• France's news in English

Ten spectacular reasons to climb Mont Blanc

Karen Holst · 30 Sep 2011, 17:09

Published: 30 Sep 2011 17:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Are you pining for your next adventure but not sure mainland Europe’s highest point is the answer? The Local’s Karen Holst found there’s plenty to gain from the pain of conquering Mont Blanc. Just watch out for the horny goats.

It’s easy to be drawn into the epic allure of it all. The regal monarch of the Alps, its stately presence stretching more than 50 kilometres, stands tall in a robe of clouds and an everlasting decadent cover of ice and snow.

As you mull the idea of a 4,810-metre (15,782 feet) quest to the top, consider whether your trip, your stay, your life in France will be complete without surmounting Mont Blanc.

If you’re not convinced that scaling the heights is your manifest destiny, a duty to yourself that you will look back on with pride and wonderment, then here are ten fine reasons to think again:

10. To start with, you can choose to train for three months, or two, or one, or none based upon how much you want to suffer on your way up. But they say the best training is going to a pub, downing five beers and talking about climbing, which brings us unsteadily to…

 9. There’s nothing quite like a 12-hour day spent walking slowly and not feeling well. High altitude does strange things to the body. Not only might your head spin and your heart race, but the effects manifest themselves in ways only mass amounts of toilet paper can address.

8. Mountain hut accommodation. Fifteen un-showered people sharing the same tight sleeping quarters. The room is as wide as your wingspan, if you’re lucky. Your night slumber is guaranteed an accompanying symphony from the orchestra of natural human cadence.

7.  First hand encounter with an Ibex, a nimble mountain goat found in the Alps between 2,700 and 3,300 metres. These beasts of the rocks can measure in at one metre tall, 120 kilograms, and reportedly quench their thirst from freshly expired human urine. Warning: consider all angles before dropping drawers while on the trail up as males come equipped with horns.

6.  It’s one of the only sports where you are encouraged to eat as many Snicker bars and the like while in action. Seriously, you cannot overindulge on candy bars, soda and other high-sugar snacks while in pursuit of the summit. It’s encouraged, almost mandated.

5. You get free licence to say things that sound dirty but really aren’t when attempting to scale the cliff face to the Goûter Hut like: “Go ahead and tie in while I get my protection out,” or “Better take a good selection of nuts,” and “Wow! Look at that crack!” to name a few. Word of advice– don’t use the terms ‘granny knot’ and ‘bomber’ in the same sentence.

4. Mountain. Hut. Food. Need I say more?

3. A must for anyone who loves to wear sandals. The oozing, triple-layer blisters earned while grinding your way up and down the massif will ensure the inability of donning real shoes for at least three months while the burning welts air themselves into healing. This may boost your hot-factor as visible proof of your overall rugged toughness.

2. Bragging rights after using Europe’s highest port-a-potty located just below the summit ridge at 14,000 feet (4,260 meters). Two helicopters airlifted these two portable toilets in 2007 but there is no report on their upkeep.

1. Standing at the summit and having your mind blow from your accomplishment. The stunning, sweeping vistas still evident on our suffocating planet promise to overwhelm. (Naturally you need a perfect, bluebird day to fully experience the latter, which is a gamble.)  After eight hours slogging up Mont Blanc, you will likely spend no more than 15 minutes celebrating at the top. Some choose to strip down into a speedo to bump up the thrill quota of their photographs while others have carried, in bits and pieces, a hot tub for a wet and wild party at the top. Just remember, however you choose to celebrate, you still have to get back down. Leaving no trace behind. And it’s a long way.

Story continues below…

As with most off-the-charts adventures, it is highly recommended you challenge the peak with a licensed mountain guide, and luckily Chamonix is bursting with real, rugged mountain-men options. But if you choose to forego an experienced escort, at least bring a partner. Two things that will tip you off that you’ve chosen the wrong climbing partner: if he or she thinks a ‘carabiner’ is someone who lives in Jamaica, and when asked to bring rappelling gear said partner shows up with 25 cans of OFF bug spray.

So, if you plan to join the ranks of the 20,000 other climbers who will stand at the top of Mont Blanc in any given year, just know that the first step in your ascent will be the easiest – it will only get steeper, colder, harder to breathe and more strenuous as you go. And the downhill isn’t much prettier.

Or you can join the 80,000 other people who will talk about climbing in the pub. The next round is on me.

Climb on!

Karen Holst (news.france@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available