The Tour du Mont Blanc or TMB is one of the most popular long-distance walks in Europe. It circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering a distance of roughly 170 kilometres with 10 kilometres of ascent/descent and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy and France. We completed the route in an organised 10 day hike with Happy Tracks in September of 2019.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN CHAMONIX DAY 2: AMAZING VIEWS OF MOUNTAIN PASS DAY 3: TREK INTO ITALY DAY 4: A BREEZE INTO COURMAYEUR DAY 5: LAST DAY IN ITALY DAY 6: TREK TO SWITZERLAND DAY 7: DIPPING OUR TOES IN CHAMPEX-LAC DAY 8: BOULDERING TO TRIENT DAY 9: PENULTIMATE TREK TO ARGENTIÈRE DAY 10: TREK TO LAC BLANC
It was a raining start to the day when we met our driver Anya at 8:00am in our hotel lobby. After the collecting all of hikers (8 in total), we headed off to Les Houches in a minivan. This is where we met our guide Dave and were given snacks and lunch packs for the day. The start of the trail included a cable car ride up to Bellevue where we had our first group meeting to decide the route to take as the weather was not the best. We all prepared our backpacks and wet-weather gear before we set off on our journey. It was a gentle stroll as we crossed a suspension bridge and stopped for our first lunch stop for the day.
Dave had made the decision to join back into the Col de Tricot route where he promised us cake for our efforts! It was a refuge and a lot of people had taken shelter for lunch and a break here. The day was long and wet and the final section was very steep. There was even some instances where it was easier on the knees to walk backwards.
We stopped by a supermarket just before reaching out final destination for the night, a refuge in Les Contamines where we had our first experience of the three course meal during the trail.
The accommodation and facilities were quite good where we stayed in dormitories and had a lot of other guests that were also on the trail.
Accomodation: Gite Les Pontets
We collected our food for the day before heading off to the Notre Dame de la Gorge to explore for a moment. After the quick stop, we started heading up a climb to the Col du Bonhomme where we were greeted with our first magnificent views of the mountains passes and the snow topped peaks.
We stopped by a refugee for a well needed coffee and toilet stop to stretch our legs before heading up again through ice to arrive at our lunch spot. Dave surprised us by bringing out two rockmelons to share. There was a lot of sheep and a sheep dog known as a Patou that was hovering around us as we tried to ignore it.
After lunch we made our descent into the village of Les Chapieux. We were quite slow on the decent which Dave organised a shuttle in advance to take us to the refugee in time for dinner! The refugee now know as the “cow-shed” because our accommodation was so basic that it was in a former cowshed!.
The dinner was quite good and there was even entertainment. The facilities were very basic as the shower was luke-warm, odd to operate and I did not get a good night sleep because it was very cold in the cowshed.
Accommodation: Refuge Les Mottets
The weather was getting cloudy and foggy as we ate our breakfast and once again prepared for the day ahead by packing a new set of snacks and lunches into our bags. The steep uphill right at the start of the walk was challenging, cold and foggy. We stuck close by to each other as we headed up to the border between Italy and France. Not a lot of time was spent at the Col de la Seigne as it was windy and foggy and headed back down to an Italian information hut for a quick rest.
After a warm rest we headed down the valley where the weather started clearing up. Dave had suggested we have soup at the upcoming refuge stop as it just felt like the weather for it!
It was here that the groups also decided to split routes as there was both a challenging shoulder route and an easier road path route to get to our destination. A majority took the less challenging route to finish the day as the weather had not been great. The views on the lower route was still amazing to see the mountains close up in the valley as we headed to the Refugio Monte Bianco.
The accommodation was quite good with decent facilities and amazing views. The downside was the food served at dinner was lacklustre and the dormitory rooms were too small and cramped to fit anything inside.
Accommodation: Rifugio Monte Bianco
The day began with a slight uphill climb where we stopped at a refugee and saw cute donkeys wandering around. The decent to Courmayer felt long and tiring but the end was in sight the whole way.
Dave took us to try Gelato before heading to check-in to our hotel rooms at Hotel Croux. This was a surprise to us as we had separate shared rooms. Quite a difference from dormitory living!. The rest of the day was left for us to decide on either (1) cable car (2) lunch at Courmayer or (3) Spa.
Most of the group opted to stay in town to explore, have lunch and relax until our dinner at a local well rated restaurant. Lunch with pizza and pasta was a great experience as we even watched some of the TORX event that was happening right outside.
The accommodation at the hotel was very good and they served amazing breakfast.
Dinner was fancy and surprised it was included as part of the tour! Dessert was definitely the highlight.
Accommodation: Hotel Croux
As there was the TORX event going on, Dave had devised another plan to take us through an alternative route up to see the magnificent views of Mont Blanc. This was a very challenging way up and it seemed like it never ended. We stopped for a rest and lunch before heading to Refuge Bonatti.
On the way we even managed to see some trail runners from the TORX event. There was stunning views of the valley just before climbing a short distance to the stop for the night.
The accommodation was well equipped and seemed to be have recently renovated. Dinner service like clockwork and the food was delicious. Vegetarian for all! No meat option in sight!
Accommodation: Rifugio Bonatti
Today we started our trek into Switzerland by descending to a refuge for tea and cake before tackling on the uphills. We further climbed to reach Tete de Ferret before heading down a shady goat track suggested by Dave.
We had time for a nap along the way but the day seemed to never end as we made our way slowly to La Chere just outside La Fouly.
The accommodation was small and basic. Food was very simple. The sleep was not too great as it was quite stuffy in the dormitories.
Accommodation: Gite La Léchère
The day started with a stroll to the La Fouly supermarket where Dave prepared our snacks and foods for the day. We walked by a public climbing wall with flying foxes and tree top activities. It was a interesting walk as we headed through populated areas and then up into the forrest where we had lunch on the only picnic bench available.
We arrived at the Relais A’prette feeling exhausted but had plenty of time to rest and freshen up before dinner time. The accommodation was good and dinner was an interesting experience.
Accommodation: Relais d’Arpette
Dave had decided for us that we will be taking the more challenging route over Fenetre d’Arpette by hiking through boulders to get a glimpse of the glacier from the top.
We had a lunch break at the top before heading down a long descent. The day was quite warm and the views were amazing. As we headed down we stopped by a shop just before passing the Happy Tracks Refuge Le Peuty. We were not staying here as it was quite small and crowded and our accommodation awaited us further along the road at the so called Hotel Grande Ourse.
The accommodation was decent and food was one of the best we have had on the trail so far. The rooms were shared dormitory rooms and facilities were good.
Accommodation: Hotel Grande Ourse
It was quite a struggle today as we were exhausted from the previous days walk. The day was met with amazing open views of the mountain peaks of Mont Blanc and also down the start of the Chamonix Valley.
We stopped for lunch at a refuge that has now closed for the season. We took advantage of the decking to stretch our legs, have lunch and also take a nap. There are so many blueberry bushes along the trail, they were packed full of flavour and just a nice treat to snack on during the hike.
Argentiere area was where our Refuge was located. We had time to do some laundry, go into town, or just relax in the refuge. We decided to stay and hang out as we waited for dinner. The best part was purchasing a massive 2.30 euro bag of crisps which we shared – good value!
The accommodation was pretty good and the food was one of the best meals we have had on the trek.
Accommodation: Gite Le Moulin
During the trail, Dave had been informed that the cable car was under renovation and the backup one was closed for the season. This meant that our initial plans to hike back to Chamonix had been changed to hiking up to Lac Blanc and coming back down to be picked up to be driven to Chamonix.
A challenging ascent up to Lac Blanc as it was long and steep – it was very tiring and I started getting dizzy at one point. There is a ladder section before the stop for the lunch and it was quite an interesting experience climbing up.
The views from the Lac Blanc were beautiful as we have one of the closest views of Mont Blanc to date. The decent down back to Argentiere was steep and seemed never ending. On the positive side the view was also never ending. We reached our destination at a bar at the bottom where Rachel from HappyTracks picked us up and dropped us off to our accommodation.
Accommodation: Hotel Helioptic