The Tour du Mont Blanc is Europe’s most popular hiking trails. The trail spans three countries of Switzerland, Italy, and France, and offers hikers breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, the Dolomites of Italy, and the Mont Blanc massif of France. This trek takes about 11 days and covers a distance of 170 km and an elevation gain of 10,000 meters.
This article will discuss comprehensive overview of the history of the Tour du Mont-Blanc, highlights, routes to get there, hiking details, accommodation, food and water, challenges, potential hazards, and tips for hiking the Tour du Mont-Blanc.
In 1785, he made another fruitless attempt through the Gouter trail (today’s standard route). In 1786, two Chamonix men, Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat, ascended the summit through the Grands Mulet’s trail, and Saussure completed the third ascent in 1787.
Like so many great discoveries, the Tour du Mont Blanc began with a curious mind. In 1760, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, a Geneva-based Swiss geologist and physicist, made the first of various trips to Chamonix to accumulate plant examples . He circumnavigated the Mont Blanc range in 1767, looking for a potential route to the peak of the unclimbed mountain.
The Mont Blanc massif, often known as the Mont Blanc Range, dominates an area 60 miles by 20 miles and contains 11 summits higher than 4000 meters. Its flanking valleys cradle some of the Alps’ largest glaciers, so Saussure had plenty of magnificent Alpine scenery to keep him intrigued.
While we’ll never know the exact route Saussure took, the experience must have enthralled him—just as it does hikers today. He returned several times and eventually offered a prize for the first person to reach the summit of Mont Blanc. He attempted, but failed, to locate a route from the Italian side to the summit of the Miage Glacier in 1778.
In 1785, he made another unsuccessful effort through the Gouter path (today, the normal route). In 1786, two Chamonix men, Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat, ascended the summit through the Grands Mulet’s trail, and Saussure completed the third ascent in 1787.
Description of the Sight
As earlier stated the Tour du Mont Blanc is Europe’s most preferred long-distance walks, covering a total distance of around 170km depending on the route (some variants can be shorter or longer than the original part). The daily height increase on the Mont Blanc circuit is significant, with an overall accumulation of 9,000m over the ten days.
From the shattered rocky lunar terrain of the Aiguille Rouges to pasturelands of the Contamines valley, the Tour du Mont Blanc route scenery is stunning; every day is different, but one constant remains – the Mont Blanc
VILLAGES AND HAMLETS ON THE ROUTES TOUR DU MONT BLANC
Steeped in history, Chamonix is the world’s climbing and off-piste skiing capital. It is a breathtaking location nestled beneath Western Europe’s tallest hill. For ages, explorers, scientists, and mountaineers have come here to examine this magnificent ecosystem closely.
FRANCE, LES HOUCHES
Les Houches is a considerably smaller and quieter village in the Chamonix Valley, yet it has the same breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc massif. It boasts excellent facilities, including restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, and shops.
FRANCE, LES CONTAMINES
Les Contamines is a beautiful tiny town on Mont Blanc’s western flank. It features excellent facilities, restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and stores and spectacular views of the Aiguille du Bionnassay and Domes du Miage.
FRANCE: CHAPIEUX & VILLE DES GLACIERS
Chapieux and Ville des Glaciers are tiny hamlets on the circuit’s southwesterly point and possibly the most distant sites on the tour. In the winter, the valley and its hamlets are entirely sealed off. Chapieux has one auberge, one small shop, and a campsite, whereas Ville des Glaciers has a refuge and a cheese farm that sells delicious Beaufort cheeses.
Courmayeur, a charming, Italian-style Alpine village, is on par with Chamonix in terms of outstanding food, wine, and coffee. All amenities are available.
LA FOULY (SWITZERLAND)
La Fouly, a little village in the Swiss Val Ferret, provides stunning views of the Tour Noir and Mont Dolent. The community has minimal amenities, such as a shop and a few motels with pubs.
Champex-Lac is located at the TMB’s eastern end. This is a picture-perfect Swiss village with a lovely lake—a charming, tranquil neighborhood with various taverns, restaurants, and stores.
Trient is a little Swiss town with few amenities. The Trient Glacier is seen from the village.
Ways to Get There
Given that the Tour du Mont Blanc is a round route, numerous beginning points are along the way. Chamonix, or the adjoining village of Les Houches on the French side, is by far the most popular. You can start at other major towns, such as Les Contamines in France, Courmayeur in Italy, or Champex in Switzerland.
To get to Chamonix, travel to Geneva and arrange a ride to this Alpine city ahead of time. Transfers leave from the airport directly and are located as you exit the arrivals gate. A local bus runs between Chamonix and Les Houches within the valley.
How to Get in Chamonix
Fortunately, traveling to Chamonix is easy. Chamonix is only 103 kilometers from Geneva International Airport, Switzerland’s second-largest airport. You have many transportation alternatives to this gorgeous city, depending on where you depart.
Flying to Chamonix is the most comfortable and fastest method to get there. Although Geneva International Airport is the closest, flights can also be taken to Chambery Airport, Turin Airport, or Lyon Airport. As the area’s largest airport, Geneva provides more flight options from more locations than the other airports. You can also take a direct shuttle from Geneva Airport to Chamonix.
You can drive there if you are already in France or another nation close to Chamonix. Chamonix is easily accessible by automobile, thanks to Europe’s enormous network of highways.
Taking the Train
In the heart of the city, there is a train station. Traveling to Chamonix by train is not the easiest or quickest choice, but it is unquestionably the most environmentally friendly. You will have to change trains several times on your way to Chamonix. The silver lining is that you can bring more luggage without additional fees.
Another way to go to Chamonix is by bus coach or long-distance bus. The advantage of these buses is that they are less expensive and more environmentally friendly than flying. If you choose this option, you should know that the chairs can be uncomfortable, and the ride is the longest.
Details on hiking Tour du Mont Blanc
When to Go: Weather and Season
Your hiking plan is determined by the time of year. Earlier in the season, pockets of snow remained on the passes until mid-June. Hiking at this time of year makes the days longer, making a fast TMB (less than nine stages) more challenging. Tour operators often advise waiting until July 1st to begin the trek (though snow has fallen on the passes long into July).
In general, you won’t need crampons or an ice axe in July, but you might need them in June if you choose lower, snow-free routes or avoid portions entirely. From July 15th until August 30th is the busiest season, when many French and Europeans go on vacation. When the snow on the passes has melted and the crowds have dropped down, late August to early September is an excellent time to visit. The majority of the huts will be open from mid-June until mid-September.
The TMB’s lodging is a big incentive for the route. Mountain huts, campgrounds, expensive hotels, more affordable hotels, and auberges with a mix of rooms and dorms are available at various spots.
Even in larger towns like Courmayeur, most accommodations are run by families. There are typically friendly and central hotels in Chamonix for a great end to the journey.
The TMB huts follow a typical Alpine pattern, accommodating large groups of hikers practically and comfortably. Dormitories are prevalent, although private rooms in many huts are also available, according to availability. (We will advise you on sleeping arrangements based on your schedule.)
Food and Water
If you’re on a diet, this is probably the most challenging aspect of the journey. While food options are more flexible in small towns and villages, with paleo and gluten-free options on the menu and at a supermarket, this changes when you go to more remote areas and stay in refuges, where food is supplied by helicopter. Let’s assume you’re traveling through the land of Savoyard cuisine (bread, potatoes, and cheese), and your breakfast selections are almost limited to bread, butter, and jam unless you stay in a hotel or B&B that also serves yogurt, ham, cheese, and boiled eggs.
In refuges, the price of your stay typically includes a communal-style dinner and breakfast, and everyone gets the same cuisine (vegetarians get extra cheese and eggs). Dinner is typically a three-course meal consisting of a soup with bread, a stew or protein dish with robust potatoes, polenta, pasta, rice dish, essential vegetables such as carrots or peas, and a simple dessert such as a cake or fruit and ice cream. Some of the meals were extremely simple yet tasty, while some refuges were clear culinary standouts, serving salads or more creative meals (see where we stayed later).
You can fill up potable drinking water at the places you stay and top up at the ones along the way. Bottled water generates trash. Thus, you are not recommended to plan your trip using bottled water, but you may need to top it occasionally. If you wish to fill your bottle from the streams, you must cleanse the water because it is frequently glacier meltwater with potential germs. Typically, a UV pen or sterilizing tablets will suffice.
Tips to know when hiking Tour du Mont Blanc
– Training for hiking:
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a daunting hike, so training beforehand is essential to build strength and endurance. This includes regular exercise, hiking or backpacking, and strength training.
– Light luggage:
Hikers should pack as lightly as possible and bring only the essentials. The burden on the body is reduced, and comfortable climbing becomes possible.
– Bring proper equipment:
Hikers should bring appropriate clothing and equipment, including sturdy walking shoes, waterproof clothing, and a good-quality backpack. It is also vital to bring communication equipment such as a map, compass, and a charged mobile phone.
– Drink enough:
Hikers should bring a refillable water bottle and refill at the huts and village fountains along the way. Drinking plenty water to stay hydrated is especially important during hot weather.
– Get a break:
Hikers should take regular daily breaks to rest and recharge their batteries. This will minimize injury and fatigue and makes hiking more enjoyable. – Respect the environment:
Hikers must respect the environment and follow a ‘no trace’ policy. This includes packing all trash, walking on designated paths, and avoiding damage to vegetation.
Admittedly, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a challenging hike with potential hazards such as:
Mountain climate can be unusual, with sudden changes in temperature and climate. Explorers should get ready for these changes and carry fitting clothing and gear.
– Altitude sickness:
Some sections of the trail are at high altitudes, which may increase the risk of altitude sickness. Hikers should take their time and slowly acclimate to the altitude.
Hikers may encounter wildlife like bears, mountain goats, and snakes along the trail. It is essential to respect animals and keep a safe distance.
The trail has steep climbs and descents that can increase the chance of falls and injuries. A hiker should wear suitable shoes and easily balanced poles over time.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a breathtaking hiking trail that offers scenery views of the Swiss Alps, the Dolomites of Italy, and the Mont Blanc massif of France. The trail is demanding and requires good health and stamina, but it allows hikers to explore some of Europe’s most attractive landscapes. Hikers should be prepared for long hikes, unpredictable weather, and possible threats. However, with the proper preparation and mindset, the Tour du Mont Blanc can be a memorable experience for hikers of all levels.