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MONT BLANC KIT LIST PART 2: EQUIPMENT;

At 4,810m (15,781ft), Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe, sat between Haut-Savoie, France and Aosta in Italy. Despite involving no technical climbing, it’s an undertaking that should not be approached lightly: it requires fitness, acclimatisation and glacier travel skills (including crevasse rescue techniques). 


Equipment

RUCKSACK

Preferably an alpine style, which are generally lightweight, minimalist and fairly durable. Anything from 30-45L should be enough.

HEADTORCH

Something fairly bright with a beam/floodlight option will be ideal. 

 

Tip: Carry spare batteries – lithium batteries last longer in the cold!

HYDRATION

Water bladders are good for lower down the mountain, although the tube may freeze higher up. Ideally, take a 2L bladder and 2x 1L bottles. Nalgene bottles are the best option as they’re not metal and have a wide mouth. Insulation pouches are also recommended – they help prevent water freezing and allow you to clip the bottle to your hip belt for easy access. 

Tip:

  • Nalgene bottles can be filled with hot water before going to sleep with a sock slipped over them to make a hot water bottle.
  • Electrolyte mixes lower the freezing point of water and replenish the vital salts lost through sweating – electrolyte tablets/packets work well. Chlorine dioxide tablets are useful for water purification. These should be used even if you boil the water (water boils at a lower temperature higher up and bacteria can survive for an undetermined period of time in glaciers).

POT & STOVE

There’s no running water at the Gouter hut (pictured above) – you either pay through the nose for bottled water or take a small stove, gas canister and pot to melt snow.

WALKING POLES

These will make a massive difference. In the short-term they help with balance and load bearing; in the long-term they minimise the impact on knee cartilage.

SKIN CARE

Factor 30+ sun cream and lip balm are essential. Aftersun is also a good idea. 

Tip: It’s important to reapply cream a couple times a day on the areas where it might be wiped off (nose, mouth and brow). Apply cream to the inside of the nostrils and try to limit the time spent wearing shorts on glaciers.

FIRST AID KIT

Get something lightweight with the essentials: antiseptic cream and wipes, regular and blister plasters, wound closure strips, painkillers, dressings and elasticated cohesive bandage. 

SLEEPING BAG LINER

Huts have blankets which are used by a large number of people through the season without being washed. A silk sleeping bag liner helps make things a little more comfortable and adds some warmth.

DRY BAGS

A couple of waterproof stuff sacks keep your kit organised, dry and protected against dust. 

EAR PLUGS + SLEEPING MASK

With all the snoring and clanking of climbing equipment that may interrupt your sleep, these are essential. A sleep mask is also advised - in the Gouter hut there is an infrared sensor which switches the lights on every time somebody comes in or leaves the room!

BASIC REPAIRS KIT

Cable ties, safety pins and electrical/gaffer tape (or Mcnett Tenacious tape).

Safety Equipment

HARNESS

If you have no intention of getting into more technical climbing, then a simple alpine type harness is the best option. If you do intend to learn climbing, then go for the best fitting climbing harness.

ROPE

For the Gouter route, a 30-40m rope will be fine.Some folks like a lightweight option, others prefer a thicker rope. You can use a 50m rope, but this adds weight. 

Tip: Make sure you learn how to coil the rope around your body properly!

HELMET

This is essential. The approach to the Gouter hut is prone to stone fall, as is the crossing of the Grand Couloir. The best helmet is the one that fits you the best – you’re less likely not to wear it!

ICE AXE

Your ice axe should be as light as possible with a slight curve in the shaft. There is no hard and fast rule about length; shorter is lighter, while longer can be used as a walking aid. Some axes come with a wrist leash, however these can be annoying – a great alternative is a single spring leash which attaches the axe to your harness.

CREVASSE RESCUE KIT

This is essential, as is making sure you know how to execute a crevasse rescue! If you are being guided or doing an alpine course, check to see what they will provide and what you need to bring. There are different crevasse rescue systems and it’s possible to substitute different items.

NOTE: This kit list has been written with non-technical ascents in mind (like the Gouter route) and for those who will be either using a guide or at least the huts.

Camping Equipment

This is the extra kit needed if you'e not using a guide or the huts. If you don’t have alpine experience or aren’t familiar with glacier travel and crevasse rescue, this is not a wise option!

TENT

A ‘mountaineering’ tent would be an ideal choice. Some may choose to use a 3-season tent but be aware – you’ll be camping above 3,000m and the weather can be ferocious with very strong winds, even in the summer! 

 

Tip: In some areas you’re not allowed to camp and your tent and equipment could be confiscated, Make sure you check before you travel. 

SLEEPING BAG + MAT

This all depends on how susceptible to the cold you are, how comfy you want to be and how much you want to spend – there’s no such thing as a cheap, lightweight and warm sleeping bag!

 

Tip: The temperature rating on sleeping bags is no more than a guideline: 0°C for the hardcore fast and light climber, -4-5°C for those looking for a more comfortable compromise and -10°C for those who feel warmth is more important than weight. A sleeping bag liner or bivi bag will add a touch of warmth!

Options include freeze dried meals which have about 500-700 calories per pouch, plus bars, gels and energy and recovery drinks. 

 

Tip: Add a little couscous to boost the energy value!


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