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.

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Cold morning in Val Ferret just after the start in La Fouly.

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Through cozy alleys of the Swiss village Praz-de-Fort.

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Flowers abound at the end of June.

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First snow on the trail in Val d’Arpette.

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Climbing towards Fenêtre d’Arpette.

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

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Looking back down while arriving at Fenêtre d’Arpette.

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Markings at Fenêtre d’Arpette. It was freezing with light snowfall when I arrived at the col.

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Ibex playing on the snowfields.

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Who’s the strongest?

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The dominant male of the group.

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Looking back at Glacier du Trient.

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Improving weather after ten hours of continuous rain in Val de Trient.

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At the Trient river and it is raining again.

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The stone stairs at the Arpette variant.

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

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

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I encountered this marmot along the trail. He remained so quiet I almost did not notice him.

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Aiguille Verte (4122m).

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Mont Blanc (4807m).

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Descending from L’Aiguillette des Posettes with the suburbs of Chamonix visible in the valley.

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Lac Blanc still well covered with snow and ice.

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A view towards Grandes Jorasses (4208m) and a Mer de Glace.

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The Aiguilles Rouges massif and Mont Buet from Le Brévent in the evening.

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Evening glow on Aiguille du Chardonnet and Aiguille d’Argentière.

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Aiguille Verte just before sunset.

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Mont Blanc at sunset.

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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.

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

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The trail through the snow at Col du Bonhomme (2329m).

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Flower fields in Val des Glaciers.

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Looking back at Col des Fours (2665m) which was very easy passable through the snow.

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Arriving at Refuge des Mottets with Aiguille des Glaciers (3816m) in the background.

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The dirty trail in the snow at Col de la Seigne (2516m).

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The flow of debris from Glacier du Miage.

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Through the narrow alleys of the Italian village Courmayeur.

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

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Under the countenance of Grandes Jorasses.

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

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Through the Italian Val Ferret.

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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.