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Tour du Mont Blanc

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    • Tour du Mont Blanc

      In preparation for my daughter's upcoming thru-hike (she'll be coming 'round the mountain in July), I wanted to post up some information that I have gathered. The trail passes through France, Italy and Switzerland with snow-covered Mont Blanc (white mountain) an ever-present fixture. Unlike the AT, the Tour Du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a circle hike. You can start at any access point and hike either clockwise or counter-clockwise. The popular option is to start in Chamonix France hiking CCW - probably due to the plethora of mountaineering gear shops in Chamonix and multiple lodging options over the first couple of days while one develops their trail legs.

      Following the official route, the total length is 174 km (118.1 miles) with a total elevation gain / loss of 9700 m (31,824'). Most thru-hikes are scheduled for 7 - 12 days. Hiking season is late June through October.

      The most difficult part of this hike isn't the distance or the climbs. It's securing lodging at the rifugios along the trail. These places of refuge can vary from a simple dormitory with bunk beds and shared bathroom facilities to bed & breakfast options with private facilities to Michelin-rated hotel lodgings. The most scenic options get booked up quickly when reservations open in November of the year before your intended hiking trip. And in some case, you may be forced into hiking additional kms if there are no available options at the end of your intended daily hike. There is 'wild' camping in France and Switzerland but Italy only allows camping in designated sites that are usually shared with RV's (road crossings).

      If you are able to reserve a spot in a rifugio for each night, you have the advantage of not having to haul a tent, sleeping bag / pad, or meals. A sleep sack is required for the basic dormitory facilities but your reservation gets you dinner, breakfast and an option to purchase a bagged lunch for the day of departure. And there very well may be a bar on site selling beer, wine, coffee and other beverages. Talk about cheesing your way down the trail - this ain't a hike for Matt_C!

      The trail passes through small mountain villages with a cluster of houses as well as towns with hotels, restaurants, bus service and farmacias (pharmacies). There are several areas where bus service connects trailheads to the towns - invaluable if there is injury, delay or needed resupply. And there are by-pass trails for those who don't want to descend into town. Several of the ski areas also offer gondola rides from elevation down into town for those whose knees don't appreciate steep, rocky descents.

      Access to Chamonix is an easy 2-hour bus ride from Geneva Switzerland. My daughter has a private van service scheduled to take her from the airport to her initial lodging then back after the hike. Most lodging options in Chamonix also offer luggage storage for a nominal fee so you can leave a suitcase with 'civilian' clothes and comfy post-hike shoes. And did someone mention post-hike massages and meals at Michelin-rated restaurants? Anything less would be uncivilized. 8)

      I'll share pictures from my daughter's hike as well as mine from the two days I will be joining her on the sections adjacent to the Italian town of Courmayeur.
      Trudgin' along the AT since 2003. Completed Sections: Springer Mountain to Clingmans Dome and Max Patch NC to Gorham NH

      "The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations...those are pretty good days." Ray Wylie Hubbard

      The post was edited 1 time, last by StalkingTortoise ().

    • ST,

      Great intro to this hike. The Tour du Mont Blanc is on a long list of experiences I would like to do, but I am sure I will never get to. I look forward to living vicariously through your posts.
      “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
      the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”

      John Greenleaf Whittier