Day 1 – La Flegere to Les Houches.

For many people this is the final section that they do on the TMB. It is section 11 in Kev Reynold’s guidebook, we wanted to begin and end in Chamonix so we shifted from the traditional sequence. We started the day by taking a bus from the center of Chamonix to the bottom of the La Flagere cable car. The bus is free and it only takes 10 minutes to get to where we needed to go. The cable car cost us 15 euros to get to the top, and once we stepped off we knew we would not be back in Chamonix for 11 days.

We started our journey to Les Houches from La Flegere. It is a 17 km hike that day and most of it is spectacular. The ascent is breathtaking and beautiful. My sister did not acclimate to the altitude well, so her hike was absolutely miserable. We made it to the highest point, which is known as Le Brévent and had a very late lunch at the Le Brévent cable car restaurant. The view of Mt Blanc was spectacular, but the lunch was unmemorable (except for the cost.) Holly called it a day and took the cable car down to Chamonix. She jumped on the train from there to Les Houches and the 3 of us started to descend to Les Houches.

This was the beginning of my knee pain. I descended for 90 minutes without any problem. Then my knees started to ache and it lasted for the next 4 hours. It was supposed to be a 3 hour descent and it took me much longer. I can honestly say I had never felt pain in my joints like that before. I started to go slower and slower, and was obviously holding my group back. The sun went down around 7 PM and we were alone in a dark woods in the French alps. The start of my vacation began to feel pretty tragic.

The trail finally dumped us near some houses. We knocked on the door of one of them and asked for some help, because I did not feel like I could walk any further. The man called our hotel and we asked them to send a taxi to us, and the hotel refused! The man said he would not send a taxi 300 meters and we should just keep walking. With no other option, we began to walk, and 300 meters turned into 1000 meters.

I find it difficult to describe the pain I felt at that time. Holly had taken the meds with her so, I did not have any ibuprofen to dull the pain. The walk was excruciating but we finally made it to the hotel. We got into our rooms around 10:30 PM. We were many hours late, I was in a humiliating amount of pain, and I went to sleep thinking that this trip may have been a mistake.

We went up 772 meters (not including the cable car) and went down 1546 meters that day.


  • Don’t be orthodox about completing the entire TMB. If you do that, you are missing the point of a trip like this. Abandon ship if you need to, you will appreciate it in the morning.
  • Don’t start in La Flagere. Finish with La Flagere to Le Brévent. Skip the descent to Les Houches.


  • Le Brévent


  • Hôtel les Campanules


Next: Day 2 – Les Houches – Les Contamines-Montjoie

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