The Tour du Mont Blanc
In early July 2011, I spent eight days with five other hikers walking the Tour du Mont Blanc. This hike circumnavigates the mountain – the highest peak in Europe – with forays into France, Italy and Switzerland. Tour du Mont Blanc trails are well within the capabilities of any fit mountain walker as they wind through alpine meadows, over barren cols (mountain passes), into quaint villages, and along ridgelines with breathtaking views. (Mont Blanc right)
There is a great deal of information available about the tour http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tour_du_Mont_Blanc and a number of guidebooks and web guides that delineate a variety of different trails around Mont Blanc. http://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/europe/alps.html http://www.walkingthetmb.com/thetourdumontblanc.html
This hike is very popular and it is easy to craft a trip that can be self-guided or set up with a tour company that provides guides. The tour can even be done by bus or taxi if one is incapacitated or has problems walking. There are different levels of effort for different folks – from moderate to strenuous. You can easily do your own research on the web if you want to go.
Additionally, the Mont Blanc tunnel, completed in 1965, is a 11.6 kilometer subterranean road that links Chominix, France to Courmayeur, Italy. The twenty-minute ride is a lot faster than the walk!
The entire area has other attractions for the adventurous. Kayaking, mountain biking, tour biking, and tandem parasailing are a few of the endeavors in the summer season. Of course, skiing dominates the winter months.
Our group generally walked from six to seven hours a day over the course of eight days, with one rest day designated in the middle of the trip. Due to a medical condition, several of my days deviated from the group hike. The days ranged in challenge from strenuous to moderate. Usually it was the day’s ascent that determined the degree of effort and the ascent on some days was 900 to 1000 meters.
The weather was excellent during our trip and we were provided with a wealth of photographic opportunities. The object, as usual, was to keep the photography from interfering with the backpacking, and to keep the backpacking from interfering with the photography. A challenge.
We started (and ended) in Chomonix, France and made our way counter-clockwise around Mont Blanc. At night we either encamped at huts along the trail (left) or stopped in several of the villages in Italy and Switzerland.
Rarely would we walk to or from the village, but start or finish at a trailhead, taking a bus or a train to or from our hikes (other hikers loading up at right).
In addition to Chomonix we stayed at Courmayeur, Italy and Champex, Switzerland.
On the last day we took the cable car from the middle of Chamonix up to the Aiguille du Midi (Needle of the South) for a panoramic view of the French Swiss and Italian Alps at 3800 meters (Scene below).
Here are a few links to websites where we stayed:
Day One — Nant-Borrant dormitory: http://refugenantborrant.lescontamines.com/uk/nuit.html
Day Two — Refuge La Nova, Les Chapieux, http://www.refugelanova.com/Accueil.html
Day Three and Four — Hotel Miravalle Val Ferret, Courmayeur, Italy http://www.courmayeur-hotelmiravalle.it/
Day Five — Dormitory: Pension en plein air, Champex, http://www.pensionenpleinair.ch/
Day Six — Hotel de la Forclaz, Trient, http://www.coldelaforclaz.ch/home.aspx
Day Seven – Hotel La Chaumiere, Chamonix, http://www.hotelchaumierechamonix.com/node/1
If you love mountain photography, this is the place to be!