Towering above the landscape, at around 4,810 m (15,781 ft), Mont Blanc is not just the highest mountain in the Alps; it’s the highest in Western Europe and the whole European Union. Located, of course, in the Alps, it lies along the French-Italian border and stretches into Switzerland.
It is called Mont Blanc, or ‘White Mountain’, because it is covered with around 40 square miles of glacier. Its peak is permanently concealed with ice and snow which increases or recedes according to the season, making its exact height uncertain.
The first recorded climb of the mountain was by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard in 1786, and its height and allure make it a popular destination for seasoned mountaineers. Over 20,000 climbers reach its peak every year, and the summit can get crowded.
The most popular route up the mountain is the Voie Royale or Voie des Cristalliers. After travelling to the Nid d’Aigle by tram, the route climbs the slopes to Gouter, where there is a hut for overnight stays. Next morning, the climb continues up the Dome du Gouter to L’Arrete des Bosses and on to the summit. Despite this and other well-worn and popular climbing routes, it’s by no means an easy climb for novices – the area is prone to rockfalls and avalanche, and there are around 100 fatalities on the mountain annually.
It is not only climbers who flock to the area, though – the number of visitors who come in search of facilities for other winter sports has increased and the region is now the largest Alpine tourist centre.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France, which includes 16 villages and hamlets, is the most popular. Chamonix itself is the best known attraction where tourists can enjoy activities from skiing and rock climbing to canyoning and paragliding. Most of the areas at the base of the mountain are family friendly, but the mountain peak itself can be extremely dangerous, so it won't suit for a family adventure.