Mont Blanc, France: history, flora and fauna

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc – one of the most famous mountain peaks of our planet, located in the Western Alps, at the junction of two states – France and Italy. Since the mountain range lies directly on the border, the French and Italians for centuries have been arguing about the belonging of Mont Blanc, but so far no consensus has been reached. Currently, the mountain is actually divided between two towns: the French Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and the Italian Courmayeur. A unifying factor may be the 11.6 km long tunnel connecting both countries, which stretches directly under the mountain range.

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Video: Climbing Mont Blanc

Highlights

Elbrus and other Caucasian peaks aside, it is Mont Blanc that is the highest point in Europe: 4,810 meters above sea level. Despite its height, this mountain, which has long been a popular center of alpinism and mountain tourism, each day is being conquered by an increasing number of climbers as well as unprepared tourists, including even children. Proof of this is the most popular hiking route on the continent “Tour du Mont Blanc”, which runs around it.

Mont Blanc panorama

Why is Mont Blanc so beloved by travelers? Of course, its crystal white scenery and located at the foot of the ski resorts. On the side of France such a resort is Chamonix, and from the south, the Italian side – the already mentioned Courmayeur. To visit this place tends a lot of fans of active sports, including not only climbers, and snowboarders and skiers. If you’re tired of vacationing at warm seas and oceans, eating exotic fruits or endlessly explore the palaces and museums in major metropolitan areas, and wanted a really bright and extreme experience – welcome to Mont Blanc!

Climbers on the summit of Mont Blanc Camp Camping Up the group from the forest area Resort Chamonix Resort Courmayeur

The history of the conquest of Mont Blanc

In 1744, the famous traveler Peter Martel published travel notes about his mountain trekking. It was in this work that the son of French immigrants who moved to Geneva vividly and emotionally conveyed his impressions of the Mont Blanc, thus becoming the founder of the fashion to visit this peak.

As for the first conquest of the mountain, it dates back to August 8, 1786. The majestic Alpine beauty “bowed its head” to Jacques Balma and Dr Michel Packard. The initiator of the historic ascent was the Swiss geologist, botanist and mountaineer Horace Benedict de Saussure. He even established a special prize to the one who personally scouts the best way to climb Mont Blanc.

It is worth noting that among the conquerors who reached the top, there were women. The very first was Maria Paradis, who made the ascent in 1808.

By the way, the leader of one of the expeditions to climb Mont Blanc, held in 1886, was … young Theodore Roosevelt, the future President of the United States. The conquest of Mont Blanc was probably the most important event of his honeymoon in Europe.

Until the second half of the last century, one of the main obstacles to the enthusiasm of not only the conquerors, but also ordinary holidaymakers, was the difficulty of climbing the Alps, which required about 18 hours of travel and encountered various obstacles. It was then that the 11 kilometre-long tunnel that we spoke of at the outset had to be driven directly beneath Mont Blanc.

A drawing of the participants in the first ascent of Mont Blanc Monument to Michel Packard in Chamonix

Tourism on Mont Blanc

Given that the height of Mont Blanc reaches almost five kilometers, the mountain is of interest mainly to fans of winter sports and recreation: climbers, skiers and snowboarders. However, even tourists far from extreme entertainments can fully appreciate the main summit of Europe, its beauty and attraction, without making any effort, but just strolling at its foot and breathing crystal clear air.

The only way to fully experience the magnificence of Mont Blanc and the opportunities it offers is if you are a fan of winter sports. The mountain sports fans from all over Europe and the world flock to Chamonix, nestled in the picturesque valley of the Arves River. It was in this village that the very first Winter Olympic Games in history were held in 1924. Remaining true to its past and, as they say, keeping up the brand, the ski resort attracts travelers with its developed infrastructure and quite affordable prices.

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Skiing on the slopes of Mont Blanc

The history of Italian Courmayeur does not boast such significant events of its history, but this fact is more than offset by the service this resort offers vacationers. In addition to excellent pistes for skiers and snowboarders, not to mention the magnificent botanical garden, located directly on the highlands, and the local thermal springs.

The visiting card of Mont Blanc and its, not dare to say it, tourist asset are numerous cable cars and elevators, sightseeing platforms and hiking trails. One of the elevators allows you to climb the Egy di Midi mountain range, which is 3,842 meters above sea level.

Viewpoint at the cable car Lift complex

The popular route on which travel agencies offer regular excursions to Belaya Mountain (the name Mont Blanc is translated from Italian and French) was established in the XVIII century. Particular complexity, however, he is not different, but the extra caution will not hurt anyone. Experienced travelers recommend to pass it only to those tourists who have good physical preparation. If you neglect this warning, you can easily get injured. Given that such precedents have already occurred, the authorities are organizing a daily overflight of Mont Blanc rescue helicopters. In high season, the number of such circles reaches 12 times a day.

When does it start and how long does the season last? It starts in June and lasts four months, that is, up to and including September. At that time, one way to get to the top of Mont Blanc is to participate in trekking tours, which involve, generally speaking, moving or crossing over mountain (rugged) terrain. Such excursions usually take a week, so be prepared for an extreme time seven days in advance.

Skiers on the slopes of Mont Blanc

In addition to the fact that Mont Blanc is unconditionally loved by skiers and snowboarders (incidentally, the highest elevator on the continent is located here), it is also beloved by cyclists. There are so many cyclists in these parts, that they prepare the paths especially for them, mopping them from the branches of trees and water. However, the journey on an iron horse will not be easy. The main condition is to have a good seat in the saddle.

Despite the fact that the extreme on Mont Blanc impregnated literally everything, the thrill is largely compensated and harmoniously combined with comfort. In addition to the already mentioned ropeways, elevators and other infrastructure, there are special equipment stores, French restaurants and first-class hotels.

For hikers are equipped with tent camping. But such a trip and, accordingly, living in a campsite is only possible for very prepared and strong-willed people. The very fact that the weather in these places is unstable, too cool and windy, can spoil the impression of the most carefully organized journey. But, we emphasize, only if you are not prepared for it physically. Trained tourists do not mind such climatic complications.

Marathon at the foot of Mont Blanc Group on a snowy slope

It is impossible not to mention the fact that there are several other noteworthy places in the vicinity of Mont Blanc. In addition to the Franco-Italian tunnel under the mountain you are already familiar with, we can name the Great Saint Bernard Pass and the Saint Bernard breeding farm, the Grand Balcon Sud range, the Alpine Museum, the Mer de Glace (Ice Sea) and of course the Chamonix Valley, famous for its parks and reserves – Merle, the Epoine Rouge and others.

If you are lucky enough to visit the Alps in July, be sure to taste raspberries, blueberries and other berries, which are ripe in this month. Especially the youngest tourists can appreciate their taste. Do not be surprised: the ascent of Mont Blanc is available to children from 5 years old. And although family tourists are offered slightly different routes than usual groups, good mood and the most pleasant emotions for moms, dads and their beloved kids are guaranteed. You will be surprised even more, but children on Mont Blanc are engaged even in rock climbing, and, moreover, starting from the age of 3 years. Not to mention rafting, visits to amusement parks and the Alpine zoo, mountain streetcar rides and swimming in the lake.

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Of course, the “sea of ice” on the north face of the Mont Blanc massif, the majestic Mer de Glace plateau, is not to be missed. This complex valley glacier in the French Alps is 12 km long and feeds the waters of the Arve River. It is 400 meters thick. If you admire the Mer de Glace from the height of the cable car, its panorama strikes even the most sophisticated imagination.

Chamonix Valley The cozy streets of Chamonix in summer A stroll on the Mer de Glace Glacier

Interesting facts

Mont Blanc, like most mountains on our planet, is not a solitary one, towering majestically over a massif of astounding beauty.

Some nearby peaks, of course, are inferior to the White Mountain in fame and popularity, but they are almost identical in height. For example, Rocher de la Tourmet is 100 meters lower than Mont Blanc, and Mont Blanc de Courmayeur is only 60 meters higher. Other famous mountains in this range are the Grand Joras, which is so steep that it is considered one of the most difficult in the Alps to climb, and the Aiguille du Midi, famous for its cableway and stunning sunset views.

It would be wrong to say that only sportsmen and tourists are interested in the Mont Blanc massif. There are also various scientific research, and not without success. Not so long ago, for example, archaeologists found under the ice the remains of prehistoric man, whose age is estimated at 5000 years or more.

A balloon over Mont Blanc

As we have said, Mont Blanc is not considered particularly difficult to climb, but, and this sad fact must be recognized, according to statistics of mortality among climbers breaking records. Until the middle of the XVIII century these places, judging by ancient maps, were called the “Cursed Mountains”, and, apparently, not in vain. During the development of the mountain range its slopes have taken the lives of several thousand desperate climbers. This is a reality that cannot be ignored.

Victims of Mont Blanc became not only daring conquerors – the mountain did not spare even flying near it planes. In the last century there were two major accidents. They both occurred with the planes of the company Air India – a coincidence of circumstances was mystical. The first airliner crashed on the slopes of Mont Blanc in 1950, the second – in 1966. The victims of these accidents a total of 200 people, including crew members. Among the victims was the famous Indian physicist Homi Jehangir Baba, who played a significant role in the development of atomic science in his country.

Another catastrophe happened on March 24, 1999. But no longer in the air, but in a car tunnel. Suddenly, all of a sudden, a truck caught fire, the smoke from which quickly spread throughout the enclosed space. This caused a lack of oxygen and, as a result, the engines of all the vehicles in the tunnel, including the fire trucks that came to the rescue, to stop. The fire had been burning for more than two days – 53 hours! Thirty-nine people died in the furnace under the mountain.

Mont Blanc is capable not only of frightening but also of surprising. To make sure of this, let us recall one of the storylines of the French melodrama “Amelie”, released in 2001 – about the discovery of the mail in one of the crashed liners on Mont Blanc. The heroine of the film, played by the famous Audrey Justine Tautou, then used the found letters for her own purposes. The plot of the film was prophetic: a group of climbers in December 2012 found the plane Air India, crashed in 1966. And inside the plane they found – what do you think? – A diplomatic pouch.

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The Mont Blanc spurs on the Chamonix side Climbers on a rock face

Where to stay

The village of Chamonix or, officially, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is the office of the registration office, so it’s best to stay directly at this popular ski resort located in the French department of Haute-Savoie.

At the registration office you can find out all the necessary information: the schedule of the ropeway and public transport, information about the sights in the vicinity of Mont Blanc.

Chalets in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

How to get there

A popular saying among tourists is that the French Alps begin in Chamonix. The village is located just at the foot of Mont Blanc, so that’s where you should go. Unfortunately there are no direct flights, so it is better to get to Switzerland, namely Geneva, which lies only 88 km away from the ski resort.

Landing at the airport of Geneva, you can take a shuttle bus or rent a car. The cost of the ticket is 28-30 Euros; the travel time does not exceed two hours.

Wealthier tourists prefer to take a cab. GPS coordinates: 45.924049, 6.863035.

Mont Blanc – the highest point of the Alps

The Alps is the most popular mountain range, which gathered several picturesque peaks. Tourists from all over the world come here for recreation and activity. Many mountains in the Alps are under strict protection and remain an important object of study.

The Alps are a snowy oasis.

The Alps offer the most beautiful views, mighty mountains and excellent vantage points.

Mont Blanc

They begin on the French Riviera, pass close to Italy, skirt it to the North, and then extend eastward to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The Alps are divided into three zones:

  • western;
  • central;
  • eastern.

Several mountains in the Alps are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

History of the study of the Alps

In terms of science, the Alps are an incredibly interesting mountain range. Why the mountains are called as such is not known exactly. There are several versions about the origin of the name:

  1. According to one of them, the word “Alps” comes from the Latin “alpes”. This name means “white.
  2. Another version claims that the mountains are so called because of the word “al”, which indicates the presence of high peaks.
  3. In French and Italian there is the word “alpe”, which can be translated as “mountain peak”.

Similar words were used by the ancient Greeks and Byzantines. In the writings of Procopius of Caesarea, the Alps and the Pyrenees are referred to equally.

The first explorer to describe the Alps was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. At the time, people associated the mountains with a terrible place, but Rousseau was the first to see that the Alps were truly beautiful. Along with the famous writer, other writers began to admire the Alps. Goethe, Schiller and Turner were among them. The mountain scenery inspired their creativity, just as the Alps now inspire travelers. Among all the peaks of the Alps the highest is Mount Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc – the highest point of the Alps

The height of Mont Blanc exceeds 4,800 meters. It is indeed the highest point in Europe, if you draw the border between Europe and Asia along the northern border of the Caucasus. Mont Blanc belongs to the Western Alps and is part of the general mountain system.

The question of ownership

Who owns the highest point in Europe is a question that has long been hotly debated. Mont Blanc used to be regarded as an integral part of the Duchy of Savoy.

Mont Blanc Height

Then it came under the control of the Kingdom of Sardinia. When Napoleon waged a succession of wars, scoring resounding victories one after another, Mont Blanc became part of France. The current position of Mount Mont Blanc is governed by an agreement signed by Italy and France, which dates back to 1861. According to it, Mont Blanc is the “new frontier”.

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The climate in the Mont Blanc area

Mont Blanc is called the “White Mountain” for a reason. The highest point of Europe is characterized by cold summers and snowy winters. The air temperature rarely exceeds 20 degrees Celsius, even with the onset of July. A characteristic feature of Mont Blanc are the warm currents of air, which come from the Mediterranean Sea and rise up. The north brings cold air to the highest mountain in Europe. The greatest amount of precipitation falls at an altitude of 1,500 meters. The closer to the summit, the harder the frost is felt. The cold is so strong that it can literally freeze. This was confirmed by the remains found by scientists several decades ago. The find was an almost perfectly preserved prehistoric man. According to a rough estimate, the remains were more than 5000 years old.

The Valleys of Europe’s Highest Mountain

Mont Blanc has several valleys, each with different trails. From the valley of Val Venet you can go to the “hour route” or the “pear route”. Both are quite dangerous and require a high level of training.

Europe's tallest mountain - Mont Blanc

One of the most beautiful valleys of the high Mont Blanc is called the valley of Val Ferre. The meadows of the Alps, forests, and untouched nature are in perfect harmony here. The local inhabitants of the high mountain are chamois and rock rams, a variety of marmots and wild sheep. In the valley Champe is a picturesque lake, dense forest, here like to come many tourists. The highest pleasure gives rest among the alpine meadows, which contributes to a good hotel service. Writers Dumas and Hugo recommended to start climbing Mont Blanc from Arves, a large valley, where you can perfectly see the highest point. The most unusual valley is Courmayeur, where there is a village with colorful houses, it serves as a kind of cultural attraction. Here live guides who are familiar with the area. If you want to go out on the plain, you will be interested in the valley called Montjoie. Next to it is a road that was once built by the Romans.

Flora and fauna of the highest point of the Alps

As part of the mountain system of the Alps, Mount Mont Blanc has become a treasure trove for explorers and naturalists. Here you can find the Alpine grouse, which prefers high cliffs. These birds are of interest to tourists, the most important source of food. People themselves feed the eiders, leaving a lot of food waste. The nutcracker has adapted well to the harsh climate and is able to feed itself. It prepares seeds and nuts in advance, burying the fruits in the ground. A common nutcracker can make 25,000 hiding places before the cold weather arrives. The largest number of seeds a nutcracker can store is 100,000. Its memory is still a mystery, but the bird navigates well among its hiding places. And another amazing representative of the world of birds is called the snow finch. This bird prefers to nest on high rocks, making nests right among the cracks.

Is it easy to conquer the highest point

The highest point of Mont Blanc attracts thousands of climbers. Its beautiful and seemingly pristine snow is capable of enchanting every traveler. However, do not be fooled, because Mont Blanc is considered one of the most difficult mountains to conquer. The most popular valley from which climbers begin their ascent is called Chamonix. The valley is a huge pit, the length of which is 23 kilometers. Scientists believe that the Chamonix appeared due to the phenomenon, which in the world of science is called the Great Glaciation.

Mont Blanc photo

Chamonix is not accidentally popular, it has the most convenient access routes. Emperor Napoleon III, who once vacationed here, contributed to their appearance. He was so taken aback by the beauty of the Alps that he ordered the active construction of new roads. The first climbers who ventured to conquer Mont Blanc faced a succession of failures. The locals even began to call the mountain cursed.

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And there were indeed reasons for that. After the conquest of neighboring Montenver, the highest point tried to “take” repeatedly. Mont Blanc became an alluring mountain whose conquerors died again and again. It was not until 1786 that the first ascent to Europe’s highest point was made. After that, Oras Benedict, who had already conquered Montvernver once, decided to assemble an expedition to advance to the next conquest of Mont Blanc. This was necessary to study the glaciers, the peculiarities of their nature and the identification of natural patterns. Thanks to the expedition, Oras Benedict was able to create a new generation of measuring instruments, to create detailed instructions for climbing, which for many years were used by European climbers. At that time people did not yet know that regular climbing is called alpine tourism. But enterprising residents actively promoted the athletes, starting to study the terrain on their own to help tourists navigate.

Mont Blanc conquest

This began to bring in good revenues. Soon Mont Blanc became an important tourist attraction, and even a woman dared to conquer it. Marie Paradis was the first sportswoman who was able to climb to the highest point of Mont Blanc.

Now the highest point is conquered by anyone, just buy a ticket for the cable car. But true mountaineers do not look for easy ways.

Protecting the nature of Europe’s highest mountain

The entire nature of the Alps has been subjected to a long period of anthropogenic impact. Regular deforestation has impoverished the soil, and erosion has taken hold. Nowadays, the European Union is keeping a close eye on the state of nature, and obliges travelers not to light fires. Forest fires are extremely dangerous for Mont Blanc, because the area is characterized by avalanches, the convergence of mudflows. In the past century, about 60% of the forests of the Alps have been destroyed. This greatly affected the state of flora and fauna, so Mont Blanc was declared a tourist protected area.

Attractions of the highest mountain

The best attractions for travelers are offered by the municipality of Chamonix. The railroad lines, with trains running through the mountainous area, allow you to enjoy wonderful views. The highest pleasure will be a walk through the valley and a visit to the alpine museum. The cultural life of the locals is very rich. Chamonix regularly hosts events such as festivals, sports tournaments, and ice races. Especially beautiful Christmas season, when the little houses are decorated with colorful garlands. For lovers of skiing, a visit to the white valley is recommended. Not far from the valley is a glacier called the Mer de Glas. It now serves as a tourist center, pleasing a very interesting attraction – an ice cave.

On the territory of Chamonix there is also a lake called Sinclair. This is a purely man-made body of water, created by order of Lord Sinclair. The local land once belonged to him. Saturday becomes a real holiday for the locals when the market opens. The center of the commune becomes pedestrian, everyone is eager to buy interesting goods and try delicacies. The parks of Chamonix offer a relaxing holiday, there is even a water park with all the amenities.

The top of Mont Blanc

If you don’t feel confident enough as a climber yet, be sure to visit the center called Vallee Blanche. A whole range of tracks are at the service of everyone. Even novice climbers can quickly learn how to move on skis. An alternative is the complex, which the locals call the Glacier des Bossons. It is designed specifically for walks along the glacier. For children, too, there is an interesting place, it is called Le Paradis des Praz and is a beautiful park. Here you can have a picnic. The place itself is equipped with slides, swings, and a playground.

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