at least since the 1990s are between 10 and 20: in 2017, fourteen people died out of 20,000 summit attempts and two remained missing; with 15 in 2018 as of August. A French study on the especially risky "Goûter Route, Goûter couloir, on the normal route on Mont Blanc" and necessary rescue operations found that between 1990 and 2011, there were 74 deaths "between the Tête Rousse refuge (3,187 m) and the Goûter refuge (3,830 m)". There were 17 more in 2012–15, none in 2016 and 11 in 2017. Note that these numbers do not count the fatalities of Air India Flight 245 and Air India Flight 101, two planes under the Air India airline that crashed into Mont Blanc.

Climbing routes

Several classic climbing routes lead to the summit of Mont Blanc:Routes description
* The most popular route is the Goûter Route, also known as the ''Voie Des Cristalliers'' or the ''Voie Royale''. Starting from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, the Mont Blanc Tramway, Tramway du Mont-Blanc (TMB) is taken to get to the Gare du Nid d'Aigle. The ascent begins in the direction of the Refuge de Tête Rousse, crossing the ''Grand Couloir'' or ''Goûter Corridor'', considered dangerous because of frequent rockfalls, leading to the Goûter Hut for night shelter. The next day the route leads to the Dôme du Goûter, past the emergency Vallot cabin and L'arrête des Bosses. * ''La Voie des 3 Monts'' is also known as ''La Traversée''. Starting from Chamonix, the Aiguille du Midi#Cable car, Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi is taken towards the Col du Midi. The Cosmiques Hut is used to spend the night. The next day the ascent continues over Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit. * The historic itinerary via the Grands Mulets Hut, or old normal route on the French side, which is most frequently traversed in winter by ski, or in summer to descend to Chamonix. * The normal Italian itinerary is also known as ''La route des Aiguilles Grises''. After crossing the Miage Glacier, climbers spend the night at the Gonella Hut, Gonella refuge. The next day, one proceeds through the Col des Aiguilles Grises and the Dôme du Goûter, concluding at L'arête des Bosses (Bosses ridge). * The Miage – Bionnassay – Mont Blanc crossing is usually done in three days, and has been described as ''a truly magical expedition of ice and snow arêtes at great altitude''. The route begins from Contamines-Montjoie, with the night spent in the Conscrits Hut. The following day, the Dômes de Miages is crossed and the night spent at the Durier cabin. The third day proceeds over Aiguille de Bionnassay, l'Aiguille de Bionnassay and the Dôme du Goûter, finally reaching the summit of Mont Blanc via the Bosses ridge.


*Refuge Vallot Hut, Vallot, 4362 m *Bivouac Giuseppe Lampugnani, 3860 m *Bivouac Marco Crippa, 3840 m *Refuge Goûter Refuge, Goûter, 3817 m *Bivouac Corrado Alberico – Luigi Borgna, 3684 m *Refuge Cosmiques Hut, Cosmiques, 3613 m *Refuge Tête Rousse Hut, Tête Rousse, 3167 m *Refuge Francesco Gonella, 3071 m *Refuge Grands Mulets Hut, Grands Mulets, 3050 m

Impacts of climate change

Recent temperature rises and heatwaves, such as those of the summers of 2015 and 2018, have had significant impacts on many climbing routes across the Alps, including those on Mont Blanc. For example, in 2015, the Grand Mulets route, previously popular in the 20th century, was blocked by virtually impenetrable crevasse fields, and the Dôme du Goûter, Gouter Hut was closed by municipal decree for some days because of very high rockfall danger, with some stranded climbers evacuated by helicopter. In 2016 a crevasse opened at high altitude, also indicating previously unobserved glacial movements. The new crevasse forms an obstacle to be scaled by climbing parties on the final part of the itinerary to the top shared by the popular Goûter Route and the Grand Mulets Route.

Exploits and incidents

* * * * * * 1950: Air India Flight 245 crashes into Mont Blanc. * 1966: Air India Flight 101 crashes into Mont Blanc. * * * * * * * * 11 July 2013: Kilian Jornet beat the fastest overall time for ascent and descent with 4 hours 57 minutes and 40 seconds. * 21 June 2018: Emelie Forsberg set a women's fastest known time up and down from Chamonix with 7 hours 53 minutes and 12 seconds, improving her previous record of 8 hours 10 minutes from 2013.

Cultural references

Cinema and television

* ''La Terre, son visage'', is a documentary by Jean-Luc Prévost and published by Édition Société national de télévision française, released in 1984. It is part of the ''Haroun Tazieff raconte sa terre, vol. 1'' series. In it he talks about the west–east crossing of Mont Blanc. * The film ''Malabar Princess''. * The television-film ''Premier de cordée''. * ''Storm over Mont Blanc'' (''Stürme über dem Mont Blanc'', 1930) with Leni Riefenstahl and directed by Arnold Fanck * ''La Roue'' (''The Wheel'', 1923) is a 273-minute film by Abel Gance depicting rail operations, workers and families in south-eastern France, including the Mont Blanc area.''


* ''Premier de cordée'' by Roger Frison-Roche * ''Hugo et le Mont Blanc'' by Colette Cosnie – Édition Guérin * ''Hymn Before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni'' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge * ''Manfred'' by Lord Byron * ''Frankenstein, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus'' by Mary Shelley * ''Mont Blanc (poem), Mont Blanc'' by Percy Shelley * ''Point Blanc'' by Anthony Horowitz * ''The Prelude Book VI'' by William Wordsworth * ', by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a poem to accompany an engraving of a painting by J. M. W. Turner. * ''Kordian'' by Juliusz Słowacki *''Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains'' by Jon Krakauer * ''Running Water'' by AEW Mason * ''La neige en deuil'' by Henri Troyat


Massimo Coda and Andrea Lanfri are two disabled climbers known as 'due uomini e una gamba' (which means two men and one leg). In Summer 2020 they were able to climb the mountain: this was the first time in which two disabled climbers tried and succeeded in climbing this mountain.


The Mont Blanc massif is being put forward as a potential World Heritage Site because of its uniqueness and its cultural importance, considered the birthplace and symbol of modern mountaineering. It would require the three governments of Italy, France and Switzerland to make a request to UNESCO for it to be listed. Mont Blanc is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, and for this reason, some view it as threatened. Pro-Mont Blanc (an international collective of associations for the protection of Mont Blanc) published in 2002 the book ''Le versant noir du mont Blanc'' (The black hillside of Mont Blanc), which exposes current and future problems in conserving the site. In 2007, Europe's two highest toilets (at a height of 4,260 metres, 13,976 feet) were taken by helicopter to the top of Mont Blanc. They are also serviced by helicopter. They will serve 30,000 skiers and hikers annually, helping to alleviate the discharge of urine and faeces that spreads down the mountain face with the spring thaw, and turns it into 'Mont Marron'. Global warming has begun to melt glaciers and cause avalanches on Mont Blanc, creating more dangerous climbing conditions.


See also

* Exploration of the High Alps * Haute Route * Mont Blanc (Moon) * Tête Rousse Glacier *
Mont Blanc massif#REDIRECT Mont Blanc massif The Mont Blanc massif (french: Massif du Mont-Blanc; it, Massiccio del Monte Bianco) is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Répu ...
* Mont Blanc Tramway * Mont Blanc Tunnel * Tour du Mont Blanc * Top of the Mont Blanc * List of Alpine four-thousanders



External links

* Topographic map of Mont Blanc
French IGN mapSwiss National Map (showing disputed areas)
Places to visit around Mont Blanc

Indepth guide to Mont Blanc

Mont-Blanc summit webcam
Close up of the summit of the Mont Blanc and its glaciers at 4811m.
Mont-Blanc panoramic webcam
See severals points of view of the Mont-Blanc range and zoom on the top. *
Mont Blanc on Summitpost

Descent into the Ice
Companion web site to the PBS NOVA program which follows a glaciologist and a climber into the glacier caves of Mont Blanc

The scientific observatories on Mont Blanc.

Why Is Mont Blanc One of the World's Deadliest Mountains?

Mont Blanc on Peakclimber
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Blanc, Mont Mont Blanc, Mountains of the Alps, Mont Blanc Mountains of Haute-Savoie, Mont Blanc Mountains of Aosta Valley Alpine four-thousanders Seven Summits France–Italy border International mountains of Europe Highest points of countries