My thru-hike of the Tour du Mont Blanc

Ever wondered what would be the most popular, the most frequented hiking trail in Europe? I think the answer is simply the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). Eleven years ago after I finished the Stubaier Höhenweg in Austria, that was my first multi day hike ever, I was indulging in the TMB as a possible next destination but soon lost my interest in it. During the last week of June I had eight days off but I did not found any inspiration to search for a possible trip and decided to better stay home. At the last minute I changed my mind and decided to go for the TMB. I was unprepared, even did not have a map of most of the Italian part but I thought this trail would be so well marked that in fact I should manage to thru-hike the entire trail unprepared. Fortunately that perfectly proved to be so. The TMB is a very easy hike (except from the Arpette variant) and also quite varied. Because of the large amounts of snow that were still lingering in the mountains this year, I took ice axe and crampons in my pack even though I was not sure I would need them.

I was surprised how many people actually hike this trail. I knew it would be many, but I had never thought it would be this many! There were days I passed over 300 people! Americans, Englishmen, Russians, Poles and Japanese were the most notable nationalities I encountered during the hike. I did not hear a lot of French and sometimes I even did not feel to be still in Europe.

I took all higher variants of the trail, except from the variant over Tête Bernarde at the Italian side (obviously because I had no map of this area). That means I hiked over Fenêtre d’Arpette, passed Lac Blanc, over Col de Tricot and Col des Fours. It was striking that these variants were not well marked or even not marked at all compared to the main route. As a result almost nobody seemed to hike the variants, which is a shame I think because all the variants have more interesting views to offer.

I thru-hiked the trail with a more leisurely pace than usual and finished in 7 days of which I hiked only a few hours on two days because of bad weather conditions. A lightweight or ultralight hiker in good shape will be able to thru-hike the trail in 4 to 6 days I think. I started in La Fouly in Switserland and hiked the trail counterclockwise. Landscape wise the trail has beautiful parts to offer, but it is certainly not more special than elsewhere in the Alps. This trail is much overrated internationally, though I’m still glad I did not stay home.

You can have a look at my TMB gear list.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Cold morning in Val Ferret just after the start in La Fouly.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Through cozy alleys of the Swiss village Praz-de-Fort.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Flowers abound at the end of June.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
First snow on the trail in Val d’Arpette.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Climbing towards Fenêtre d’Arpette.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The east side of Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m), a rather steep slope still completely covered in snow in June.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Looking back down while arriving at Fenêtre d’Arpette.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Markings at Fenêtre d’Arpette. It was freezing with light snowfall when I arrived at the col.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Ibex playing on the snowfields.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Who’s the strongest?

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The dominant male of the group.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Looking back at Glacier du Trient.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Improving weather after ten hours of continuous rain in Val de Trient.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
At the Trient river and it is raining again.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The stone stairs at the Arpette variant.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
A lot of snowfields on my way to Col du Balme (2191m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Frosty sky clear morning after a windy and rainy night above Col the Balme, Aiguille Verte (4122m) in the background.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
I encountered this marmot along the trail. He remained so quiet I almost did not notice him.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Aiguille Verte (4122m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Mont Blanc (4807m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Descending from L’Aiguillette des Posettes with the suburbs of Chamonix visible in the valley.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Lac Blanc still well covered with snow and ice.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
A view towards Grandes Jorasses (4208m) and a Mer de Glace.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The Aiguilles Rouges massif and Mont Buet from Le Brévent in the evening.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Evening glow on Aiguille du Chardonnet and Aiguille d’Argentière.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Aiguille Verte just before sunset.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Mont Blanc at sunset.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
A night under the stars in my bivy bag at the mountain station of the gondola at Le Brévent (2525m), Mont Blanc in the back.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Sunny day on the trail with splendid views onto Mont Blanc massif.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The trail through the snow at Col du Bonhomme (2329m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Flower fields in Val des Glaciers.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Looking back at Col des Fours (2665m) which was very easy passable through the snow.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Arriving at Refuge des Mottets with Aiguille des Glaciers (3816m) in the background.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The dirty trail in the snow at Col de la Seigne (2516m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
The flow of debris from Glacier du Miage.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Through the narrow alleys of the Italian village Courmayeur.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Finally Mont Blanc becomes visible at the Italian side after a rainy and foggy day in the mountains.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Under the countenance of Grandes Jorasses.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Delipidated mountain cabin from ancient times under the face of Pointe Walker (4055m) and Aiguille des Leschaux (3759m).

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Through the Italian Val Ferret.

Tour du Mont Blanc 201306
Looking back at the rolling terrain around Grand Col Ferret (2537m) before the final descent to La Fouly.

This trip took place June 28 till July 04, 2013.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “My thru-hike of the Tour du Mont Blanc

  1. Hi Joery, another brilliant photo reportage, I particularly like the ibex and that stunning shot of the Trient river. The rain pissed you off but that photo is priceless. Allways a pleasure to see your photography

  2. Hi Dzjow,
    Second day in your blog and I am increasingly amazed!
    Beautiful pictures and very inspiring trips and posts. I have been thinking for a while about long multi-day hikes especially in Scandinavia and your posts are just what I was looking for. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

    I have a question about your shelter. I was thinking of buying my first tarp to try it out in the Pyrenees to start with. I read carefully your old post on the Grace solo. This was my initial choice, but now I think I may need more space every now and then (if my girlfriend dares to come with me…). Besides, in these latitudes, heavy rainstorms are not unfrequent in the mountains. What would you suggest then? Trailstar? Is the solo OK for 2 people? Why did you choose the solo over the trailstar for the Alps in late June (when heavy rainstoms are more frequent than not, if I am right)?

    Thanks a lot in advance!!!

  3. Thanks everyone!

    @ Salvaug: A simple open tarp as the Grace Solo is not a good idea in my opinion for places like the Pyrenees because of the possibility of heavy rainstorms. Something more closed like a trailstar for example is indeed a much better choice. The reason I often choose to take my Grace Solo to the Alps is that I just carefully study the weather forecast before the trip and when the conditions seems favorable, I take the lightest shelter possible.

  4. Joery,
    Thanks a lot for your reply! I really appreciate that you share your great experience with us.
    It is true that the Pyrenees’ rainstorms make most people think that pitching a tarp is just a waste of time…
    It seems that the Trailstar covers (no easy joke intended) two (of my) main needs: protection under heavy rainstorms and additional space for occasional companions (girl, kids).
    My only concern remaining after your response was the need for larger campsites in the case of the Trailstar. Nonetheless, after seeing your Trailstar post and the campsite area in most of the places where you pitch the Grace, this does not seem a huge disadvantage after all….is it?
    Thanks again for your dedication and generosity, Joery.
    Salva

  5. Hi Joery,

    Enjoyed your photo-essay on the TMB. Liked the Ibex & glacier shots and the stone stairs on the Fenetre D’Arpette! I am planning to do the TMB myself in the coming year (probably next july) to up my skill level on higher ground; I’ve never hiked above 1500m above sea level. I think I want to do the higher passages on the TMB as well.

    Since I want to bring a tent/tarp with me, did you experienced any problems to camp wild ? Is it legal along the Tour ?

    thanks in advance. Eelco

  6. Just found this blog entry while trying to decide whether to do TMB or Myanmar Himalayas. Am still deciding on that, but wanted to say your photos are truly beautiful.

  7. Truly amazing photo’s! I appreciate and commend your photography skill! Starting to do some research on our next adventure after completing the Camino de Santiago last year and looking for another multi-day walk in Europe. Understand that TMB is overrated, but has a lot of appeal!

  8. Hi Joery,
    Quick question…I’m doing the TMB this summer and plan to use my bivy sack most nights. Are gite or refugio owners OK with you sleeping outside near/on their property (with or without asking permission)? Thanks.

  9. Goedemiddag Joery, Heb eind juni ook de TMB gestapt en er volop van genoten. Ik had dit jaar minder sneeuw dan jij en veel meer mooi weer. Indien interesse in de foto’s kun je me jou e-mail adres geven en laat ik je meegenieten van de TMB = 1 jaar later! Ik deed de TMB op ‘t gemak in 11 dagen en maakte ook gebruik van de hutten + m’n AKTO (= onderkomen dat jou wel bekend is :-))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s