Mont Blanc Frequently Asked Questions
This information should answer many of your initial questions and also guide you through the next stages of preparing for the expedition. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are the prerequisites?
Participants must have glacier travel skills including cramponing on snow and ice and use of an ice axe in climbing and anchoring situations. Also important is the ability to follow your guide up third and fourth class rock scrambling with some exposed moves. This occurs only in a section above the first hut, climbing up alongside the Great Couloir to the Gouter Hut. The rock is non-technical, but it is steep and exposed in places. Past participation in higher, moderately steep glacier climbs such as Mt. Rainier, other Northwest volcanoes, and 4,000 meter glaciated mountains around the world is required. Equally important is prior experience rock climbing/scrambling up easy hands and feet climbing with steep terrain below. The team will practice glacier travel skills and refresh their rock climbing techniques prior to the ascent of Mont Blanc.
How do I train for this?
The best training program for such a climbing trip is one that includes aerobic activities such as running, swimming and bicycling. Get in plenty of time hiking with a light pack or running up and down hills. Strive for longer training sessions over an hour and go on hikes during the weekend that gain a thousand vertical feet per mile for several miles whenever possible. Muscle strengthening exercises for the legs, arms and back are also important. Adequate preparation will ensure a successful and enjoyable trip for all. There is no substitute for previous climbing experience. Get out to your nearest local crag whenever possible. Take a weekend rock climbing course, or go ice climbing in winter with a guide. Hike up and down hills! Get out and climb!
What are the accommodations?
Accommodations are not included in the land cost fee. Some nights will be spent in climbing huts during the program. The European huts are quite luxurious compared to those in the States and their convenience has made them popular with climbers throughout the Alps. Sleeping bags and pads are not needed on this trip. Bunks with blankets and pillows are provided by the staff at each of the huts. The guides will make reservations for you at the climbing hut when required, and that cost will be up to you to cover, approximately $75 per night including breakfast and dinner.
Between climbs you will have your choice of hotels in Chamonix:
- The traditional IMG base is Hotel Pointe Isabelle, pointeisabelle.com located conveniently down the street from the rail station in downtown Chamonix.
- There is a wide range of hotel options in Chamonix, from five-star rated to one.
You will need to remain flexible with your lodging requirements. You will need to book a hotel in advance to confirm a place to stay upon arrival. Our suggestion is to confirm the night prior to the starting date of the program, the first night of the program, then days three and six in a hotel (see the itinerary). Let the hotel know you are a climber and wish some flexibility in your reservation. You will need to be willing to transfer hotels during the trip if you require lodging last minute and a room is not available. The hotels are normally happy to help you with finding an alternate place to stay.
What about food?
Each person is responsible for his or her own meals during the course of the program. At the huts, breakfasts and dinners are prepared by the hut personnel and are included in the hut fee. Between climbs we will have the opportunity to sample local specialties in some of the many excellent restaurants and specialty shops. We normally eat out together as a group when in town and the camaraderie of sharing an evening meal with the team is an enjoyable part of the trip. Restaurant prices are similar to those in tourist areas in the U.S. There will be opportunity to purchase lunch food in town prior to each of the climbs, and the guides will be happy to assist you with this. Many, but not all of the hotels include a continental breakfast in the price of lodging.
How do I get there?
You are responsible for your own travel to and from Chamonix, France where the trip starts and finishes. It is the responsibility of each participant to arrange transportation to Chamonix by the day prior to the starting date. The simplest route is to fly to Geneva arriving in the morning and take a mini bus or train from the airport to Chamonix. There is frequent daily train service. A van shuttle is actually faster and easier than the train. You'll want to book this in advance, there are a number of operators including ChamExpress, Alpybus and Mountain Dropoffs.
If you would like help with your flight arrangements, recommendations for a hotel in Geneva, or plan to arrive in Europe early, feel free to contact IMG's travel agent, CTT Destinations, email@example.com. They are knowledgeable of our programs and will be happy to help you work out your itinerary.
Participants should be sure to make allowance for the significant time change when arranging a flight to Europe. Please notify the IMG office of your expected arrival time and flight plan prior to the start of the program. It is generally best to fly directly to Geneva, arriving in the morning, and then catch a train or bus departing hourly for Chamonix. Plan to arrive no later than the evening before the starting date of the trip, but it is perhaps best to allow an additional day to aid in recovery from jet lag.
Do I need a passport?
If you do not have a passport, or if your current one is due to expire before, or during the trip, you must obtain a new one. Passports are required to travel in Europe. Passport information is available from your main post office or your local passport agency. Visas are not required for travel in France and Switzerland. It is a good idea to carry Xeroxed copies of your passport and birth certificate to ease matters in case of loss or theft of your passport.
What kind of insurance do I need?
We invest in insurance coverage for commercial liability and medical and disability insurance for our employees while participating on our programs. We cannot insure you for your personal needs, but we do expect you to be as fiscally responsible as we are. We require that you insure yourself against potentially expensive difficulties that may arise. First, Trip Cancellation Insurance may provide financial relief should you be forced to withdraw from the program before it even happens. Next, make sure you have adequate Travel Insurance for coverage should you have a problem during the trip. IMG requires that all international trip participants purchase Travel Insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation, repatriation and medical expenses for the duration of their IMG program. Rescue operations in the Alps are well organized and efficient, but the individual who is rescued must pay for the service on the spot. Rescue insurance covers your costs in this event. Note: Certain pre-existing medical conditions are eligible for coverage with some policies only if purchased within 14 days of initial trip payment.
What is the weather like?
The weather in the Mont Blanc region is similar to that of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest. One can experience several days of beautifully clear skies or be plagued by storms. However, late July, August and September is generally the best time to climb in this area, for reasons of weather and snow conditions. By bringing the proper clothing you will be prepared for all types of weather. The enclosed itinerary is designed with some allowance for bad weather but may require further alterations. IMG's our goal is to have a safe, fun climbing trip. Some flexibility is important for the smooth operation of the program. The guides will be open to input throughout the trip.
What should I wear?
The weather in this part of Europe is much like that of the Pacific Northwest, so be sure to bring appropriate summer clothing for travel to the mountains. Keep your street clothes simple and bring a good pair of light comfortable hiking shoes. A sweater should be sufficient for evenings in town. Casual dress will be fine for all of your dining. Hand washable clothing allows you to do laundry in your room and get by with less. There are self-service and full-service laundries in town.
What kind of luggage should I bring?
For travel to Europe, it is a good idea to have just two pieces of luggage: your pack with all of your climbing gear inside and a medium duffel bag for extra clothing and items to be strapped onto your pack at a later time, such as crampons and ice axe. A roller bag makes travel by train more efficient.
How much spending money should I plan on?
ATM's are found almost everywhere in Europe and give the best exchange rate but mind the exchange fee! Remember that your ATM card will probably have a daily limit for withdrawals. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted in most shops and restaurants and are convenient. Be sure to contact the company issuing your card and notify them of you travel plans in advance to avoid a hold being placed on your card for fraud verification. Train fares along with related gondola rides and cog rail trains will cost from $300 total and can all be charged on a Visa. I would plan to spend from $1,000 to $1,500 total during the trip for all meals, train fares and personal expenses.
What's worth reading beforehand?
I encourage you to do as much reading on the area as you can. A little research on the history of Alpinism in Europe can add greatly to the experience once you are there. A simple, easy guidebook of the route up Mont Blanc can be found in The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes, by Richard Goedeke, 1991
What immunizations will I need?
No immunizations are currently required for France or Switzerland. It is recommended that you consider the following:
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: There is no natural immunity to the tetanus toxin and since it is found throughout the world, immunization is a universal recommendation regardless of age. A combined tetanus/ diphtheria booster is available, good for ten years.
- Hepatitis Vaccine: New vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B.
Please consult your physician or local health department for their recommendations.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
What's included in the trip cost?
- Group equipment including tents, stoves, climbing ropes and hardware
Cost Does Not Include:
- Airline tickets of any kind
- Airport taxes
- Hut fees
- Meals in towns or restaurants
- Trail snacks or bottled water
- Costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of IMG
- Required travel insurance policy (for trip cancellation, medical treatment, evacuation etc.)
- Customary but optional tips for IMG guides