A trek around the highest peak in the European Alps where spectacular alpine scenery combines with the charm of French, Swiss and Italian mountain villages. This historic itinerary takes you across passes, around enormous glaciers and via stunning lakes to take in some of the best viewpoints in the Alps. Meadows crossed by clear melt water streams lead you downwards to green pastures where shepherds will sell their Beaufort cheese to you fresh! Mountain refuges and hotels provide a relaxing respite at the end of your day's trek. This journey is for experienced alpine walkers - providing an enthralling alpine experience with unsurpassed views around each bend.
MODERATE to CHALLENGING – GRADE 4
The walking is moderate to challenging (4) grade with daily walks of around 5-9 hours, between 8 and 34 km and maximum ascents of 1800 metres per day (note: on 34 km day between Courmayeur and Les Chapieux, many walkers choose to take a bus to the Val Veni cutting 12km from the days walk, particularly in poor weather). The timing provided in the itinerary is a guide only and is for the walking components only – rest breaks are not included. There are some challenging stages during the walk with steep uphills, descents, and many sections of the trail which require care. The accent is on keeping a steady pace with time to stop and take photos (subject to weather conditions). You will need a good to excellent level of fitness to participate fully in this adventure. It is considered suitable for experienced walkers only. You should also be able to navigate in alpine regions using a map and compass. Whilst the route is very well marked and well trodden, adverse weather conditions may make navigation difficult without reference to a map and compass. Early in the season (June) you may encounter snow on the passes which may be quite deep and alter the grading of the trip to advanced. At any time during summer, weather conditions may be variable and you should be prepared for all conditions including snow, ice, strong sun and extreme winds.
Leaving from the village of Le Tour you take the scenic high mountain path of Balme heading towards Switzerland. Weather permitting you will be able to take some wonderful photos of the Mont Blanc chain including the impressive “La Verte”, the Drus and the Needles of Chamonix. You will cross the border between France and Switzerland before making your way down to the village of Trient for overnight accommodation.
There are two alternative routes between Trient and Champex. The first is via the Mountain of Bovine which involves crossing the Forclaz Pass (1527m) where there are beautiful lake views. The other, is The “Fenêtre d'Arpette” (2665m) route, which is a variant on the Tour du Mont Blanc and is quite challenging. In adverse weather conditions this pass is not recommended. The trail, is not as well defined as the lower route but as with many pass crossings, the rewards on a good weather day are the extraordinary views to the Trient Glacier. The descent to Champex is steep though you will have the opportunity to have a hot shower at your lodge.
This morning you take a public bus (fare not included - 15 Swiss Francs) to the small village of Ferret (1705m) and commence walking. The route takes you out of Switzerland and into Italy by the Grand Col Ferret (2537m) pass. It’s a steady climb and at the Col you will be awe inspired by the sweeping views of the Pre de Bar glacier. After some time drinking in the panorama you can amble down the steep track to your overnight accommodation at the Refuge Elena which is located at the base of the glacier and a great place to view the changing light on the alps.
This mornings walk takes you through the Val Ferret and along a balcony path with impressive views of the Grand Jorasses, Mont Blanc and in the distance the Col de la Seigne marking the border between France and Italy. On reaching Refugio Bonatti there are three options to reach Courmayeur. The newly rerouted TMB trail traverses the north flank of Monte de la Saxe, whilst the former official TMB route takes you along the crest of Monte de la Saxe. Both are high trails with fabulous views of the Brenva face of Mont Blanc and the dramatic Aiguille Noire. The alternative route is via the variante route over the Col du Sapin (2436m) with a quick descent to Courmayeur. This latter route is preferable in poor weather (or take a bus from the roadhead at Arnuva. Overnight Courmayeur.
This is a long and hard day if you intend to walk the full distance. There are options to shorten by taking a bus (cutting out 2 hours) or from around mid July to the end of August you can take a chairlift from Courmayeur (cutting out 700m of the ascent). From the centre of Courmayeur the walk heads steeply up a switchback trail to the Col Checroui. From here you continue the ascent to a steep spur at the top of the valley Veni where the views are spectacular. The descent is quite steep to the relatively flat valley floor. Continue over the Seigne mountain path, which is overhung by limestone pyramids and the Estelette Glacier, until you reach France. The trail then descends across the high mountain pastures to the City of the Glaciers. Today also provides an excellent opportunity to buy Beaufort cheese from the local farmers.
This mornings walk takes you up mountain pastures to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m) where there are good views southeast to the peaks of the Vanoise. The trail continues down to the Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and crosses the Contamines Natural Reserve. A sharp descent through a pine forest fringed gorge takes you to an ancient Roman Road and the church of Notre Dame de la Gorge. Continue walking to the Contamines Valley.
The trail takes you along the river valley and heads slowly to La Gruvaz before continuing to Le Champel and a fairly steep ascent via Bionnassay to the Col de Voza. A longer route can be taken following a combination of tracks and trails above Contamines before you ascend to cross a shoulder of Mont Truc followed by an ascent of the Col du Tricot (2120m) which forms the divide between the Miage and Bionnasay Valleys. From here you have some spectacular views of limestone cliffs and the pistes below. The descent follows a combination of gravel roads and tracks past some settlements to reach Les Houches.
This morning is one of the toughest ascents of the trail, taking you through thick forest from the town of Les Houches right up to the heights of Le Brevant. Enroute there are some sections which are exposed and above the tree line the views of Mont Blanc are more than enough reward for your efforts. Reaching Brevant you can take the cable car down to the centre of Chamonix. Alternatively, continue along the balcony trail for a further 2 hours to Flégère. This trail is one of our favourites so if you have the energy and the weather is good we highly recommend you continue to Flégère. However it is important to note that the last cablecar returning to the valley is around 4-4:30pm (mid June to early September). The cable car from Flégère takes you to Les Praz which is one stop on the train to Chamonix or about a 30 minute walk along the river. Your luggage will be waiting for you at your pre tour hotel.
Maps were fantastic and the plastic waterproof pocket was excellent!
A.Frandas, VIC, Australia
Excellent accommodation. Need to stress the importance of fitness for the trip! We had a FABULOUS experience and are both eager for more alpine walking.
S. Vanderwerff., QLD, Australia,
On the whole accommodation was warm, clean and friendly and food of good quality. Stunning walk, challenging but very worthwhile. A wonderful experience.
D. Lockie, Barwon Heads, VIC
Highly recommend this trip and UTracks. The self-guided option worked well for us as we were able to maintain our own pace - everything is well-marked and there are lots of people to ask along the way about conditions, timing etc. The refuges are great fun.
J.Fidler, Sydney, Australia
Fin trip + so easy for a single person to do. The hotel bookings (not done by me) and the 10 kg luggage shuffle (not done by me) are worth every cent!!
T. Martin., NSW. Australia
Very well organised tour. We had no problems with anything. Great accommodation. Good itinerary which took into account our needs and our abilities. Would do it again.
T. Grosman., Middle Cove, NSW, Australia
Per Person, Twin Share