Climbing Mont Blanc is not a task that should be undertaken lightly, as testified by the number of lives claimed by the mountain each year. It is a semi-technical climb and fast-changing weather conditions mean that a guide is essential. There are several different routes, the most popular of which is the Gouter ridge route (three days), which ascends from the Nid d’Aigle at the top of the Tranway du Mont Blanc. The best season for climbing the mountain is mid-June to September (when the majority of refuges are also open), but even in this period, it should only be attempted by fit, acclimatized and well-prepared mountaineers.
The classic way for walkers to admire Mont Blanc without putting themselves through the dangers of an ascent is to undertake the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 250km circuit of the mountain across French, Swiss and Italian terrain. The trail normally takes eight to twelve days, during which you can either camp or stay at the refuges (€20–25) en route. Many of the refuges provide food and other supplies, but it’s worth checking the latest details with the Office de Haute Montagne in Chamonix, which can also provide maps of the route. Even in early July, many of the passes on the route can still be covered in snow, so walkers should carry crampons and heavy-duty waterproofs. Several tour companies in Chamonix can provide guides for the walk, though the venerable Compagnie des Guides (see Mont Blanc) is your best bet.