The Face of Mont Blanc as seen from Italy
We started as everyone does, in Chamonix France, home to the very first winter olympics and some gorgeous Alps. We hiked for 12 days, with 2 rest days built in. We stayed in a variety of accommodations, from old mountaineering huts that had only electricity for a few hours each day, to hotels to B&Bs. While doing the tour, you start in France and pass through both Italy and Switzerland. The views are breathtaking and the hiking can be very challenging. All in one day you can go from t-shirts and shorts, to winter coats and hats. I had some of the best food on this hike - also some of the worst. For instance on day 5, in Italy, we had some of the best spaghetti carbonara Ive ever had, anywhere.
This was a beer served after day 1 of hiking. The day was so hard, I told my mom I was going to turn around and catch a flight to Paris for the remainder of our trip. This was one of the old-school huts, the electricity was intermittent and the food was terrible. We slept on cots all lined up, anywhere from 6 to a room, up to 20! What they lacked in creature comforts they made up with in beer! I swear no beer has ever tasted this good. If you are going on the Tour de Mont Blanc, definitely pack some snacks for day one.
This was our view coming down into Italy after passing two nights in France. The cover photo of this article was taken just beyond the end of the river.
Long days of hiking require early morning starts. You could usually still see the moon on a clear day.
We started this day in Switzerland and ended it in France. We also started this day in T-shirts and pants, and as we climbed higher quickly added ALL of our layers. At the very top of this hill was a small cafe where we were able to warm up with coffee and chocolate. This is also the top of a ski hill and we were able to take the lift down. Downhill is ALWAYS harder than uphill; by the end of a few hours downhill, your knees are killing even with the proper boots and hiking polls.
Les aiguilles du Midi
Towards the end of the hike, the path leads to these ladders. They aren't as scary as the picture makes them out to be, but you definitely don't want to look down.
The view on the other side of the ladders.
While large parts of the hike are very rugged and remote, you do pass through many French, Italian and Swiss villages. We routinely got our lunches from cheese and sandwhich shops, packing baguettes into our backpacks.
For anyone looking to do Le Tour de Mont Blanc, there are many ways you can do it.
- Self Guided without Transport: the first option is to do the trek self guided and by carrying all your own gear. You can chose to camp in a tent that you carry the entire way, or you can carry your own gear from accommodation to accommodation.
- Self Guided with Transport: the second self guided option is the one we chose, we carried daypacks. but had our larger bags transported to each accommodation. There were a few accommodations (i.e the mountain huts) where we did not have a our large bag, so we kept a change of clothes in our day pack.
- With a Guide: We actually only saw one group that did the trek with a guide. Most groups we saw, like us, chose options 2.
Its also important to note that some people did not book their accommodations ahead of time, there are many places to stay along the route. Some people were unsure of how far they would go in a day and chose to go on longer or shorter. However, we went during the last week that the hike was open. After September 10th or so, Chamonix shuts down until ski season. The snow starts very early in the Alps and it becomes too dangerous to do the hike. We pre-booked all of our accommodations and I would strongly recommend doing it that way. We met people along the trails that had to walk for hours not knowing if the next hut, or B&B would have room for them. Sometimes in the more remote areas people had to be set up with makeshift tents or sleep on the floor.
The trip was an amazing experience and one that I am so happy I got to share with my parents. The views were something out of a movie, and while the hiking was at times very difficult, it was very rewarding.