Mont Blanc - m. 4,810
The highest mountain in the Alps and in Europe. It rises in the most internal part of the region between the Graian and Pennine Alps. Mont Blanc is made up of a granitic nucleus (protogine) around which emerge metamorphic rocks (gneiss, mica schist and chlorite schist). Over 3,000 meters, the massif is covered by a permanent snow and ice cap that covers about 200 square kilometers. The most significant glaciers are: the famous Mer de Glace that covers about 43 square kilometers. The largest glaciers on the Italian side are the Miage (12 square kilometers ) and the Brenva (7 square kilometers). The Italian side is made up of a steep and majestic wall while the French side descends in gentler slopes. The passes are rare and difficult. The lowest, the Gigante pass, is at an altitude of 3,359 meters. Populated areas are found under 2,800 meters. In 1957 a magnificent cable car line was completed which, from La Palud, crosses 18 kilometers over the Mer de Glace to Point Helbronner (m. 3,462), Aiguille du Midi and then Chamonix, in France. The Mont Blanc tunnel (11,600 kilometers) was officially opened on July 16, 1965. The first attempts to reach the summit of Mont Blanc began in 1741 by the British Pococke and Windham who, climbing from Chamonix, reached the glacier they called Mer de Glace. In 1761, the Swiss naturalist, De Saussure, made a visit and offered an award to the first to reach the summit. After several attempts, the valley dweller Jacques Balmat and physician Michel Paccard reached the summit of Mont Blanc on August 8, 1786 climbing the French face. From the Italian face, the first ascent was completed in 1865 by the British Moore with three companions.