Top 5 High Altitude Peaks for Ski Mountaineering

One of the most special – and exciting – ways of discovering remote summits is ski mountaineering. What is this exactly? This activity implies climbing mountains on skins or carrying your own skis, depending on the specific characteristics of the ascent and the terrain, and then descending on skis.

Ski mountaineering is also a great way of reaching unique slopes and snow conditions – Be the first skier on these wonderful descents! For the brave and adventurous ski mountaineers, there are countless of options in different continents and countries, and different skill requirements.

In general, while the technical difficulty of each location varies, the main and common challenges and risks of this practice are altitude and avalanches. This is why this is an activity that requires a proper preparation as well as skiing and mountaineering experience.

To attemp ski mountaineering programs, it is crucial to count with assistance and guidance of an experienced and certified Mountain Guide, who knows the terrain, the itinerary and what to do along the way, as well as what precautions to take in order to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Given all the different ski mountaineering options out there – How to choose the right one for you? Today at Explore-Share.com, we’ve gathered the team to come up with a list of some of the most impressive high altitude ski mountaineering peaks. Have a look! What exciting ski mountaineering goal are you going to attempt next?

1. Mount Elbrus, Russia (5,642 m)

Wondering what the highest peak in Europe is? Mount Elbrus, located at the heart of the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, close to the border with Georgia, is a dormant volcano with an elevation of 5,642 m (19,510 ft). Mount Elbrus is also part of the exclusive “Seven Summits” club, which groups the highest mountains in each of the seven continents. There are several routes to climb up Mount Elbrus, from east or west.

Have a look at this 8-day winter mountaineering trip to Mount Elbrus with IFMGA-certified guide Tobias Freiberger.

Level: Intermediate to Sustained

Average trip duration: 8 to 14 days

Check out more ski mountaineering trip in Mount Elbrus.

2. Mount Logan, Canada (5,959 m)

Deep inside the Kluane National Park in Canada, right in southwestern Yukon, lies the impressive giant Mount Logan (5,959 m / 19,550 ft). It is of course the highest peak in Canada, and second highest peak in America, coming right after Mount Denali (previously Mount McKinley), in Alaska. Its Massif hosts 11 peaks above the 5,000 m (16,400 ft). Impressive, right? Yet more impressive: tectonic movements cause regular increases in the high to Mount Logan. After an adventurous ascent, Mount Logan offers fantastic skiing descents!

If you are an advanced ski mountaineer, you can go on a demanding – and very rewarding! – 28-day program, like this expedition led by IFMGA-certified mountain guide Brian Jones.

Level: Sustained

Average trip duration: 23 to 28 days

Check out our ski mountaineering trips in Mount Logan.

3. Mont Blanc, France (4,810 m)

Mont Blanc (4,810 m / 15,780 ft) is an unquestionable mountaineering classic. Apart from the regular ascent during the summer season (read all about the Mont Blanc climb on one of our previous blog post), during February and April you can attempt to ski down from its summit. These programs usually last between 4 to 6 days and acclimatization is key to success. There are several routes to the summit.

You can try for example this Mont Blanc ski mountaineering through the Grand Mulets route with IFMGA-certified guide Jan Novotny. Otherwise, you can also check out this 6-day Mont Blanc ski touring program with IFMGA-certified guide Jon Dieguez, which includes avalanche prevention lessons.

Level: Sustained

Average trip duration: 4 to 6 days

Check out more ski mountaineering trips in Mont Blanc.

4. Gran Paradiso, Italy (4,061 m)

This impressive mountain massif is located between the Aosta Valley and the Piedmont regions in Italy, almost on the border with France. Gran Paradiso (4,061 m / 13,323 ft) is the highest point of the only mountain above 4,000 m entirely in Italy. Enjoy the wonderful Alpine scenery and fantastic views with this top ski mountaineering destination. Have a look at this 6-day Gran Paradiso ski touring program with IFMGA-certified Jon Dieguez; and this 7-day Gran Paradiso ski mountaineering tour with IFMGA-certified Andres Bahr.

Level: Intermediate to Sustained

Average trip duration: 6 to 7 days

Check out all of our ski mountaineering trips in Gran Paradiso.

5. Mount Kazbek, Georgia (5,033 m)

Ski mountaineering on Mount Kazbek, right on the border between Georgia and Russia, in the impressive Greater Caucasus Range, is a truly exciting experience. On the way up, prior to an exciting skiing descent, you can enjoy unforgettable views of the neighboring peaks – many of which are above 4,000 m. Also, the Mount Kazbek (5,033 m / 16,512 ft) ski mountaineering ascent is a good acclimatization activity before tackling Mount Elbrus (see more details above!), which is relatively close by.

Level: Intermediate

Average trip duration: 8 to 11 days

Have a look at all of our ski mountaineering trips in Mount Kazbek.

How to get prepared for a high altitude ski mountaineering program:

To join any of these programs, you will need:

  • A good skiing level and some previous ski mountaineering experience. Different peaks require different experience levels. Make sure you check the specifics, and consider attempting peaks that will prepare you for bigger goals.
  • A very good general fitness level. Exercising on a regular basis before attempting an ascent is extremely helpful. Stay fit by running, cycling or doing other aerobic activities.
  • Familiarity with the effects of altitude on your body. It is important to have a good sense of how you deal with high altitudes. Having climbed 3,000 m peaks before is a good way of assessing this.
  • Be aware of avalanche risks. This is generally a very important risk when attempting high altitude ski mountaineering programs. Make sure you get the appropriate training and knowledge. Your certified mountain guide will guide you on the necessary devices and techniques.
  • The importance of hiring a Certified Mountain Guide. Internationally Certified Guides have the necessary experience and knowledge to guide you safely on the above programs, and make your tour much more enjoyable.

 

So, why not give way to your adventurous instincts and give ski mountaineering a try this season? Get your skiing skills and gear ready!

 

[EXTRA RESOURCES]

Do you know the difference between freeride skiing, ski touring and ski mountaineering? Check out this detailed explanation of what each of these activities entails on this previous Explore-Share.com post.

Want to get into Mountaineering? Have a look at Mountaineering in the Andes: 5 Summits for Beginners.

Mont Blanc Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost

If we talk about iconic ascents, Mont Blanc is without a doubt one of the most iconic in the world! With its impressive 4,808 m of altitude (15,774 ft), it is the undisputed star of the French Alps. It is also the highest summit in Western Europe, which makes it an experience many climbers in the world dreams of.

As legendary as Mont Blanc is, and while it is not a technically difficult ascent, it does present important risks. It can be pursued by climbers with limited skill levels and experience, provided they are in company of a certified High Mountain Guide. But of course, this doesn’t mean it is an easy ascent either. On the contrary, it is an objectively dangerous one, as IFMGA-certfied guide Mark Seaton, with 27 years of experience in Mont Blanc, explains.

To begin with, its altitude and the need to navigate glaciated terrain means it requires acclimatization, a good fitness level, previous climbing experience, and the assistance of an IFMGA mountain guide. However, it is rockfall that poses the most important risk.

So, while around 30,000 climbers attempt the Mont Blanc ascent each year, there are extremely important things to take into account. Here is everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable – and safe – climb. Let’s get started!

1. WHEN AND WHERE?

To start your Mont Blanc adventure, you will need to travel to the beautiful town of Chamonix, in eastern France. Chamonix is the strategic starting point for many activities around the Mont Blanc massif. This beautiful alpine town is framed by the unique landscapes of this magnificent massif.

Mont Blanc ascents are most common during the European summer season. The months between June and September are the most popular ones, as long as weather conditions are good. Good weather conditions for the ascent, explains Mark Seaton, include: a clear sky, cold temperatures to freeze the snow hard and no high altitude wind. May to September is also the period during which the huts on Mt Blanc are open.

Also note that global warming has extended the Mt Blanc ascent season, which now also includes the month of May. And a ski mountaineering ascent of Mt Blanc is possible in April and May.

2. ROUTES

There are two main summer routes to reach the Mont Blanc summit, both of which start in France.

The Gouter Route

This is the classic and most popular route. It is also considered the fastest way to the Mont Blanc summit, once you have reached the hut. One possible kick-off point is Les Houches, from which you transfer to the Nid d’Aigle (2,372 m) via cable car and the mountain railway. Another usual starting point is Saint Gervais. The night before going for the summit is spent at the Gouter hut (3,815 m).

From the hut to the summit, the terrain is mostly glaciated and requires the use of crampons, harness and ropes. Mark Seaton also adds that it is important to keep in mind that the ascent’s main challenges are found in the segment below the Gouter hut.

After summiting, the descent can be completed via the same route, or by traversing over to the Aiguille du Midi. Yet, guide ratio restrictions apply: to descend via Aiguille du Midi, the guide ratio is 1 to 1, which means that each guide can only take one client. This is part of the reason why most groups descend via the same route they took for the ascent. Some people also choose to take the same route down in order to pass by the Gouter hut, where they usually leave extra equipment not necessary for the summite attempt.

The Gouter Hut. Photo credit: Julia Virat

The 3 Monts Route

This is a more technically demanding version of the Mont Blanc ascent, compared to the Gouter Route. This route is known as the traverse of “Les Trois Monts” – or “The Three Peaks” – because of the three peaks it touches: Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and, finally, Mont Blanc. It is objectively serious because it traverses under a lot of unstable seracs and is prone to avalanches.

The 3 Monts Route starts at Chamonix. It starts by taking the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m) cable car. For summit day, there are two options. The first and safest option, IFMGA-certified mountain guide Mark Seaton explains, is to spend a night at the Cosmiques Hut and make a very early start (2 am), ascend to the summit, and then descend back to Chamonix in the afternoon. This allows climbers to take advantage of the overnight freeze that will have made the snow safer, considerably reducing the dangers of wet snow avalanches. This is best practice.

A second option is to start the day very early at Chamonix, take the first cable car in the morning, climb to the summit, and then sleep at the Cosmiques Hut (3,613 m) after the ascent. This option requires a fast ascent to make the best of the morning. It is only feasible if as long as the weather is good.

The descent can be done via the Gouter Route or via the same way.

Other routes

There are other routes to the Mont Blanc summit, including some that start in Italy.

3. DURATION

Mont Blanc ascent guided programs can take between 2 and 7 days, depending on the different routes and itineraries. Programs that last more than 2 days include acclimatization stops and training activities, both of which are important for a successful and safe ascent at this altitude.

4. FITNESS AND TECHNICAL LEVELS REQUIRED

Both routes (see “Routes” above) require a good acclimatization, as well as a good fitness level. One of the big challenges is altitude. On top of this, given the glaciated conditions of Mont Blanc, you will also need experience using crampons and ice axe. Due to the possibility of encountering crevasses, all guided parties will be roped.

The Mont Blanc ascent also presents significant risks of stone and rockfall as well as avalanches, for which you should also be prepared.

Mont Blanc Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
La Mer de Glace, where guides usually bring clients for training exercises before the ascent

Looking to learn mountaineering techniques while climbing Mont Blanc? Some programs are presented as mountaineering courses. These include more thorough explanations on the technical aspects of mountaineering – typically including the use of crampons, ice axe and avalanche risk. Still, this ascent is not for beginners and can’t be taken as an introduction to mountaineering. You definitely need prior experience to attempt the Mt Blanc ascent.

Have a look at this 5-day Climbing Mont Blanc and Gran Paradiso program, with IFMGA certified guides from Namaste Mountain Guide. This tour includes learning the basics of mountaineering.

Or check out this personalized 1-climber 4-day Mont Blanc course and ascent, with guide Kyriakos Rossidis.

5. WEATHER CONDITIONS

During the climbing season – June to September (see “When and where” above) — temperatures along the Mont Blanc ascent range between 20° at Nid d’Aigle and -20° at the summit. At the top, it is usually extremely windy as well. Temperatures at the valleys along the way can vary between 15°C and 25°, and between 5° and 15° on the passes.

The ideal time for this ascent used to be August, although due to global warming this is not as clear nowadays because of the increased risk of stone fall.

As we mentioned before, according to Chamonix based mountain guide Mark Seaton, this ascent requires: clear skies, cold temperatures and a forecast of no wind. This is why “warm weather” is not necessarily desirable. For a safe ascent, freezing overnight temperatures help make the snow more compact and reduce rockfall risk.

Also, as a mountaineer it is important to learn to manage your own expectations and know that the ascent is always subject to weather conditions.

6. WHAT TO PACK? – EQUIPMENT

To climb Mont Blanc you will need to pack thoroughly. The basic items you will need are: warm waterproof jacket, mountaineering boots and crampons, harness, rope, ice axe, helmet, sunscreen, sunglasses and headlamp. Check with your guide to see which of these items are already included as group equipment. And be prepared for potentially changing weather conditions! (See “Weather conditions” above).

Most of the equipment can be provided by your guide, or rented at Chamonix, Les Houches or Saint Gervais.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since August 17, 2017, all climbers attempting Mont Blanc through the Gouter Route are required to have a minimum level of equipment and clothing. This was issued as a municipal order by the Mayor of Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex. Climbers who fail to comply with this regulation can be fined with €38.

7. GUIDE RATIO

Most guides accept a maximum of 2 climbers per group for the Mont Blanc ascent, if it is done via the Gouter Route. Also, sometimes the authorities allow only one client per guide. This is the case for tours that include the descent via the Aiguille du Midi (see “Routes” above for more details).

Mont Blanc Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
On the way to the summit via the Gouter Route. Photo credit: Julia Virat
8. COST OF THE EXPEDITION

The main factor that influences the price of the Mont Blanc ascent programs is the number of days included. For the ascent only, the guiding fee for the 2 days will be of an average of €990.

Longer programs include acclimatization days and can cost around €2300. For example, this 7-day guided climb with IFMGA certified Francis Kesley.

Some of the 2-day ascents (see “Duration” above for more information), can cost around €525 per person for a group of 2, like this Mont Blanc 2 Day Guided Ascent with IFMGA certified guide Robin Revest.

Price generally includes the guiding fee alone. Some possible additional expenses are:

  • Tramway fee
  • Aiguille du Midi lift
  • Accommodation cost at the Cosmiques hut or the Gouter hut
  • Other transfers
  • Equipment rentals
  • Mountain guide’s expenses
9. PERMITS

There is no official permit required for the Mont Blanc ascent, despite some environmental concerns raised in the past.

Mont Blanc Climb: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost
The first ridge of the 3 Mont Routes, when going out of the Aiguille du Midi lift. Photo credit: Gauthier Poncelet
10. ACCLIMATIZATION OPTIONS

As mentioned above (see “Duration”), the Mont Blanc ascent requires good previous acclimatization. If the ascent programs – typically 2-day tours – doesn’t include acclimatization, you will probably need to book it separately.

Some acclimatization options for the Mont Blanc climb include attempting other peaks in the area like:

11. HOW TO GET PREPARED FOR CLIMBING MONT BLANC

Take into account these 8 fundamentals and maximize your chances of a successful climb:

  1. A good general fitness level. Exercising on a regular basis before attempting this ascent is extremely helpful. Stay fit by running, cycling or doing other aerobic activities.
  2. Familiarity with the effects of altitude on your body. It is important to have a good sense of how you deal with high altitudes. Having climbed 3,000 m peaks before is a good way of assessing this.
  3. Mountaineering skills. It is important that you are familiar with these skills, plus know why and when they are important. The technical skills you will need for this ascent are: walking in crampons, walking roped up in a group on a glacier, using an ice axe, being aware of the dangers and risks of crevasses and rockfall.
  4. Acclimatization is crucial. As mentioned above, going on activities that will help you with acclimatization before the ascent is key.
  5. Hydration. Drink water regularly and effectively.
  6. Sleep. Get plenty of sleep before starting your program. Being tired can be dangerous or reduce your chances of reaching the summit. Be sure you know what to eat when you are tired but not necessarily hungry. Be prepared for this.
  7. Equipment. You can rent part of the equipment before initiating the ascent. Make sure it is in good condition and that it is of good quality. Check with your mountain guide to make sure.
  8. Expectations. Remember that weather conditions are the key piece of information you will need. Weather can make or break your chances of success. Your mountain guide can provide all the necessary information in this regard.
Towards the summit of Aiguille du Tour. Picture credit: Julia Virat
12. WHAT TO DO NEAR MONT BLANC

The area in the Alps around Mont Blanc offers countless other activities, some of which you can be great complements as acclimatization before your ascent.

All of them are also great alpine activities in themselves, in case you are looking to get to know the area. Check them out! We’ve selected activities for different difficulty levels:

Have a look at the different Mont Blanc ascent programs you can book through Explore-Share.com here.

 

We thank expert IFMGA-certified mountain guide Mark Seaton for his valuable inputs based on his 30-year experience in climbing Mt Blanc.

Elbrus, Mont Blanc and Matterhorn: 3 Japanese climbers go for some of the world’s most famous summits

With almost 70% of its terrain covered by mountains, Japan owns a vast and rich playground for climbers and hikers. Rising up to 3776 m, Mount Fuji ―the country’s most famous and revered peak― is the highest mountain one can climb.

In this context, venturing outside Japan to challenge some of the most iconic European peaks appears as an opportunity for Japanese climbers to conquer higher altitudes and take their mountaineering experience to the next level.

That’s the case of Akihisa, Kazuya and Junsuke, who made it to three of Europe’s most desired summits during 2017: Mount Elbrus (5642 m), Mont Blanc (4810 m) and Matterhorn (4478 m) respectively. These climbers don’t know each other, but they all have something in common: they contacted Explore-Share and booked their trips with local certified mountain guides.

Mount Elbrus (5642 m): standing at the top of Europe
Mt Elbrus
Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia and Europe, is on many climber’s bucket lists.

Akihisa (50 years old), works for a major advertising company in Japan and has a strong passion for outdoor sports. He is a seasoned backcountry skier, practiced windsurf for a while, and finally became attracted to mountaineering ten years ago. Besides, he practices rock climbing regularly and ice climbing during the winter season.

A few years ago, he set out on a 3-year quest to climb all of Japan’s 100 famous mountains. After that, he signed up for a mountaineering training programme that allowed him to summit Kilimanjaro and Matterhorn. Last year, he also attempted to climb Aconcagua.

With that background, he and a partner decided that Mt Elbrus was next in line. Lying in the central Caucasus, in Russia, Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe and therefore one of the ‘Seven Summits’.

Searching for a mountain guide on Google Japan, he found Explore-Share on the top results and contacted Ivan. He was quite busy but recommended Viktor, a guide from his team. “Everything went smoothly and I had no worries. Viktor seemed old but actually he was really really tough. He had been on Elbrus about 12-13 times, summited Everest twice and had climbed K2 as well”, Akihisa says.

Happy clients: Akihisa and his partner, together with their guide, Viktor. ©Akihisa Suzuki.

There are many routes to the top of Mt Elbrus. The normal route (South face) is the easiest and safest, while the West Side route is technically more difficult. Either way, the ascent is long and demanding, so one needs to be very well prepared. Bad weather may also be a threat on Mt Elbrus.

“The trip itself was so much fun, more than I had expected. It was better to sleep in a mountain hut rather than in tents. Russian cuisine is great! We went to a spa after the climb which was fun too and the beers were cheap and delicious”, he concludes.

Best time to climb Elbrus: May to October. “The timing is perfect for Japanese people to spend their Golden Week”, Akihisa says. Most climbs take between 9 and 12 days, considering acclimatization days.

Interested? Check out this link and find a certified mountain guide to take you to the Elbrus summit.

A group of climbers with a guide, on their ascent to the top of Europe. ©Ivan Moshnikov
Mont Blanc (4810 m): a giant classic of the Alps
Gouter route and Cosmique route are the most popular routes to climb Mont Blanc.

Kazuya, a Japanese climber with a job at a financial brokerage firm, had dreamed about climbing Mont Blanc for a whole year. He finally set foot on the summit last July, together with Jacopo, an IFMGA-certified mountain guide.

With four years of winter mountaineering experience ―he even completed some variation routes unguided―, he felt ready to face the challenge.  Before Mont Blanc, he had climbed Mt Kinabalu, a 4000 m peak in Malaysia.

Kazuya is also an enthusiast rock climber, able to climb indoor routes between 7a and 7a+ grades and up to 5.10d grades for outdoor routes. Apart from winter trips (mostly to the Yatsugatake range, in Japan), he also enjoys going on long mountain traverses carrying his tent during summer.

Despite his experience, he wanted to ascend Mont Blanc with a local guide because he felt more comfortable with someone familiar with the terrain and the conditions. He had heard about Explore-Share before, so he made an inquiry through the Japanese version of the site and got in touch with Elis. As the guide was busy on the dates he wanted, he introduced him to his partner, Jacopo.

Kazuya booked a 2-day ascent to Mont Blanc via the Cosmiques (or 3 Monts) route, a technical and demanding route, that goes across different mountains and offers a wonderful scenery. He also included an acclimatization hike and some rock climbing prior to the ascent. He liked that he could customize the trip according to his wishes and available dates, something that’s not usually possible in fixed packages.

Kazuya and Jacopo, on their way up to Mont Blanc ©Kazuya Narita.

So they spent a few days at Aiguille Du Midi (France) and Aiguille Croux (Italy), getting used to altitude. He also practiced some low-intensity rock climbing. Finally, he and the guide approached Cosmiques hut. The following day, after an early breakfast at 1AM, they began the ascent to the Mont Blanc summit. Conditions weren’t the best: it was windy, very cold and there was no visibility, but Jacopo used a GPS to guide him successfully to the summit.

“We almost had to turn around because of strong winds, but we summited Mont Blanc as the first ones of the day in a dense fog!”, Kazuya wrote after the trip. The guide encouraged him along the way, he was knowledgeable and friendly. Once they got back to Aiguille du Midi, Jacopo told him: “you and I are partners now”.

Best time to climb Mont Blanc: June to September. Depending on the route, the ascent can take between 1 to 3 days. However, you should count some extra 2-4 days for acclimatization. Kazuya, for example, made it a 9-day trip.

Want to reach the Mont Blanc summit in the company of a certified guide? Check out this link

A steep ascent on the way up to Mont Blanc’s summit. ©Kazuya Narita.
Matterhorn (4478 m): the perfect mountain
Climbing Matterhorn via Hornli ridge is the most popular option. ©Guy Robert May

Matterhorn, a symmetric pyramid on the Swiss/Italian border, is one of the most beautiful peaks in the Alps. For Junsuke ―a Japanese in his thirties working at a bank in Tokyo― it seemed a distant goal, until he moved to Switzerland for an MBA and realized he was at the perfect place.

He had started mountaineering six years before that. Besides climbing several peaks in Japan, he used to run a lot.

When the climbing season began, he contacted Guy ―an IFMGA-certified mountain guide― through the Explore-Share site and asked him about the skill level required for Matterhorn. The guide suggested that the best way to assess his abilities was doing a preparation ascent to Breithorn (4164 m) together.

It was the first 4000 m climb for Junsuke and it was tough. But he was finally ready for Matterhorn.

By the middle of August, they were getting ready for the ascent. The weather didn’t look good, so Guy proposed to climb a different peak. But Junsuke was so excited about Matterhorn that he decided to take the risk, even if they didn’t make it to the summit.

Junsuke climbing Matterhorn
Junsuke, on his ascent to the Matterhorn. ©Junsuke Arita

They climbed all the way up with crampons, in heavy snow. Guy asked him  regularly about his energy level: remember that going up is fun but coming back down is mandatory”, he said.

The descent was exhausting. “The moment I remember the most is not really when we made it to the summit but when we arrived back to the hut. Guy and I had lunch and after that I couldn’t stand up”, Junsuke remembers.

“It was the first mountaineering trip I did with a guide. He was really relaxed and never rushed me, but when I was exhausted and needed extra energy he said “Jun, let’s go for it” and encouraged me to push a little bit more. He supported me both physically and mentally”, he says.

Junsuke and his guide Guy: amazing moment on the summit of the Matterhorn! ©Junsuke Arita

His plans for the future include climbing Mont Blanc with a partner and Guy, and going back to Matterhorn: “during my first climb, I really didn’t have the extra energy to enjoy the views and everything. I was so concentrated! I won’t do it this year (it’s too late in the season), but now I feel like the mountains here in the Alps are a lot closer than before”.

Best time to climb Matterhorn: June to September. The ascent takes 2 days. However, depending on your climbing experience and your acclimatization level, you should consider training for a few days before. Climbing Breithorn is a very good way to get prepared.

Sounds like a plan? Hire a certified guide and reach the summit of one of the most famous mountains on Earth. 

>> Why travel with local mountain guides
Climb safe and enjoy the traverse: book your ascent with a certified mountain guide. ©Ivan Moshnikov

Traveling with a certified mountain guide is a major advantage in this kind of mountain adventure. A local mountain guide provides his/her perfect knowledge of the terrain and also takes care of the logistic aspects of the trip, which may sound too complex for foreigners. However, the main satisfaction resides in having an expert guiding you to the summit and ensuring your safety throughout the whole ascent and descent.

“I believe it makes a difference to go with a trustworthy and reliable guide. I rely on reputations to reach a good guide. Even if s/he is busy, whoever s/he recommends is bound to be trustworthy too”, says Akihisa.

>> English language: is it really an issue? 

This is a common concern among Japanese climbers traveling with local European guides.

Akihisa, for example, is not that fluent in English. Still, he considers his English level (average Junior high school) to be sufficient to go on trips with English-speaking guides. He even used an offline version of a translation app a few time! According to him, it may be a problem if you only understand a limited number of words.

Kazuya, on the other hand, doesn’t speak much English, but that wasn’t an obstacle for him: he asked the guide to speak slowly and he was able to understand perfectly well.

>> Best climbs in Japan to prepare for 4000 m+ ascents
A climbing traverse in the Japanese Alps is a great training for a 4000 m ascent. ©Tsutomu Sugisaka

Climbing Mount Fuji is probably the best acclimatization training you can get in Japan. In fact, both Akihisa and Kazuya climbed it several times before their trips to Mt Elbrus and Mont Blanc.

Akihisa also used a low oxygen chamber to simulate high altitude conditions.

Besides, there are some places in the Japanese mountains that resemble the conditions you are likely to find in the Alps. According to Junsuke, an advanced traverse in the Japanese Alps or an ascent via the advanced route on Mt Futagoyama make excellent preparation trips in Japan.

Looking forward to your next challenge in the mountains? Start small but think big: first tackle the easy/intermediate mountain ascents in your country and sharpen your technical skills for more ambitious ascents! Check out these recommended mountaineering trips in Japan.