The Tour de Mont Blanc is a circular, 170km trail around Mont Blanc passing through France, Switzerland and Italy. Most people, I would estimate 80-90%, do the TMB anti-clockwise. Some hardy souls do the tour in late June and July. The most popular month is August (when you’ll need to book ahead to get a place in a refuge). I did the tour from the 4th to the 13th of September 2010. The weather was pretty good, the refuges were open and calling a day ahead to book was sufficient. The indispensable guide that almost every anglophone carried is Kev Reynold’s Tour of Mont Blanc. An excellent guide (apparently Kev was walking the route at the same time as me, preparing a new update).
At the begining of the trip I stayed in the very pleasant Hotel Ottoz Meublé in Dolonne (next to Courmayeur). Booking through booking.com I got a single room with excellent breakfast for 40 euros. About 100m from the hotel was Savoy Sports, a sports shop where you can buy hiking poles (30 euros for the cheapest pair). I needed to buy some having flown into Milan with just hand luggage.
If you like any of the photos that you see in the galleries (Click on the TMB symbol to visit them), make a note of the number and the day and you can buy the full-sized image for $9.95 – which you can then print. Contact me for more details. They make an excellent gift for someone who has done the walk – or to simply remind yourself of some of the great views you saw.
Day 1 Courmayeur to Refugio Elisabetta
A tough day – and my first. A long climb out of Courmayeur but once you reach the Maison Veille you are rewarded with spectacular views. Limited mobile reception at Ref. Elisabetta. (It is possible, on the balcony, just outside the main door). Price for half board, sleeping in a dortoir with about 30 other people, 42 euros
Day 2 Refugio Elisabetta to Refuge La Croix du Bonhomme
A lovely hike over the Col de la Seigne and down into the Valleé des Glaciers. I took the alternative route over the Col de Fours which was a tough climb but spectacular views. At the Refuge la Croix du Bonhomme there was only mobile reception outside on the balcony. The guys who run the refuge recommend moving about ten metres away from the building. The price for half board was 44 euros (not bad considering all the food has to be helicoptered in).
Day 3 Refuge La Croix du Bonhomme to Refuge Miage
Kev Reynolds recommends an easy walk down to Les Contamines. I had heard that the Refuge de Miage was wonderful so decided to keep walking. It is a long descent to Les Contamines and a steep steep climb to Le Truc before a final descent into the Miage valley. I was unlucky with the weather but the warmth of welcome (and the shower) made the extra kilometres worthwhile. A wonderful refuge in a stunning location. 38 euros for half board.
Day 4 Refuge Miage to Les Houches
A 2 hour climb up to the Col de Tricot and then a long gradual descent to the Himalayan bridge before a bit of a climb and then the long knee-crushing descent into Les Houches. Not the most inspring of towns, though it does have a tourist office with one internet-connected computer (1 euro for half an hour). I stayed at the very central Chalet Michel Fagot. 17 euros in a 6-bed dorm. No meals though you can cook for yourself.
Day 5 Les Houches to Tré le Champ
The weather forecast was miserable and my knees and feet were complaining so I took the telecabine from Chamonix to Plan Praz (11 euros). From there it was an easy walk to La Flegere – which is the reason that I decided to continue on to Tré-Le-Champ. With a heavy pack and strong winds I decided not to climb down the ladders, but took the longer (and still pretty steep) trail via Col de Montets. I stayed at the Auberge La Boerne, a beautiful wooden building and some excellent food. 42 euros for half board.
Day 6 Tré le Champ to Col del la Forclaz
The day starts off through the forest but after about an hour you start to get some of the best views of the whole TMB. From the top of the Aguille des Posettes there are spectacular views in every direction. After passing over the Col de Balme there is a steady descent to Trient, though the views are nothing special – at least compared to those in the morning. I stayed at Hotel de la Forclaz at the Col de Forclaz. Half board 43,70 euros. The place was fine but why do they put solo travellers on their own? In other refuges they have names on the table so that (even) solo travellers can chat about the day’s hike and the possibilities for the next day.
Day 7 Hotel du Col del la Forclaz to Champex d’en Haut
A steady climb through woodland to Bovine, a small hut where you can get a cup of coffee for 3 euros. The path the follows the contour before descending very steeply into the valley below. From there, the path climbs gently towards the village of Champex. I chose to stay at Bon-abri, in Champex en-Haut (51 euros for half board). The famous six course meal was not that great – though others said they had had brilliant meals there. Again, I was sat on a table on my own (and yes, I did shower every day).
Day 8 Champex d’en Haut to Ferret
A comparatively easy day, first passing the lake at Champex, looking great with a coating of mist. Then through a forest where an enterprising artist has carved some tree stumps into a range of TMB-related figures: squirrels, ibex, mushrooms, wild pigs etc. The path then winds through a number of villages (pleasant enough but lacking in dramatic mountain scenery). The dramatic mountain scenery returns at La Fauly where there are great views of Mont Dolent and a number of glaciers. I continued up to Ferret, the last village in the valley and stayed in the Hotel Col de Fenetre (yes, my own table again – I even got my own room, for which I had to pay 68 euros half board. Not impressed.
Day 9 Ferret to Refugio Bonatti
A steady climb up from Ferret to the Grand Col de Ferret. I took the small detour recommended by Kev Reynolds and the view is superb. More superb views as you cross over the border into Italy with stunning views of large Pré de Bar glacier. The path then winds down to Refugio Elena which serves excellent coffee. After that, I chose to walk down the dirt road before turning up a steep path to Refugio Bonatti – half board 45 euros. You get two jetons (special coins) for the showers and with those you can have 15 litres of hot water per jeton. Opened in 1998, Ref. Bonatti is a wonderful building, with lots of wood and superb facilities – except the locks on the toilet doors…
Day 10 Refugio Bonatti to Courmayeur
A gentle walk down to the Mont de la Saxe with superb views along a whole chain of mountains and glaciers (see the panorama photo at the top of this page). The path finally turns away from the mountains and the path then descends steeply towards Courmayeur. As I was staying in La Saxe, a suburb of Courmayeur, I took a slightly different path through great woodland to La Saxe and my final night at the Hotel Meublé Emile Rey. Having booked through booking.com I had a single room with excellent breakfast for 44 euros.