Alpine peaks – Mont Blanc

It’s a mountaineering and skiing heaven, a scarily vast and imposing summit, the jewel in the crown of the Alps. Yup, it’s Mont Blanc, the Alps’ highest peak, measuring up to a hefty and impressive 4,810m. The first recorded ascent of the mountain took place in 1786; since then, about 20,000 people a year make their determined way to the summit.

If you’re looking to ascend Mont Blanc, firstly, congratulations! You picked a good mountain. Mont Blanc is sufficiently tall and challenging to impress all your friends, and the common route up there is long but comparatively gradual, meaning that provided you’re fit and acclimatised, you don’t need tons of experience to climb it (though of course, you should have some). That said, this is not a trip to be taken lightly – Mont Blanc averages about 100 fatalities every year, and on busy weekends the rescue service need to come to the aid of approximately twelve climbers. The most well-travelled route is the Voie Royale; if you fancy something a bit more challenging, try the Voie des 3 Monts. All routes involve staying overnight at one of the mountain’s cabins, to acclimatise and break up the journey.

Skiing and Snowboarding
The Mont Blanc Massif is fabulous for skiing. With hundreds of kilometres of pistes of all levels, not to mention dozens of lifts, you can easily be kept busy for a week on these slopes. Of course, if you’re feeling particularly skilled, fit, acclimatised and crazy, you can actually hike your way to the top of Mont Blanc and ski your way down. If you fancy being awed and inspired, check this out for exactly such a journey as done by famous freestyle skier Glen Plake.

Nearby Resorts
Chamonix is one of the most popular nearby resorts, with plenty of accommodation restaurants and nightlife available. Chamonix is famous for its cable cars: it is possible to travel by cable car not only 3840m up the Aiguille du Midi, but, in conjunction with another cable car, across the entire Mont Blanc massif.

Coolest Facts About Mont Blanc
In 1960, Frenchman Henri Giraud illegally landed a plane on the summit – all thirty metres of it. In 2007, Danish artist Marco Evaristti draped a massive pink sheet over the summit to draw attention to environmental damage – could have been worse; he initially wanted to paint the peak red. Mont Blanc has also seen some distinguished personages at its peak, including a future president and a future pope: in 1886, Theodore Roosevelt led an expedition to the summit, and in 1890, the man who would become Pope Pius XI ascended the slope using, for the first time, the route that would become known as the normal Italian itinerary.