If you’re considering hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc trek with Alpenwild this summer, but wondering what to expect, you may enjoy our three part trip series. This series will give you more information regarding the route and a taster of some of the incredible landscapes waiting for you. In part one we cover the first four days of the trip which will take you from Chamonix in France to Courmayeur in Italy:
Mont Blanc Trek – Day 1: Meet and Greet in Chamonix
We meet our guests in the hotel on the afternoon of the first day. We have a welcome meeting where we introduce ourselves and talk about the trek route. There is plenty of time to ask questions and buy any last minute things from the many outdoor shops in Chamonix.
To stretch our legs and get orientated, we take a gondola up from Chamonix up to the top of Le Brevent at 8284ft. Le Brevent is a fantastic vantage point for views of Mont Blanc and along the entire Chamonix Valley.
From the top of Le Brevent, we take the lift back to the valley to get ready for a delicious three course dinner in one of Chamonix’s top restaurants.
Day 2: Chamonix to Les Contamines
The first stage of the Tour du Mont Blanc trek takes us from Chamonix to Les Contamines over our first mountain pass, the Col du Tricot. We begin the day with a short transfer to Les Houches Village and a ride up the gondala to Bellevue. In winter it’s is a popular ski area, but in summer Bellevue is a lush green pasture for cattle.
Bellevue is the starting point for most hikers on the Tour du Mont Blanc, so there is always an excited buzz of conversation on the gondola. It’s not unusual to bump into the same people along the Tour du Mont Blanc which gives it a great sense of camaraderie.
Bellevue is also the starting point for adventurous souls who are climbing up Mont Blanc via the normal route. Those climbing Mont Blanc take the train up to Nid D’Aigle, while we take the trail down through the forest and up, up, up over the Col du Tricot.
A long climb and steep descent are rewarded by a delicious lunch at a mountain hut with incredible views of the Miage glacier and the Aiguille du Bionnossay. After lunch there’s one last short uphill to the picturesque Chalets du Truc where we buy some local cheese and saucisson for tomorrow’s hike. The rest of the hike is downhill to our hotel in Les Contamines where a cold drink and outdoor pool await.
Day 3: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux over the Col du Bonhomme
This is the big day everyone talks about on the Tour du Mont Blanc as it involves the most total ascent in one day. The hike over the Col du Bonhomme is achievable for any fit hiker, but it’s a good challenge and you will earn your three-course dinner today!
The trail begins in a forested gorge and opens out into a wide valley overlooked by the Aiguilles de la Pennaz. At the end of the valley we take a break, stock up our sugar levels and then start climbing to the Col du Bonhomme.
On a clear day it’s lovely to stop for lunch on the top of the Col and relax on the wide grassy saddle. From here you can see down through Val Montjoie to the North and Vallon de la Gittaz in the South West. Lac de la Gittaz and Lac de Roseland shine a brilliant emerald blue in the distance.
From the Col du Bonhomme we bear left and follow an undulating trail a further 300ft up to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, our highest point for the day. At this point of the Tour du Mont Blanc trek, we are at the most Westerly point of the loop and are just starting to come around the South side of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Ahead of us lies the Beaufortain mountains which look very different from the landscape we have left behind. If time is on our side, then we stop for a drink on the sunny deck of the ‘Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. From there the trail winds down through mountain pastures past herds of sheep to the tiny hamlet of Les Chapieux. Our private transfer awaits us to take us to a hotel in a nearby town.
Day 4: Ville des Glaciers (France) to Courmayeur (Italy)
Today is the day we cross the border from France into Italy! We get picked up from our hotel and driven back up the valley to near where we finished our hike yesterday. The trail begins from the secluded Ville des Glaciers. The only buildings here belong to a friendly farmer named Bernard. His family have been milking cows and producing milk here in the traditional way for generations and he is happy to show us around.
The cheese is produced on sight and the milk comes from cows in the meadows next to the farm – you can’t get more local than that! We take a tour of the farm and watch Bernard’s team making cheese in a huge cauldron next door. Life as an Alpine dairy farmer is hard work and it’s not unusual to work 16 hours a day. We leave the farm with a good selection of cheeses for lunch and start walking up the Valley towards the aptly named Aiguille des Glaciers (needle of glaciers).
To get an idea of life on a dairy farm in the Alps, watch our video on traditional cheese farming in Eigeralp, Switzerland.
The climb up to the Col de la Seigne feels quick and easy compared to yesterday. The Col de la Seigne is the border between France and Italy, but there’s no passport control here. Just a small stone pillar marked with an ‘F’ on the French side and ‘I’ on the Italian side.
The views at the border are outstanding. Mont Blanc and the spear-like Aiguille Noir dominate the landscape and it’s possible to see all the way to the Grand Combin and Mont Vélan in Switzerland. Our trail takes us down into Val Veny, a valley carved by the Miage and Brenva glaciers.
The descent from the Col is pleasant. Along here, we find a comfortable place next to the river to have our lunch, and contemplate the imposing Italian side of Mont Blanc. The trail continues along the river to the picture-perfect Lac de Combal.
Our pick-up point is an hour easy walk beyond the lake. A twenty-minute car journey takes us to the historic village of Courmayeur. In this small village, old stone buildings, centuries old, compete for space along cobbled streets. Our spa hotel is just a five minute walk from the pedestrian centre. It’s the perfect place to spend a well earned rest day tomorrow!
More in this Tour du Mont Blanc trek article series:
Other articles you may enjoy
- Chasing light – the alps through the eyes of Rosie Sandifer. (Award winning artist Rosie Sandifer joined us on a Tour du Mont Blanc in Summer 2018. This article includes some of the paintings she created of the landscapes she saw.)
- Packing list for the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Is a guided or self guided Tour du Mont Blanc for you?
- Are you fit enough to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?
- Haute Route Q&A - May 31, 2019
- Saint Luc: Highlights of the Haute Route - May 23, 2019
- Are hiking poles worth the purchase? - May 18, 2019
- How to work out your heart rate zones for hiking - April 30, 2019
- 5 ways heart rate training will improve your hiking - April 23, 2019
- Alpenwild’s Tour du Mont Blanc: Part 3 – Champex Lac to Chamonix - April 16, 2019
- Alpenwild’s Tour du Mont Blanc: Part 2 – Courmayeur to Champex Lac - April 15, 2019
- Alpenwild’s Tour du Mont Blanc Trek: Part 1 – Chamonix to Courmayeur - April 6, 2019
- Top 5 Hiking Destinations in the Alps - March 29, 2019
- Big mountains, small wonders: An interview with Alpine Naturalist, Simone van Velzen - March 24, 2019