Chamonix, French Alps, France
France’s highest mountain is famously known as Mont Blanc, and actually lies between the French Republic and Italy. It is one of Europe’s most popular winter sports destinations and is famous for the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which goes under the mountain and connects France and Italy.
Unlike many of the “8 thousanders”, Mont Blanc reaches just over 4500 metres and was explored and climbed relatively early in the history of big mountain climbing. It was first scaled in the late 1700s, with the first female climber reaching the top as early as 1808. US President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the many first climbers to reach the summit.
As a result of its early explorations, Mont Blanc is known as the birth place of modern mountain climbing. This is one of the reasons that the mountain is being considered as a UNESCO world heritage site. The frequent trails of visitors and high footfall on the slopes of the mountains have led conservationists to lobby for a protected status of the mountain to be enforced.
Mont Blanc is not as dangerous a climb as many of the other mountains listed here, and can be easily completed with a certain amount of preparation and acclimatization to the altitude. In fact, over twenty thousand people are able to successfully complete a climb each year. It is, however, not without its perils, and Mont Blanc has known to claim lives, mainly due to altitude sickness, falls and bad weather.
Many Europeans have seen the summit of Mount Blanc with little effort, as a large amount of commercial planes fly directly over the peak, offering great photo opportunities before descent begins into Geneva or the plane flies on to other destinations. The mountain has also seen a number of plane crashes throughout its history.
There are plenty of routes accessible to moderately skilled climbers. The Voie Royale is a well travelled route as well as La Traversee. All the routes require a stop overnight in order to acclimatise to the altitude, while the Bionnassey Route can last three days.
Those who are completing the climb will be rewarded with fantastic views overlooking the Alps into France and Italy, with views of Germany’s Black Forrest being possible on a very clear day.
Aside from climbing and hiking, the mountain is also a popular destination for many different winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding, as well as mountain walking. Mont Blanc’s easy accessibility via Switzerland and France ensures it remains a largely popular site throughout the year, and climbing the mountain is relatively tourist friendly, making the beautiful Mont Blanc an excellent site for a first climb.
(Image by MGSpiller on Flickr)