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Tour du Mont Blanc

teejaywhy

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Later this afternoon, my wife and I along with another couple, will board our flight to Geneva and then Saturday, embark on our adventure - The Tour du Mont Blanc "In Comfort."

The in-comfort part means we are using a service to book hotels and transport baggage place to place. We need only to carry only day packs. No camping out or sleeping side by side with strangers in the refugios. :cool:

We will take 12 days to complete the approximate 100 mile journey, beginning and ending in the Chamonix valley, circumnavigating the Mont Blanc and traveling through France, Italy and Switzerland.

I will use this thread to "blog" our travels and post photos as I get the chance.
 

James

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Nice. @Chris Geib did something similar a few years ago. As I recall good mapping software is important as some choices are not obvious.
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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OK, finally getting a moment to check in and provide some updates. Today we are in Champex Switzerland and having a rest day so I can catch up a bit. We have completed seven segments of the hike with four remaining.

Don't know if anyone has paid attention to the giant shitshow that's happening at Heathrow, but tree days ago, while we are on the trail in the middle of nowhere, we got an email from American Airlines telling us one of our flights has been cancelled (GVA - LHR) "please call us..."

So after some nights of stress, some less than helpful customer service and a great deal of wrangling we managed to secure new flights home. Big story behind it all. But I don't want to jinx it at this point. So we'll just say we're happy for now.

My plans to upload photos from my camera to my tablet, edit and post were circumvented by some technology issues :( , so that will have to wait 'till later. In the meantime I can share a few cell phone snapshots.
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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We arrived to Geneva on Tuesday July 6. With an extra day built in in the event of travel delays, we spent the free day touring the city and partaking in the classic fondue.
 

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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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After Geneva, we traveled to Les Houches France (next door to Chamonix), the traditional start point for the Tour du Mont Blanc.

9 July - Day 1 - Les Houches to Les Contamines. 10.2 miles, 1485' elevation gain. A cable car cheat out of the valley followed by mostly downhill day passing by stream sides and thru small villages with fantastic views of the Mont Blanc and the Glacier de Bionassay. An easy start to the trip.
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James

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After Geneva, we traveled to Les Houches France (next door to Chamonix), the traditional start point for the Tour du Mont Blanc.

9 July - Day 1 - Les Houches to Les Contamines. 10.2 miles, 1485' elevation gain. A cable car cheat out of the valley followed by mostly downhill day passing by stream sides and thru small villages with fantastic views of the Mont Blanc and the Glacier de Bionassay. An easy start to the trip. View attachment 173472 View attachment 173473 View attachment 173474 View attachment 173475 View attachment 173476 View attachment 173477
It’s a strange tram house, eh? I half expected Clint Eastwood in a German uniform to get in.
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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10 July - Day 2 - Les Contamines to the Refugio des Mottets. Today a very difficult hike!

We start with a steady and relentless climb out of the Montjoie valley to three increasingly higher saddles, the Col du Bonhomme, the Col de la croix du Bonhomme and finally, the Col des Fours at 2665 meters. An approx 4800 ' climb in 7.5 miles. Then a brutal 2800' descent into the Vallee des Glaciers and an overnight at the rustic Refugio des Mottets.
12.9 miles; 5300' elevation gain, 9:40 hiking.
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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So very sorry to just leave off with this barely started. We completed the TMB, came home, turned around and went to Colorado to hike a 14'er, came home, turned around and went to Lake Powell for a 5-day houseboat trip, came home, headed up to the White Mountains of Arizona for some camping. Hoping to get this thread completed before we head to Yellowstone on Sept 5... :cool:
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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Day 3 - Refugio des Mottets to La Visaille. 9.5 miles, 2300' elevation gain.

Day 3 begins with a climb out of the Vallee des Glaciers to the Col de la Seigne (2516m) and the Italian Border.
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Looking back
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Col del la Seigne
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Descending into the Val Veny of Italy. Now on the south side of the Mount Blanc massif.
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Daniel

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Glad to see you've resumed posting a trip report about your trek on the TMB! My wife and I independently backpacked it during shoulder season (mid-to-late September) in 2013, though we travelled in a clockwise direction starting and ending in Argentiere, FR and it appears that you did it the traditional/popular way (anti-clockwise direction starting and ending further down the Chamonix Valley in Les Houches, FR). Nice to see the photo of the Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme from at or near the Col du Bonhomme. It was one of two refuges we stayed in (the other being the Elena Rifugio on the Italian side of Col Ferret). The majority of the refuges had already closed for the season at that time but certain ones are required by law to remain open to a limited extent, usually meaning a winter room at a minimum. The Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme had two winter rooms plus the kitchen open and we shared them with couples from Switzerland, Czechia (the Czech Republic), India, and a solo guy from the Netherlands. A small herd of chamois migrated/lingered by the refuge just before sunset while all of us were relaxing on the big south-facing upper deck enjoying the stunning alpine view in perfect weather conditions, just one of dozens of lasting memories we retain from the TMB adventure.

Also, while climbing up from Val Veny to the Col de la Seigne just below where the scrub ends we saw a very dark-grey-colored wolf darting in and out of the vegetation on several occasions, supposedly an extremely rare sighting. Looking forward to viewing the remainder of your photos!
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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Day 4: La Visaille to Courmayeur. 6.7 miles, 1670' of elevation gain
We broke what would have been a long day into two, todays hike was pretty easy along the southern bench of the Val Veny with drop dead gorgeous views of the mountains.

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Courmayeur is a great little town and a visit would not be complete without a PIZZA!
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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Glad to see you've resumed posting a trip report about your trek on the TMB! My wife and I independently backpacked it during shoulder season (mid-to-late September) in 2013, though we travelled in a clockwise direction starting and ending in Argentiere, FR and it appears that you did it the traditional/popular way (anti-clockwise direction starting and ending further down the Chamonix Valley in Les Houches, FR). Nice to see the photo of the Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme from at or near the Col du Bonhomme. It was one of two refuges we stayed in (the other being the Elena Rifugio on the Italian side of Col Ferret). The majority of the refuges had already closed for the season at that time but certain ones are required by law to remain open to a limited extent, usually meaning a winter room at a minimum. The Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme had two winter rooms plus the kitchen open and we shared them with couples from Switzerland, Czechia (the Czech Republic), India, and a solo guy from the Netherlands. A small herd of chamois migrated/lingered by the refuge just before sunset while all of us were relaxing on the big south-facing upper deck enjoying the stunning alpine view in perfect weather conditions, just one of dozens of lasting memories we retain from the TMB adventure.

Also, while climbing up from Val Veny to the Col de la Seigne just below where the scrub ends we saw a very dark-grey-colored wolf darting in and out of the vegetation on several occasions, supposedly an extremely rare sighting. Looking forward to viewing the remainder of your photos!

Yes, we did the route counter-clockwise. Sadly, I did not see any animal life of note, no chamois nor ibex, definitely no wolves! The Refugio Elena, although we did not overnight there, is very memorable to me as it did provide a wonderful comfort stop when I had a sudden gastric event along the trail out of the Val Ferret. :poo: :cool:


Do you do it without crossing a glacier?

No glacier crossings on the TMB. In fact, in the timeframe of our hike, July 9-20, 2022, we crossed only one patch of snow, on the climb to the Col du Bonhomme on day 2 (pictured in post #8).
 

Daniel

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Yes, we did the route counter-clockwise. Sadly, I did not see any animal life of note, no chamois nor ibex, definitely no wolves! The Refugio Elena, although we did not overnight there, is very memorable to me as it did provide a wonderful comfort stop when I had a sudden gastric event along the trail out of the Val Ferret. :poo: :cool:

Although not mentioned upthread, we also saw a single ibex. I have a very vivid memory of the sighting because said ibex demonstrated one of the most amazing displays of athleticism I've ever witnessed from an animal, some of which occurred a mere 12 to 15 feet away from my location. We were backpacking between Col de la Forclaz and Bovine Alp (Alpage de Bovine) in Switzerland along the section of the TMB where the trail is cut into a steeply sloped mountainside (more vegetation above the trail/less vegetation below with a fair bit of rockslide erosion). Occasionally the trail crossed a partially/mostly eroded chute. I was a few meters ahead of my wife and about to traverse across the most recent chute when we spooked an ibex high above us. In a matter of a few brief seconds, the animal launched into the air, soaring down the chute. It only made contact with the ground 3 times after that and only long enough to compress and spring further downward, covering an incredible distance during its high-speed decent, which involved major airtime. Despite the sketchy landing zones and, in my estimation, 50+ degree slope the ibex flawlessly made an escape, disappearing into the denser vegetation well below us where the slope angle started to moderate. I have spent and still do spend a great deal of time outdoors in wilderness areas but don't think I've ever seen or will ever again see such a phenomenal display of power and agility when in such close proximity.

I imagine we saw more wildlife than most do when trekking the TMB due to the time of year (shoulder season). I was told by multiple people in the know that in mid-to-late September there's only a small fraction of the usual crowd that's present during the high season.
 
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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Continuing...
Day 5: Courmayeur to Refugio Bonatti. 8.5 miles, 3600' elevation gain.
We decided not to stay at the Refugio because there were no private rooms available, only dormitory accommodations. So at the end of the day, we dropped down into the valley and caught a bus back for our third night in Courmayer.

The day begins with a big climb out from the Aosta Valley up to the Refugio Bertone, which offers welcome refreshments and a splendid view of Courmayeur below.
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The hike continues northeast along the bench of the south side of the Val Ferret. New and more spectacular views to the north.
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More amazing scenery
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teejaywhy

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Day 6: Refugio Bonnati to La Fouly CH. 9.6 miles, 3100' of elevation gain.

Start the day with a bus back to where we left off and then a big climb out of the Val Ferret, passing the aforementioned Refugio Elena (see post #16) and continuing to the Grand Col Ferret where we crossed into Switzerland.
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Descending into the Swiss Val Ferret
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More awesomness!
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teejaywhy

teejaywhy

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Day 7: La Fouly to Champex. 9.1 miles, 2162' elevation gain.
An interesting day, easy hike down the valley, passing through some quaint Swiss villages. Big contrast to the previous mountain segments.

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We finish with a view of a chateau overlooking Lac de Champex.
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