Monthly Archives: July 2012

Tour du Mont Blanc in Pictures

Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is truly a once in a lifetime experience, an epic adventure through three countries and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe. I hiked 186 kilometres in 7 days, gained over 11000 metres in elevation and reached peaks over 2600 metres above sea level. I also have the blisters to prove it, pushing myself to walk over 25 kilometres a day through varying weather and undulating terrain left me exhausted by late afternoon but extremely grateful for a hearty dinner and a warm bed at night. Tre-le-Champ to Refuge de la Flégère was probably my favourite section but the Tour du Mont Blanc is really one endless highlight with each stage offering an assortment of majestic valleys, shimmering lakes, sprawling glaciers and rugged peaks. There are accommodation options throughout and unless you’re hiking in the peak season you shouldn’t have any problems finding somewhere to stay. It’s an experience I definitely won’t forget and would recommend in a heartbeat to anyone who enjoys the outdoors and hiking. These were my highlights, the Tour du Mont Blanc in pictures.

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TMB – The Panoramas

The panoramas of the Tour du Mont Blanc are really something special so I made sure to capture a few using my camera’s nifty panorama mode. They don’t always come out perfect but they help show just how epic some of the mountain ranges on the TMB are.

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TMB – Refuge de la Flégère to Les Houches

After finally dragging myself away from Lac Blanc (kicking and screaming), I strolled past Refuge de la Flégère and continued on through Plan Praz to the summit of Le Brévent. There is a cable car here which brings people up to enjoy the unsurpassed views of Mont Blanc and it was quite busy in comparison to the rest of the TMB. I took my time throughout the day knowing that it was my last chance to enjoy the scenery, every view was savoured and every ice cream was eaten. It was finally sinking in that I’d done it as I left Refuge de Bellachat and descended back to into Les Houches, the town I’d begun my journey in 7 days ago.

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TMB – Tre-le-Champ to Refuge de la Flégère

My guide book says that you should pray for good weather between Tre-le-Champ and Refuge de la Flégère, I can’t say I did but I woke to the best weather you could ever wish for. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the views of the Mont Blanc massif as the sun came up were incredible. This was definitely my favourite section of the the Tour du Mont Blanc as it featured steep climbs, ladders, crazy rock formations and the spectacular Lac Blanc. You can actually take a slightly shorter route that skips Lac Blanc but you’d be crazy to miss it, CRAZY!

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TMB – Lac Blanc

I’ve seen some amazing scenery on the TMB but I think Lac Blanc takes the cake, it’s breathtaking. I walked around the lake and took about a million photos but who can blame me, it’s stunning.

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TMB – The Jump

I’m not sure where I got the energy for this jump but I’m pretty happy with the result. Using the auto-timer can make it a little tricky, and then there’s the whole falling off the side of a mountain thing…

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TMB – Vertigo

There are a lot of vertigo inducing ladders between Tre-le-Champ and Refuge de la Flégère, best not to look down, and whatever you do, don’t set up your camera to take a photo of yourself climbing one of the ladders, unless you’re a little crazy, like me!

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TMB – Aiguillette d’Argentiere

I couldn’t have asked for a better day to make my way to Refuge de la Flégère, I took off early and soon got to the monolithic rock feature known as Aiguillette d’Argentiere. It looks to me like a smaller person is leaning on someone else as they gaze out over the sun drenched mountains, love it.

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TMB – Chalet du Glacier to Tre-le-Champ

Rather than continue on to Col del la Forclaz I made the rather steep ascent from Chalet du Glacier to Refuge les Grands and onwards along an undulating and at times snowy path to Col de Balme, a beautiful spot that seems to be at the centre of everything. This section took longer than expected but the views were nice so I’m glad I chose this route. From Col de Balme I continued along Aiguillette des Posettes and down the hill to Tre-le-Champ. I stayed at a wonderful place called La Boerne, everyone was friendly and I was happy to get to sleep after completing two sections of the TMB in one day.

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TMB – Champex to Chalet du Glacier (via Fenêtre d’Arpette)

There are different routes from Champex to Chalet du Glacier and Col de la Forclaz but only one that goes through the Fenêtre d’Arpette, an amazing mountain pass that separates two distinct sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The name Fenêtre d’Arpette means “a window to another world” and that’s definitely the feeling you get as you approach the high point, waiting in anticipation to see what is on the other side. It’s a hard climb over rocks but I enjoy that kind of ascent so not even my blisters could ruin today. I soaked up the views from the 2665m “window” and continued on down the other side where the view of the spectacular Trient glacier opened up before reaching Chalet du Glacier Buvette, where I devoured the biggest ice cream I could find.

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TMB – Trient Glacier

After climbing through Fenêtre d’Arpette a new world opens up with the magnificent Trient Glacier taking centre stage.

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TMB – La Fouly to Champex

La Fouly to Champex is a fairly cruisy section of the TMB, unless you’ve already walked 12km. I’d read that this was the easiest part of the TMB so I aimed to tick off 32km, my longest day of hiking. Naturally I went way off track chasing waterfalls and scenic views with my camera, adding more distance to a day that seemed like it wouldn’t end as a slowly ascended to Champex. I also experienced substantial rain for the first time on the trip and while it was nice to test out my wet weather gear, it wasn’t so nice to work out how bad it was. Today was hard work but with waterfalls, lakes, forest sculptures and unique Swiss houses to keep me entertained it was also pretty fun.

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TMB – A Sculpture by Zaric

A don’t know much about Zaric, but I do know that he had a really interesting sculpture standing on Lake Champex when I arrived after a long day on the TMB. Looks like some kind of rabbit/human hugging a fish, makes sense…

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TMB – Lake Champex

Champex is dominated by a large mountain lake that looks gorgeous as the sun goes down, as I was lucky enough to experience.

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TMB – When Forest Art Comes Alive

There was some really cool forest art between Issert and Champex which helped divert my attention as I dragged my body up the final climb of the day. I tried to bring this eagle alive with a funky focal zoom but I’ve probably ruined it in the process (I still secretly like it though).

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TMB – The Forest Path

There’s a lot of forest between La Fouly and Champex, including this nice stretch of path near Praz-de-Fort.

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TMB – Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to….I didn’t take the advice, veering far off the trail outside La Fouly to enjoy a waterfall that I’d seen in the distance, it was amazing, I’m not sure what the moral of the story is but c’mon, waterfalls! Awesome!

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TMB – Refugio Bonatti to La Fouly

Today I left Italy and moved on to Switzerland, was there an intensive grilling from the local border control? No, no there wasn’t (unless you count the cows that were frequently blocking the path). This section of the TMB featured a gentle walk to get things started before a steep descent to the Chalet Val Ferret. From here it was a gradual climb past Rifugio Elena to the majestic Grand Col Ferret, where the views of Val Ferret and Val Veni are fantastic (I’m running out of adjectives to describe the scenery). I then descended through some rolling farmland to the small town of La Fouly for a bite to eat.

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TMB – A Haunted Mountain Hut

Not far from Refugio Bonatti you’ll find the ruins of some old mountain huts, including one that is possibly haunted…

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TMB – Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti

I had a relatively short 22km to cover today after yesterdays 30km monster effort but what it lacked in distance it made up for in height as I gained around 1700m in elevation. After slowly making my way up to Refugio Bertone I took the spectacular Mont de la Saxe route to Tete de la Tronche (2584m) where a steep descent to Col Sapin awaited me. From here it was smooth sailing all the way through to Refugio Bonatti.

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