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Connoisseur's Guide · Europe · france · France · World's Top Trekking Routes by Atis Plakans

The Alps

Author: Atis Plakans0 COMMENTS

The Alps

Mont Blanc was first climbed in 1786. Since then the Alps are crisscrossed by trekking trails and all the summits conquered from all the possible sides. If there are few routes left, they are life threatening due to unsteady walls and falling ice. It's no wonder that the Alps are regarded as the motherland of mountaineering, after all, the very word "alpinism" comes from the Alps. If you wish to experience these mountains and take a chance of climb them, a small French town of Chamonix is the best spot to start with. It's true Mecca for mountain lovers with variety of routes of different complexity, both for trekking and climbing.
The foot of the mountain swarms with enthusiasts as soon as warm weather sets in, and numerous stores are brimming with any related inventory imaginable. Mountaineering guides are waiting to accompany your first steps toward the top - to show how to use climbing-irons, to avoid falling through the snow into unnoticed holes and to get out if you have been unlucky to fall in. You will be taught how to use ropes without getting entangled, how to make use of an ice-axe and what a mountaineering helmet is meant for - it's not just for beauty, I assure you...
Aside from that, an 80 m high wall and a fully equipped sports hall are ready for training, while in winter, frozen over waterfalls are just perfect for ice-climbing. Even a pole in the middle of the village, showered with water and covered with ice, can serve this purpose. And there is the Mont Blanc itself, after all. Yet before you set off to conquer the 4.8 km peak, you have to spend a training week on icy, snowy slopes and cliffs. Only then you can make your way up to the very top. It is well worth the efforts as the whole Western Europe will be there at your feet! Still bear in mind that everything is real there, including the danger. According to statistics, fatal accidents occur every year in the Alps, therefore the mountains should be always treated with respect
You don't have to be a total beginner to hire a guide and routes of different complexity can be drawn up as well. You can start with trekking around Mont Blanc or go from Chamonix to Zermatt, both these routes taking about one week. Chamonix itself, however, may cause dual feelings - you may like this tiny Alpine town, or else - not at all. Anyway, it can hardly be called a skiing/snowboarding paradise. You may have an urge even to sweep off some dust of those old-fashioned Doppelmayr ski lifts. Yet, otherwise, making a little effort, you may discover a special charm of it. It's particularly true speaking about the last weekend of August - Friday to Sunday, when the famous run around the Mont Blanc takes place. The Ultra Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc is truly amazing in its scope, and it starts in Chamonix as well. The town gets very busy a week before the great event already and the excitement grows day by day. Finally, on Friday evening, the start is given in the centre in front of the church. 2300 people make an attempt to run around the snowcapped giant in just 48 hours. At least, that's the time limit. The fastest ones, however, are expected to cross the finish line after 21 hours already! Almost 10 km from the whole distance goes uphill and hikers usually complete this route in 6 days. Thus no wonder that runners are supported all through their challenge and people screaming "Bravo! Bravo! Go, go, go!" are scattered all along their way - in France, Italy and Switzerland, as the amazing mountain extends over all these countries.
Another race that Chamonix has to offer is Marathon du Mont Blanc.

Useful Information
- To get to Chamonix, you have to fly to Geneva and cover the rest of the distance (90 km) by bus or by train.
- Ascending Mont Blanc requires one week and about 1500 LVL.
- Registration for the Ultra Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc starts already in January and in two weeks time the limit of participants is reached. The race requires fitness and pre-qualification.

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