The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of the great hiking tours in the world. On this guided TMB tour, we’ll cross countless passes and trek through three countries – France, Italy, and Switzerland – as we circumnavigate Mont Blanc, at 15,781 feet, the highest mountain in the Alps.
We’ll hike through spectacular valleys and stay in a combination of 3-star village hotels and remote Refugio’s. The Tour du Mont Blanc is truly an epic trek – a great opportunity to meet hikers from around the world and enjoy rich variety of cultures, cuisines and views. In keeping with the adventurous nature of the tour, we’ve designed a spirited itinerary, we will stay at mixture of alpine guest houses, mountain refugios and hotels. Showers will be available at most places we stay at, and our village hotels will feature private double/tripple rooms and bathrooms.
Leader/Guide: Marek Wencel and Duane Morrison
Day 1 (Aug 17) Arrive Chamonix (1 1/2 hrs shuttle drive from Geneva Airport)
The pretty village of Les Houches is easily accessible by either train or shuttle from Geneva Airport in over an hour drive. On arrival you can settle into your comfortable hotel, stroll through the town and get ready for your adventure on the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Dinner & Overnight: Chamonix
Day 2 (Aug 18) Argentière to Planpraz
The first two days of the TDMB are in my opinion the highlight of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The views across the Chamonix Valley to the Mont Blanc Massif are outstanding throughout. From your hotel the trail climbs via Aiguillette de Argentière to the Grand Balcon Sud of the Aiguilles Rouges, taking in a few fixed ladders on the way. You are now in the Aiguilles Rouge Nature Reserve and sightings of Ibex, Marmot and many other furry creatures are common. You continue to climb to Lac Blanc, where the idyllically situated refuge is the perfect spot for lunch. Another hour of descent brings you to the cable car station at Le Flégère, continue past the cable car and take the 'Balcon Sud' route traversing across the mountain side with stunning views of Mont Blanc as you go. The balcony route arrives at Planpraz where you can take the cable car down to the center of Chamonix.
Walk: 7.5miles, 6-7 Hours, Ascent: 4,757ft, Descent: 2,600ft
Overnight: at Chamonix
Day 3 ( Aug 19) Planpraz to Les Houches
Begin your day by catching the cable car back up to Planpraz. For your last day on the Tour du Mont Blanc you have several options. The toughest, but most rewarding takes you all the way to Les Houches via the Col du Brevant & the rocky pedestal of the le Brévent (2525m). Mont Blanc seems within touching distance on the opposite side of the valley. Descent past Lac Brevent and traverse onwards to Bel Lachat before making the descent to Les Houches and a short bus or train ride will take you back to Chamonix. This day can be shortened at several points. Chamonix is the centre of mountaineering in the French Alps and always a hive of activity and is the perfect place to celebrate the end of your walk around Mont Blanc.
Walk: 6.8miles 1,410ft Ascent, 5,000 Descent, 6 Hours
Overnight: at Chamonix
Day 4 ( Aug 20) Les Houches - BellevueTelepherique (6,000ft) – Les Contamines
Your third day of Tour du Mont Blanc starts with a quick 10 minute ride on the Bellevue telepherique.
At Bellevue (1801m) you have the option of taking the tough route via Chalet de Miage, which is dominated by the Dôme du Goûter and Aiguille de Bionnasay as you pass just beneath the snout of the Glacier de Bionnassay. After passing the idyllic Chalet de Miage you descend to Les Contamines. If the weather is good-we will take that option.
The easier option winds through beautiful forests and through alpine pastures via Bionnassay to Les Contamines.
Walk via Bionnassay: 10miles, 5 Hours, 2,120ft Ascent, 2,076ft Descent
Walk via Chalets de Miage: 11.2miles 7.5 Hours, 4,850ft ascent, 4,324ft descent
Dinner & Overnight: Mountain Refuge above Les Contamines
Day 5 (Aug 21) Les Contamines – Col Bonhomme (7,640ft) – Refuge des Mottets
A gentle start from Les Contamines for the first 5km along the valley floor to chapel at Notre Dame de la Gorge (shuttle transfer possible). Here the path turns upwards and climbs steadily on the Chemin Roman through the Contamines Montjoie Nature Reserve towards the distant Col du Bonhomme. A steady climb reveals increasingly rugged views of the high peaks and you quickly reach the rugged landscapes of the Col du Bonhomme (7,640ft).
A further hour on rough and rocky ground brings up the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. Here you can either climb over the Col des Fours (2665m) and descend steeply to Refuge des Mottets.
Walk to Refuge des Mottets: 10miles, 4,920ft Ascent, 2,950ft Descent, 7-8 Hours
Dinner & Overnight: at Refuge des Mottets which is an idyllically located mountain refuge that was refurbished recently and has comfortable private rooms or dormitory and is well known for its hearty evening meals.
Day 6 ( Aug 22) ) Refuge des Mottets to Courmayeur
The Col de la Seigne (2516m) and lies a steep 750m above the Refuge des Mottets and is where you leave France for Italy. Just wait until you see the view! Stupendous! The steep southern side of the Mont Blanc Massif, made up of jagged peaks, hanging glaciers and plunging waterfalls, seems close enough to touch. The trail descends through high alpine meadows past refuge Elisabetta into the Val Veni.
Here you must choose either the tough option which climbs via Col Chécrouit to Courmayeur or the easy option of continuing past the snout of the huge Glacier du Miage to Visaille, where you catch the shuttle bus into Courmayeur.
Walk to Courmayeur: 17miles, 1160m Ascent, 1818m Descent, 8 – 9 Hours
Alternative: This is a really long day if you follow the official route all the way to Courmayeur via Col Chécrouit. It can be shortened by catching the bus from La Visaille in the Val Veni Valley to Courmayeur. This cuts about 6,0miles, 1,600ft ascent and 3,700feet of descent from the day. The choice will be yours-one guide will take the strong ones over Col Checrouit, and the other will take a bus to Courmayour.
Overnight: at Courmayeur
Day 7 ( Aug 23) Courmayeur to Refugio Elena
In good weather the walk from Courmayeur to Refugio Bonatti is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable of your Tour du Mont Blanc. Choose from three variations for the next section, all of which start with a steep climb from Courmayeur. The main route then contours around the flank of Mont de la Saxe on an undulating path giving you plenty of time to take in the dramatic icy panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif and Grand Jorasses across the valley.
The variants via Col Sapin or Mont de la Saxe include more climbing but the views are arguably better. Whichever route you choose Refugio Bonatti, the crème de la crème of alpine refuges, marks the end of your day.
Walk: 10.0miles 860m Ascent, 3,000ft descent, 6-7hrs hours. (The variants almost double the ascent and add 2 hours)
Dinner & Overnight: at Refugio Elena
The privately owned Refugio Elena and Refugio Bonatti have both a reputation as one of the best in the Alps.
Day 8 ( Aug 24) Elena – Grand col Ferret – La Fouly
The day begins with a glorious contouring walk from Refugio Bonatti before descending into Val Ferret, where the climb of Grand col Ferret begins. The top of the col brings up Switzerland. Descending through picture book scenes of chalets, grazing cattle and fabulous alpine views you soon reach La Fouly, an idyllic alpine village of wooden chalets overflowing with flowers.
Walk: 12.5miles, 2,800ft Ascent, 4,625ft Descent, 4-5 Hours
Dinner & Overnight: at La Fouly.
Day 9 ( Aug 25) La Fouly to Champex
Walking through the Val Ferret with its patchwork of peaceful forests and green pastures is balm for the body and soul as this is the easiest stage of the TMB. On the way to Champex you will be walking on some of the quietest trails in the Mont Blanc Massif. The village of Les Arlaches, made up of traditional wooden Swiss Chalets, seems to have leapt from a postcard and is a highlight of the day. Your overnight stop is the lakeside town of Champex.
Walk: 9.3miles, 4.5 Hours, Ascent: 1,500ft, Descent: 1,800ft
Dinner & Overnight: at Champex
Day 10 ( Aug 26) Champex - Trient
The official route goes via Alp Bovine, a splendid walk through pine and larch forests interspersed with alpine meadows and wonderful views down the Rhône Valley.
Alternatively the demanding variant goes via the spectacular Fenêtre d’Arpette to the Trient Valley. Climbing to 2665m it’s a challenging and exposed route but worth every step. Whichever route you choose you will end the day by descending right to the valley floor to the small village of Trient.
Walk via Alp Bovine: 11miles, 2,300ft Ascent: 2,750ft Descent, 5.5 Hours.
Walk via Fenêtre d’Arpette: 9.6miles, 3,900ft Ascent, 4,350ft descent, 7 Hours!
Dinner & Overnight: at Trient
Nestled deep in the valley Trient is always bursting with walkers on the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walkers Haut Route and both of these hostelries cater admirably for them.
Day 11 ( Aug 27) ) Trient - Col de La Balme – Tré le Champ – Argentière-THE END OF THE TREK!
From Trient, you climb to reach the French border at Col de Balme (2191 m). From the col the entire Mont Blanc Massif stretches ahead; the Chamonix Valley, the summit of Mont Blanc, the Aiguilles, the Mer de Glace and the Argentière glaciers! The route then continues via the Col des Posettes and Aiguillette des Posettes, with wonderful views throughout, before descending into the Chamonix Valley at Tré le Champ.
Walk: 7miles, 3,500 Ascent, 3,140ft Descent, 5 Hours
Dinner & Overnight: at Chamonix
Day 12: ( Aug 28) Return Home Chamonix is a great base to spend a couple of days and we would recommend that you add extra nights here. You can enjoy some fabulous walking in the Aiguilles Rouge Park, take the cable car to the Aiguille du Midi at 3795m or perhaps the train to the Montenvers on the Mer de Glace. If you are heading home there are numerous shuttles, buses and trains back to Geneva and throughout France.
To enter France, there is no visa requirement for US Citizens. The best way to get to Chamonix is either via Geneva, Zurich or Milan
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