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Tour de Mont-Blanc July 2022

I am looking for suggestions and tips to hike the entire Tour du Mont-Blac in about 21 days, 5 hours a day average hiking, maybe even public transportation between some refuges and taking some breaks. It will be my husband and I hiking together, training advance with a little knowledge of what we might be getter into. I know that early reservations are a must. Anyone done the trek recently? Best place to start, do you still need to bring your own bedding or other covid restrictions, best direction and refuges to stay?

Posted by
3804 posts

Tour du Mont Blanc shouldn't take more than 10 days at a relaxed pace; of course you can spend a few extra days in Chamonix and/or Courmayeur, but you would probably need other things planned to fill 21 days.

Posted by
1101 posts

Here is some info provided by Rick from his Mont-Blac video.

https://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/mont-blanc/

https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show/lyon

A book recommended by RS from the young woman he traveled with during the video:
Explore Europe on Foot: Your Complete Guide to Planning a Cultural Hiking Adventure, Cassandra Overby

Map/Route of Full 100 mile – 10 Day Hike
https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/fr/map/tour-du-mont-blanc-ccpmb-_206457#11/45.8986/6.9447

Enjoy your trip, its on my list of things to do as well.

Posted by
13053 posts

I think it would be best to get some help by booking a self-guided tour as suggested above. There are lot of mistakes that could be made in the route and overnight choices if you try to do it all on your own. For starters, I will say that the overnight lodging options (huts and mountain inns) are spaced 10-12 miles apart along most of the route. It is difficult to cover that distance in 5 hours because of the terrain—-lots of elevation gain or loss. You cannot shorten the hiking distance in most areas as there is no other place along the way to eat and sleep, and no place to catch public transport to the next inn.

Just for example, the hikes on each day for a TMB similar to the one we did in 2018 covered distances of 8, 10, 10, 12, 10, 7-8, 9, 12, 10, and 10 miles each day. Most days had 2400 or more feet of elevation gain and/or loss; one of the 12 mile days had a gain of 4200 feet. There was no where else, short of the end, to stop for the night.

This is a fairly standard itinerary for the Tour. If you want something easier, you really need to consult someone to help you with planning. They can suggest places where you might catch a bus or call a local taxi to take you to the next inn or village, or deviations from the standard route to meet your wishes. They can also advise you on what to bring, including whether sleepsacks are needed.

Friends of mine used this company to book their self-guided tour and found them very responsive to their requests for a customized trip:

https://www.distantjourneys.com/trip/self-guided-tour-du-mont-blanc-hike

Best place to start is traditionally Chamonix, and I would stick with that. As for direction of travel, I read that the views are best going anti-clockwise so you have Mt. Blanc and its companions (Aiguilles du Midi) right in your face as you come into Chamonix from Argentine the last day. So we chose a tour that went that direction, and I was glad we did. It was a sunny day with a glorious view all day. And a few ibex to see as well. (What is the plural of ibex????)

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you for posting this question! My husband and I are thinking of planning a trip for late summer 2022. Hopefully, it's not too late for us to plan!

We're semi-experienced backpackers so I'm hoping we can avoid the fees associated with the tour companies. Has anyone here ever done this on their own without a tour group?

I am also dying to know what route Rick took. We recently watched his Monday Night Travel Talk about his experience and I was really hoping he'd share more of those details.

Posted by
13053 posts

Hi Sarah—-if you use a company to plan a self-guided hike like the one I posted above (used by a good friend of ours), you will not be with a group; you will be hiking on your own at your own pace. All the company does is book the inns or huts for you, and provide maps and route directions, and luggage transport if you need it. It does not cost a lot more than doing it all yourself, and can save you a lot of headaches and mistakes, as well as research time. Our friend who used Distant Journeys is a very experienced hiker and backpacker, with many independent trips to Europe, and multi-day backpacking trips in the US. She is also very thrifty. But she found the process of researching and booking on her own so daunting that she went with the company to plan a self-guided trip for her and her travel companion, and was really glad she did.

If you do want to plan it independently, start with a good and recent guidebook as well as information available on the web. And remember that “wild camping” ( what we call backpacking in the US) is frowned upon in France, and illegal in Italy (from what I have read). But some of the Refugio’s or huts allow one to bivouac nearby, using their WC for a fee, and buying meals there.

Also make sure you are reading up-to-date information. The past few years have brought so much warmth that the glaciers and the ice holding rock together in other areas is melting, bring a risk of avalanches or rockfall in those areas. It is possible the route has been altered in some places to minimize the risk, and you need to be aware of that. I have read that some of the climbing routes on Mont Blanc itself are now closed because of this.

We had one day on our own tour that had to be re-routed because the usual route was closed due to mudslides that covered the trail after the heavy rain we hiked through 2 days before. This was on the day we were to hike from Courmayeur (Italy) into Switzerland, ending at Champex. Our guides put together an alternate hike for the day and then drove us over the St. Bernard Pass into Switzerland for our inn that night ( with the best food we had on the whole tour). I don’t know what we would have done as independent hikers.

I believe the section that Rick hiked included an inn or mountain hut near Contamines—-somewhere there is a thread about his days on the Tour du Mont Blanc and the actual hut or inn is named. I may be able to find it—I’ll go look for that thread. I can say that The village of Contamines was our first night’s stop after departing from the top of a cablecar at Les Houches, so likely they hiked the first 3 days of a standard route, going anti-clockwise. Or maybe they started right in Les Houches and walked from there via Bionassay, without using the life to shorten the hike. Or maybe after that first day his guide used a shuttle to take them to a different section.

Looking at a guidebook I have, I see a Rifugio Nant Borrant not far from Contamines—-that sounds vaguely familiar from the discussion of Rick’s TMB. That was shortly after his new French Alps show first aired, so if anyone knows that date it would narrow the search for the previous discussion. Or maybe the Search function would actually work . . .

Posted by
13053 posts

Bingo!

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/rick-s-hike-around-mt-blanc#top

It was indeed Rifugio Nant Borrant ( or more properly the Chalet-Refuge Nant Borrant) that was shown in the video.

Lots of good information in the thread—-and an expanded version of my warning about the risks from melting ice. Including a link to a story about a 2017 landslide that killed 6 or 8 hikers on the trail, and wiped out a village below.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much, Lola! I received your private message as well. I've got plenty to sink my teeth into now :)