News & Inspiration

Inspiration and Advice for Walking in Europe Information, reviews and advice on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England. Amalfi, Cilento, Tuscany, food and more Sherpa travellers share their reviews and experiences. Information, reviews and advice on Madeira walking holidays Information, reviews and advice on walks in the Cotswolds
rss

UK & European Holiday News

The latest travel news, interviews, traveller reviews, inspiration & advice on cycling and walking holidays in the UK and Europe..
Return to Blog Home >>

 

Off to do the TMB: First Ascent from Les Houches

Walking Tour du Mont Blanc Day 2_Sherpa Expeditions


At last, after many years of prevaricating, I’m off to do the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t know why I hadn’t been before, maybe because I perceived it to be too famous, but an opportunity arose to do one of Sherpa Expeditions bestselling trips and one of Europe’s most beloved long distance walks: Le Tour du Mont Blanc with my first ascent from Les Houches.


It’s day 2 on the Tour du Mont Blanc and after the usual continental breakfast, with benefits such as yoghurts and pastries, it is time to take off for my first real ascent. Stocked up with baguette, pain-au-chocolat and a handy thermos full of coffee, I’m on my way!


Walking-around-flowers-in-meadows-on-Mont-Blanc_Sherpa-Expeditions


I walk down past the Bellevue gondola, which can be taken to reduce the altitude gain by 800m. Most people starting their Mont Blanc circuit, at least today, seem to be taking it. However I decide to walk up the steep trail. It is quiet – there’s no one around. Pastures are brightly verdant with summer flowers and herbs. The sheep will be happy! Reaching Bellevue a couple of hours later, it is time to slip out the thermos flask and enjoy my coffee.


So after this refreshment the trail descends rockily and early in the season it can still be slippery. The trail drops to a bridge over the torrent from the Bionnassay Glacier. Weird? On the Mont Blanc map I have, the glacier appears to descend all the way to the bridge, but nowadays it is about a mile up the valley. Global warming is alive and kicking. A steep ascent follows up to the Col de Tricot (2120m). There are ruins of what once was some sort of French farm, which now act as a windbreak. The local sheep resting here with me are adamant to discover if there are any snacks to be had…


Walking-with-sheep-on-the-Mont-Blanc-away-from-les-Houches_Sherpa-Expeditions


Walking-Mont-Blanc-amidst-Spring-flowers-with-Sherpa-Expeditions


From here I move on to a 600 metre descent into the charming Miage Valley. I thread through the chalets and avoid the temptation to get a drink in the refuge, because it is already full with walkers and it would take too long today for me to get served. 


Flowers-and-mist-on-the-Mont-Blanc_Sherpa-Expeditions


There is then a steep 200 metre ascent to a high wild farm at Chalets du Truc. I would love to stop, but everyone has gone to ground and I am getting tired and want to keep going. Today’s final 700 metres descent is into the town of Les Contamines and I am feeling as if I’ve worked up an appetite. I visit the local supermarket before heading off to the Hotel La Chemenaz. It’s probably the finest lodging on this Sherpa Expeditions Tour du Mont Blanc walking route and, joy of joys, the room had a hot bath so I could try to steam out the tiredness! At the mountain hotel I enjoy a great dinner and then have an early night.


Today's first real ascent on the Tour du Mont Blanc certainly got my legs and heart working! Tomorrow evening I sleep in a traditional mountain guesthouse..

 

>> Keep an eye on this page for further posts on the 14 day Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) with Sherpa Expeditions!

Off to do The TMB: Geneva to Les Houches

Mont Blanc Walking Holidays


At last, after many years of prevaricating, I’m off to do the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t know why I hadn’t been before, maybe because I perceived it to be too famous, but an opportunity arose to do one of Sherpa Expeditions bestselling trips and one of Europe’s most beloved long distance walks: Le Tour du Mont Blanc starting in Les Houches. 

Making the way up the Mont Blanc with backpackMont Blanc is a huge adventure playground, a mountain theme park. You realise this when you witness the full range of people active on the massif: TMB walkers in groups coming one way, other groups the other, individual backpackers carrying huge loads staying in the huts and others intent on climbing the multifarious mountains and walls in the massif. There are mountain bikers, marathon runners with poles, paragliders, Scouts, multi-stage dog walkers whose pets carry tins of food in panniers and groups travelling the route with ponies carrying all their gear. Groups sleeping high and groups sleeping low. 

Having said this, there are also long sections where you might not see anyone at all. People tend to concentrate around or just beyond passes catching their breath. Doing the route I realised that there are several TMBs. The maps show various Variants from the ‘established’ route, which can make the route longer, shorter or more or less adventurous. But basically the TMB is around 170km with 10,000m of positive altitude change. 

Those with too little time to walk the whole tour around western Europe’s highest mountain in two weeks can take part in the annual TMB sky race, that starts in Chamonix - about 8km distance from Les Houches. Winners can expect to do it in 21 hours, more mortal runners will be expected to make it in 45.

Now, let's move on to my 14 days of walking the Tour du Mont Blanc organised by Sherpa Expeditions. 

Day 1: Geneva to Les Houches

The main street in Les Houches, FranceEarly morning I take a flight from the UK to Geneva in Switzerland where I meet my friend at a tea shop. At the Geneva Airport we very conveniently check into the Chamexpress desk for the near-hourly transfer to Les Houches in France. This is the village at the start of the walking holiday and where we meet our ground support representative. The transfer to Les Houches is very convenient, only taking an hour and a half. I was kind of expecting the minibus to be there outside at Arrivals, but we walk with our baggage out of the airport, into a lift and into a car park. The hardest work of day 1 of my trip. 

When we arrive at Les Houches, we are welcomed to a charming main street with a few shops and restaurants. At the hotel, which is in typical mountain chalet style and conveniently located, we try to have a bit of a siesta before walking around the village. There are great views to rocky spires and walls below Aiguille du Gouter, Mont Corbeau and Aiguille du Midi. You will notice a lot of ‘Aiguilles’ on the walking map provided and once you see one in the flesh, or rather the rock, you will realise that ‘needle’ is quite a good description. 

 

Church choir in Les Houches, FranceOn the way back to the hotel from dinner there is some beautiful choral singing in Les Houches church, delightful and a bit of a send off for bed.

Tomorrow will have a steady climb for us on offer!

 

>> Keep an eye on this page for further posts on the 14 day Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) with Sherpa Expeditions!