The advertisement read:
“Hiking nearly 140 km with only a light pack as you circumnavigate the sparkling glaciers of Mont Blanc (4808m), Western Europe's highest peak, you'll cross borders by foot and experience challenging but spectacular hiking in the Alps. Seven valleys radiating out into France, Italy, and Switzerland accompany this immense, glacier-clad massif”.
After reading this attractive introduction to the Tour Mont Blanc (TMB), we both knew that it was now time to attempt this iconic walk. When you’re in your late 50s you start thinking about doing these challenging walks before you get much older.
We flew to Geneva, a mini bus transfer to Les Houches (France), and began our walking journey. We chose the 12 days itinerary to walk the TMB. Mid June to Mid September are the best months to travel.
As we dipped into a new valley each day, we savoured the changes in language, landscape, architecture, and cuisine. Each valley is separated by a col (mountain pass) which always seemed to take an eternity to reach. We walked from village to village along high trails into dream-like landscapes. Out of 12 days, we had 3 which were windy and wet. The others were crowned by clear blue skies.
Our cultural and architectural delights ranged from the lovely medieval city of Courmayeur, Italy to the French resort town of Chamonix and to quaint alpine villages in Switzerland where we enjoyed delicious, hearty meals including local breads, cheeses and wines.
Lodging included two nights in alpine refuges with shared facilities and the rest in comfortable hotels and auberges. It is advisable (almost mandatory) to reserve your accommodation. Along the TMB you will find huts, gites (halts) and hotels where you will be served a meal and a breakfast. Dormitories (Dortoirs) are equipped with blankets. If you plan to stay in one, take a sleeping bag liner.
All the cols presented us with spectacular views, but I would have to give first prize to walking along the Grand Balcony above the Chamonix Valley. Every day we were ascending and descending at least 500m, with our last day, a descent of 1400m, so good walking preparation is necessary.
Being summer, there were lots of walkers on the TMB, however this was not a turn-off, as we met many fascinating people from around the world with their own travel stories. One middle-aged Dutch couple had previous walked the TMB, and this time they were doing it in reverse (clock-wise). There was a Japanese family, including grandparents who were out for a day walk to Col Tricot! The TMB reminded me very much of when we walked the Camino Frances!
There is a section of the walk south of Tres-les-Champs which is named “Passage Dangereuse” due to the 45 minutes of climbing up and along a series of metal ladders which was well worth doing. We utilised teleferiques (cable cars) when possible to avoid crowded and uninteresting parts of the route.
So, if you’re over 50 and thinking of walking one of Europe’s most popular alpine trails – now is the time to do it!
Good Walking... Almis
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