Top notch book for Mont Blanc climbing afficionado's. Great as a source of inspiration and guidance for aspiring [good] climbers as most of the routes would exceed the ability of a typical Gouter Route aspirant. Even if a lot of the routes are beyond you (like myself !) it's a brilliant arm chair book. Very logical and detailed with excellent photography.
For my first trip to the Alps I relied on ‘schoolboy French’ translations from foreign guidebooks, and in 1961 it was with relief that I purchased the welcome ‘Selected Climbs in the Range of Mont Blanc’ published by the Alpine Climbing Group. Later great enjoyment followed with Gaston Rébuffat’s ‘The Mont Blanc Massif’ describing what he reckoned to be the 100 finest routes, and just as this inspired my generation of climbers then for succeeding generations so will Philippe Batoux’s new ‘Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes’. Without doubt this now eclipses its authoritative and esteemed namesake. Text may be more concise but photographs are fantastically beautiful.
‘Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes’ is a coffee-table size stunning full colour publication that is irresistible to armchair mountaineers and informative to climbers from today’s active new breed of super-climbers in search of challenges. Author Philippe Batoux took many of the excellent photographs himself but was assisted by others including Pascal Tournaire, a highly regarded skilled mountain photographer. Amongst his companions on the climbs he was supported by Patrick Gabarrou who has produced many new classic rock, ice and mixed routes, and the outstanding quality of his contribution is endorsed by having 10% of his best itineraries included.
Philippe Batoux refers to routes that have disappeared due to rock falls, erosion of seracs, or glacial retreat and he cheekily warns readers not to wait too long to bag certain classics before they disappear! He deliberately excludes routes he considers to involve too high levels of objective dangers such as the Brenva Spur, but he acknowledges that difficulty must not be equated with danger and he builds up his selection of routes from an easy introduction on the Mer de Glace to descriptions of extreme grade outings up to a ‘101st’ as the Lafaille Route on the Petit Dru with the grade VI A3+ 6c M5.
The book adopts a combination of systems for grading with a Roman numeral to indicate overall seriousness, then an Arabic numeral for difficulty on ice, an Arabic numeral coupled with the letter a, b or c for rock, the letter M followed by an Arabic numeral for mixed ground, and aided climbing as the letter A followed by Arabic numeral. Maps are not included but topo diagrams are superb for identifying the line of a route, and in addition to the numerous impressive views and exciting action shots there are photographs with routes marked in red. There is also a helpful indication of gear required.
Philippe Batoux has personally climbed all the routes he describes and his illuminating commentaries exude experience, but he warns how conditions may vary and he quotes times on the basis of competent climbers not having done the route before. From the thousands of routes in the Mont Blanc area Philippe Batoux has selected a widely diverse range of undertakings in both summer and winter conditions, embracing rock, snow, ice and mixed climbing as the book’s sub-title. All are magnificent and though I am unable to comment in detail I have some knowledge of a few historic routes and I cannot fault the information provided. There can be little doubt the same meticulous presentation applies to the modern extremes for elite alpinists, and certainly the spectacular treatment is irresistibly appealing. The awe-inspiring qualities of ‘Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes’ are second to none; it is a 5-star classic!