Tour de Mont Blanc - France, Italy, Switzerland
Europe is known for valuing time together as a family, including engaging in many outdoor activities. With the Alps as a backyard there are exceptional opportunities to enjoy nature’s playground. In the winter, of course, they ski and in the warmth of summer, they hike. The beauty and grandeur of the Alps is evident in every quaint town that lies at its feet. The magnificence increases tenfold when viewed from their shoulders. The Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) is a circuit hike of the Mont Blanc Massif. Covering 170 km / 106 miles, it can be completed in 7 to 10 days. Despite only reaching a high point of 2,665m / 8,743’ at the Col des Fours in France and Fenetre d’Arpette in Switzerland, the moderate altitude is deceiving. In lieu of extreme elevation there is an objectionable gain and loss of altitude almost every day. In total, the circuit climbs and descends almost 10 km / 6.2 miles.
You can begin the TMB in many towns and hike in either direction, although counter-clockwise is more popular. Be prepared to face hordes of hikers everywhere as many seek to circumnavigate Mont Blanc. Tenting is not easy in the alpine zone as appropriate areas to camp are rare. The huts pack guests in like sardines. People not reserving space in advance find themselves sleeping on the floor in the kitchen, hallway or any available flat surface. Hut cuisine is expensive, but good by trail standards. Still, it pales in comparison to the famous haute cuisine of the region. You can pack your food with you, but it would be a sin to miss experiencing some of the local tastes along the way. It doesn’t get any fresher than buying the product right where it was made, from the gentle folk who made it! Speaking French while useful and appreciated by the locals is not necessary. This hike is accessible and scenic during the entire summer season but if you plan your hike to coincide with the peak of the wildflowers in July, you won’t be sorry.
Day to Day Account - Jeff Salvage - Tour de Mont Blanc - France, Italy, Switzerland
This trip was different than the previous Great Treks as my companion was no longer the “Mighty” Kirk or a friend, but instead my beautiful, new wife Jennifer. She is veteran of the trail, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail by herself. Both were far longer than the hikes we planned for the summer, although they were not at the altitude or with the massive elevation gains and losses of the Alps. While I used to joke about the “Nepali Flat,” the many ups and downs along the trail, the Alps are also brutal in terms of daily gains and losses in elevation. In one day alone we would climb a vertical mile only to give it back the following day. In all, we gained and lost almost 9,450m / 31,000’ without climbing much over 2,600m / 8,600’. The story continues...