Mont Blanc ("White Mountain") is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks.
It rises 4,808.7 m (15,777 ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. The mountain stands in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Savoie and Haute-Savoie, France. The location of the summit is on the watershed line between the valleys of Ferret and Veny in Italy and the valleys of Montjoie, and Arve in France. The Mont Blanc massif is popular for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding.
The three towns and their communes which surround Mont Blanc are Courmayeur in Aosta Valley, Italy; and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and Chamonix in Haute-Savoie, France. The latter town was the site of the first Winter Olympics. A cable car ascends and crosses the mountain range from Courmayeur to Chamonix, through the Col du Géant. The 11 km (7¼-mile) Mont Blanc Tunnel, constructed between 1957 and 1965, runs beneath the mountain and is a major trans-Alpine transport route.
The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc was on 8 August 1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard. This climb, initiated by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering.
Nowadays the summit is ascended by an average of 20,000 mountaineer-tourists each year. It could be considered a technically easy, yet arduous, ascent for someone who is well-trained and acclimatized to the altitude. From l'Aiguille du Midi (where the cable car stops), Mont Blanc seems quite close, being 1,000 m (3,300 ft) higher. But while the peak seems deceptively close, La Voie des 3 Monts route (known to be more technical and challenging than other more commonly used routes) requires much ascent over two other 4,000 m mountains, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit, before the final section of the climb is reached and the last 1,000 m push to the summit is undertaken.