When I let Sam read these blog posts, he commented that they were “correct, but a bit clinical.” Admittedly, I did not describe this journey with much flourish or pomp. I have been sitting at my desk thinking about that, and searching for a response.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a grand adventure. It is full of breathtaking views and it is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Every day is filled with grand vistas, interesting people, and beautiful terrain. It would be hard to find something as immensely impressive.
It is a really difficult trip: both logistically and physically. I was not physically prepared for it, and because of that I did not enjoy it like countless others do. The first couple of days were damaging for my self-esteem and the recuperation time needed for was just not available.
It is not a casual walk between mountain towns, but difficult mountain hiking and one should be aware of that when they do it. Our 2-hour walks along the Delaware river in Philadelphia did not prepare me in the slightest.
This leads me to the 2 tips I have for anyone who wants to do this trip.
- Get yourself physically prepared for this trip. It is miserable if you do not.
- Do not go with the intention of treating it as a 110-mile obstacle that winners finish and losers don’t. I approached it like that, and missed more of the Alpine majesty than I care to admit.
The things I really liked were the wine and food. I enjoyed picnicking outside with friends and making people laugh at dinner. I enjoyed learning about the glacier in Chamonix and sweater shopping in Italy. In short, I reminded myself that I do not enjoy hiking. I enjoy learning and gluttony.
I am now asking myself this question. Did I not like my time on the Tour du Mont Blanc or did I not like myself on the Tour du Mont Blanc? Alas, it was probably the latter. It is an incredible adventure that I will remember forever.
We spent one more night in Chamonix in order to not be hikers and reclaim our titles of tourists. My biggest regret was that when we took the cablecar to Aiguille du Midi we could see nothing. It was covered in clouds all day long.
However, one of the benefits of that day was taking the train to the Mer de Glace. This is a glacier and it is an important and sad trip. When you arrive you need to take steps down to the glacier. Not because it the destination was designed that way, but because the glacier has receded since the infrastructure was built. The glacier is dyeing before your eyes, and you are allowed to walk inside of it’s tortured mass. It’s a magical excursion, that makes you realize the enormity of climate change.
Next Day: Tour du Mont Blanc – Conclusion
It was our final day on the TMB and it was supposed to be a short one. We started with a paltry breakfast, but decided to hit the trail early. It was only 8 km, but today was the day of ladders. There were lots of ladders going straight up a rock wall. We had experienced 2 ladders on day 1, but these were much more imposing.
Once we got through the ladders we could see La Flegere. We were an hour away from the cablecar into Chamonix. We saw a marmot on the way to the trail and when we arrived we found out the cablecar was closed for the season. The cablecar that we started on 10 days ago had been turned off.
Shocked, exhausted, and tired we sat at the La Flegere refuge to create a game plan.
While we had walked to the refuge I saw a professional looking guy walking around and I thought “that’s weird” but didn’t say anything. While we are sitting there, the cablecar started moving, but it was too late. The professional looking guy was clearly some sort of staff or an inspector but he was taking the cablecar down. If only I would have mentioned it to him, it would have saved us an unnecessary 2 hour descent into Chamonix.
We discussed walking to Plan Praz and getting the cablecar, but we decided to go down the mountain. We started off on the surface road, but we found it too difficult. These roads are not paved and have really big rocks, so we eventually found our way onto a wooded trail. We made our way to Chamonix and stopped for lunch and refreshments at a charming spot called Chalet de la Floria.
After our rest we walked for another hour and found ourselves in Chamonix. The town was much quieter than when we had left on the final day of the TMB. We stayed in the nicest hotel in town. It is called Grand Hôtel des Alpes and it was amazing. Naps, showers, and sauna made for the end of long trip.
We treated ourselves big on this day as it was both the last day and it was Samer’s birthday. We started off with some good drinks at MOÖ barcuisine and then went to Restaurant Rèvolâ and had a delicious meal.
Breakfast at Le gîte refuge la Boerne is unsatisfying, so be prepared to fend for yourself. I would ask for the earliest seating available.
Eat at Restaurant Rèvolâ.
Chalet de la Floria
Grand Hôtel des Alpes
Next: Tourist Day in Chamonix
It was time to get the hell out of Switzerland. We woke up early and started making our way out of town. We ran into the old Israeli guys we met out of Hotel Lavachey, and we walked together to the base of the first ascent. The one guy said he was too tired, and turned around. It was nice to see a 65 year old man who had been hiking for a week come to the same conclusion I did on day 2.
I was not very fond of my time in Switzerland, but I will say that I thought their trails were very nice. There were a few historical plaques along this trail and some carved benches and tables. It was very nice.
The refuge at the Swiss and French border was a dump. Instant coffee and boring little jam pies. The breakfast at the hotel was not memorable, so I wish we would have bought a snack at Col De La Forclaz. I rested for a few minutes and then descended into France. I think this day was one of the prettiest days we experienced. We were back to facing Mont Blanc, and the ridges we were walking gave us some superb 360 degree views. On our right was a very large dam.
We arrived at Le gîte refuge la Boerne late in the afternoon. I was ready to have some wine and read my book. Samer wanted to visit the nearby town of Argentière, but I was not going to do any more walking than I needed to do.
I stayed in the smallest room I have ever paid for while traveling. The desk I am writing on right now is bigger. Only one person could stand in the room at a time, and yet it had bed space for 3 people. After the dormitory the night before the privacy was well worth it. We had dinner with a few retired U.S. couples from the west coast, and called it an early night.
The wine at Le gîte refuge la Boerne is good and cheap. Enjoy. Also, dinner had a cheese option that I thought was really good.
Le gîte refuge la Boerne
Le gîte refuge la Boerne
We had a breakfast at our hotel and hit the road. Exiting Champex along the lake is really beautiful and you wander through the old alpine town on your way to the TMB. We ran into some groups on horseback and I was slightly envious of them when we were ascending later in the morning.
On this day, was the only day where we were given an option. The trail split early in the morning and it gave us the option of going through the valley or forest. The trail eventually came back together, but this was the first time I felt like I had some control over this hike.
This was a small split for probably no more than an hour, however do not confuse this with the multiple routes to Trient. This day actually had 2 routes. We took the Bovine route, rather than the Fenettre D’Arpette route. The Bovine route is named this because it crescendos at a cow pasture. There is a little refugee there that sells beer and snacks.
We stopped in the refuge for lunch and ended up talking to some Americans that were on an REI tour. We had not met any Americans on the trip until then. They were enjoying the trip very much. Hotel Alpina had sent us out with freshly made bread, so a lunch of sausage, cheese, chocolate and delicious bread made for a really delightful meal. The cows that were screwing near us, were surprisingly less annoying or distracting than you’d imagine. Exhaustion can be a good friend.
The rest of the day was our descent into Trient. Our guide had suggested we stop at Col De La Forclaz, but it was sold out when I tried to book. We descended into the town that had nothing but 2 hotels. We looked for a store to buy a few supplies and were told it shut down some time ago. The hotel we stayed in was modern and nice, but we were stuck in the dorm. It did not help that a tour of elementary school children were also there, so chaos was running high.
We got out of our hotel and decided to go see what the other hotel was like. It was nothing special, but there were no kids so we settled in for a few drinks. Sam flirted with the waiter and got us a complimentary bag of peanut butter puffs. They were gross, but not really.
Dinner was curry chicken over rice (that’s twice that dish was served to us in Switzerland) and we all went to bed early.
Book early enough to get a private room. This was our second dorm night and we all hated it.
There is not a store in Trient, so I would buy a snack or twop in Col De La Forclaz. There is a guy selling cheese and sausage across from the hotel. It would have been helpful on the next day’s hike.
La Grande Ourse
La Grande Ourse