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Tour du Mont Blanc

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Tour du Mont Blanc

Postby Ranboze » Sat Jul 21, 2007 9:45 am

[also posted on]

I recently returned from one of the great walks of the world. The TMB is a circular route around Mont Blanc and its massif. It’s ~107 miles in length, although there are a variety of route variations that effect actual mileage, and ~32,800 ft of total ascent (yeah, and descent too… my knees will attest to that). I did the walk as an unguided trip offered by Sherpa Expeditions in the UK. Sixteen of us started and ended in the same place each day, and our luggage magically awaited our arrival at all but one accommodation. Most walkers were husband-wife pairs, but there were 2 single walkers from Australia and my sister and I. There were 4 Americans, 6 Brits, and 6 Aussies.

Daily highlights:
July 1: Les Houches – les Contamines via Col de Tricot
We started the TMB the EZ way by taking the telegraphique (cable car) from Les Houches to Bellevue, eliminating a 2608 ft climb and allowing more time to enjoy the day’s partly sunny skies. We took the high route over Col de Tricot and enjoyed nice views of the Bionossay Glacier and Domes de Miage and its glaciers above the Miage valley. This would be the last time we would be able to see the Mont Blanc massif for any length of time until the last day, which just about made up for all the missed views. I arrived in les Contamines shortly before it started raining.

July 2: les Contamines – Les Chapieux
This was my longest and most difficult day. This was also the only day where we did not have luggage service, so we had to carry any overnight items desired. The rain started before we departed at 0730 and drizzled on and off most all of the day. We had a 4200 ft ascent from les Contamines to the high point of Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. Upon reaching the 8x8 hut at Col du Bonhomme, I waited 1hr 40 minutes for my sister and her walking partner du jour to reach the first summit. I sat in the hut alone, for the most part, as the wind blew fiercely across the col,

I became keenly aware of just how slow my sister was, and was anxious about being able to make it over the high point before the weather turned worse, as well as being able to make it to our destination before dark. It was only a posted 60 minutes from the Col du Bonhomme to the Col du la Croix du Bonhomme, and upon reaching it, I waited another 30 minutes for my sister. From Col du Bonhomme to the Col du la Croix du Bonhomme the fog obliterated the view of the latter , making wayfinding tricky, at best. Sandy, Denise, and the Aussies arrived at the Col du la Croix simultaneously. The 3000 ft descent to Les Chapieux was uneventful under the high clouds, allowing some nice views of the Plan Varraro and its surrounding peaks.

July 3: Les Chapieux – La Palud
Today, we crossed the Franco-Italian border at Col de la Seigne. As we ascended the Vallee des Glaciers, we had a brief view of the Aiguille des Glaciers, part of the SE side of the Mont Blanc massif, but as I made the final ascent to the Col, it began snowing. The col was foggy, windy and cold and absent of the alleged spectacular views of the SE side of the MB massif. The descent into the Val Veni was pleasant, despite the continued rain, and I had a 2 hour rest at the bustling Rifugio Elisabetta . Although there was a high route option into Courmeyer, there did not seem to be any benefit to doing it in the rain and fog. So, we shortened our day a bit, and avoided walking several miles on the tarmac, by taking a bus at the end of the trail (Cantine de la Visaille) to Courmeyer which yielded a short walk to La Palud.

July 4: Free day in La Palud
Rain and clouds spoiled intentions of riding the telecabine (cable car) to pointe Heilbronner on the Mont Blanc massif, so today was spent mostly wandering around Courmeyer.

July 5: La Palud – La Fouly
There was growing concern on the evening of July 4th, as it was obvious that the snow level was less than 500 feet above us, and the ascent to the Grand Col Ferret would take us 3800 ft above La Palud. The weather forecast for July 5th was “not goodâ€
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.

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Postby copeg » Sun Jul 22, 2007 9:15 am

Very, very cool. :nod:

(The wildflowers link goes to a "page has been removed")
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Postby ERIC » Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:42 pm

trailblazer wrote:Very, very cool. :nod:

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Postby Skibum » Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:42 pm

Very, very nice! Beautiful alpine scenery. Nice to see the Alps still have some snow in July!

I just hosted a Swiss backpacker couple here in Kings Canyon for 2 weeks and they have invited me to come to Switzerland and stay with them and trek around the Alps. I think I'll take them up on their offer!

Need to brush up on my yodelling.
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Postby KathyW » Sun Aug 05, 2007 6:48 pm

Robin: What a wonderful trip! Even with stormy weather the pictures are just beautiful - some of the pictures are prettier with the cloudy skies. Mont Blanc is spectacular - I wonder how difficult the easiest route up it is. The lodges you stayed in were nice - quaint.

I noticed that even when it was snowy some people had shorts on - they must have been cold.

I learned the same thing about Precips - they are water resistant, not waterproof. I got caught out in heavy rain with my precips on once - I got really wet and cold. Also, after a number of washes they loose their water resistance.


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Postby madeintahoe » Sat Aug 25, 2007 8:31 pm

Robin....All the albums are beautiful! How lucky you were to do this. It really sounds like a nice time you had..interesting with the weather.

The Ibex are gorgeous..I posted some comments yesterday
Thank you for sharing here :)
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Postby gaiters » Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:51 am

I did the hike a couple of years ago - you're right - it's awesome. More people should do it! When planning mine I had to do a lot of digging around to find all the info I needed (refuge telephone numbers, waypoints etc). I was looking through the Cicerone site (they do the guide books) and they flag up the site which seems to have all the stuff it took me so long to find out when I was planning the hike. Wish I'd found it two years ago!. After reading your account I'd sorely tempted to do the hike again next year :) .
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