For the majority of our courses the maximum group size is eight, a limit imposed on us by the maximum number of reservations we are allowed in the Mont Blanc huts at any one time. Occasionally according to hut availability we will run courses of up to ten or even twelve clients, though this is unusual.
It is important to realise that having more people in the group in no way affects the climbing experience as the guide: client ratio stays the same, and it is actually advantageous on Mont Blanc as it gives us more flexibility to change things around should someone need to go down.
The guide: client ratio on the Gran Paradiso training climb is 1: 3 or 1: 4 and on Mont Blanc is 1: 2, so for a course of eight we would have four independent teams operating on the mountain at the same time, all climbing at their own speed. As all teams are in radio contact with each other, this gives us more options should someone need to go down, as descending faster parties who have already summited can pick up anyone struggling and take them back to a hut.
The only real differences in being in a larger group are having more people around in the evenings, which is usually a positive thing as it helps build a team atmosphere. If you booked with someone else and would like to climb with them that is never a problem, though we may sometimes suggest putting teams of people of similar ability on the same rope as it generally makes for a smoother ascent.
Gran Paradiso Summit Ridge – easy but scary! (K Gricar)
1:2 Guide: Client Ratio on Mont Blanc