What Do I Need For Mont Blanc?
Mont Blanc stands at 4,808m and is the highest peak in the Alps. The Mont Blanc Massif as a whole is a popular area for all types of outdoor activities including hiking, climbing and trail running as well as skiing and snowboarding. Summiting Mont Blanc has become a popular challenge for many to attempt but doing so shouldn’t be done without the appropriate kit, experience and a guide to help you along the way.
We’ve put together this handy list that will give you an idea of what to take and why you’ll need it but, it is important to cross-reference this with any information that your guide provides you as they'll know exactly what routes they are planning for you and they may be able to supply certain things. It is not all-encompassing list and should be adapted to your needs.
If you want any more advice or have any questions, please feel free to drop into one of our stores for a chat or speak to one of the outdoor experts in customer service.
Rigid mountaineering boots are required to ensure you have support and stability across the tricky terrain underfoot as well as to ensure you can safely accommodate crampons. They must be comfortable and well-worn in above anything else to ensure you don’t get blisters. Outside of June & September, it is best to avoid plastic boots as they can be too warm and cause blisters easily. Your intended route and acclimatisation plans will dictate whether you need B2 or B3 rated boots.
You should have at least 2 pairs of thick loop stitch type mountaineering socks plus wicking liner socks to ensure excellent moisture management for your feet. Having a spare pair helps to ensure you always have a dry pair to use, thus helping to reduce the occurrence of blisters. The loop stitching of thick socks will offer effective cushioning in key areas.
Many mountaineering trousers have gaiters or snow-skirts and highly durable kick patches built into the lower leg, if yours don’t then it might be worth investing in a tough pair of gaiters to save your trousers from being damaged by rogue crampon points. They’ll also add a little extra warmth for your feet.
It’s important to avoid cotton in your base layers when mountaineering as cotton absorbs moisture and keeps it next to your skin which will leave you feeling cold, quickly. We recommend merino wool or polyester, or a blend of both, as they will wick the sweat away from your body and dry quickly leaving you feeling fresher and more comfortable for longer. Our layering system buying guide goes into more detail if you are interested.
Softshell fabric that is windproof, stretchy, and with excellent durability will offer brilliant breathability to help keep you comfortable while still offering protection from the elements. Durable softshell fabric, such as Schoeller fabric, offers excellent performance in alpine conditions.
A mid-weight fleece will likely be worn most of the time while doing the trek so breathability is important. Having excellent breathability will ensure moisture build-up can work its way to the outside of your layers keeping you dry on the inside while the fleece fabric will trap warm air to keep you protected from the cold.
A long-sleeved insulated jacket that you can use as part of your layering system will become invaluable when the temperature really drops. It should be lightweight and be able to pack down small so it doesn’t take up too much space in your pack when you aren’t using it. Whether you opt for down or synthetic insulation is up to you but it’s worth bearing in mind that synthetic insulation retains performance even when it’s wet whereas down usually has a better warmth to weight ratio. Our insulated clothing buying guide goes into more detail if you are looking for more information.
An extra insulated layer is great to have as a spare in the event that you get particularly cold. Even if it’s just an insulated gilet that stays in your pack it’ll come into its own when you need it.
Arguably one of the most important things to get right, your waterproof jacket should be able to keep you dry from the outside elements but also be breathable enough that any moisture vapour on the inside can get out. It’s important to make sure it is long enough to use with a harness and has a helmet-compatible hood so you can still enjoy full waterproof protection whilst wearing your helmet. You'll find more information in our buying guide if you are having difficulty choosing a waterproof jacket.
Similar to your waterproof jacket, it’s important to get your waterproof trousers right. By having a full-length zip down the side they’ll be easy to get on and off without removing boots and crampons. They’ll likely have a ventilation option too so you can dump any excess heat rapidly when you need to. Most importantly they should be able to keep you dry without restricting your movement, protecting you from the outside elements but also being breathable enough to allow moisture vapour to escape, leaving you dry and comfortable on the inside.
You might think having a cap with you is a little optimistic but without it, you could leave yourself exposed and vulnerable to severe sunburn even when it might feel overcast and cold. Having a cap with a peak will offer protection to your face. A low-profile balaclava will not only keep your head and neck warm but will also offer protection to your face should you need it. Alternatively, a low profile beanie and Buff combo should suffice.
Keeping your hands warm is an important part of mountaineering as you need to maintain dexterity in your fingers to do any rope work as well as to hold your axe. Gloves are great for scrambling and holding your axe at the initial stages of your trek but the warmest option for summit day would be mittens as your fingers are all together and can generate heat better together. By utilising a thermal liner, you can protect yourself from exposure to the cold when you need to take your gloves or mittens off for even more dexterity when handling gear.
Walking poles offer support on uneven terrain, ascents and descents, spreading the load through your whole body rather than just your legs. This extra support is especially useful in icy conditions providing you with four points of contact with the ground. Our buying guide will offer more information on how to choose the right walking poles.
Depending on which route you take, a simple walking axe or alpine axe should be ideal and more suitable than a technical pair of climbing axes. Being predominantly straight shafted they are easy to plunge into the snow for stability when zig-zagging on slopes. They are also easy to manoeuvre in self-arrest mode. The pick of the axe offers security when embedded in névé or in ice axe arrest mode while the adze is great for cutting steps and digging out belay positions. Our ice axe buying guide offers more in-depth information to help you find the right one.
Again depending on which route you take, a pair of 12 point steel mountaineering crampons with a C2 rating should be sufficient. They must fit your boots appropriately and have anti-balling plates to reduce the build-up of snow underneath, between the points. A storage bag for your crampons will stop the sharp points damaging any of the other kit in your bag when they aren’t on your feet and will also absorb any excess moisture off your crampons when you eventually take them off and put them back in your pack. Our crampon buying guide will point you in the right direction if you are at all unsure.
A mountaineering helmet that will protect you from any rock or ice fall is essential, it should also offer protection to your head in the event of a fall. An adjustable helmet will ensure you get the best fit and will be able to accommodate a warm hat or balaclava underneath. It should also fit comfortably underneath the hood of your waterproof jacket to ensure you can fully protect yourself from the elements.
Your harness should be adjustable at the waist and leg loops and it needs to comfortably fit over the extra layers you’ll have on. It should have gear loops that you can hang gear off and be reasonably low profile so as not to add too much bulk to your set up.
Your rucksack should be lightweight to start off with to keep your load to a minimum, any excess weight will considerably slow you down at altitude. It’s worth making sure your pack is a good fit for you, with and without extra layers, and you should know how to adjust it accordingly to keep the majority of the weight on your waist belt with the shoulder straps mainly just keeping the pack on your back. Everything in your pack should also be in a dry bag to protect your kit from the elements, whether you choose to have one large dry pack or multiple smaller ones for organisation is up to you.
Wrap around style glasses with a category 3 or 4 lens will help to protect your eyes from sun damage at all angles. Make sure they form a good seal with your face and are a secure fit, this is important when exposed to strong sunlight and reflection from the snow, otherwise you can be at risk of becoming snow blind. Goggles may also come in useful in the event of particularly windy or snowy conditions, they should have double lenses and plenty of ventilation to prevent misting.
Choosing the right water bottles for your trip is key. Given the cold conditions you are likely to face, it is perhaps best to stick with plastic drinks bottles rather than metal bottles. Alternatively, you may prefer to use a reservoir with a drinking tube, though it’s important to be aware drinking tubes can freeze up easily in cold conditions, even when utilising an insulated sleeve*. A compromise could be carrying a Nalgene 1Ltr bottle as a back-up. *Top tip: If you choose to use a drinking tube, be sure to blow the water back into the reservoir after each drink to avoid the water in the tube becoming frozen and undrinkable.
You’ll likely have a couple of early, pre-dawn starts on your ascent up Mont Blanc, thus it’s important to have a good head torch that you can fix onto your helmet with a simple, low profile strap. You’ll also need it for moving about the mountain huts. Even if you put spare batteries in just before you start your trip, it’s always worth taking an extra set of spare batteries as they do have a tendency to drain quickly when exposed to cold conditions. Put your spare batteries in a small food bag and store them close to your body to ensure they keep their charge.
A reliable sunblock that you can use on your face, as well as any other exposed areas such as your ears and the back of your neck. It’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t need a huge bottle, but a couple of small bottles offers insurance against lost or burst bottles. Varieties containing zinc oxide offer great protection. Avoid taking the old bottle of sunblock that you found at the back of your bathroom cabinet as the SPF rating reduces over time.
A basic first aid kit should include a few simple items that might help you along the way. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can come in handy while blister plasters are a must. Even if your boots are comfortable and have never given you blisters before it’s always worth taking blister-specific plasters such as Compeed. Hiking at altitude can cause mild swelling in your feet, getting blisters, or even mild rubbing points on your feet, is a sure-fire way to put a dampener on your trip but is something that can be avoided so easily.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to take snacks to refuel your body, having some money with you will allow you to buy additional food and drink at any huts you come across. You’ll need a couple of extra bits for overnighting in the mountain huts such as a sleeping bag liner and a basic wash kit (including toilet roll) as there is often no running water at the huts. Don’t forget any personal medication that you may need to take, and a small camera will capture your favourite moments should you wish to cherish them.
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