This article is about the mountain. For other uses, see Mont Blanc (disambiguation).
Mont Blanc (pronounced[mɔ̃ blɑ̃]; Italian: Monte Bianco[ˈmonte ˈbjaŋko]), meaning "White Mountain", is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks.[note 2] It rises 4,m (15,ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. The mountain stands in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Savoie and Haute-Savoie, France.
The location of the summit is on the watershed line between the valleys of Ferret and Veny in Italy and the valleys of Montjoie, and Arve in France.
The Mont Blanc massif is popular for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding.
The three towns and their communes which surround Mont Blanc are Courmayeur in Aosta Valley, Italy; and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Chamonix in Haute-Savoie, France. The latter town was the site of the first Winter Olympics. A cable car ascends and crosses the mountain range from Courmayeur to Chamonix, through the Col du Géant.
The km (7¼-mi) Mont Blanc Tunnel, constructed between andruns beneath the mountain and is a major trans-Alpine transport route.
The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc was on 8 August by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard.
This climb, initiated by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering. The first woman to reach the summit was Marie Paradis in
Nowadays the summit is ascended by an average of 20, mountaineer-tourists each year.
It could be considered a technically easy, yet arduous, ascent for someone who is well-trained and acclimatized to the altitude. From l'Aiguille du Midi (where the cable car stops), Mont Blanc seems quite close, being 1,m (3,ft) higher. But while the peak seems deceptively close, La Voie des 3 Monts route (known to be more technical and challenging than other more commonly used routes) requires much ascent over two other 4,m mountains, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit, before the final section of the climb is reached and the last m push to the summit is undertaken.
Each year climbing deaths occur on Mont Blanc, and on the busiest weekends, normally around August, the local rescue service performs an average of 12 missions, mostly directed to aid people in trouble on one of the normal routes of the mountain.
Some routes require knowledge of high-altitude mountaineering, a guide (or at least an experienced mountaineer), and all require proper equipment. All routes are long and arduous, involving delicate passages and the hazard of rock-fall or avalanche. Climbers may also suffer altitude sickness, occasionally life threatening, particularly if they do not acclimatize to it.
Ownership of the summit
Since the French Revolution, the issue of the ownership of the summit has been debated.
From tothe entire mountain was within the Duchy of Savoy. Inthe Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II, acquired the Kingdom of Sardinia. The resulting state of Sardinia was to become preeminent in the Italian unification. In Septemberthe French revolutionary Army of the Alps under Anne-Pierre de Montesquiou-Fézensac seized Savoy without much resistance and created a department of the Mont-Blanc.
In a treaty of 15 MayVictor Amadeus III of Sardinia was forced to cede Savoy and Nice to France. In article 4 of this treaty it says: "The border between the Sardinian kingdom and the departments of the French Republic will be established on a line determined by the most advanced points on the Piedmont side, of the summits, peaks of mountains and other locations subsequently mentioned, as well as the intermediary peaks, knowing: starting from the point where the borders of Faucigny, the Duchy of Aoust and the Valais, to the extremity of the glaciers or Monts-Maudits: first the peaks or plateaus of the Alps, to the rising edge of the Col-Mayor".
This act further states that the border should be visible from the town of Chamonix and Courmayeur. However, neither is the peak of the Mont Blanc visible from Courmayeur nor is the peak of the Mont Blanc de Courmayeur visible from Chamonix because part of the mountains lower down obscure them.
After the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna restored the King of Sardinia in Savoy, Nice and Piedmont, his traditional territories, overruling the Treaty of Paris.
Forty-five years later, after the Second Italian War of Independence, it was replaced by a new legal act. This act was signed in Turin on 24 March by Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, and deals with the annexation of Savoy (following the French neutrality for the plebiscites held in Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Romagna to join the Kingdom of Sardinia, against the Pope's will).
A demarcation agreement, signed on 7 Marchdefined the new border. With the formation of Italy, for the first time Mont Blanc was located on the border of France and Italy.
The act and attached maps are still legally valid for both the French and Italian governments. One of the prints from the Sarde Atlas positions the border exactly on the summit edge of the mountain (and measures it to be 4,m (15,ft) high). The convention of 7 March recognises this through an attached map, taking into consideration the limits of the massif, and drawing the border on the icecap of Mont Blanc, making it both French and Italian. Watershed analysis of modern topographic mapping not only places the main summit on the border, but also suggests that the border should follow a line northwards from the main summit towards Mont Maudit, leaving the southeast ridge to Mont Blanc de Courmayeur wholly within Italy.
Although the Franco-Italian border was redefined in both andthe commission made up of both Italians and French ignored the Mont Blanc issue.
The area from the Torino Hut to the summit is under the control of the Italian authority.NATO uses Italian military maps to operate. In the early 21st century, administration of the mountain is shared between the Italian town of Courmayeur and the French town of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, although the larger part of the mountain lies within the commune of the latter.
The first professional scientific investigations on the summit were conducted by the botanist–meteorologistJoseph Vallot at the end of the 19th century.
He wanted to stay near the top of the summit, so he built his own permanent cabin.
InPierre Janssen, an astronomer and the director of the Meudon astrophysical observatory, considered the construction of an observatory at the summit of Mont Blanc. Gustave Eiffel agreed to take on the project, provided he could build on a rock foundation, if found at a depth of less than 12m (39ft) below the ice.
Inthe Swiss surveyor Imfeld dug two 23m (75ft) long horizontal tunnels 12m (39ft) below the ice summit but found nothing solid. Consequently, the Eiffel project was abandoned.
Despite this, the observatory was built in During the cold wave of Januarya temperature of −43°C (−45°F) was recorded on Mont Blanc, being the lowest ever recorded there.
Levers attached to the ice supported the observatory.
This worked to some extent untilwhen the building started leaning heavily. The movement of the levers corrected the lean slightly, but three years later (two years after Janssen's death), a crevasse started opening under the observatory.
It was abandoned. Eventually the building fell, and only the tower could be saved in extremis.
The mountain was the scene of two fatal air crashes; Air India Flight in  and Air India Flight in Both planes were approaching Geneva airport and the pilots miscalculated their descent; 48 and people, respectively, died. The latter passengers included nuclear scientistHomi J.
Bhabha, known as the "father" of India's nuclear programme.
Main article: Mont Blanc Tunnel
Ina drilling project was initiated to carve a tunnel through the mountain.
The Mont Blanc tunnel would connect Chamonix, France and Courmayeur, Italy, and become one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes between the two countries. Inthe tunnel opened to vehicle traffic with a length of 11, metres (mi).
Main article: Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire
Ina transport truck caught fire in the tunnel beneath the mountain. In total 39 people were killed when the fire raged out of control.
The tunnel was renovated in the aftermath to increase driver safety, reopening after three years.
Incidents involving children
The youngest person to climb Mont Blanc record set in by year-old Asher Silver (UK)
In Julyan American entrepreneur and traveler Patrick Sweeney attempted to break the record with his nine-year-old son P.J.
and year-old daughter Shannon. They were caught in avalanche, luckily escaped death and decided not to pursue their attempt.
In Augustan unknown Austrian climber with his 5-year-old son were intercepted by mountain gendarmes at metres and forced to turn around.
On 5 August9-year old Hungarian twins and their mother were rescued from metres by helicopter while their father and family friend continued their summit attempt.
The summit of Mont Blanc is a thick, perennial ice-and-snow dome whose thickness varies.
No exact and permanent summit elevation can therefore be determined, though accurate measurements have been made on specific dates. For a long time, its official elevation was 4,m (15,ft). Inthe IGN and expert surveyors, with the aid of GPS technology, measured it to be 4,m (15,ft 4in).
After the heatwave in Europe, a team of scientists re-measured the height on 6 and 7 September. The team was made up of the glaciologist Luc Moreau, two surveyors from the GPS Company, three people from the IGN, seven expert surveyors, four mountain guides from Chamonix and Saint-Gervais and four students from various institutes in France.
This team noted that the elevation was 4,m (15,ft 9in), and the peak was 75 centimetres (30in) away from where it had been in
After these results were published, more than points were measured to assess the effects of climate change and the fluctuations in the height of the mountain at different points.
Since then, the elevation of the mountain has been measured every two years.
The interpretation that the heatwave had caused this fluctuation is disputed because the heatwave is known not to have significantly affected the glaciers above 4,m (13,ft). The height and position of the summit could have been moved by general glacial forces. At this elevation, the temperatures rarely rise above 0°C (32°F). During the summer ofthe temperature rose to 2°C (36°F), and even 3°C (37°F), but this would not have been enough for the ice to melt that amount.
The summit was measured again inand the results were published on 16 December The height was found to be 4,m (15,ft 9in), 30cm (12in) more than the previous recorded height.
The rock summit was found to be at 4,m (15,ft), some 40m (ft) west of the ice-covered summit.
Inthe summit was measured at 4,m (15,ft) and in at 4,m (15,ft). Inthe summit was measured at 4,m (15,ft) and in at 4,m (15,ft). From the summit of Mont Blanc on a clear day, the Jura, the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Massif Central mountain ranges can be seen, as well as the principal summits of the Alps.
The Mont Blanc Massif averages nearly fatalities a year.
A published estimate suggests there have been 6, alpinist fatalities in total, more than on any other mountain. Several classic climbing routes lead to the summit of Mont Blanc:
- The most popular route is the Voie Des Cristalliers, also known as the Voie Royale.
Starting from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, the Tramway du Mont-Blanc (TMB) is taken to get to the fr:Gare du Nid d'Aigle. The ascent begins in the direction of the Refuge de Tête Rousse and through the Goûter Corridor, considered dangerous because of frequent rock-falls, leading to the Goûter cabin for night shelter. The next day the route leads to the Dôme du Goûter, past the emergency Vallot cabin and L'arrête des Bosses.
- La Voie des 3 Monts is also known as La Traversée.
Starting from Chamonix, the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi is taken towards the Col du Midi. The Cosmiques cabin is used to spend the night. The next day the ascent continues over Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit.
- The historic itinerary through the Grand Mulets, which is most frequently traversed in winter by ski, or in summer to descend to Chamonix.
- The normal Italian itinerary is also known as La route des Aiguilles Grises.
After crossing the Miage Glacier, climbers spend the night at the Gonella refuge. The next day, one proceeds through the Col des Aiguilles Grises and the Dôme du Goûter, concluding at L'arête des Bosses (Bosses ridge).
- The Miage — Bionnassay — Mont Blanc crossing is usually done in three days, and has been described as a truly magical expedition of ice and snow arêtes at great altitude. The route begins from Contamines-Montjoie, with the night spent in the Conscrits cabin.
The following day, the Dômes de Miages is crossed and the night spent at the Durier cabin. The third day proceeds over l'Aiguille de Bionnassay and the Dôme du Goûter, finally reaching the summit of Mont Blanc via the Bosses ridge.
- Refuge Vallot, m.
- Refuge Goûter, m.
- Bivouac Corrado Alberico – Luigi Borgna, m.
- Refuge Cosmiques, m.
- Refuge Tête Rousse, m.
- Refuge Francesco Gonella, m.
- Refuge Grands Mulets, m.
Impacts of climate change
Recent temperature rises and heatwaves, such as that of summerhave had significant impacts on many climbing routes across the Alps, including those on Mont Blanc.
For example, inthe Grand Mulets route, previously popular in the 20th century, was blocked by virtually impenetrable crevasse fields, and the Gouter Hut was closed by municipal decree for some days because of very high stonefall danger, with some stranded climbers evacuated by helicopter.
Exploits and incidents
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- The first ascent, by Michel-Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat; see Exploration of the High Alps.
- The fourth ascent, by Englishman Mark Beaufoy, with at least six guides and a servant.
- July(): The first ascent by a woman, Maria Paradis, with Balmat as her guide.
- July(): The second ascent by a woman, Henriette d'Angeville.
- Giovenni Bonin, Luigi Grasselli and Fr.
Achille Ratti (later Pope Pius XI) discovered the normal Italian route (West Face Direct) on descent.
- The airplane pilot Henri Giraud landed on the summit, which is only 30m (98ft) long.
- The SwissPierre-André Gobet, leaving from Chamonix, completed the ascent and descent in 5 hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds.
- 30May(): Stéphane Brosse and Pierre Gignoux tried to beat the record by ski-walking.
They went up in 4 hours and 7 minutes, and came back down in 1 hour and 8 minutes. In total they did the ascent and descent in 5 hours and 15 minutes.
- 13August(): Seven French paraglider pilots landed on the summit. They reached a peak altitude of 5,m (17,ft), thanks to the hot weather conditions, which provided strong hot air currents. Five had left from Planpraz, one from Rochebrune at Megève and the last one from Samoëns.
- 8June(): Danish artist Marco Evaristti draped the peak of Mont Blanc with red fabric, along with a foot (m) pole with a flag reading "Pink State".
He had been arrested and detained earlier on 6 June for attempting to paint a pass leading up to the summit red. His aim was to raise awareness of environmental degradation.
- 13September(): A group of 20 people set up a hot tub at the summit.
- 19August(): Fifty paraglider pilots landed on the summit, beating the previous record of seven top landing pilots, set in This included the second ever tandem landing on the summit.
- 11 July – Kilian Jornet beat the fastest overall time for ascent and descent with 4 hours 57 minutes and 40 seconds.
Cinema and television
- La Terre, son visage, is a documentary by Jean-Luc Prévost and published by Édition Société national de télévision française, released in It is part of the Haroun Tazieff raconte sa terre, vol.
1 series. In it he talks about the west-east crossing of Mont Blanc.
- The film Malabar Princess.
- The television-film Premier de cordée.
- Storm over Mont Blanc (Stürme über dem Mont Blanc, ) with Leni Riefenstahl and directed by Arnold Fanck
- La Roue (The Wheel, ) is a minute film by Abel Gance depicting rail operations, workers, and families in southeastern France, including the Mont Blanc area.
The Mont Blanc massif is being put forward as a potential World Heritage Site because of its uniqueness and its cultural importance, considered the birthplace and symbol of modern mountaineering. It would require the three governments of Italy, France and Switzerland to make a request to UNESCO for it to be listed.
Mont Blanc is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, and for this reason, some view it as threatened. Pro-Mont Blanc (an international collective of associations for the protection of Mont Blanc) published in the book Le versant noir du mont Blanc (The black hillside of Mont Blanc), which exposes current and future problems in conserving the site.
InEurope's two highest toilets (at a height of 4, metres, 13, feet) were taken by helicopter to the top of Mont Blanc.
They are also serviced by helicopter. They will serve 30, skiers and hikers annually, helping to alleviate the discharge of urine and faeces that spreads down the mountain face with the spring thaw, and turns it into 'Mont Marron'.
Global warming has begun to melt glaciers and cause avalanches on Mont Blanc, creating more dangerous climbing conditions.
The highest resolution panorama of the Mont Blanc ever made:
Aerial photo of Mont Blanc and other nearby summits
Mont Blanc seen from Les Arcs
Mont Blanc seen from SPOT satellite
Aerial view of the south-western side of Mont Blanc in early September, taken on a commercial flight
View taken "par grand beau temps" from the upper terrace, on Aiguille du Midi ().
Need to reach second floor of the cable railway
- ^Although Mount Elbrus is normally considered the tallest mountain in Europe, the latter continent is part of the Eurasian land mass, which culminates at Mount Everest (lowest col between Mont Blanc and Mount Elbrus: m ; lowest col between Mount Elbrus and Mount Everest: m ).
- ^The Caucasus watershed has conventionally been used as the boundary between Europe and Asia since the midth century.
The Caucasus has a number of peaks higher than Mont Blanc either marking the Russian-Georgian border or just within Russia (Mount Elbrus in the North Caucasus at m is the tallest in Europe when including the Caucasus).
This was the same map annexed to the treaty to determine the current border between France and Italy.
- ^ abc"Le Mont-Blanc passe de mètres à ,7 mètres".
- ^ ab"Mont Blanc shrinks by 45cm in two years".
6 November Retrieved 23 October – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
- ^the prominence of 4,m for Mont Blanc is taken from the "Ultras Project" (vulcan-msk.tk), "List compiled by Petter Bjørstad, Jonathan de Ferranti, Eberhard Jurgalski, Vasja Kavcic and Aaron Maizlish". A footnote to this entry at vulcan-msk.tk r (Citation). The Mont Blanc key saddle has been identified in Northern Russia near Ozero Onezhskoye." See also list of Alpine peaks by prominence.
- ^Green, Stewart.
"Facts About Mont Blanc — Highest Mountain in Western Europe". vulcan-msk.tk Retrieved 7 August
- ^Muza, SR; Fulco, CS; Cymerman, A (). "Altitude Acclimatization Guide". US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report (USARIEM-TN).
Retrieved 5 March
- ^Cymerman, A; Rock, PB. "Medical Problems in High Mountain Environments. A Handbook for Medical Officers". USARIEM-TN US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report. Retrieved 5 March
- ^La disfida del Monte Bianco(in Italian).
- ^"A new map of the dominions of the King of Sardinia.
(with) Isle and kingdom of Sardinia. (with) Mont Blanc in Faucigni and the subjacent Alps and glaciers. From the original published at Turin with royal approbation, and dedicated to his Sardinian Majesty. By Francis de Caroly; translated with improvements and additions. London, Published by Laurie & Whittle, 53, Fleet Street, 12th May, Engrav'd by B. Baker, Islington. - David Rumsey Historical Map Collection".
vulcan-msk.tk. Retrieved 23 October
- ^The map is based on measurements taken in before the convention of 7 Marchand is identical to the map attached to the Treaty of Turin.
- ^"FICHE QUESTION". vulcan-msk.tk. Retrieved 23 October
- ^Image Mont Blanc vulcan-msk.tk
- ^"FICHE QUESTION". vulcan-msk.tk.
- ^"Italia contro Francia la guerra del Monte Bianco".
- ^"Italia-Francia, il duello dei confini sulla cima del Monte Bianco".
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