The Tour du Mont-Blanc: goal achieved!

18/10/2019



We left off with Marika about to leave for the Tour du Mont-Blanc;  she was a little worried because it is a very demanding trek. This tour, with departure and arrival from Courmayeur, circles around the Mont Blanc for 170 km, with an elevation gain of over 10 thousand meters and takes about ten days to complete. The route winds through 12 valleys and 3 nations, at an altitude of about 2000 meters, giving trekking enthusiasts unforgettable views of the summit, the glaciers and the pinnacles of the massif.

Marika undertook the journey in August, together with two friends, moving from hut to hut. The official route of the Tour du Mont-Blanc includes 12 stages, but there is the possibility of inserting variations to personalize the itinerary, adapting it to your needs and training: in this article we retrace Marika's itinerary step by step.

The Tour du Mont-Blanc (TMB)



Stage 1 - from Courmayeur to the Val Ferret chalet (approx. 7 hours), 19.5 km - 1,200 m elevation gain
The Tour du Mont-Blanc is not a route comparable to the Way of Saint James or other multi-day hikes: it is a tough itinerary, with significant differences in height from the first day that puts the hiker to a severe test. In fact, the first ascent already counts an elevation gain of over 1000 meters!

Stage 2 - Le Fouly, Maya-Joie refuge (approx. 7 hours), 16.9 km - 800 m elevation gain.
There are two variants of this stage that leads to Switzerland: an easier one that crosses the bottom of the valley, and a more demanding one that rises in altitude and rewards the hiker with incredible landscapes of the Mont Blanc.  Marika chose the latter option, climbing up to Colle Val Ferret and thus crossing the border with Switzerland.



Stage 3 - Champex-Lac, Relais d’Arpette (5 h 30) - 19.4 km - 680 m elevation gain
This stage is often skipped by those who hike along the Tour du Mont-Blanc, precisely because there are no views of the King of the Alps. However, it offers some truly majestic mountain landscapes, particularly in the Champex-Lac area (swimming lake!) and along the final detour that leads to really suggestive waterfalls. Another plus is that this stage does not have a big elevation gain and allows you to "rest your legs" before continuing the Tour.

Stage 4 (Fenêtre d’Arpette alternative) - Trient, Du Peuty refuge (7 hours), 17.6 km - 1,000 m elevation gain
A really challenging stage, with a climb and a very long descent on rock that puts a strain on the legs.

Stage 5 Argentière (4 h 30), 16.9 km - 900 m elevation gain
The original route included, after the Col de Balme, crossing the ridge. However, in case of bad weather, it is advisable to head to the bottom of the valley towards Argentière to avoid dangerous situations.



Stage 6 - Chamonix (8 hours), 21.4 km - 1060 m elevation gain
This stage is the most scenic and panoramic of the entire tour, so it must absolutely be included in the program. It includes a passage equipped with a ladder and then also a metal cord, which could create some problems to those who suffer from vertigo.

Stage 7 (Col du Tricot alternative) - Saint Gervais, Auberge du Truc (5 h 30), 15.4 km - 1450 m elevation gain
Another variation compared to the classic Tour du Mont-Blanc, but absolutely recommended for the breathtaking views of the glacier. It also includes a passage on a suspension bridge!

Stage 8 - Les Contamines, refuge de la Balme (4 h 30), 14.9 km - 575 m elevation gain
A relatively simple stage, shortened due to the weather but with incredible landscapes. The hut was the least welcoming of those tried along the way, it is worth finding another alternative.

Stage 9 (Col des Fours variation) - Borg Saint Maurice, refuge des Mottes (7 hours), 15.7 km - 1080 m elevation gain
An overnight stay in this hut is absolutely recommended; it is very characteristic and located in a typical alpine pasture, like a postcard.

Stage 10 - return to Courmayeur (8 hours), 28 km - 1255 m elevation gain
The final stage of the TMB takes you back to Courmayeur, the starting point of the itinerary. The tour touches few villages and crosses mostly wild environments. Mind you, it is so challenging that even if there had been points of interest in the vicinity, it would have been difficult to find the energy for a visit at the end of each stage.
The final stage of the Mont Blanc Tour is once again quite tough: a final descent of almost 2000 meters!


 

Some tips for those who want to do the Mont Blanc Tour


Let us now give the word to Marika, for some useful tips for those wishing to retrace her steps on the Tour du Mont-Blanc:

Marika, you did the tour in August. Would you recommend this period?
In ten days of tour I found so much rain but also good weather, without excessive heat - in fact, in the evening it was very cold - so yes, I recommend August like other months. The only problem is that in this period the TMB is crowded with people from all over the world. I met Germans, Swiss, Poles, even Koreans ... Only the Italians seemed to be missing on the route!

What was the most challenging point for you? And the unforgettable moment along the way?
The most challenging moment for me was a long detour, so you can easily avoid it. I climbed up to the Fenetre d’Arpette, a long ascent on rock with several days of walking already behind me. But the worst part came downhill, over 1000 meters of steep and endless descent.
The unforgettable moment, however, was not just one. Every time I arrived at the end of the stage, whenever I saw a glacier not yet consumed by global warming, whenever I received a big meal in the mountain huts, that was pure joy.

Whom would you recommend a tour like this to?
I recommend it to people who are well trained on the mountain trail. You must be prepared for the considerable elevation gain and long distances on a daily basis.
(Marika emphasizes several times in the videos that the Tour du Mont-Blanc is a real endurance test, a sporting performance that requires training and preparation to tackle the route, which from the outset is challenging due to differences in height and stage lengths).

One last useful bit of information for those who decide to take the tour?
One of the frequent questions I received from fans who followed my progress during the trek concerns the possibility of sleeping in a tent along the TMB. In fact, wilderness camping is prohibited below 2500 meters of altitude - therefore everywhere along the route - and it is necessary to stay overnight in one of the numerous mountain huts along the way.

We thank Marika for telling us about her incredible experience with the Tour du Mont-Blanc: don’t you feel like putting yourself to the test and setting off to follow her tracks around the King of the Alps right away?


 
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