Tour du Mont Blanc: How to Plan Your Own Trek
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is list ed as not only one of Europe’s classic hikes, but one of
t he best in t he world!
The 160km, 8000+ elevation gain hike around the highest peak (4810 m) in Western Europe is a classic. Having just
completed it through France, Italy and Switz erland, I can highly recommend it. Although you don’t actually go to the
peak itself (that involves mountaineering), it’s tough. It will challenge you both physically and mentally, but with a little bit
of planning you can choose how much you want to be challenged.
T here are a variety of ways that you can hike the T MB.
There are guided hikes, some where you are accompanied by a donkey, like Coco, pictured below in which you are
able to off load 7 kg of gear to him. I kept running into him along the way on our tour and rewarded him for his efforts
with fruit – even though he wasn’t carrying any of my gear. What can I say? He has the name name as my cat, so I took
to him immediately, plus I love donkeys!
Co co , ca r r i e d 7kg o f e a ch o f h i s g r o u p ’s s tu ff. He ’s n o t fo n d o f to m a to e s , b u t l i ke s p e a ch e s a n d a p p l e s .
guided treks, in which a tour operator consults with you or makes all the arrangements for you. Lastly, you can plan it all
yourself as we did.
So how do you plan your own Tour du Mont Blanc?
I recommend that you plan it by using a combination of this site, Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete Two- Way Trekking
Guide Book by Cicerone Guides. (I had bought another book, but after seeing this book, it was much better than the
one I had) and a good map of Mont Blanc.
Choose Your Starting
Choose Your Starting
Point f or the T MB:
We started in Chamonix, known
as the “Capital of Extreme” for
all of its climbing,
mountaineering and rafting
activities, but the traditonal
starting point and where most
people that we met started in
the nearby village of Les
Houches. Travel t ip: If you do
decide to start in Les Houches,
ensure you buy everything you
need in Chamonix first. We
walked from Chamonix to Les
Houches and had to take the
bus back to Chamonix again to
buy an iPhone cable since I
couldn’t find one in Les
Houches – it’s really small.
Choose the direction you
will trek the T MB:
The traditional way is to do it
counter- clockwise which is how
we did it. The apparent
advantage of doing it clockwise
(I’ve only done it counterMa p o f th e To u r d u Mo n t B l a n c 160km ci r cu i t.
clockwise) is that you will be
going against the flow. You will
also want to choose a different starting point, like Champex if you decide to do it clockwise. This will help you ease into
the steep climbs.
Use a combination of the T MB site, book and map to plan each day.
Don’t start by saying that you will do the trek in so and so many days. Plan each day according to what seems
reasonable to you. The TMB site, shows you the availability of the refuges (mountain huts) and how long it takes to
hike to the other hut. You’re also able to book the huts directly through their site. The disadvantage to the TMB site
though is that it doesn’t provide the elevation gain, nor the distance, which is where the book comes in. Note: If you are
choosing a longer trek that often means going up two separate cols/mountain passes. Keep in mind that you will likely
be much slower later on in the day when your legs are already tired, then when you first started out. It’s also a good idea
to plan your route out on a map, so that you can choose huts that are en route to where you’re going and not out of your
Allow Additional T ime f or Breaks/Stops/Slower Hiking:
The times mentioned in the book and on the TMB site do not include breaks/stopping for route finding etc. Nor do they
account for going slower on a long day. If a 6 hour time is mentioned, you probably want to calculate for somewhere
between 7- 8 hours. We had one really long day which was calculated as just over 9 hours of hiking, but it took us over
13 1/2 hours (including a breakfast and lunch stop). A lot of it was because by the time we finally hit the second bit of
elevation, we were already 22km into our hike and climbed the 700m of elevation at a tortoise pace.
Inf orm Ref uges Prior of any Dietary Pref erences:
I have a gluten allergy and informed all of the refuges before we left. It wasn’t a problem, when they were informed,
except at breakfast where typically just bread was served. None of the refuges had gluten- free bread (which was fine
with me), so I asked for a piece of fruit instead. If you have any special dietary needs it’s worth giving them a heads up
prior since dinner is one standard meal unless you make special arrangements.
To Reserve or Not to Reserve Ref uges on the T MB?:
Re l a xi n g a t Fi o u x Re fu g e a n d e n j o yi n g th e vi e ws o f Mo n t B l a n c.
reserved all of our refuges in advance. We wanted to enjoy our holiday and not be on our phone each day trying to call
ahead to see if there was space. We also didn’t want to just show up and find out there was no space left. The
disadvantage of this is that it allowed us no flexibility. The advantage was that we never had to worry about finding a
place to sleep.
As it turned out, all of the refuges we stayed at, did have space, so reservations may not always be necessary, but
often the only space left was in a dormitory and we preferred to sleep in private rooms when possible. Travel t ip: If you
don’t have reservations for a refuge, then try to get an early start and arrive early, before it does come full with other
hikers who have the same idea.
Pamper Yourself at the Beginning and End of Your T MB Trek
Vi e w o f Mo n t B l a n c fr o m o u r r o o m a t B o u ti q u e Hô te l Le Mo r g a n e i n Ch a m o n i x.
stayed at the Hôtel Les Aiglons, Resort & Spa the night before our trek and at Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane on the last
day of our trek. Both are four star eco hotels in Chamonix, complete with a spa! After staying in refuges it was pure bliss.
We sat on our huge patio enjoying the killer views of Mont Blanc, as we rested our blistered, aching feet. Trust me, on
the final day, you’ll likely be tired, so it’s worth a bit of a splurge!
So How Did Planning our Own TMB Trek Work Out ?
Overall it worked out really well for us. We did it in 8 days (between 7- 12 days is recommended). We did have several
long days, which were manageable, but our 13 1/2 hour day was way too long. I was THISCLOSE to calling a taxi for the
last 3km, but sustained, or rather J.P. wisely prevented me. It would have been nice to have had an extra day or two to
reduce the amount of hiking we did on some days. I also wish I would have used the book mentioned above instead of
mine, which didn’t include elevation gains or distances.
But the best thing about the T MB?
Us p o s i n g a t o n e o f th e h i g h p o i n ts a l o n g th e TMB – 2700m
ENJOYED MOST OF IT! I don’t believe anyone who says t hey enjoyed every second of t he TMB – t here are
some really t ough part s, but t o enjoy most of it is more t han I could have asked f or!
Stay tuned for more helpful posts on the Tour du Mont Blanc……