On the north is the valley of Chamonix, and on the east the head of the valley of Aosta.
The first ascent was made in 1786 by two Chamonix men, Jacques Balmat and Dr Michel Paccard, and the second in 1787 by Balmat with two local men.
De Saussure made the third ascent, memorable in many respects, and was followed a week later by Colonel Beaufoy, the first Englishman to gain the top. These ascents were all made from Chamonix, which is still the usual starting point, though routes have been forced up the peak from nearly every side, those on the Italian side being much steeper than that from Chamonix.
The ascent from Chamonix is now frequently made in summer (rarely in winter also), but, owing to the great height of the mountain, the view is unsatisfactory, though very extensive (Lyons is visible).
In the main chain the two longest are both 94 m., the Mer de Glace at Chamonix and the Gorner at Zermatt.
14,515 9,623 Col de la Brenva (Courmayeur to Chamonix), snow 14,217 9,411 Domjoch (Randa to Saas), snow.
12,274 9,305 Col de Triolet (Chamonix to Courmayeur), snow.
11,615 Col d'Argentiere (Chamonix to Orsieres), snow 11,536 8,954 Col du Sonadon (Bourg St Pierre to the Val de Bagnes), snow.
11,447 Col de Talefre (Chamonix to Courmayeur), snow.
11,077 Col du Grant (Chamonix to Courmayeur), snow..
10,962 Col du Chardonnet (Chamonix to Orsieres), snow..
10,899 Col du Tour (Chamonix to Orsieres), snow.
7,336 Col de Balme (Chamonix to the Trient Valley), bridle path.
5,971 Col de Voza (Chamonix to Contamines), bridle path..
5,496 Col de la Forclaz (Chamonix to St Gervais), bridle path.