Lac Blanc and Southern Aiguilles Rouges Traverses

  • Mer de Glace From Lac Blanc - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Blanc with Ibex - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges, Belvedere Pass - © William Mackesy
  • From Grand Balcon Sud - © William Mackesy
  • Grand Balcon Sud - © William Mackesy
  • Ibex above Grand Balcon Sud - © William Mackesy
  • Lac Blanc - © William Mackesy
  • Mer de Glace, From Grand Balcon Sud - © William Mackesy
  • Mer de Glace From Grand Balcon Sud - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Blanc From Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Blanc From Lac Blanc - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Blanc From Lac Blanc, early morning - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Blanc From Lac Blanc, sunset - © William Mackesy
  • Aiguilles Rouges - © William Mackesy

Key information: Lac Blanc and Southern Aiguilles Rouges Traverses

  • The justifiably popular upper south-eastern slopes of the Aiguilles Rouges have a wide range of thrilling walks.
  • Take in the ravishing Lac Blanc with its unforgettable views across to Mont Blanc, or the long, contour-hugging Grand Balcon Sud, or traverse the higher slopes up to the Col and famous needles. Plan to avoid crowds in high season.
  • These are serious mountains. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating84
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest5
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating84
  • Note: Negs: Crowding on most popular routes

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,525m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Aiguilles Rouges, Belvedere Pass - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The rough, steep, serrated Aiguilles Rouges can be divided into their remarkable south-eastern slopes, dealt with here, and the emptier, wilder rest.

Easy cable-car access to these slopes, and the variety of walks and superb views across the deep Chamonix valley to the magnificent Mont Blanc massif, make for classic walking. This comes at a price: huge popularity during high season, not helped by the fact that the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Tour du Pays du Mont Blanc (Walko page to come) trails run along its so-called balcony.
 
The steep, forested thousand-metre slopes of the perfect U-shaped Chamonix valley are, frankly, not much fun, so a cable car to Flegere or Plenpraz stations - at around 2,000m, are a good idea.
 
Here are some of the best walks, all doable in a day (or two, if you stay a night at Lac Blanc):
  • Lac Blanc: a 3-4hr trail to a beautiful pair of milky blue lakes with classic views across to the vast Mer de Glace glacier and the soaring Aiguille Vert sections of the Mont Blanc massif. This is the Aiguilles best known walk, and commensurately crowded in high season. The trail begins at the top of the La Flegere cable car, and heads steadily upwards. Walk back along a superb ridge between lovely tarns, south-eastward to the Grand Balcon walk, and return to Flegere. (Better still, walk this circuit in reverse.) Stay a night in the slightly cramped refuge but book well ahead.

The energetic and adventurous can hike a further 400 steep metres to the Col de Belvedere, high behind the lakes, for a thrilling view down over the wildly broken scenery of the central Aiguilles. Magnificent, but take care of the ice fields you may need to climb (friends fell through up to their waists but then descended safe stretches on their bottoms). 

The views of Mont Blanc are usually best early or late in the day, so lingering here for the night is hugely worthwhile although the refuge gets crowded (it only sleeps 30) and needs to be booked well ahead.

Watch out for the tame ibex around the refuge.

The direct trail from the Flegere cable car takes around 1 hours. A preferable approach is along the contours on the TMB and then cutting back along a spectacular ridge with views over lovely little tarns.

  • Grand Balcon Sud contour trails. You can walk for miles along the contours at around 2,000m, easy(ish) walks with superb views across the valley to Mont Blanc and lovely Aiguilles scenery above, met by cable cars but beware crowding, as these are also the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Tour du Pays de Mont Blanc trails.

(The stretch north-east from Flegere is in our view the best. Picnic by the stream below the Lac Blanc cliffs.)

  • High traverses: there are numerous higher paths that traverse the mountainsides just below the needles themselves. These are even better walking, and less crowded, than the Balcon walks. We walked from Lac Blanc to the high LIndex cable car (easy way to reach the high ground), to the spectacular Col de la Gliere, with its wondrous views west over the broken central Aiguilles range, then round behind the crazily serrated high ridge, descending a thrilling spine back down to the Balcon, thence back to Flegere, a tough but outstanding 5 hour walk. An alternative is described by Cicerone in its Lac Cornu and Lac Noirs walk.
  • The climb to Le Brevent (2525m) is also recommended: good and relatively unpopulated walking, but has a cable car (and thus, crowds) on top. Walks from this peak are superb.
You can create your own routes based on these trails, perhaps heading off on lesser-known paths to achieve isolation in the popular months. Enjoy!
 

For further walks in the area and detailed practical information, see our Aiguilles Rouges page.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Global1
Posted on: 05/05/2013
Great web site. Can't wait to go to Europe again and try some of your suggested trails. I hiked the Lac Blanc trail a couple of years ago in September with temps. in the 60's. Absolutely breath taking and it should be on every hiker's bucket list. I've enclosed a few photos I though you might enjoy. They were taken by me and you have my permission to use them on the website. It would be great if there were mileages charts for the hikes. For example. The distance starting at Index's chair lift at the top to Lac Blanc. Sincerely, Jeff Black


Walkopedia says: Thank you for your comment; unfortunately we couldn't find the photographs you submitted - if you could re-submit them we would love to take a look!

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Mt Blanc with Ibex - ©William Mackesy

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Aiguilles Rouges - ©William Mackesy...
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