I’m dreaming today of my late summer break in the French Alps, walking in the mountains above Chamonix. There’s a well known walking route that takes you on a circuit around the high Alpine paths through Switzerland, France and Italy,known as the Tour de Mont Blanc or TMB.
The Tour de Mont Blanc can only be completed in the summer months once the snow has melted and would normally take up to 10 days, demanding a good level of fitness. As I’m walking with a friend and neither of us have 10 days holiday to spare, we’re planning our own mini tour covering 3 days walking with stops for 2 nights in the mountain refuges. There is an annual mountain marathon over this route but we’ll be taking things at a more relaxed pace, with plenty of time to stop and admire the views of Mont Blanc and Chamonix below.
We fly from the UK to Geneva and take the super-efficient Swiss train system to Chamonix in France, starting our walk at the small town of les Houches and climbing up through steep forested slopes to spend the night at Refuge de Bellechat. The mountain refuges that you stay in on this route offer simple dormitary accommodation and usually an evening meal but there isn’t much luxury unless you count sunning yourself on a terrace with a view of Mont Blanc a luxury.
If you want to do this kind of walking as a day trip from the valley below it’s easy as there are a number of cable cars used for ski-ers in winter and walkers in summer that can transport you up to the top of the mountain, and usually a cafe there too. We’ll be passing the one at Le Brevent before we reach the second refuge at La Flegere where we plan to stay that night,and then the next day descend backdown to the valley and back towards Geneva from where we’ll fly home the next day.
I’m looking forward to seeing the wild mountain ibex that live on these slopes, stretching my legs on the long walks and taking in the mountain scenery, cairns and wild places on the high slopes. I’m not looking forward to the steeper stretches that require you to climb up metal ladders, but we’ll hopefully be travelling light with just small rucksacks and walking poles.
If you’ve walked in this area or done the Tour de Mont Blanc, I’d love to hear from you and get some more information on what we might expect, and I’m also looking for recommendations for the best places to stay and eat in les Houches or Chamonix.
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