Then came the scientists, who explored this mysterious world to uncover its secrets. With the first climbers and the birth of modern mountaineering in the mid-19th century, people started to discover the fascinating grandeur of Mont Blanc and Courmayeur began its long history as the tourist destination it still is today.
Mont Blanc’s mountaineering history began when Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard reached the summit of the mountain on 8th August 1786, giving rise to a great age of daring exploits: Edward Wimper’s routes, the exploits on rock and ice by famous Italian, French and Swiss guides at the turn of the century, and the extraordinary rock and ice routes opened during the period between the wars. The thirties saw climbing legends such as Riccardo Cassin and Pierre Allain racing to grab the “last great faces”, while the remarkable Walter Bonatti and René Desmaison rose to fame in the period following the second world war.
These days, while champions such as Christophe Profit, Michel Piola and Patrick Gabarrou are engaged in daring exploits, thousands of less well-known mountaineers are realising their dream to climb Mont Blanc. Three Courmayeur guides, Julien Grange, Adolphe Orset and Jean-Marie Perrod, and Briton Reginald Head made the first ascent of Mont Blanc from the Italian side on 13th August 1863. The route they took is known as the Three Mont Blancs Route, in reference to the three peaks they surmounted like the steps of a giant’s stairway to reach the summit: Tacul, Maudit, Mont Blanc.
Isabella Stratton, Jean Charlet and Sylvain Couttet made the first winter ascent on 31st January 1876 The first winter traverse was carried out on 5th January 1887 by A. Corradino, E. and V. Sella, É. Rey, J.J. Baptiste, D. Maquignaz and two porters.
The first woman to reach the summit, on 14th July 1808, was Marie Paradis, who was accompanied by her 14 year old son Gédéon and guide Jacques Balmat.
The record for the fastest ascent and descent from Courmayeur was set in 1995 by the Italian Fabio Meraldi, who completed the 3,800 m vertical 52 km route in 6 h 45' 24''.