Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of the most popular long distance hikes in Europe. After finishing Camino de Santiago in 2012, I began a search to find a similar journey to match the scope and scale of my summer on the Camino Frances. In 2013, I found an incredible journey in Peru on the Salkantay and Ausangate treks. For 2014, my travels took me to Chamonix to begin Tour du Mont Blanc. The incredible thing about TMB is that you hike through France, Italy, and Switzerland as you make your way around the Mont Blanc Massif. The entire journey covers about 170km (106m), and I decided to walk the more popular anti-clockwise route.
Les Houches is a quaint little village to the east of Chamonix and the perfect starting point to begin our anti-clockwise tour of Mont Blanc. We stayed at Gite Michel Fagot for the night, which offers a a nice set of dorm rooms…
The first point of interest is the pilgrimage chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge. I’ve taken a great interest in chapels, churches, and cathedrals ever since I walked Camino de Santiago two years ago. My later reading of…
Just above Bertone, the path swept back into a valley and meandered downhill a bit before straightening out. From this point on the climbing was at a minimum, but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up. The mud…
Today’s hike would take us over Grand Col Ferret, from Italy into Switzerland. Walking in rain is bad, walking in mud is even worse, but for some reason I’ve never minded the snow and ice. This turned out to be a good thing…
Getting to the Bovine trail is fairly straight-forward. For a few miles we walked on or along the asphalt roads on our way out of town, until we reached the steep dirt paths marked by the TMB signs. Up to this point, we had walked…
The part of TMB that reminds me most of my experience on the Camino is the little towns and evening accommodations. At the end of each day, you get to settle in to a beautiful alpine town, with incredible markets, food, and people. We also met a lot of really great fellow hikers this way.
To start, we flew in to Geneva and took an Alpybus shuttle to Chamonix and Les Houches. The shuttle cost 20 euro a person, and was in a relatively new and comfortable van. As a word of caution, make sure you don’t fly in too late without a reservation! Julia and I arrived at the Geneva airport at 21:00 with a reservation in Chamonix. We had a reservation with Alpybus for that night, but our flight was delayed from London by about an hour. Because of this, we missed our shuttle and were not able to get to Chamonix for our hotel. It was expensive, but we found a hotel in Geneva and returned to the airport the following morning for our transfer.
Starting in Les Houches worked out very well for us, and Gite Michel Fagot got us right in the mood for hiking. There were many great spirited fellow hikers in rooms nearby, and the Belgian woman who runs the gite was very accommodating. In the table below you will find a day by day account of my time on Tour du Mont Blanc, with accommodations, distance, photographs, and an overview of the trail.
Day and Towns
Kilometers (Elevation Gained)
|Day 0: LAX to Geneva to Les Houches||Gîte Michel Fagot|
|Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines||16km (646m)||The Gai Soleil Chalet Hotel|
|Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux||18km (1316m)||Les Chambres du Soleil|
|Day 3: Les Chapieux to Courmayeur||35km (1460m)||Hotel Edelweiss|
|Day 4: Courmayeur to Chalet Val Ferret||17km (960m)||Chalet Val Ferret|
|Day 5: Chalet Val Ferret to La Fouly||15km (790m)||Hotel Edelweiss|
|Day 6: La Fouly to Champex Lac||15km (420m)||Le Cabanon Hotel Splendide|
|Day 7: Champex to Trient||17km (742m)||Auberge Mont-Blanc Trient|
|Day 8: Trient to Argentiere||13km (1069m)||Hotel de La Couronne|
Looking back, my time on the TMB was incredible. Having said that, there were times during this walk were I wasn’t so sure I’d feel this way. Unlike my trips before, and unlike my home of California, we got slammed with rain! From Day 3 to the end of the trip, it rained everyday. I can count a total of 5 moments of sunshine in those days, and it really got to me. I now understand what it’s like to live in the Pacific North West. In the end, it was a beautiful and new experience. I am now much more comfortable trudging through miles of ankle deep mud and cow dung, stowing all my electronics deep in my bag to waterproof them, and just enjoying being outside. It wasn’t ideal, but sometimes you have to find beauty in the situation anyway.
If you’re on the fence about taking this trip, give it a go. Even with bad weather, the beautiful towns, warm people, scenic cows, breathtaking views, and much more will make it well worth it.
- “Top four places to stay” blog post