The Hike of a Lifetime: Tour du Mount Blanc

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The TMB started out at Berg Lake last summer where I met an older couple who chatted to me about their travels. They had been to every beautiful mountain region in the world, Machu Pichu, Kilimanjaro, Patagonia ect. I asked “Which trip was your highlight?” They told me that the Tour du Mount Blanc had been the most spectacular trip of all. This conversation was going on at one of the most beautiful mountain parks, Berg Lake, so I knew they were on to something. I instantly did my research when I arrived home and was impressed by the google images search. All I remember was thinking, I have to go.

I made it a goal to get out there this summer, but life started to get in the way and I had no idea where or how to start planning a trip like that. Pretty soon I had travels to Australia, Croatia and Norway all packed into my schedule so TMB was put on the backburner.

A stroke of luck. I was fortunate enough to work with Eddie Bauer this past spring and as part of the program they had a “kick off” where all the ambassadors met up for a weekend in Joshua Tree. That’s where I met Holly for the first time, as she was also an ambassador. We had been friendly on Instagram for the last year so it was only natural that we got along in person. Within the first hour of meeting she mentioned her trip to TMB in July. I instantly perked right up, I blurted out quickly “Can I come with?!” Instantly I regretted jumping into that until Holly answered “Yeah that would be awesome!” After Holly checked with her friend Jason (who was also going) she gave me the green light. The TMB dream was ignited once again.

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Second Day, TMB

We booked through this company called Mac’s Adventures, and it was pretty good but doing it again I would book it on my own. It would be way cheaper to book myself however you have to book well in advance for the high season. You can also book a baggage transfer that brings your suitcase to every hut you stay at each night so you only need to carry your day items, I highly recommend it.
The TMB is a 170km route around the Alps tallest Mountain, Mount Blanc. There is about 10,000m Elevation change throughout the 10 day trek. Everyday we climbed at least 800m (the easy days) up to 1500m. The dates we went were from July 3-16 with an extra day in Chamonix. The weather was spectacular, 25C to 30C every day with cool nights. The last two days of our trip was some rocky weather but for the most part we were very lucky. There was a bit of snow left in some parts but it was well packed and easy to cross thankfully. The higher alternative routes were the snowier ones. If you want to book it on your own I highly recommend buying the book “Trekking the Tour of Mont Blanc” by Kev Reynolds. It’s basically a step by step guide of where to book and distance between huts. There is no freedom camping on the TMB.

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A rather easy day and a particularity pretty one on the way to Bonatti, Italy.

Service is basically everywhere you go on the TMB so buying a prepaid card wouldn’t be a waste of money, however I didn’t have one and I was fine with most accommodations having wifi. I think the most I went without wifi was three days, and it wasn’t such a bad thing. The really annoying part was some huts had wifi that was dead wifi. I would rather they just say they don’t have wifi than torture me like that.

Food was really great everywhere. I basically lived off bread and omelettes because I’m a vegetarian, but I was surprised at how easy it was to avoid meat on the trek. The huts that you pass always have a lunch menu to purchase so we didn’t bother buying the pre packed lunches that your accommodation can provide unless we knew it would be a long day.

Our longest day was 11 hours and it was a tough one. It was the second day from  Les Contamines to Ville des Glaciers. The elevation as pretty heavy along with quite a lot of snow. It was a tired feet day for sure, but dinner never tasted so good.
Our most beautiful day was either the walk to Bonatti in Italy or the walk to and around Lac Blanc. These were my favourite days however all the days were pretty mint. We had buckets of rain

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Contamines to Ville des Glaciers, France

our second last day and opted out over Col de la Forclaz and took the bad weather route. This was our second last day and this was a test of the nerves. We arrived at Lac Blanc the next night in the fog to be greeted by heavy snowfall. It was a very cold night especially after the 30C plus weather we had earlier. The sky opened up for a magical hour in the morning and massive jagged peaks rose above the clouds with a fresh layer of snow coating them. The sun’s warm colour rested on top the cloud inversion. What a place. The stay at the hut was also very pleasant. We met some excellent new friends and enjoyed some delicious food. It isn’t really a scheduled stop on the TMB but I am glad we included it.

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The view before the Rif Elisabetta
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Italy
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Italy
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Italy

Days were not easy, most days we climbed in elevation for 2-4 hours and then either walked a ridge or came down in elevation. On average we were on the trail for 8 hours a day. I really enjoyed getting the hard work done at the start of the day, we did a lot of trail breaks so that also helped. All three of us are into our photography so we took a lot of time shooting photos.

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Lac Blanc, France
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Hut at Lac Blanc

Doing it again I wouldn’t change much. I would probably book each hut on my own, and I would also stay an extra night or “rest” day in Courtmeyer because it is the most beautiful mountain town. Even if you never do the TMB, check out this place.

Overall when the trip came to an end I was feeling a bit tired and ready to go home. The transport back to Geneva is so simple, I booked online and a shuttle met me at the bus station at 6am. I had to leave a day earlier than Jason and Holly because I agreed to another job back in Canada that started the next day. When I finally got home and had a good rest I realized that the TMB was one of the best trips I have ever done. I felt so good afterwards and I am really glad it happened the way it did. Jason and Holly are super fun to travel with and we all got along great. We may live a few hundred miles away but I feel we will all be friends for life.


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