Mt Dolent on the Tour du Mont Blanc

As you circle the highest peak in Europe on the Tour du Mont Blanc, there is such an abundance of glaciers and mountain terrain above 4000 meters, that it’s easy to overlook a 3800m peak with a rather ho-hum namesake glacier. But Mont Dolent on the northeast flanks of the Mont Blanc Massif deserves a second look, and some well-deserved recognition.

Mont Dolent is generally regarded as the point on the Tour du Mont Blanc and the only point where the borders of three countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland meet. And that is generally, but not precisely correct. The exact point where France, Italy and Switzerland meet is not at the 3820m summit of Mont Dolent, but about 100 meters to the northwest of the summit along a ridge at an elevation of 3752, just 68 meters shy of the summit.

Mont Dolent viewed from La Fouly Switzerland with the Dolent Glacier in the foreground.

The First Ascent

But as Alpine peaks go, Mont Dolent has some impressive bona fides, starting with its first ascent. The first ascent of the mountain was made on 9 July 1864 by Edward Whymper with guide Michel Croz, the same team who just one year later made the historic and tragic first ascent on the Matterhorn. On the Dolent ascent, Whymper and Croz were accompanied by H. Charlet, A. Reilly, and M. Payot.

Edward Whymper
Michel Croz

Whymper described the Mont Dolent ascent in Scrambles Amongst the Alps:

We occupied the 9th with a scramble up Mont Dolent. This was a miniature ascent. It contained a little of everything. First, we went up to the Petit Col Ferret, and had a little grind over shaly banks; then there was a little walk over grass; then a little tramp over a moraine (which, strange to say, gave a pleasant path); then a little zigzagging over the snow-covered glacier of Mont Dolent. Then there was a little bergschrund, then a little wall of snow [. . .] The summit itself was little, very small indeed; it was the loveliest little cone of snow that was ever piled up on a mountain-top; so soft, so pure; it seemed a crime to defile it; it was a miniature Jungfrau; a toy summit, you could cover it with a hand.

Get Oriented

Mont Dolent rises in the west above the small-scale ski area of La Fouly in Switzerland’s Val Ferret where the spiked aiguilles have the unmistakable form of Mount Blanc granite. Since most hikers and even a few guides overlook Mont Dolent on the TMB, feel free to study this photo so you can be the official group smarty pants when you hike the TMB next.

Mont Dolent summit shown at 3819m.point The point where the borders meet is 200 meters to the west.
Greg Witt
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