Mont Blanc massif

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mont Blanc massif
Mont Blanc depuis Chamonix.JPG
View from Chamonix on the French side of the Mont Blanc massif (showing Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc, Dôme du Goûter, Aiguille du Goûter and Bossons Glacier)
Highest point
Peak Mont Blanc (Italian: Monte Bianco)
Elevation 4,810 m (15,780 ft)
Coordinates 45°50′01″N 06°51′54″E / 45.83361°N 6.86500°E / 45.83361; 6.86500Coordinates: 45°50′01″N 06°51′54″E / 45.83361°N 6.86500°E / 45.83361; 6.86500
Countries France, Italy and Switzerland
Parent range Alps

The Mont Blanc massif; Italian: Massiccio del Monte Bianco; French: Massif du Mont-Blanc) is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France and Italy, but also straddling Switzerland at its north-easterly end. It is named after Mont Blanc which, at 4,810 m, is regarded as the highest point in western Europe.[1] Not only does the massif form a watershed between the vast catchment areas of the Rhône and Po rivers, but it also marks a border between two climate regions by separating the northern/western Alps from the southern Alps.[2]:26

Topography and geography[edit]

Main peaks and ridges of the Mont Blanc massif
Map of the western half of the Mont Blanc massif, showing main summits and ridges, plus the bounding rivers and passes which define the massif
Mont Blanc massif (west). 
Map of the eastern half of the Mont Blanc massif, showing main summits and ridges, plus the bounding rivers and valleys which define the massif
Mont Blanc massif (east). National boundaries shown grey; Tour du Mont Blanc route shown in red. 

The Mont Blanc massif is 46 km long and lies in a south-west to north-easterly direction across the borders of France (Haute-Savoie and Savoie), Italy (Aosta Valley) and Switzerland (western Valais). At its widest point the massif is 20 km across.[3] The northern side of the massif lies mostly within France, and is bounded by the valley of the River Arve, containing the towns of Argentiere, Chamonix and Les Houches. To the west it is bounded by the Val Montjoie, containing the town of Les Contamines-Montjoie and Le Bon Nant river which flows northwards to a confluence with the Arve near Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, and thence onwards to the Rhône. The southern side the massif lies within Italy and is bounded by the Val Veny and Val Ferret whose watercourses meet just above the town of Courmayeur and which separate the massif from the Graian Alps further south. From Courmayeur these waters flow southwards as the Dora Baltea towards Aosta, eventually joining the River Po. The north-eastern end of the massif falls within Switzerland, and is bounded by a separate valley, confusingly also called Val Ferret, and which separates it from the Pennine Alps further east. Its watercourse, la Dranse de Ferret, flows northwards to join the Rhône at Martigny.

The borders of all three countries converge at Mont Dolent (3,820 m). From here the French-Italian border runs south-westwards along a ridge of high summits on the southern side of the massif, many of which are over 4,000 m in height, including the Grandes Jorasses, Rochefort Ridge, Dent du Geant, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc and its western satellite, the Aiguille de Bionnassay. North of Mont Dolent the French/Swiss border runs roughly north-north-west along a ridge-line of slightly lower peaks, including the Aiguille d'Argentiere, the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Aiguille du Tour.

The massif contains 11 main summits over 4,000 metres in height. From the summit of Mont Blanc to the River Arve near Chamonix there is a 3,800 m drop over a distance of just 8 km.[4]:23 Because of its great elevation, much of the massif is snow and ice-covered, and it has been deeply dissected by glaciers. The Mer de Glace is the longest glacier in the range as well the longest in France and the second longest glacier in the Alps. The debris-covered Miage Glacier to the south is the longest in Italy.[5]:39 The summit of Mont Blanc is an ice cap whose thickness varies from year to year.[6][7]

Val Veny, looking westwards towards Col de la Seigne on the Tour du Mont Blanc

The entire massif can be circumnavigated by the Tour du Mont Blanc - a walking route of approximately 170 kilometres (110 mi), usually taking around 11 days to complete,[8] but which is also used for an annual mountain marathon, with top competitors expected to complete the whole route in less than 21 hours.[9]

The main mountain passes, or cols, that connect different valleys and towns around the Mont Blanc Massif are:

  • Col du Bonhomme 2,329m (bridle path, links Contamines to Beaufort/Les Chapieux)
  • Col de la Seigne 2,490m (bridle path, links Beaufort/Les Chapieux to Courmayeur)
  • Col Ferret 2,490m (bridle path, links Courmayeur to Orsières/Champex/Trient Valley)
  • Col de Balme 2,191m (bridle path, links Trient Valley to Chamonix)
  • Col de la Forclaz 1,520m (major road, links Argentière to Martigny)


The Mont Blanc massif consists predominantly of ancient granitic rocks of Variscan age. Both it, and the Aiguilles Rouges range to its north, form part of the external zone of the Alps, effectively being the outermost layers of rock. The massif is formed from crystallised rocks, mostly granite, gneiss and schist. The gneisses and schists formed from sedimentary rocks which became metamorphosed by heat from granitic magmas. The central granites make up Mont Blanc, the steep slopes of the Drus, the Grandes Jorasses and the Dent du Geant, and at the highest points are topped by schists, which are visible in places such as Grands Montets and near Mont Blanc's summit.[2]:25[10]

The granite rocks around Mont Blanc have been eroded into steep 'needles' or 'aiguilles', whose impressive nature were remarked upon by Goethe who visited Chamonix in autumn 1779. Known locally as protogine (fr), they are lower in biotite mica and richer in quartz than the granites of the nearby Aiguilles Rouges range.[2]:25

A large part of the massif is covered by icefields, and is cut by numerous glaciers, mostly flowing north-westwards into France, or south-eastwards into Italy, and is itself defined by valleys which formed along fault lines and have subsequently been shaped by ice during the last glacial period of the Ice Age. With much steeper slopes on the Italian side, glaciers drop sharply and those such as the Miage Glacier and the Glacier de la Brenva are very heavily covered in rock debris.[2]:25

During the mid-nineteenth century the granite rocks of the Mont Blanc massif were an important source of building stone. One hundred Italian stonemasons were brought to the Chamonix valley by Charles Albert of Sardinia for the reconstructing the towns of Sallanches and Cluses which had at that time recently been destroyed by fires.[11]

The massif has been an important source of specimens for crystal hunters for over 250 years.[12] Whymper noted that the basin of the Glacier du Talefre was "considered good hunting ground for crystals", and that the slopes below les Courtes had yielded many large specimens. He reported that a guide had told Saussure that in 1745 he had collected over 600 lb of specimens there in just three hours.[13] The first sytematic account of the minerals of Mont Blanc area was published in 1873 by Venance Payot. His list, entitled "Statistique minéralogique des environs du Mt-Blanc" catalogued 90 mineral types, although it did include those minerals present only as very small components of rocks. If these are excluded, it is known today that at least 68 separate mineral species occur across the whole range of the Mont Blanc massif.[14]

Musée des Cristaux[edit]

The crystal museum in Chamonix opened to the public in 2006. It tells the story of the early crystal-hunters (les cristalliers) and displays many specimens collected across the range. Members of the Club de minéralogie de Chamonix may gain free admission.[15]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Alpine chrysanthemum (Leucanthemopsis alpina)
Alpine toadflax (Linaria alpina), Mont Blanc massif, Italy
Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), foraging for scraps beside Petit Mont Blanc bivouac hut, Mont Blanc massif, Italy
Alpine chough, (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Mer de Glace.

The massif contains a rich variety of biodiversity as a result of the huge height range from the valleys to the highest summits, with mild temperatures at altitudes around 600 m to 1000 m and arctic conditions between 2500 to 4800 metres.[16]

Whilst the Mont Blanc massif does not contain any species that are endemic to just that mountain range, there are many rare and legally protected species found within the four major habitat zones that occur. These are the: mountain, sub-alpine, alpine and niveal zones. The major habitats are coniferous forests, moors, rock and talus slopes, plus glacial moraines. The richness is further influenced by the different aspects of the faces, by the geology, as well as by the influence of man on the lower and middle slopes, where forest clearance has created open grassland. The native forest habitats are essential for the survival of many species, with the key conifer species include larch, pine, stone pine and red pine.


Over a thousand plant species have been recorded across the Massif, from the valley bottoms at 500m up to 3,800m where the Alpine Chrysanthemum (Leucanthemopsis alpina (fr)) can be found at a record-breaking height of 3,800m [16]:13

Early explorers, such as Alexander von Humboldt in 1807, observed a number of notable species in the mountains around Mont Blanc at an altitude above 3,100m. This was well above the permanent snow line, but on rocks that were so steep that little snow could rest. These included: Androsace carnea (es) Androsace chamaejasme (de); Silene acaulis (down to 1,500m); Saxifraga androsacea (es); Cardamine bellidifolia; Arabis caerulea (de); Draba hirta. Between 2,500m to 3,100m in the Alps, Humboldt noted the following amongst rocky debris around permanent snow fields and the highest glaciers: Saxifraga biflora (de); Saxifraga oppositifolia; Achillea nana (fr); Achillea atrata, Gentiana nivalis, Ranunculus glacialis and Juncus trifidus [17]

Saussurea Alpine Botanical Garden[edit]

Opened in 1987, the Saussurea Alpine Botanical Garden above Courmayeur was originally created purely as a tourist attraction but, with the designation of the Pavillon du Mont Frety protected area, totalling 7,000m², it has increased in scientific importance. Located at 2,173 m above sea level, it is the highest botanical garden in Europe, and contains around 800 species. It can be reached either from the mid-way station of the Skyway Monte Bianco, or on foot within 2 hours and an 800 metre ascent from La Palud. The botanical garden derives its name from the genus of mountain flowers, Saussurea (Saw-worts) which itself was named after Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, whose enthusiasm for scientific research in the mountains led to the first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1786.[18]


The mountains around Mont Blanc are home to many mammal species, such as ibex, chamois, deer, mountain hare and alpine marmot (including a small population of albino marmots within Val Ferret.[19] The following bird species have been recorded in the Mont Blanc massif:[20][21][22]

  • Valleys and lower pastures: House-sparrow; swallow; house martin; robin, blackbird, thrush; yellow-hammer; whinchat; goldfinch; chaffinch; nuthatch; great tit; carrion crow.
  • Rivers: wagtails; dipper.
  • Forests: nutcracker; jay; coal tit, marsh tit; crested tit; willow tit; mistle thrush.
  • Above treeline: redstart; black redstart; wheatear; meadow pipit; ptarmigan; alpine chough.
  • Raptors: kestrel; owls; sparrowhawk; buzzard; eagles; bearded vulture (rare).

Merlet Animal Park, Les Houches[edit]

Seven of the massif's indigenous mammal species are housed in the Merlet Animal Park near Les Houches, including ibex, chamois, Mouflon, marmot, fallow and roe deer. Located 600 metres above above the village, the Animal Park was founded in 1968 and contains eighty animal species from mountain habitats around the world.[23]


Located on the watershed between the Rhône and the Po, the Mont Blanc massif is also situated between two different climatic regions of the northern/western Alps and the southern Alps. Climatic conditions on the Mer de Glace are similar to those found on the northern side of the Swiss Alps.[2]:26

Precipitation within the French Alps (be it as rain or snow) is distributed fairly evenly over all months of the year. But there is significant variation with elevation and aspect. Chamonix, with an elevation of 1,030 m receives c. 1,020 mm of annual precipitation. The Col du Midi, which is at 3,500 metres above sea level, receives 3,100 mm, but near the summit of Mont Blanc, measurements at an altitude around 4,300 m have revealed that annual precipitation is lower, reaching only 1,100 mm.[4]:23 In the mountains further south, annual precipitation at an equivalent altitude is significantly lower. For example, valleys around 1,000 m in the Massif du Pelvoux, receive only around 600 to 700mm of precipitation per year. Precipitation in the Franch Alps is mostly due to a flow of maritime air from the west (i.e. the Atlantic Ocean), whereas circulation from the southeast (i.e. the Mediterranean Sea) is more uncommon. In some years, however, changes to the more normal paths of low-pressure systems can further highlight the north-south differences of the mountains.[4]:23


Construction work on the new Skyway Monte Bianco, 2014

The Mont Blanc massif is a significant tourist destination. The region attracts over 6 million people per annum, with around one in five gaining access to its slopes by means of mechanical infrastructure (cable cars or railways).[24] Surveys have shown that tourists mostly come to the Mont Bland massif and its environs for winter sports and other outdoor, nature-related activities such as hiking and cycling.[25] Recent enhancements to tourist infrastructure across the massif have included:

  • upgrading of facilities at the Aiguille du Midu cable car terminus, including a viewing platform with a glass floor where visitors stand over a 1,000m precipice, and 'Le Pipe' - a tubular walkway that will circle the summit[26][27]
  • complete rebuilding of the Point Helbronner terminus for the new Skyway Monte Bianco cable car from Courmayeur at a cost of 110 million Euros;[28]
  • construction of a new, and ultra-modern-looking Goûter Hut to accommodate the increasing numbers of mountaineers attempting the Goûter Route to the summit of Mont Blanc.[29]
  • 1/2 billion euro investment in Les Grands Montets and other ski areas over a six-year period from 2014 onwards.[30][31]

The Chamonix cable car in France attracts 500,000 people per annum, with an annual turnover of 16 million euros, whilst the building of the new Skyway Monte Bianco on the Italian side is expected to increase visitor numbers to Courmayeur from 100,000 per annum to 300,000 following its complete replacement in 2015.[32] Costing 138 million euros (when all the extra infrastructure is included), the Skyway Monte Bianco is regarded as the world's most expensive cable car installation.[33]

Increasing numbers of mountain tourists, together with enhanced access and quick communications with mountain rescue services have led to an increase in mountain accidents and inappropriate demands to be rescued, as well as stunts, some of which the local authorities have decried as 'reckless and stupid'.[34] In one instance an American man attempted to break the record for the youngest person to summit Mont Blanc. He posted footage online of his nine and eleven-year old children on the dangerous section of the Goûter route to the summit as they were nearly swept to their deaths in a snow-slide.[35] In recent years guards have been placed on this route at peak periods to ensure that those entering the mountain environment are adequately equipped and skilled.[36] Increasing numbers have also led to calls to limit access to the most popular mountains, both for pollution-reduction and accident-reduction reasons.[37] Deaths from mountaineering related accidents across the Mont Blanc massif averages almost 100 a year.[38]:208

Environmental protection[edit]

Weather records made in the massif show that since the 1960s there has been a trend of less snow at lower altitudes, whilst since the 1990s average mountain temperatures have increased more than at lower levels . Temperatures in Chamonix have risen by 1.5C over the last 75 years, and fresh snow build-up has halved in the last 40 years, and there has been an increase in the melting and retreat of the massif's glaciers.[citation needed]

To help counter these effects, in 2012 the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley authorities introduced a 'climate and energy action plan', committing the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22% by 2020. The plan included proposals to improve air quality by banning those lorries from using the Tunnel du Mont Blanc which were deemed to be the most polluting, and which at times had reduced air quality to levels more usually associated with Paris.[39][40]

Concerns over the state of the environment around the most popular parts of the Mont Blanc massif, and the need for visitors to better respect it, were reflected in a statement in 2014 by the Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of Saint-Gervais who said: "Mont Blanc is a heap of garbage . . . a mountain covered with the crap, urine and detritus of the last 50 years. The problems are covered up by a nice, white blanket of snow. But I want to confront people with the reality and to reach those people who abuse the mountain."[36] Following the construction of the new Goûter Hut on the 'voie normale' used by most climbers ascending Mont Blanc, the authorities now strictly enforce a 'no wild camping' ban above the level of Tete Rousses Hut, and no-one is allowed into the new Goûter Hut unless they have previously reserved a place.[41][42]

Protected statuses[edit]

In 1951 the French section of The Mont-Blanc massif was classified as a Site classé (fr) (or 'listed site') and the scheduled area was extended in 1976 to now cover 253.54 square kilometres.[43] However, it is neither a national park, nor does it yet have UNESCO World Heritage Site status.[41] In June 2000 France did add the Mont Blanc Massif to UNESCO's 'Tentative List', which is the first step to a state or states making a formal nomination. This was followed in January 2008 by a cross-border submission from Italy, which included France and Switzerland.[44][45] By 1989 there had been calls for the creation of an 'International Park for Mont Blanc, but these came to nothing.[46] As a result of long delays, many environmental groups from France, Italy and Switzerland, working under the umbrella group, 'proMontBlanc', continue to raise their concerns and to put pressure on national governments and the European Union to support and make quicker progress with World Heritage classification.[47][48] In 2012, as a result of little forward movement towards inscription, ProMontBlanc published a condensed version of a detailed assessment and supportive rationale made the previous year into the state of the Mont Blanc application to be a World Heritage Site.[49][50] ProMontBlanc also undertakes a regular review of a suite of 24 environmental, 24 economic and 10 social indicators across 15 towns around the massif (7 French, 5 Italian and 3 Swiss). Known as the 'Mont Blanc Thermometer, it aims to record, monitor and report on the effectiveness of measures intended to deliver sustainable development across the region.[51] Since 2009 data reporting is included within the on-line Mont Blanc 'observatory'.

All the French parts of the Mont Blanc massif, plus the neighbouring Aiguille Rouges range, have been listed as a Zone naturelle d'intérêt écologique, faunistique et floristique (ZNIEFF). This does not give regulatory protection, but is a recognition of the outstanding biodiversity of the area, and of its landscape, geomorphological, geological, historical and scientific importance. The 2011 schedule documents list over 130 critical species of animals and plants for which the massif is important.[52]

The Mont Blanc massif is regarded by conservationists as representing an important missing link in the wider protected areas network of the western Alps, both in the south and the north.[53]

Espace Mont Blanc[edit]

In 1991 the environment ministers for France, Italy and Switzerland came together to agree the forming of Espace Mont Blanc - a partnership of local and national organisations and communes to plan for the future development and protection of the Mont Blanc region. In 1998 the group was charged with creating a 'sustainable development scheme' for the region (finally launched in 2005), and in 2003 it adopted a plan for safeguarding sensitive environments and landscapes. In 2007 it produced its position statement regarding the classification of Mont Blanc as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2009 a Transboundary Integrated Plan (PIT) was announced, with the implementation of six regional projects running until 2013;[54] and in 2014 the group launched 'Strategy for the Future' - a strategic tool for ensuring consistency in public policies across the different territories around Mont Blanc.[55]

Transport routes and mechanised access[edit]

Chamonix - Mont Blanc Tunnel Entrance
Mont Blanc Tramway (TMB) at the Nid d'Aigle in 1996.

The Mont Blanc massif is accessible by road from within France via the A40-E25, or from Switzerland via Martigny and the Forclaz pass (1,527 m), or via Orsières to reach the Swiss Val Ferret. From within Italy the A40 from Aosta leads to Courmayeur, as does the higher mountain route from Bourg-Saint-Maurice via the Col du Petit St. Bernard (2,188 m).

The massif can be quickly crossed in a north-south direction by one of two transport routes, one aimed at through-traffic, the other intended solely for tourists:

  1. The 11.6 km (7.2 mi) long Tunnel du Mont Blanc connects Chamonix and Courmayeur and permits cars and lorries to quickly reach the opposite valley. It took twenty years to complete and opened to vehicle traffic in 1965.[56] The tunnel is infamous for an incident in March 1999, when a lorry caught fire inside. The resulting fire lasted 53 hours and killed 39 people. The tunnel was renovated in the aftermath, reopening 3 years later.[57] By 2008, some 1,600 trucks and 3,200 cars were using the tunnel every day (totalling 1.8 million vehicles per year) - a little less than before the 1999 fire.[58]
  2. The Vallée Blanche Cable Car is normally used by visitors travelling from one or other of the tourist centres of Chamonix or Courmayeur and gives views over, or direct access for skiers and mountaineers to, the glaciated regions of the massif. It crosses the massif in a roughly north-south direction and connects the Aiguille du Midi with the Point Helbronner, each of which can themselves be reached by telepherique from Chamonix and Courmayeur respectively.

From Chamonix the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car (fr) rises to the 3,842m summit of the Auiguile du Midi, and holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent of any cable car (2,807m). It gives views over much of the massif, and up towards Mont Blanc itself. On the Italian side a cable car service (Skyway Monte Bianco) from near Courmayeur rises up from La Palud to Pointe Helbronner.[59]

Elsewhere in the massif, the Montenvers Railway connects Chamonix to Montenvers near the foot of the Mer de Glace, whilst the Telepherique du Lognan connects Argentiere with Aiguille des Grands Montets where 'Les Grand Montets' is an important winter skiing area in the region.[60] At 3,300m, the summit station also provides relatively easy access for climbers to the north eastern peaks of the range, including short introductory rock scrambles and a simple ice-face route on the NW face of the Petite Aiguille Verte.[61]

Mont Blanc Tramway takes tourists and hikers from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains to the Nid d'Aigle, near the Glacier de Bionnassay. It provides mechanised access to the first stage of the Goûter Route for mountaineers attempting the 'voie normale' to the summit of Mont Blanc.

From Les Houches, one of two cable cars links to Bellevue plateau (1,800m) giving access to walking paths, mountain bike trails and winter ski-runs as well as to a halt on the Mont Blanc Tramway,[62] whilst a second links the town to the adjacent Prarion plateau (1900m).[63]

Heli-skiing gives ready access to many remote or off-piste ski routes in the Mont Blanc massif. Because heli-skiing is banned across France for environmental reasons, companies offering this service only operate on the Swiss and Italian sides of the range.[64]


Mont Blanc Massif from above Les Contamines Montjoie.
Panorama of Mont Blanc massif from Grands Montets

The Mont Blanc massif contains 11 major independent summits over 4,000 metres in height (shown emboldened) plus a number of other tops over that altitude.

List of main peaks[edit]

The main peaks within the Mont Blanc massif are:

Name Height (metres) Height (feet)
Mont Blanc 4,810[1] 15,782
Mont Blanc de Courmayeur 4,748 15,577
Mont Maudit 4,465 14,648
Picco Luigi Amedeo 4,460 14,633
Dôme du Goûter 4,304 14,121
Mont Blanc du Tacul 4,248 13,937
Grand Pilier d'Angle 4,243 13,921
Grandes Jorasses 4,208 13,806
Aiguille Verte 4,122 13,523
Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey 4,112 13,491
Mont Brouillard 4,069 13,350
Aiguille de Bionnassay 4,066 13,341
Pic Eccles 4,041 13,258
Dôme de Rochefort 4,015 13,173
Dent du Géant 4,013 13,166
Aiguille de Rochefort 4,001 13,127
Les Droites 4,000 13,123
Aiguille de Tré la Tête 3,930 12,894
Aiguille d'Argentière 3,901 12,802
Aiguille de Triolet 3,870 12,697
Aiguille du Midi 3,843 12,609
Tour Noir 3,836 12,586
Name Height (metres) Height (feet)
Aiguille des Glaciers 3,834 12,579
Mont Dolent 3,823 12,543
Aiguille du Chardonnet 3,822 12,540
Tour Ronde 3,792 12,441
Aiguille Noire de Peuterey 3,773 12,379
Aiguille du Dru 3,754 12,316
Dômes de Miage 3,688 12,100
Aiguille du Plan 3,673 12,051
Aiguille du Tour 3,540 11,615
Aiguilles Dorées 3,519 11,545
Grand Darray 3,514 11,529
Grande Lui 3,509 11,512
Aiguille du Grépon 3,502 11,489
Aiguille des Grands Charmoz 3,445 11,302
Le Portalet 3,344 10,971
Pointe d'Orny 3,274 10,742
Grande Pointe des Planereuses 3,151 10,338
Pointe des Plines 3,052 10,030
Le Génépi 2,884 9,462
Pointe Ronde 2,655 8,711
Catogne 2,599 8,527
La Breya 2,194 7,198


Glaciers cover 110 square kilometers of the Mont Blanc massif.[4]:26 The Mer de Glace has a total length of 12 km from highest snowfield to terminus and an area of between 35-40 square kilometers. It is the largest glacier in the Western Alps, and the second largest in Europe. At around 10 km (6.2 mi) in length, the Miage Glacier is Italy's longest glacier and also the largest debris-covered glacier in Europe.[65][66] Other large glaciers include the Argentière Glacier (9 km), the Saleina Glacier (6 km), Trient Glacier (4 km), and the Bossons Glacier (c.4 km) and Brenva Glacier. Whilst the glaciers appear to show similar fluctuations in length, research has revealed that each glacier of the Mont Blanc massif has its own individual and distinctive response time to changes in snowfall and climate. The Bossons Glacier is known to respond first, then the Argentière and the Trient Glaciers respond some four to seven years later, with the Mer de Glace reacting last, and between eleven to fifteen years after the Bossons Glacier.[4]:23

The glaciers of the Mont Blanc massif are listed here by country, and from north to south. The larger glaciers are indicated in bold.

Glaciers in France (listed N to S)[edit]

The Argentière Glacier glacier and the Aiguille Verte, France.
Lower part of the Bossons glacier near Chamonix.
  • Glacier du Tour
  • Glacier du Chardonnet, Glacier du Milieu, Glacier des Améthistes, Glacier du Tour Noir, Glacier des Rognons (all flowing into the Glacier d'Argentière)
  • Glacier d'Argentière (2nd longest glacier in the massif)
  • Glacier des Grands Montets, Glacier de la Pendent, Glacier de Lognan (all from Aiguille des Grands Montets)
  • Glacier du Nant Blanc
  • Glacier des Drus
  • Glacier de la Charpoua
  • Mer de Glace (longest glacier in the massif)
  • Glacier des Courtes
  • Glacier de Talèfre
  • Glacier de Leschaux (merges with Glacier du Tacul to form Mer de Glace, and also fed Glacier du Mont Mallet and Glacier de Pierre Joseph
  • Glacier du Capucin
  • Glacier du Tacul (from Plateau du Géant; merges with Glacier de Leschaux
  • Glacier des Périades (feeds into Glacier du Tacul)
  • Glacier la Noire (feeds into G des Périades)
  • Glacier de la Thendia
  • Glacier de Trelaporte
  • Glacier des Nantillons (sous l'aiguille des Grands Charmoz)
  • Glacier de Blaitière (sous l'Aiguille de Blaitière|aiguille du même nom)
  • Glacier de Envers de Blaitière
  • Glacier de Envers du Plan
  • Glacier des Pèlerins (between Aiguille du Midi and Aiguille du Plan)
  • Glacier Rond
  • Bossons Glacier (effectively descends from summit of Mont Blanc)
  • Glacier du Gèant (feeds into la Vallee Blanche and then Glacier du Tacul)
  • Glacier de Taconnaz
  • Glacier du Bourgeat
  • Glacier de la Griaz
  • Glacier de Tête Rousse
  • Glacier de Bionnassay
  • Glacier de Tricot
  • Glacier de Miage (not to be confused with Glacier du Miage on Italian side)
  • Glacier de Covagnet
  • Glacier de Tré la Tête
  • Glacier du Mont Tondu
  • Glacier des Lanchettes
  • Glacier d'Enclave
  • Glacier des Glaciers

Glaciers in Italy (listed N to S)[edit]

The Brenva glacier, which descends low down into the Val Veny, Italy
  • Glacier de Pré de Bar / Ghiacciaio di Pré de Bar
  • Glacier de Triolet / Ghiacciaio del Triolet
  • Glacier de Gruetta / Ghiacciaio di Gruevetta
  • Glacier de Frébouze / Ghiacciaio di Frèbouze
  • Glacier de Tronchey
  • Glacier de Pra Sec
  • Glacier des Grandes Jorasses
  • Glacier de Planpincieux / Ghiacciaio di
  • Glacier de Mt Frety / Ghiacciaio di Crety
  • Glacier de Toule / Ghiacciaio di Toula
  • Glacier de Entreves
  • Glacier de la Brenva / Ghiacciaio della Brenva
  • Glacier de Freiney/Ghiacciaio di Freiney'
  • Glacier du Chatelet
  • Glacier du Brouillard
  • Glaciers du Mont-Blanc, du Dôme and de Bionnassay Italien (feeding the Glacier du Miage)
  • Glacier du Miage/Ghiacciaio del Miage' (the largest glacier within Italy)
  • Glacier de Petit Mont Blanc
  • Glacier de la Lée Blanche
  • Glacier d'Estelette / Ghiacciaio d'Estelette

Glaciers in Switzerland (listed N to S)[edit]

Saleina glacier and the Aiguille d'Argentière, Switzerland
  • Glacier des Grands
  • Glacier du Trient
  • Glacier d'Orny
  • Glacier des Ravines Rousses
  • Glacier des Plines
  • Glacier de Saleina
  • Glacier des Planereuses
  • Glacier du Darrey
  • Glacier de Treutse Bô
  • Glacier de l'A Neuve
  • Glacier du Dolent

Mountain refuges and bivouac huts[edit]

new Gouter Hut, France. Opened 2013, capacity 120 people, wardened
Bivouac du Petit Mont Blanc, Italy. Capacity 9 people, unwardened
Interior of Bivouac du Petit Mont Blanc (mountain refuge)
Cabane de Saleina, Switzerland. Capacity 48, wardened. Photo taken in April.

A number of high-altitude mountain refuges are positioned strategically across the massif, the majority owned by their respective national mountaineering clubs. Many are wardened during the summer months, though bivouac huts are not and these have very limited facilities. Reductions in hut fees are usually available to members of other national mountaineering clubs.[67] The two most popular huts (Goûter and Tetes Rousse) now require all climbers to pre-book, or they will be turned away. Wild camping at high altitude is prohibited, and especially enforced on popular routes.[68] Some tiny bivouac huts, such as the Eccles Hut can be extremely crowded in good conditions, and some mountaineers prefer to bivouac outside. Each high altitude hut faces its own individual challenges, often relating to water and energy supply or waste management. The provision of services to visitors can sometimes conflict with environmental protection. A range of individual solutions for a selection of huts within the massif and elsewhere in the Alps was identified by a project run by Espace Mont Blanc[69][70]

List of mountain huts above 2,500 m[edit]

All mountaineering refuges above an altitude of 2,500 m are listed by height within country. Where a hut is located on a country border, it is listed by the nationality of its owning organisation.



  • Eccles Bivouac Hut 3,850m
  • Canzio Bivouac Hut 3,825m
  • Dames Anglaises (Craveri) Bivouac Hut 3,490m
  • Jacchia Bivouac Hut 3,258m
  • Ghiglione Bivouac 3,690m (removed in 1999)[71]
  • Col de la Fourche Bivouac Hut 3,680m (CAI)
  • Quintino Sella Bivouac Hut 3,396m
  • Torino Hut 3,375m (CAI)
  • Brenva Bivouac Hut 3,140m
  • Gonella Hut 3,071m
  • Petit Mont Blanc Bivouac Hut /Refuge Rainetto 3047m
  • Estelette Bivouac Hut 2,958m
  • Gervasutti Bivouac Hut 2833m
  • Boccalette Hut / Refuge des Grandes Jorasses 2,804m
  • Robert Blanc Hut 2,750m (Private Mont Tondu. Aig des Glaciers)
  • Dolent Bivouac Hut / Fiorio Bivouac 2,724m
  • Triolet Hut / Refugio Dalmazzi 2,599m
  • Monzino Hut 2,590m (Private)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mont Blanc shrinks by 45cm in two years
  2. ^ a b c d e Nussbaumer, S.U.; Zumbuhl, H.J.; Steiner, D. (2007). "Fluctuations of the “Mer de Glace” (Mont Blanc area, France) AD 1500–2050:" (PDF). Zeitschrift für Gletscherkunde und Glazialgeologie (Innsbruck). BAND 40 (2005/2006): 1–137. ISSN 0044-2836. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  3. ^ measured from valley bottom to valley bottom, from French IGN online map.
  4. ^ a b c d e Reynaud, Louis (1993). Williams, Richard S.; Ferrigno, Jane G., eds. "The French Alps (in Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World" (PDF). Professional Paper 1386. U.S.Geological Survey. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  5. ^ Barbero, Rossana Serandrei; Zanon, Giorgio (1993). Williams, Richard S.; Ferrigno, Jane G., eds. "The Italian Alps (in Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World" (PDF). Professional Paper 1386. U.S.Geological Survey. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Vincent, Christian (2004-08-02). "The rock summit of the Mont Blanc, 40 m west of the ice summit". Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Retrieved 2015-04-29. 
  7. ^ "Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation delivers first exact 3D scan of the Mont Blanc ice cap" (PDF). Leica Geosystems. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  8. ^ Reynolds, Kev (2015). Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide. Cicerone Press Limited. ISBN 978-1852847791. 
  9. ^ Reade, Kirsty (20 August 2015). "The ultimate challenge: running the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Egli, Daniel; Mancktelow, Neil (15 November 2013). "The structural history of the Mont Blanc massif with regard to models for its recent exhumation". Swiss Journal of Geoscience (Swiss Geological Society). doi:10.1007/s00015-013-0153-5. 
  11. ^ Berger-Sabatel, Philippe (2007). "Les Graniteurs du Mont Blanc" (PDF) (in French). Saga Information. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  12. ^ "Crystals and Crystal Hunting in the Alps". Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  13. ^ Whymper, Edward (1896). Chamonix and the Range of Mont Blanc. John Murray. p. 123. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Ressources minéralogiques du massif du Mont-Blanc et des régions limitrophes". Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "Le musée des cristaux". Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  16. ^ a b "Mont Blanc - Treasure That Is Vulnerable And Unprotected". proMontBlanc. Retrieved 3 February 2016. 
  17. ^ von Humboldt, Alexander; Bonpland, Aimé; Jackson (translator), Stephen T.; Romanowski (translator), Sylvie (2014). Essay on the Geography of Plants (1807). Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 0226360687. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  18. ^ "Saussurea Alpine Botanical Garden". Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  19. ^ "Val Ferret". Viva. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  20. ^ "Bird-life on Mont Blanc". The Spectator. 30 August 1902. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  21. ^ "Flora and Fauna". Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  22. ^ "Sites - Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)". BirdLife International. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  23. ^ "The Merlet Animal Park in Les Houches". 28 October 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  24. ^ "Mass tourism siege on Mont-Blanc". Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  25. ^ "Survey Report: Savoie Mont-Blanc For Italian Tourism" (PDF). The Italy Team. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Coldwell, Will (19 December 2013). "Step into the Void: the glass skywalk at the top of the French Alps – in pictures". Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  27. ^ "L’Aiguille du Midi bientôt dotée d’un " tube " qui fera le tour du site". Le Monde. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  28. ^ "New Cable Car on the Italian Side of Mont Blanc". Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  29. ^ "Refuge du Gouter (3835M), Aiguille du Goûter". Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  30. ^ "Latest news on new lift at Les Grands Montets". 7 December 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  31. ^ "1/2 Billion Euros to Invest in Chamonix Resort". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  32. ^ Carrel, François (24 July 2015). "Mont Blanc vs Monte Bianco". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  33. ^ Marclay, Bernard (12 August 2015). "A Fierce Competition in Mont Blanc". Mountain Wilderness. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  34. ^ Allen, Peter (9 July 2014). "'We are not a taxi service': Lazy climber left on Mont Blanc after rescuers refuse to help". Express Newspapers. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  35. ^ Penketh, Anne (28 July 2014). "US climber condemned for filming his children in Mont Blanc avalanche". Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  36. ^ a b Eberle, Lukas; Weidemann, Victoria (11 September 2014). "'Snow! Snow! Get Moving!': The Lethal Lure of Mont Blanc". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  37. ^ Melvin, Joshua (17 July 2014). "Mont Blanc deaths spark calls to end 'free-for-all'". Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  38. ^ Helmut Dumler and Willi P. Burkhardt, The High Mountains of the Alps, London: Diadem, 1994
  39. ^ "Climate and Energy Plan for the Chamonix Valley". Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  40. ^ Willsher, Kim (31 March 2013). "A glorious winter, but the Alps face a warmer world – bringing huge change". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  41. ^ a b "Mont Blanc responsible tourism issues". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  42. ^ "Gouter Hut". Refuge CAF Du Gouter. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  43. ^ "Ascension Du Mont Blanc - Itineraire de Haute Montagne" (PDF). Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  44. ^ "Massif du Mont-Blanc (inscription comme patrimoine naturel transfrontalier, avec France et Suisse)". UNESCO. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  45. ^ "Massif du Mont Blanc". UNESCO. 8 June 2000. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  46. ^ "Le parc international du Mont Blanc". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  47. ^ "Health of Mont Blanc Research". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  48. ^ "L’Histoire de proMONT-BLANC". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  49. ^ "State of the Mont Blanc nomination for World Heritage". pro. June 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  50. ^ "State of the Mont Blanc nomination for World Heritage (full report)". 21 October 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  51. ^ "Mont-Blanc Thermomètre". November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  52. ^ "ZNIEFF 820031668 Massif du Mont Blanc et ses Annexes". Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  53. ^ Barbara Ehringhaus (30 Mar 2010). Worboys, Graeme; Francis, Wendy L. Francis; Lockwood, Michael, eds. Connectivity Conservation Management: A Global Guide (with Particular ... London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. pp. 258–263. ISBN 1844076032. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  54. ^ Deering, Robert (4 July 2013). "Espace Mont-Blanc Satisfied with Cross-Border Plan Cummunity project working towards a sustainable development.". Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  55. ^ "Espace Mont-Blanc: more than 20 years of existence". Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  56. ^ Timeline of the Mont Blanc Tunnel
  57. ^ Mont Blanc Tunnel at age 46
  58. ^ François, François (8 September 2008). "Le mont Blanc broie du noir". Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  59. ^ "Skyway Monte Bianco". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  60. ^ "Lognan - Grands Montets". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  61. ^ "Petite Aiguille Verte". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  62. ^ "Bellevue cablecar". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  63. ^ "Prarion cable car". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  64. ^ "Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding throughout the Mont Blanc Massif". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  65. ^ "Miage Glacier, Italy". European Space Agency. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  66. ^ Deline, P. (2005). "Change in surface debris cover on Mont Blanc massif glaciers after the 'Little Ice Age' termination". The Holocene 15 (2): 302. doi:10.1191/0959683605hl809rr. 
  67. ^ "Alpine huts explained". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  68. ^ "Mont Blanc - The Huts". High Mountain Guides. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  69. ^ "Eco innovation en altitude". Fondazione Montagna Sicura. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  70. ^ "Experimentations en Sites Isolees" (PDF). Espace Mont Blanc. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  71. ^ "refuge Ghiglione (col de Trident de la Brenva)". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 

External links[edit]