Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère

September 16, 2010 by  

Day 2 of our walk along the Tour de Mont Blanc path above Chamonix started with breakfast on the sunny terrace of Refuge de Bellachat with the sun peeping over the top of the Mont Blanc range opposite and the Chamonix valley below in shadow. You can read about Day 1 from Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat here.

Lac du Brévent near Chamonix

Lac du Brévent near Chamonix

Our breakfast consisted of brown country bread (the sort the French eat when they can’t get their fresh-baked baguette from the local boulangerie), packets of jam and butter and large bowls of coffee. As we’d decided to break the standard TMB stage in two, we took our time, waiting for everyone else to leave and then climbed up behind the Refuge towards the high peak of Brévent. I was surprised to notice that the low stone walls I’d observed close to the Refuge now enclosed a scattering of two-man tents of guests who’d opted to camp rather than stay inside the Refuge – rather them than me!

I’d already made a little walk the previous evening to scout out the Lac du Brévent and a couple of other small pools in between the craggy rocks and now we found that the TMB route passed them again. The way was rocky and spare and we passed only a few sheep with bells around their necks, until we were closer to Brévent and bumped into an English couple who stopped to chat about the weather (what else!) agreeing that August had been terrible and that September was definitely the best time to come.

Brévent above Chamonix

Brévent above Chamonix

Lake below Brévent near Chamonix

Lake below Brévent near Chamonix

As we approached the Brévent peak where the cable car ascends from the Plan Praz halfway station below, we noticed that the type of people we passed were noticeably different from those we’d met so far. The hard-core TMB walkers were normally dressed in high performace mountain clothing with full 35L or 50L rucksacks. Now the walkers were anything from motorbikers in their leathers and heavy boots, to English teenagers with patterned bermudas and oversized skate trainers, with the I-pods plugged into their ears. The Chamonix valley is a popular holiday area in summer and many come up in the cable car to admire the view of Mont Blanc before returning the same way, or in the case of the keener walkers, to walk back down to the valley or the next cable car station. We had a coffee in the café that jutted over the precipice, with only a glass screen between us and the panoramic view.

Then we walked back down to where two paths had diverged 20 mins below the summit just by a small pool. It was only when we consulted the guidebook more closely that we realised we should have taken another path immediately below the summit. After debating for a while we agreed here was nothing for it but to take another steep climb back up to the peak again – what a low point! Halfway up I passed some American teenagers bounding down towards us from the cable car. ‘Perhaps we should get some of those mountain stick things’ said one to her friend, then glancing at me she added ’ but even the people who’ve got them look exhausted!

Cafe terrace at Plan Praz above Chamonix

Cafe terrace at Plan Praz above Chamonix

Path below Brévent

Path below Brévent

I was extremely pleased when we finally reached the right turning below the summit and could start going downhill again rather than up. We had two choices from here – either to follow the recommended TMB route or to follow a wide stony ski-piste track down to the Plan Praz lift station. As the guidebook had mentioned narrow, precipitous stretches with metal steps and rails on the TMB route, we decided to take the easier option after our exhausting double ascent. We passed rock climbers hanging from the cliffs and walked the open, winding trail under the whirr of the cable car going up and down. At the bottom station of Plan Praz we found an open grassy area where brightly coloured paragliders were taking off and sat for a while with our boots off on the café terrace to soak up the sunshine.

Refuge la Flégère above Chamonix

Refuge la Flégère above Chamonix

After a tiny but expensive ice cream (nothing is cheap in the Chamonix valley) we finally set of for a further 2 hours walking to Flégère, through the forest, skirting the side of the mountain and through open meadows for that Heidi moment. Soon after we passed through a rocky couloir with warning signs not to linger for danger of rockfalls and then over the top for a tantalising glimpse of the Refuge la Flégère on the ridge beyond. 30 minutes more on the narrow wooded path and we reached Refuge al Flégère set just below another Cable Car station. This Refuge was much larger than Bellachat and had separate 6-people dorms with proper bunk-beds and (oh bliss!) hot showers. After the even more basic accommodation at Refuge du Bellachat it seemed like 5 star luxury!

Dining room at Refuge la Flégère

Dining room at la Refuge Flégère

Tartiflette at Refuge la Flégère

Tartiflette at Refuge la Flégère

The Refuge looked as if it had originally been more of a lodge for walkers and ski-ers, but we were told that you could only stay there in summer, as it was leased in the winter to Club Med, who used it as a base for lunchtime meals for their guests. Over our supper of tartiflette and chocolate mousse, we debated what to do the next day – whether to go back down to the valley and ascend to the Aiguille du Midi on the other side or to keep the high ground and venture further and higher to Lac Blanc. The reports of the glacial lake of Lac Blanc as a ‘must see’ stop for walkers decided it for us – I’ll be telling you about our walk there the next day very soon…

You can read about Day 1 from Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat here.

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Resources for those walking the Tour de Mont Blanc

We used the Cicerone Tour of Mont Blanc guide by Kev Reynolds – we found it to be an excellent guide for both the clockwise and anti-clockwise route with detailed route guide, maps, accommodation information and points of interest along the route.

The cost of staying at Refuge la Flégère was €47  per person for dinner, bed and breakfast (and hot showers) and bookings can be made  by e-mail bellay.catherine@wanadoo.fr or telephone 04 50 55 85 88 . It has 66 dortoir places and is also open in the day for refreshments of drinks and light meals. To avoid disppointment and a long walk, you should book your place in all refuges but can normally do so a day or two before, or from the previous refuge.

In the Chamonix valley we stayed at the modern, stylish, budget boutique Hotel Slalom that is perfectly placed in Les Houches for summer walking opposite the start of the anti-clockwise TMB route and close to the ski lifts for winter ski-ing. Double rooms in the summer season €86-99 plus €10 breakfast. Check for the best hotel prices in Chamonix and book here.

We booked our transfer from Geneva airport to Les Houches through Chamexpress and found them to run an extremely efficient airport to hotel service – cost was €25 + tax per person each way.

The walkingthetmb website has useful information to help you plan and prepare for your Tour de Mont Blanc walk, with a packing list and some links to other people’s photographs and on-line diaries to inspire you.

Other articles from our mini Tour de Mont Blanc

Planning my mini Tour de Mont Blanc – French Alps
Up the mountain and down again – on the TMB near Chamonix
Day 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat

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Comments

19 Comments on "Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère"

  1. Thursday’s Travel Links « Eurotrip Tips on Fri, 17th Sep 2010 2:27 am 

    [...] Heather travels to Mont-Blanc. [...]

  2. Roaming Ross on Fri, 17th Sep 2010 7:22 am 

    Stunning views Heather and my word how tasty does the tartiflette look.

  3. Sunee on Fri, 17th Sep 2010 7:37 am 

    Sounds like an exhausting day, but I’ll bet the views and fresh air made it all worthwhile :)
    Sunee´s last blog post ..Travellers x2- Whale Watching Weekend

  4. Day 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc - Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat | Heather on her travels on Fri, 17th Sep 2010 9:56 am 

    [...] Read about Day 2 of our walk on the Tour de Mont Blanc Trail from Refuge de Bellachat to Refuge la F… [...]

  5. Mark H on Fri, 17th Sep 2010 11:03 pm 

    You are bringing back wonderful memories of one of my favourite places anywhere – such natural beauty. Great descriptions of what sounds like a very special walk that has been on my bucket list for a long time. And ice-cream too….
    Mark H´s last blog post ..The Olympics Saves a Frog Sydney- Australia

  6. Heather on Sun, 19th Sep 2010 2:28 am 

    Love the photos! I’m so jealous – we had to cancel all of our hiking and WWOOFing plans for this summer when my first trimester morning sickness hit. Now I feel great, but I’m already back to the rigorous grad school schedule.

    My favorite photo is the Lake below Brevent one – hope you really enjoyed the trip!
    Heather´s last blog post ..10 Things I Learned Living Abroad – Part 1

  7. Video diary - Tour de Mont Blanc above Chamonix | Heather on her travels on Sun, 19th Sep 2010 8:47 pm 

    [...] 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère Planning my mini Tour de Mont [...]

  8. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Tue, 21st Sep 2010 6:31 am 

    This looks like such an incredible hike – hope I get to do it someday.
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog post ..There’s Still a Bit of Old China Left in Glitzy New Shanghai

  9. Richard Tulloch on Tue, 21st Sep 2010 9:08 pm 

    I loved walking the TMB too, Heather, but we did it too early in the season and it had some serious dangers. Keep up the good work! Richard

    http://richardtulloch.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/tour-de-mont-blanc-the-swiss-section/

  10. Heather Cowper on Tue, 21st Sep 2010 9:22 pm 

    @ Richard – I’d never have thought that June was too early but I must admit the weather for our 3 days in September couldn’t have been better. Wouldn’t have fancied some of those stretches with handrails in the wet though.

  11. Jason on Thu, 23rd Sep 2010 2:39 pm 

    Heather,
    Great photos of a ruggedly beautiful landscape. I have not been to the Mont Blanc region, but I need to go soon.
    Great post.
    Jason
    Jason´s last blog post ..Cairo- Egypt- The Art Of The Scam

  12. What to pack on the Tour de Mont Blanc | Heather on her travels on Sun, 26th Sep 2010 3:15 pm 

    [...] 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère Video diary – walking the Tour de Mont Blanc path above [...]

  13. Donna Hull on Mon, 27th Sep 2010 12:57 am 

    I love hiking and mountains. This sounds like an adventure I should add to my list. Lovely photos. Sorry you had to climb the mountain twice.
    Donna Hull´s last blog post ..Saturday’s scene- Autumn’s Reflection at Oxbow Bend

  14. Day 3 on the Tour de Mont Blanc - Flegere to Lac Blanc | Heather on her travels on Mon, 4th Oct 2010 9:26 pm 

    [...] our night at Refuge la Flégère, the morning of day 3 of our mini Tour de Mont Blanc found us debating two alternate plans. We [...]

  15. Review of Tour of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds at Cicerone Press | Heather on her travels on Thu, 14th Oct 2010 6:51 am 

    [...] 3 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Flégère to Lac Blanc Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to la Flegere Day 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Les Houches to Refuge la [...]

  16. Up the mountain and down again - on the TMB near Chamonix | Heather on her travels on Sun, 17th Oct 2010 7:28 pm 

    [...] 1 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Les Houches to Refuge de Bellachat Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère Day 3 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Flégère to Lac [...]

  17. Hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc in the Alps. | Roaming Tales on Wed, 27th Apr 2011 12:21 pm 

    [...] a rocky couloir with warning signs not to linger for danger of rockfalls and finally reaching Refuge la Flégère on the ridge beyond. This Refuge was much larger than Bellachat and seemed positively luxurious in [...]

  18. My Tour de Mont Blanc diary Day 1 - Flégère to Refuge Col de Balme | Heather on her travels on Sun, 11th Sep 2011 3:37 pm 

    [...] tale of two refuges – on the Tour de Mont Blanc (2011) Day 2 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Refuge de Bellachat to Flégère (2010) Day 3 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Flégère to Lac [...]

  19. Laurel on Wed, 31st Jul 2013 12:31 pm 

    Uggh, a double ascent does not sound like fun, but I can totally see how it could happen. I’ll have to take extra care to read our guide book.
    Laurel´s last blog post ..Rwanda Genocide: In the Words of the Survivors

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