This classic alpine walk, the famous ‘TMB’ or ‘Le Tour du Mont Blanc’, circumnavigates Western Europe’s highest mountain over passes and through the valleys of three contrasting countries. Walkers can savour the food and wine of France, Italy and Switzerland and enjoy some of the finest scenery in the world. Note: Unlike most of our hotel treks, this tour operates on fixed dates in order to accommodate the logistics of baggage movement. We will normally have 2 staff in the area to carry out the baggage transfers.They will also act as a local contact in case of any problems that may arise. There will be up to 15 Sherpa customers doing the walk on any date though you do not have to walk together.
If twin rooms are available, single travellers can be paired to save single supplement charges. NB: there are no single rooms available in Les Chapieux, and if not paired up single travellers will have to stay in a small dormitory at Refuge Les Mottets, which is 7km further up on the route.
We grade this tour as moderate to challenging (grade 4); anyone used to hill walking/mountain hiking with a daily height gain/loss of 3,300 feet (1000 metres) per day should find the tour within their capability walking an average of 6 to 7 hours per day. There are no vertigo-inducing sections on this walk provided you stick to the itinerary as described in the route notes and defined on the maps; and avoid the ‘variations’. We make it clear in the notes which alternate routes in our opinion do require a ‘head for heights’. Some of the walks can be shortened if desired by the use of cable cars or (in Italy) a local bus service.
Make your own way to Les Houches, a resort located 6 km from Chamonix which nestles under the Mont Blanc massif. This evening a trip briefing is held by our Ground Support representatives before enjoying your evening meal.
Accommodation: Stay in a very comfortable 2 star chalet-style hotel facing the Mont Blanc range. All rooms have bath/shower, WC and telephone. The hotel has a shaded garden and a games room.
Today will certainly get the legs and heart working. A steady climb from Les Houches (950m) via Col de Voza (1653 m) and below the tip of the Bionassay glacier to the Col de Tricot (2120 m). There is a very steep descent from the col to the Chalets de Miage (1550m) followed by a short climb over Truc before descending through forest to Les Contamines (1170m). Les Contamines is a ski resort in winter, and has several restaurants and bars, also a well-stocked supermarket.
Many walkers start by taking the cable car up from Les Houches to Bellevue; this avoids the long trek and makes for a more enjoyable start to the tour.
Accommodation: A comfortable 3-star hotel with a swimming pool.
Today you will need to pack what you need for one night / two days as your bags are transferred La Palud, tomorrow night stop. Ascend to the Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and then traverse to the slightly higher Col de la Croix de Bonhomme (2479m) before descending to Les Chapieux. Les Chapieux is a tiny and remote settlement, 15 km /9 miles from the nearest village of Bourg St Maurice. There is a little shop in the hamlet where you may wish to purchase some Beaufort cheese for your lunch tomorrow.
Accommodation: We stay at a small but very welcoming guesthouse. All rooms have shared bathroom facilities. This lovely guesthouse also has a small library and garden. NB : there are no single rooms available in Les Chapieux, and if not paired up single travellers will have to stay in a small dormitory at Refuge Les Mottets, which is 7km further up on the route.The evening meal is included at both accommodation and offers local specialities. Packed lunches are available.
The walk can be shortened to around 20 km/12.8 miles by using local buses along the Val Veni (Italy) – the bus service does not normally operate before 1 July. After a steady ascent past Ville des Glaciers, cross the Col de la Seigne (2516m) into Italy. The Elisabetta refuge is a popular lunch stop. In summer there is a local bus service along the Val Veni from Cantine de la Visaille to La Saxe and Courmayeur, but purists can follow the strict TMB route high up on the south side of Val Veni, or follow delightful low-level paths along the Val Veni itself. From La Saxe or Courmayeur you can walk or catch the bus up to La Palud 1370m).
Accommodation: For your two nights in Italy you stay at a modern 3-star hotel which is situated close to the station for the cable car to Mont Blanc (Helbronner peak). All rooms have private facilities. There is a large terrace, a bar, and a TV lounge. It is a short bus ride to the historic town and modern shopping centre of Courmayeur. It is also possible to walk to Courmayeur via La Saxe.
A chance for a well-deserved rest. On a clear day you may like to take the cable car from La Palud to Pointe Heilbronner (3462m) on the crest of the Mont Blanc massif with views across the Glacier du Geant. Alternatively you can try one of the TMB variations, for instance from Courmayeur over Mont de la Saxe or Col Sapin, returning by bus from La Vachey or Pra Sec along Val Ferret to La Palud. This bus may not run before July 1. Additional map will be required if you intend to do any of these TMB variations on the south side of the Italian Val Ferret. The 1:50,000 map ‘Pays du Mont Blanc’ published by Didier Richard covers this part of the route.
The walk can be shortened by taking the bus to La Vachey or Arnuva. Today you pass close by Mont Dolent, and cross the Grand Col Ferret (2537m) to re-enter Switzerland. From Grand Col Ferret descend through alpine meadows past the summer pastures and barns of La Peula (refreshments available) and the tiny village of Ferret to our hotel in La Fouly (1595m).
Accommodation: Stay at a small, very comfortable 3-star hotel. All rooms have private facilities.
Follow the beautiful Swiss Val Ferret and pass through some pretty villages before leaving the valley to climb through woods to Champex in its picturesque lakeside setting. An easy day – in warm weather there is time to cool off in the open-air swimming pool. Champex-Lac is a little resort town at the northeastern end of the Mont Blanc range.
Accommodation: 3-star hotel, all rooms have ensuite facilities.
A chance to stroll around the lake and visit the botanic gardens. There is an abundance of day walks from Champex, of which one of the most challenging is from La Breya (upper cable car station at 2198m) to the mountain hut at Cabane d’Orny (2811m). Good weather and a head for heights are needed for this walk. Another good walk from Champex-Lac is to follow the Val d’Arpette up towards the Fenetre d’Arpette. For art lovers it is possible to use this day for an excursion by bus and narrow gauge train to the neighbouring town of Martigny, where the renowned Pierre Gianadda Gallery hosts summer exhibitions. In 2015, Matisse was on show and in 2014 Renoir took centre stage. In Champex, there is a good choice of restaurants with specialities such as raclette, lake trout, and local fruit from the Valais. There is a small shop in the town for picnic items.
Ascend through woods to reach the barns of Bovine (1987m); food and drinks usually available and then descend to the Col de la Forclaz (1526m); in season, try the local tarte aux myrtilles (blueberry pie). There is then the option of a walk to the Chalet du Glacier and a bit beyond for fine views of the Trient Glacier before descending to the village of Trient. There is a strenuous and challenging variation to today’s route, over the Fenetre d’Arpette (2665m), although we consider that the ‘Bovine’ route is so scenic that it should not be missed. Trient is a tiny village in the Val Trient.
Accommodation: Stay at a simple ‘relais’ or ‘auberge’ (inn). Accommodation is fairly basic in two-bedded rooms without private facilities. Packed lunches available, and there is a good small grocery shop where picnic materials can be obtained.
Cross into France via the Col de Balme (2191m) revealing the Chamonix Valley below and the Mont Blanc massif. On the way up to the col there is a longer but very scenic and satisfying alternative via Les Grands (head for heights is an advantage). The best way on from Col de Balme is via the spectacular but easy Posettes ridge, from the end of which there is a steep descent on good paths through forest to Tre le Champ and our hotel at Argentiere. For those who want a more leisurely day, a shorter (and still scenic)descent from Col de Balme to Argentiere is possible via Le Tour.
Accommodation: Stay in a comfortable and welcoming 3 star hotel, one of the first hotels to be built in the valley. All the rooms are ensuite.
Climb via Tre le Champ (1417m) and Les Cheserys, and make a detour to the scenic Lac Blanc (2352m) before rejoining the Grand Balcon route, which looks across the Chamonix valley towards Mont Blanc. From La Flegere (1877) you can either descend to the valley at Les Praz de Chamonix on foot or by gondola & cable car. From Les Praz, you make your way to the hotel either by bus or by walking through the pleasant environs; or continue along the Grand Balcon for another 2 hours to Plan Praz, from where there is another cable car (or gondola) and another footpath down to Chamonix.
Accommodation: Spend two nights in a 3-star hotel, all the rooms are fully en suite, and include satellite TV.
We recommend taking the cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m). You can also catch the train to Montenvers and the Mer de Glace glacier or explore Chamonix and its surroundings. For those who might prefer something totally different from walking Chamonix boasts an Olympic standard pool and aquatic centre, a summer luge course, paragliding, golf etc. There is also the very interesting Alpine Museum and art gallery.
Accommodation: Overnight at the 3-star hotel in Chamonix.
Rejoin the trail either at La Flegere, using the cable car from Les Praz de Chamonix, and continue along the Grand Balcon to Plan Praz or at Plan Praz via the Brevent cable car from Chamonix. From Plan Praz ascend to Col de Brevent and on up to the peak of Le Brevent (2525m), one of the highest points of the tour. This day offers some of the finest views of the route. From Brevent you descend to Les Houches (1010m) and make your way to the hotel where we spend the last night. In case of bad weather or low cloud there are good low/medium level walks leading to Les Houches along the flanks of the Chamonix valley such as the ‘Petit Balcon’ and the ‘Rive d’Arve’. These named walks are well marked and signposted.
Depart Les Houches for your onward journey.
In my view the tour was the most spectacular walk I have done in Europe.
M Keating, Canberra, Australia
Just wanted to say the Mont Blanc tour was an absolute blockbuster. Brilliant walk, well organised and great fun.
P. Hancock, Hong Kong, 29 Jul 2016
Per Person, Twin Share