Below are my stages of the Tour du Mont Blanc: Les Houches to Orsières.
Mont Blanc (4810 m) is the highest mountain in the Alps. It lies between the Aosta Valley of Italy and the Haute-Savoie region of France.
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB)
The Tour du Mont Blanc is the 180 km hiking circuit around this gigantic, ice-laden mountain and the smaller Aiguilles – peaks – in its range of mountains, the Graiian Alps. The trail straddles three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy.
Decades of usage and its tourist appeal have resulted in a good infrastructure, with lots of huts providing meals and beds to weary hikers. It is usually done counter-clockwise and started from close to Chamonix, France, in the tiny town of Les Houches. The dotted red line on the maps below is the TMB.
Maps of Tour du Mont Blanc
Why the TMB?
I ended up choosing the TMB a bit by chance and a bit by design. Those who follow my posts will know I wanted to walk another pilgrimage after finishing the Camino Francés, last fall. So why pick such a touristy trail?
A number of reasons:
1) I’d planned to do the Camino Le Puy, from near Lyon, France, to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, where I started last year’s Camino Francés, and had bought a one-way plane ticket to this fair city. After much research, I lost heart for the walk. It just didn’t feel right. So I looked around for where I could go from Lyon.
2) Lyon is super close to the Alps. It seemed like a good opportunity to step foot on the range of the highest mountain in Western Europe. After a bit of research, it came down to Haute Route or TMB. The latter one because of its easy access to the VF – explained below in #4.
3) The TMB has huts. This alone made it worth considering. I haven’t evolved with my solo travel to packing a tent and camping. Maybe next trip.
4) I’d been toying with hiking the Via Francigena. It was a toss-up with the Camino Le Puy, but only the Italian section. Same reason as #3. This section has more pilgrim and other accommodation than the French and Swiss sections, and the TMB easily connects to the Via Francigena. I’ll decide where to get off and join it. Some possibilities are the towns of: Orsières, La Fouly, and Martigny, among others.
Next posting: Upcoming Trip – Italian Via Francigena
These people offer tours: http://www.alpineexploratory.com/walking-guides/tourdumontblanc.html and have excellent information about the trail for anyone interested in group travel. Please check their company reviews before booking.
The best guidebook? Kevin Reynolds’ Trekking The Tour du Mont Blanc – Cicerone Book. The trail is quite well-marked, but there are a few times when I had to check Kevin’s directions to know which direction to take. It’s advisable to bring it, or photocopies of it.
Lee from Hike Bike Travel has walked this trail and has a good write-up about it.