Frequently asked questions on Tour of Mont-Blanc
All questions are good! Here are the most frequent...
1/ What if my bag weighs 8kg and not 7kg?
The best solution is to repack it with the muleteer because what might appear to be a restriction is really a lesson learnt from experience in the mountains. Many novice hikers who are dropped off after completing a “Trekking on Mont Blanc” mountain hike have quickly taken stock of what they actually used. They conclude that none of their everyday things was of any use… Indeed, you have come for something completely different, and afterwards…you’ve done it!
The muleteers bring hardly more than 3.5kg of baggage (if that). This is what makes them intransigent about your bags. And what about their love for their animals?
Do not even try to persuade them!
However, you can give your little extra weight to a travel companion who is below the famous 7kg threshold. It may well cost you a few glasses of absinthe around the campfire in the evening, but it’s doable…
2/ What is the minimum age for children on a Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike?
Children’s motor skills develop to include new spatial awareness around the ages of six and seven. Like their elders, children perceive their surroundings but are still incorporating them into their sense system and learning about them. They are still learning physically about the sizes of the spaces in which they are growing up. They are getting their bearings. And you can keep telling them to “look where you’re putting your feet”, but they will not necessarily put it into practice as they might like, just as we cannot speak French without practising first.
It is therefore not possible to set off on a mountain hike with children of this age. For their own safety primarily, but also for that of the group of hikers and the muleteer.
So even if the youngster is sporty, it’s out of the question!
Nine years of age seems to be the minimum required for a “Trekking on Mont Blanc” mountain hike and ten the most sensible age!
3/ Can children ride on the mules?
For someone to ride a donkey, mule or horse, the guide must have (in addition to a State Mountain Diploma) a State Horse Riding Diploma! Otherwise, no insurance would cover any injuries to your children! You will agree that these are two completely different trades. As a result, and as our company has no guides who also have a State Horse Riding Diploma, we do not allow anyone to ride on our animals… Only baggage will be loaded on the mules.
Undertake research before booking a holiday with beasts of burden and if you are told that the guide has them, ask him or her to show you both diplomas.
You can get the legal article from the Departmental Directorate for Youth and Sports.
4/ Does the 7kg limit include sleeping bags? (For the "camping" tour of Mont Blanc)
5/ Does full board include snacks between meals?
No. The full board for the Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike includes seven cold meals (picnics), six hot meals (dinners prepared together) and six breakfasts. Of course, tents are provided but you will have to put them up yourselves… Full board also includes the services of the guide during the mountain hike and the mules.
You can also buy cakes during the hike from all the mountain refuges.
6/ During our “camping” trek on Mont Blanc, is it sometimes possible to sleep in the mountain refuges?
You have the chance to sleep at in a mountain refuge every evening, if you want to, provided there are places available and that you have the money. Speak to the muleteer. He will take you to the quieter refuges (the mountain refuges which are not reached by a road and where provisions are brought in by mule or helicopter).
7/ How cold is it at night?
If it is nine degrees at 2500m it will be eleven or twelve degrees in your (two-man) tent (depending on the number of people inside it) and many more in your sleeping bag which is not in contact with the ground.
However, the same night could be colder at 1700m because in the mountains the air is dry and the further down you go, the more dense the steam is because there will be a water course in the valley (unless the rock is chalky in which case the water will run underground) and the cold air rolls down the slopes (because it is heavier) and settles in the valley bottom. But many other sets of circumstances give different outcomes.
A metal flask can serve as a hot-water bottle, but cannot substitute for a good sleeping bag and even less for a ground mat. For people who are very sensitive to the cold, foot-warmers placed under their armpits and in the groin (where the arteries pass) will transport heat to the whole body all night but nobody has yet used this particular mountain survival technique!
8/ Are mountain hiking poles really necessary, since we’re not carrying anything?
Yes. Experience shows that your triceps will ache after the second day of mountain trekking on Mont Blanc. Hiking poles distribute the effort that you put in to a larger number of muscles which, for a given effort, will each support a lower burden. But don’t be deceived: you will still feel your share of fatigue after a day of the Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike, even though you can walk more comfortably and longer (if necessary) with mountain hiking poles.
9/ It’s a disgrace to use those poor animals to carry such a heavy load!
Let’s not get carried away with simplistic immediate reactions or easy-to-believe caricatures…
a. The first evidence to highlight is that during a Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike, the mules do not wear bits in their mouths, which would force them to do what the muleteer wants. Do you really think that the 80kg muleteer would stand any chance against a half-tonne mule not wearing a bit and which, you suggest, is mistreated?
b. The second piece of evidence is that the type of mule used in the mountains during a trek on Mont Blanc is very large, very heavy, and its load does not exceed a quarter of its own weight (despite appearances which give a misleading idea of the relationship between volume and weight, as with the kilo of feathers and the kilo of lead!). The one-third rule (although the mules only carry one quarter) is only applicable to humans and is completely irrelevant with mules because they walk on four legs and carry this quarter of their weight much more easily than bipeds like us. The proof is that we use hiking poles to make life easier!
c. For the moment let’s continue to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who is worrying about the welfare of these animals (for we can understand his objections without asking). Imagine the most brutal muleteer that you can, someone who regularly goes too far with his animal (it’s a caricature of course! Let’s just expose a fallacy). The muleteer would find work very difficult and would not be able to do it all summer, and neither would the animal, who would no longer be able to take on its duties quickly.
In economic terms, this would necessitate the use of a vehicle with a driver who would also drive around Mont Blanc by road all week to carry logistics (polluting our high mountain pastures delightfully!), which would cost a lot of money and mean that we would no longer be able to offer such attractive prices and take you so far away from the crowds swarming along the road network. It is very much in the muleteer’s interest to take great care of his animals both when communicating with them (he will show you a few examples) and in scrupulously monitoring their physical condition.
This caricature (from another era) over, what do you make of our love for our animals? Nobody can claim that he can easily give these animals all the care and attention they rightfully deserve, and embody what they need, without experiencing the Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hiking holiday to observe things for himself!
The vet himself approves their conditions, which help the animals to blossom, and even to exist, since if mules have disappeared from our mountains, it’s because people have not used them since vehicles replaced them and the road network grew. And because mules cannot reproduce naturally and since time immemorial humans have bred them by mating mares with donkeys, if there is no work for them there is no reason to breed them. This condemns them for a start. We, and you, therefore help to bring mules into the world by giving them a “professional” occupation for two months of the year when they are very happy to go and graze on the slightly softer grass up in the mountains in complete harmony with their muleteer! Do you think that the group would accept such an irresponsible “swine” as we have caricatured above to lead the animals into the mountains?
10/ I’m not super fit, or as young as I once was! Is it possible to easily stop my trek on Mont Blanc if I start it? I don’t want to be a drag on the others or put myself through a trial…
Every day the level is technically feasible and doesn’t pose any problem. The roaming, independent nature of the long-haul logistical arrangement allows us to guard against any abandonment because it is possible to bivouac in the mountains at any time and almost anywhere if the need arises.
It is much safer to travel through the mountains with all the supplies and tents with you than it is to absolutely have to reach a mountain refuge because there is nothing left to eat or drink and no shelter. And it is therefore very easy to manage the stages of the Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike so that everyone can follow and so that the fittest hikers are not affected by the more modest speed of one of the others.
Indeed, the muleteer-guides’ second role (the first being to ensure your safety in the mountains) is not only to instil a good group dynamic and coherence by doing everything so that everyone finds their place within it, but also to bring the mountain landscape which provides the backdrop for this trek on Mont Blanc to life with his comments. Muleteers are very generous with these comments and are quite capable of keeping the most athletic members of the group interested while the others catch up. They are very aware that they are there for you and fulfil this role. Make them aware as soon as possible of the slightest problem during your mountain hike so that your muleteer-guide can deal with it as effectively as possible, starting from the very beginning! If you are worried about blisters, you should mention it before you even leave on the first day for your Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike. If you do, I guarantee that you will not get one! However, if you have never done much sport in your life and have cultivated a sedentary lifestyle, smoking I don’t know how many packets of cigarettes a day, you’ve got the wrong destination! You will probably have to give up, and in that case you will not be able to claim a refund (even a partial one) for the holiday.
The oldest person we have instructed on a tour of Mont Blanc is an elderly Japanese lady of 72 (she slept in mountain refuges). It is very rewarding for a guide to get someone who did not think they would finish the Trekking on Mont Blanc mountain hike to the finish line, especially when he succeeded in sharing this will to finish with the rest of the group. Of course, she had some assets to call on despite her lesser capacities, such as consistent effort (she barely took any breaks). This is admirable and encouraging, but it is clear that you need a bare minimum ability, so that everyone can play the game, or the interests of the group must take precedence.