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 Houches - Nant Borrant lodge.
Meeting point at Les Houches, Chamonix valley, at the cash desk of Bellevue cable car, at 8:00 am. The cable car lifts us from the altitude 1010 m to Bellevue, 1794 m. The path goes down to the Nepalese bridge of Bionnassay, 1720 m, close to the glacier, then up in woods and a old mountain pasture to the Tricot pass, 2120 m, a nice point of view on the Haut Val Montjoie valley. Descent to Miage mountain pasture, 1559 m, where we will have picnic. In the early afternoon, we go up steeply to Truc mountain pasture, 1750 m, and then go down through the woods till the nice chalets of Les Contamines-Montjoie village, 1167 m. A few flat kilometers lead us to 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 lodge of Nant Borrant, 1450 m.
Duration of walking: 6 hours and a half. Difference of level : 874 meters up, 1218 meters down.
Day 2: Nant Borrant - Les Mottets mountain hut.
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 wiew, where we will have pic-nic and siesta. In the afternoon, a 40 minutes ascent leads to the third pass of the stage, 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, we get to a piste which takes us to Les Mottets hut, 1868 m. The shepherds sell there the local cheese, the Beaufort. Duration of walking: 6 hours. Difference of level : 1309 meters up, 891 meters down.
Day 3: Les Mottets - Maison Vieille lodge.
The path 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.
Descent to Elisabetta hut, 2195 m, a hut offering nice views on the Mont-Blanc italian side glaciers. A short descent, and then we walk on a flat piste, close to Combal lake, 1958 m. We later climb the old path leading to the deserted pastures of Arp vieille supérieure, 2303 m, and to a fantastic balcony path offering the best wiews on the Mont-Blanc peaks. We reach Chécrouit pass, 1956 m, where stands our stop-off for the night, Maison Vieille lodge. Duration of walking: 6 hours and a half. Difference of level : 1073 meters up, 985 meters down.
Day 4: Maison Vieille - Bonatti mountain hut.
We go down to Courmayeur, 1230 m, where most of the city houses have granite walls, and all have roofs covered with slates, a lawful obligation in this Italian valley. From Courmayeur, the path heads up in zig-zags on the steep slopes of Montagne de la Saxe. Pic-nic 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. In the afternoon, we 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: 6 hours. Difference of level : 995 meters up, 926 meters down.
Day 5: Bonatti hut - La Fouly lodge.
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 view 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, where we will pass the night in a lodge.
Duration of walking: 6 hours. Difference of level : 837 meters up, 1269 meters down. Tête Ferret optional ascent : + 176 m, - 176 m.
Day 6: La Fouly - Champex lodge.
A easy day, going down the swiss Val Ferret, following the course of the stream, passing by the small hamlets of Prayont, Praz de Fort, Issert. In the afternoon, the path goes up to the typical village of Champex, 1486 m, with its beautiful lake. Night in lodge on the shore of the lake.
Duration of walking: 5 hours. Difference of level : 460 meters up, 567 meters down.
Day 7: Champex - La Boerne lodge.
The steepest stage of the Tour. We leave the lodge before dawn. After an easy warm-up, going down to Champex d'En bas, 1320 m, the path enters the forest, and becomes steeper and steeper as we get close to the pasture of Bovine, 1987 m. We deserve a good break there !. Then a short ascent takes us to Portalo crest, 2040 m. In the distance we can see the Mont Ruan, where Jacques Balmat, first man to climb Mont-Blanc, in company with Auguste Paccard, died while searching a mysterious gold vein. Descent to Forclaz pass, 1523 m, and then to Trient, 1297 m.
In the afternoon, a long ascent, firstly in a steep forest, and then on grassy slopes, where flower the rhododendrons (Rhododendron Ferrugineum), leads us to the Balme pass, 2191 m. What a wiew ! : 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. 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. Night in lodge.
Duration of walking: 9 hours. Difference of level: 1650 meters up, 1735 meters down.
Day 8: La Boerne - Bellachat mountain hut.
We take the Cheserys footpath, pass near the tiny peaks of the two Aiguillettes d'Argentière, till the old pasture of the Cheserys. From there, a easy path leads to La Flégère, 1877 m, and Planpraz, 1999 m. Then comes a steep and stony ascent up to Le Brévent, 2525 m, the best place for photos of the Mont-Blanc group. Descent to Bellachat hut, 2152 m.
Duration of walking: 7 hours and a half. Difference of level : 1366 meters up, 615 meters down.
Day 9: Bellachat - Les Houches.
Breakfast on the sunny terrace of Bellachat hut, and descent to Park Merlet zoo. Optional visit of the park where you will see marmots, lamas, hinds, chamois and ibexes. After pic-nic, we keep going down to Les Houches, 1010 m, where we will be around 3 pm. End of the programme.
Duration of walking: 2 hours and a half. Difference of level : 20 meters up, 1159 meters down.
Your fitness: you are in good condition (you practise sports twice a week). You are used to hiking. Total climbing : 8588 m / 28170 feet. Total going down : 9365 m / 30720 feet. Total hiking time : 55 hours ( climbing pace : + 350 to + 400 meters per hour ).
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