Tour of Mt Blanc
Key information: Tour of Mt Blanc
- Famous circuit round the Mont Blanc massif.Outstanding views up to the Great Peak, Western Europe's highest at 4,810m, and out across the dramatic peaks, glaciers, and deep green valleys of the high Alps.Cross a series of high ridges (with a lot of ascent/descent); enjoy beautiful valleys and civilized evenings in three different countries.
- This is a demanding walk in serious mountains. Come prepared.
- ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!
- Walkopedia rating92
- Natural interest16
- Human interest6
- Negative points1
- Total rating92
- Note: Neg: popularity
- Length: Around 180km
- 7-8 days
- Maximum Altitude: 2,665m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
One of the world's most famous walks - and over-popular at times as a result - the TMB circles the huge (25km long), impenetrable heavily eroded granite mass that is Mont Blanc, complete with western Europe's highest mountain (at 4,810m-15,781ft) and a bristling regement of spear-like peaks and spires, ice fields, glaciers (40 of them, apparently) in their deeply gouged clefts and canyons, meadows and streams.
Much of the TMB is on lovely (and always well marked) paths, often hugging coutours, with some stiff climbs and descents in between, with six or more high passes to cross and 7 deep main valleys. The circuit can take up to 11 days, although most people complete it in 7 or 8. Not all of the TMB is remote, though - it meanders though fully occupied, almost suburban, farmland in places. You will pass though three countries en route, and sample their differing approaches to life in their valleys and villages. Throughout, your world will be dominated by the great white mountain and its satellites, and the drama of their cliffs and famously jagged spires. One of the finest sections - and a personal favourite - is the Grand Balcon Sud, a lengthy traverse of the south-eastern flanks of the Aiguilles Rouges with extraordinary views into the heart of the Mt Blanc mass, especially from the rightly but sadly popular Lac Blanc with its refuge perched by a small, pale lake, which looks straight up the enormous Mer de Glace glacier. (A bit of a shame about urban Chamonix far below, but you can blot it out.)
Animal life includes chamois, which are surprisingly unfazed until you think about how many harmless idiots they meet. You will pass through some forest and meadow, but much of the trail is on hillsides which are bright with wild flowers and azaleas at the right time.
Crowding at peak times is the price you pay for all that renown, so don't expect to be alone at high season; you will need to book space in refuges well ahead, although you can drop down to villages and towns for a civilized break in various places.
You can start anywhere, although Chamonix (and nearly Les Houches in particular) are the commonest starting points, not least because they have cable cars to get you out of the deep valley. Most people walk the TMB anti-clockwise, ending with a pop up the Acquilles Rouges peak of Le Brevant for a final mind-blow of beauty and scenic glamour.
See our Mont Blanc Area page for more general information.
OUR FRIENDS' EXPERIENCES
DICK EVERARD'S TOUR DU MONT BLANC DIARY – SEPTEMBER 2011
This is the diary of Dick Everard who walked the TMB from Les Houches to Chamonix in an anti-clockwise direction, between 5th and 15th September 2011, with his son Thomas, his friends Richard and Ray, and joined for the first four days by Richard’s son Chris. We were 63, 35, 67, 66 and 42 years old respectively.
The elder members of the party had spent some time getting into condition before attempting the walk. Training included doing some longish distance walks of 18 miles, walks of around 6 or 7 miles on a regular basis twice a week. We carried rucksacks weighing between 10 and 15kg for most of the training walks. In the last month, we did some regular (daily) uphill walks of varying lengths but not less than 30 minutes.
On the walk, I carried about 10kg including water plus our lunch or lunches which consisted of bread, saucisson, cheese, dates, dried apricots and dark chocolate. We sometimes had to carry enough for two days although the bread would not really last this long. We found enough places along the route to replenish our supplies every two or three days. We stayed in mountain refuges, gîtes and hotels.
All of us carried walking poles, although Tom and Chris only ever used one pole. We didn’t carry sleeping bags but carried lightweight silk sleeping bag liners (which were fine). Tom did carry a sleeping bag on the basis that someone might need one if an accident should occur, but these are really unnecessary; a sleeping bag liner would have been sufficient (except obviously in an emergency, and we all carried survival bags anyway). As much of our clothing as possible was lightweight and quick drying, stuff that wicks moisture away, keeping.....READ MORE
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Books and Maps
Books on this walk
Walking in the Alps – Lonely Planet
Mont Blanc Walks: 50 of the Best Walks and 4 Short Treks – Cicerone: excellent information.
Tour of Mont Blanc – Cicerone.
France – Lonely Planet
Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges: A Guide for Skiers – Anselme Baud (author) and Vosephwe Cleere (translator)
Chapter on the Tour of the Aiguilles Rouges in Trekking Atlas of the World – Ed. Jack Jackson.
Chapters on the Tour of Mont Blanc in Classic Treks – Ed. Bill Birkett, and Trek! – Claes Grundsten.
Good maps can easily be bought locally in bookshops and activity shops.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
The high country hiking season lasts only from late June through to mid September, and snow can remain in the high areas well into July. You can walk the middling slopes for much longer periods (late May to October): check the likely snow conditions in the area you are off to. Avoid the French high holiday season (14 July to 15 August) if you can. High refuges tend to only be open late June to mid September, but do check.
Beware of areas of névé – old snow; long icy slopes can be very dangerous to cross.
Weather and temperatures will vary hugely depending on your height and the general conditions, which can change rapidly even in high summer. Always come prepared for rapid changes. Snowfall is heavy during the winter, and remains on the highest peaks all year round. Altogether it is generally fine in season, come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights. Beware thunderstorms in late afternoons during summer.
Changing weather can cause difficulties, so keep a close track of developments. Be prepared to reconsider your route if the weather looks unstable.
There are good road links to Chamonix, the main starting point, so driving in from any direction, at least outside of snowy times of year, should not cause a problem. There are plenty of flights to Geneva, and from here transport to Chamonix.
There are many other trailheads (see Walk Summary above), with Cormayeur accessible from Italy.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
· Altitude: will affect you a bit at high points, come prepared to cope.
· Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year.
· Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
· Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
Many (most?) walk the TMB independently.
Various companies offer guided or supported TMB walks, and a great advantage of using one is that they will book your accommodation for you, which is more valuable than you might expect. It should be fairly easy to hire guides locally (see below). Some options include:
- Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix - www.chamonix-guides.com
- Mont Blanc Treks – www.montblanctreks.com, based in Chamonix.
Other companies who hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, or the Mont Blanc area in general, include:
- Sherpa Walking Holidays – www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk do escorted as well as self-guided walks of the Tour du Mont Blanc.
- Alpine Exploratory – www.alpineexploratory.com a UK company offering guided walking holidays throughout the Alps
- Exodus – www.exodus.co.uk
- Alpine Treks – www.alpinetreks.co.uk
- HF Holidays – www.hfholidays.co.uk, based in Les Contamines
- KE Adventure Travel, which can be found at www.greentraveller.co.uk/content/ke-adventure
- Great Walks of the World – www.greatwalks.net
- North West Walks – www.north-west-walks.co.uk
- World Expeditions – www.worldexpeditions.co.uk
- Himalayan Kingdoms - www.himalayankingdoms.com, runs a 13 day guided (and portered) trek from Chamonix
There is plenty of accommodation in the roadhead areas, including some cheap options. (See our Mont Blanc Area page).
The only options once on the TMB are refuges/mountain hotels and camping. Book accommodation well ahead, although this can be a frustrating experience. Some suggest you book your first four days’ accommodation only and book ahead each subsequent morning, to maximize flexibility, although this can leave you vulnerable to booked-out hostels.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
Other things to do in the area
Endless. See out Mont Blanc Area page.
In the winter of course there is skiing, along with snow boarding and other snow sports. However there are also plenty of things to do in the summer, including:
· Horse riding
· Mountain biking
· Water sports (including white water rafting)
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Posted on: 27/01/2009
This walk is a very beautiful alpine walk, for the physically fit. The walk is usually 10 days in duration, however this may be extended depending on the number of rest days. Over the 10 days your ascent and descent distance will be about 12 kilometers! Accommodation is readily available on the walk. The trip is highly recommended, and should be rated higher than its showing on this site.
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