When can we hike the Tour ?
We avoid hiking the Tour in June, as there is still some snow on the highest passes, with a risk of falls on old snow steep slopes. We also avoid the last week of August, when nearly 3000 participants run the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc.
The route :
Day 1: Les Contamines Montjoie - Croix du Bonhomme hut. Meeting point at Les Contamines-Montjoie, by the Tourist office, at 7.30 am.
The stage begins by a few flat kilometers till the church of Notre Dame de la Gorge, built in the 17th century in a baroque style. From there, a steep ascent on the old Roman route, which linked Geneva to Rome by the Bonhomme and the Petit Saint Bernard passes, brings us to the charming pastures of Nant Borrant, 1450 m, and Balme, 1720 m. Passing Balme mountain pasture, we head up to the Bonhomme pass, 2329 m, which links the Savoie and the Haute-Savoie. From this first pass, the path goes through old limestone slopes (lappiaz), till the Croix du Bonhomme pass, 2479 m, a very nice point of view. At just 5 minutes walk stands the Croix du Bonhomme hut, 2443 m, which will welcome us for the night.
Duration of walking: 6 hours. Difference of level : 1312 meters up, 36 meters down.
Day 2: Croix du Bonhomme hut - La Visaille, and bus transfer to Courmayeur.
A 40 minutes ascent leads to Les Fours pass, 2665 m. Steep descent till the waterfalls, facing the Aiguille des Glaciers peak, 3817 m. Later, the path gets easier, passing near cows herds. At la Ville des Glaciers, 1789 m, the shepherds sell the local cheese, the Beaufort. The path then goes up steeply through mountain pastures, till La Seigne pass, 2516 m, where you enter in Italy. Two distinctive geological features can be seen from there : the two limestone pyramids. These natural towers have been created by the upheaval of the Alps, which pushed up the metamorphic granite and gneiss, and pushed away the limestone. Another famous peak stands as a witness of these geological events : in the "Aiguilles Rouges group", just above Chamonix, the Belvédère peak, 2965 m, on its gneiss base, still wears as a hat, on the last 10 vertical meters under its summit, stratums of quartzite - dolomite - clay limestone, which erosion could not destroy.
From La Seigne pass, we go down on its Italian side, passing the nice Combal lake, 1958 m, and later following a piste till La Visaille, 1659 m, in the Italian Val Véni. Bus transfer, a 15 minutes drive, to Courmayeur, 1230 m. Night in lodge. Duration of walking: 6 hours and a half. Difference of level : 949 meters up, 1733 meters down.
Day 3: Courmayeur - Bonatti hut.
From Courmayeur, the path heads up in zig-zags on the steep slopes of Montagne de la Saxe. Picnic near Bertone hut, 1970 m, where you can have a real italian coffee, expresso or ristretto, with Mont-Blanc scenery just in front of you. As the afternoon stage is not very long, we can have a one hour siesta, before to hike to Bonatti hut, 2025 m. This hut bears the name of Walter Bonatti, a prolific mountaineer, explorer and writer, which book, "My Mountains" (Le Mie Montagne) is one of the best of alpine literature. Duration of walking: 5 hours and a half. Difference of level : 995 meters up, 200 meters down.
Day 4: Bonatti hut - La Fouly, and bus transfer to Champex.
The path smoothly goes down to the depth of the italian Val Ferret, with a superb view on the Grandes Jorasses peaks, 4208 m. Just below Elena hut, 2062 m, begins the climb to Grand Col Ferret pass, 2537 m, point of wiew on the Mont-Blanc group and on the first swiss peaks of the Valais, where we enter in Switzerland. You may choose an optional ascent, Tête Ferret, 2713 m, leaving your backpack at the pass. A long descent will take us to the small Swiss village named La Fouly, 1593 m. Bus transfer, a 30 minutes drive, to the typical village of Champex, 1486 m, built on the shore of a nice lake, where we will pass the night in a lodge.
Duration of walking: 6 hours. Difference of level: 867 meters up, 1299 meters down. Tête Ferret optional ascent: + 176 m, - 176 m.
Day 5: Champex - Trient.
A piste smoothly goes up in the Val d'Arpette, then becomes a path, which gets steeper in the first slopes of old masses of fallen rocks, making quite tiring the long ascent till the Fenêtre d'Arpette pass, 2665 m. Offering a fantastic view on the glacier of Trient, the pass is the best place for picnic. The afternoon descent is still very stony till the "bisse". A bisse is a little canal, with a average slope of 0,5 %, built by the local people to collect water from a spring or a glacier, and bring it to the mountain pastures. We will follow this bisse for a while, and then descend in steep forests till Trient village, 1297 m. Night in a lodge. Duration of walking: 6 hours. Difference of level : 1179 meters up, 1368 meters down.
Day 6: Trient - La Boerne.
A long ascent, firstly in a steep forest, and then on grassy slopes, where flower the rhododendrons (Rhododendron Ferrugineum), and we reach the Balme pass, 2191 m. What a view! Chamonix valley, Aiguilles de Chamonix, Aiguille Verte, Les Drus, Aiguille du Goûter, Dôme du Goûter, where emerge the glaciers of Bossons and Taconnaz, and the Mer de Glace. Pic-nic and siesta at the pass, before to go down the path leading to Charamillon mountain pasture, Le Tour village, and the halmet of Montroc. From there, a short 5 minutes ascent will take us at the lodge "La Boerne", 1401 m. Duration of walking: 5 hours. Difference of level : 914 meters up, 810 meters down.
Day 7: La Boerne - La Flégère, and cable car down to Les Praz de Chamonix.
We take the Cheserys footpath, pass near the tiny peaks of the two Aiguillettes d'Argentière, till the old pasture of the Cheserys, and then head up to the Lac Blanc, 2352 m, where photos of the Mont-Blanc are fantastic. From there, a easy path goes down to La Flégère, 1877 m, where we will take the cable-car down to Les Praz de Chamonix. End of the programme at the train station of Les Praz de Chamonix around 4 pm. Duration of walking: 5 hours. Difference of level : 995 meters up, 519 meters down.
Your fitness: you are in very good condition, with a good experience of trekking. Total climbing: 7082 m / 23230 feet. Total going down: 5391 m / 17680 feet. Total hiking time: 40 hours (climbing pace: + 350 to + 400 meters per hour).
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