Tour Du Mont Blanc



If you have been following me on Instagram, you know I recently hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, which is a hiking loop where you hike through the mountains surrounding Mont Blanc. I flew into Geneva, and took a bus into Les Houches where I started the hiking trip. The idea is that you are hiking from hotel to hotel. 

You wake up in the morning, with hiking as the only plans for that day. I normally started hiking by 8am most days, sometimes earlier. I am a fast walker, and don’t take many long breaks, so I, for the most part, got in by 3pm every day. I prefer to get in earlier, enjoy a cup of tea and relax for the afternoon before dinner, so I try to get out early in the morning. Also, as it was quite hot, and you are up at a higher elevation, it is better to get out in the morning while it is still cool. 
The bag I carried, and a beautiful shot from Day 6.
On this trip, a typical day of food for me was not ideal for a foodie, but perfect for me. I would grab some fruit from the grocery store the night before, and then in the morning, head to a bakery (as they open very early) to grab a baguette, which I would break off small pieces and eat throughout the day. I also brought some power bars with me from Canada before I left. I’d also buy fun snacks, like a small can of pringles, or salted peanuts. I always found by the afternoon I was craving salty foods, so having a little fun snack was nice! Then finally when I got to the town or hotel I would grab lunch if it was early, or track down a bakery and have a sweet treat and tea. I definitely brought my own tea bags with me so I could always have a perfect cup of tea! In terms of water, I had a camel bag in my Osprey backpack. I bought both of these for a similar trip I did two years ago. I went to a sports equipment store where they found the perfect bag for me, and Osprey sells bags that are shaped better for women in terms of the strap placement on the hips and chest etc. I believe my bag is 23L, it is pretty small, but it carried what I needed for a day, with a spot for my water, and the hose to come out and clip onto the front shoulder area. I normally packed my rain pants and jacket (the bag came with a special rain cover), as well as extra socks, medical supplies, my fleece or sun shirt, hat, sunscreen and snacks. I packed way more leggings than I needed. I only really wore shorts and a tank top. Some days I would start out in a long sleeve sun shirt, and sometimes at the top it would be chilly and I’d put that back on or my fleece. Also, I had a small duffel bag transferred from hotel to hotel through Besson taxi. You do not need to be part of a tour group to organize this, I just booked on their website, and my bag always beat me to the hotel, even when I had a short day! Applying sunscreen was really important, and I didn’t do it nearly as much as I needed to. I applied SPF 60 on my face twice a day, and SPF 30 everywhere else. My face was fine, but my shoulders and back of my legs always burned. I have a really pretty farmer’s tan situation going on now! Also, something I did not think about, is that none of these places had AC!

Every day felt very rewarding because I could always look behind me and see how far I had walked, and take in the beautiful views once I reached the top. Each day I hiked through a mountain pass, and once I reached the top I would have a little break and something to eat. I tracked every day on my Fitbit, so it gave me the distance traveled, a map of the route I took, as well as the steps and heart rate. I don’t expect that these are 100% accurate, but still fun to look back at. 

If this is something you are interested in doing, I am very happy to answer any questions!
The book the I used on this trip is The Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide.

Day by Day

A cute building in Les Houches on my way to the start of TMB.
I posted my little day diaries on Instagram under my captions, but here is all of them together:
I flew from Toronto to London with WestJet, and then Lodon to Geneva with EasyJet, and then took Ouibus (booked in advance) to St-Gervais-les-Bains - Le Fayet. From there, a train to Les Houches. 
Accommodation: That night I stayed in Hotel Du Bois - it was very simple! It did have a pool, which was great because no AC! There was a bakery to the right of the road on the way to the start of the trail. It is just down a little hill, so it is possible to miss if you are not paying attention.

The bedroom view from Hotel Le Christiana
Day 1: Today, I traveled from Les Houches to Les Contamines-Montjoie. I had the option of taking a gondola to the top, cutting down two hours, of course on the first day, feeling ambitious, I took the climb. The elevation on this day was 1300 meters. It was brutal and hot and I regretted not taking the gondola!! The total hike, I recorded on my Fitbit and it showed about 22km and took just under 6 hours. There was a huge downhill on the way into Les Contamines-Montjoie, which is a different kind of leg pain. Luckily I was greeted by a great lunch spot and then a beautiful hotel. The pool had a stunning view and was a great end to the day!
Accommodation: This night I stayed at Hotel Le Christiania. The rooms were basic, but the balcony view and pool were gorgeous. I posted a photo and story on Instagram of the pool!
Also, the lunch/tea spot was Au Bistro Gourmand. They had lots of great food, and crepes! There is a supermarket and bakery right beside this, where I got a baguette for the next day, and I couldn't resist getting another for that night because it was fresh and still hot!

The mountains surrounding Les Chapieux

Day 2:
I knew this day was supposed to be hard as the guide book showed a huge elevation. The first 3km were nice and flat, but steadily climbed for most of the day. It was cloudier compared to the day before, which was a nice break. I eventually hit a valley, and then up again passing over some snow and a very steep climb. I reached what I thought was the top, but after a quick break, realized that it wasn’t the top. Crossing lots of waterfalls and rocky areas, I reached the real top with gorgeous views. The rest of the hike was downhill, and again, as nice as that sounds - it’s really hard! Your legs are shaking by the end of it. The village, if you can call it that, was very small, I stayed in a private room at a hostel, which was the only option! I met some other lovely Canadians at dinner, and grabbed some snacks for the next day! This day was an evaluation of 1500 meters, 23 km, travelling from Les Contamines-Montjoie to Les Chapieux.
Accommodation: Auberge de la Nova. This is like a hostel, I was able to get a very tiny private room. Only two choices for dinner, vegetarian or meat. This was served camp style, at a big long table, with a big plate served to everyone at the table to share. There was no grocery store or restaurant - or wifi here! There was a little sandwich shop where I could grab a few snacks, and you could pay for wifi, but I decided it wasn't worth it. This was the only night where I couldn't get wifi. 
One of the only little streets with buildings in this small "town"

Day 3:
I didn’t have a great sleep so I was worried how this day was going to go. The first part out of Les Chapieux was flat, crossing down onto a dirt path and up the side of a mountain. Eventually I crossed with another trail, then realizing the road route was an easier option to what I did - far less pretty though. After that, the climb was pretty steady, not as steep as previous days, but stretched out quite a bit! I think scenery-wise, today has been my favourite. At the top of the mountain, was the border of France and Italy, crossing down into Italy with a beautiful valley and downhill slope. There were so many mountains surrounding us, mountain gofers and lots of wildflowers. I walked from Les Chapieux to Courmayeur, 1000 meters elevation and 25km. Taking a rest day tomorrow and letting my muscles and feet heal a little bit!
Accommodation: Hotel Les Jumeaux Courmayer, this was supposed to be 4 star, but it was very outdated and it felt like I was in an old Italian grandparents home! Tiles everywhere! Also, they played music until 11pm in the lobby every night which was loud! I stayed here two nights. 

Can anyone guess which one is me?!

Rest:
I decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone for my rest day. I went white water rafting in glacier water in Courmayeur, Italy. I was suited up in a wetsuit and spent all morning rafting. It was really rough, a lot scarier than I expected! The raft had to have a metal frame in the middle because the rapids were so intense. There were different positions we had to learn but a lot of time in the “Get down!!!” position. After all of the hiking, my legs were so sore and to keep pushing myself up to paddle and then down again was tiring. It was a cool experience and I’m glad I did it! 

This little BnB looked so cute and I really wish I had booked here! 

Day 4: The 40km day. As the loop is normally 10 days, but I only had 8, I had to make up some time. That meant, one day hiking from Courmayeur to Champex. There were a few big climbs, starting at approximately 1250 meters in Courmayeur and climbing to 2025 meters, then up to 2537 meters at Grand col Ferret. Then, going down to about 1600 meters though an area that you could have convinced me was Iceland! It was a day of stunning views and beautiful weather, though I did get a sunburn. I walked all the way to La Fouly, which was the cutest Swiss town with picturesque chalet style homes. From there I took a bus to Champex. The reason I chose to take a bus here is because it was a walk through a valley that wasn’t very long. I stayed in a hotel overlooking Lac Champex and enjoyed beautiful views of the lake and fondue for dinner! Exhausting day but proud of myself for doing it! Also, hit just over 50,000 steps this day!
Accommodation: Aux Vieux Champex, was a very cute apartment style hotel, but we got there so late we didn't get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. We had dinner at the restaurant attached to the hotel and it was very expensive, but they were very warm and kind people!


The pink church in Trient

Day 5:
A shorter and easier day compared to the previous, hiking from Champex to Trient, tracked as 18.9km and 745 meter ascent and 900 meter descent. Surprisingly, I want as sore as I thought in the morning, but the descent really hurt my knees and feet! My downhill was a much slower pace that my uphill, which was surprising! I passed through lots of fields with cows, listening to their bells chiming through the mountains. Before descending into Trient I passed through a busy town where I should have stopped to eat, but I went down into Trient and there was nothing around but the hostel. I’ve stayed in various types of accommodation during this trip, based off of different guides and plans. Two of these have been hostels with private rooms and only one option for dinner. These are obviously not as nice as hotels but they are fine. This particular one had a nice patio with tea and brownies! As it was a shorter day, I was second to arrive to the hostel and enjoyed the wifi and tea.
Accommodation: Augberge du Mont Blanc was again a hostel style with a basic room, and same style of meals you remember from childhood overnight camp. Very good brownies here - not something I found anywhere else. Also, no bakery or grocery store nearby! There was was wifi here at least! 



Day 6: Hiking from Trient to Argentière, tracked as 18.41km, 1070m ascent and 950 descent. In the guide, this day is said to have stunning views and it was not wrong. I started hiking uphill almost immediately and when I reached the top I had panoramic views all around me. The most significant was Mont Blanc, which was in perfect sight with clear skies. I sat and enjoyed the view for a while and then walked along the more difficult path along the top to enjoy the views more. The top was the border between Switzerland and France. Once I reached Argentière, I was greeted by the cutest town! I enjoyed a perfect lunch looking out onto a square, then checked into the hotel, which was amazing! Best hotel I’ve stayed in so far with pretty decor, nice details and upgrades and the cutest balcony with table and chairs. I made a cup of tea (in a really cute mug!!) and enjoyed an almond croissant from the bakery down the street, while looking out onto flowers and Mont Blanc in the distance.
Accommodation: Hotel de la Couronne, this was my bar far favourite hotel I stayed in! The room was gorgeous, I booked the 3 bed room, most are smaller I believe. There was a lovely big bathroom, and a gorgeous balcony! I don't think the other rooms had this. If you turn right out of the hotel, there was an amazing bakery and souvenir shops. They were much less expensive here than in Chamonix the next day. Also, if you turn to the left out of the hotel, is the restaurant where I had lunch and dinner. A family owns it and all worth there, it was very sweet! Very good veggie burger and ice cream sunday! It is called Le Dahu, and the decor is really cute!

There were so many beautiful wildflowers throughout the hike.

Day 7:
The weather up until this point had been amazing! Only rain a few nights after we got into the hotel. My luck was running out. This day was planned to walk from Argentinère to Planpraz and take the gondola down into Chamonix, then back up the next day to finish in Les Houches. Initially, I thought I could complete the two days in one. Picking the harder route in the morning to hike and climb ladders to Lac Blanc, at 10am dark clouds surrounded and I put on my rain gear and sure enough rain started pouring down, the wind very strong and very very cold. I continued to Lac Blanc up the ladders and steep climbs, hoping to reach the refuge I had been told about, only to find it was closed. I stood under it for 10 minutes but the rain didn’t stop so I continued on. I thought by following signs to Planpraz instead of following the guide would work but ended up at a chair lift, not close enough to where I needed to be. I climbed down the ski hill on gravel, to reach the lower lift and refuge, to the follow the guide back up hill to Planpraz. Luckily on the downhill it had stopped raining, but I was exhausted and decided to take the gondola down to Chamonix and finish strong the next day. This day ended up being 21km, and about a 1100 meter ascent, and quite a big descent but not sure how much!
Accommodation: Hotel de L'Arve was another small and simple place, but we had a balcony looking onto the river. Also, they had a tea time at this hotel with free tea and treats from 4-5:30 every day. I made sure to enjoy this both nights, as I stayed here the last two days. Chamonix is a very big town with a main street, so I just picked random places to eat - as well, there is a McDonalds where I definitely had a celebratory meal after the last day of hiking. 



Day 8: The final day, hiking from where I left off at the top of the gondola at Planpraz to Les Houches, where I started. This included an ascent of 500 meters to le Brévent, and then downhill the rest of the way. I was really feeling sore by this last day, so the climb was hard. It was also raining in Chamonix so I was dressed head to toe in rain gear. It was only drizzling at the top, luckily, but still cold and damp. After reaching le Brévent, the highest I had reached so far, I took in the beautiful views and then had the best Nutella crepe I have ever had. Maybe I was cold, tired and sore - but this hot, fresh crepe was incredible! The downhill after this was long and slightly dull because of the rainy weather, I was in the clouds the whole time. You couldn’t see much in front of you or around at all. After 15 km, I reached Les Houches train station with 2 minutes to spare before the train arrived (it only runs hourly - very lucky and not planned). Later that day, I took the gondola up Mont Blanc. I was very unprepared for how cold it was! I only had leggings and a sweater on and absolutely froze! It wasn’t a clear day so I couldn’t see much, but it was amazing to learn about Mont Blanc and all of the people who have climbed it. Not 100% sure it was worth doing this, we had the option between this and a train to a glacier, and I think I might have enjoyed that a bit more!
Photo I took at the top of Mont Blanc where people were preparing to climb.

I took Ouibus directly from Chamonix to Geneva airport, without having to take the train! I booked it in advance, and it worked out perfectly. 
I flew from Geneva to London on EasyJet, and then had a few days in London before flying back to Toronto with WestJet. 
This trip was an incredible experience. We met many lovely people through our travels, and also challenged and pushed ourselves. It was such a unique way to explore France, Italy and Switzerland, and definitely worth trying! If you are looking for something easier, the trip that inspired this trip was two years ago when I walked the Camino de Santiago. It is a similar concept trip where you travel from hotel to hotel each night. There is not as much of a climb like there is the TMB. Though, the Camino de Santiago is a religious Pilgrimage – you definitely don’t have to do it for that reason, as I know I did not!

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