The Tour of Mont Blanc
“The Monarch of the Alps”
About the Trek
One of the world’s greatest walks and most spectacular hiking experiences … the Tour of Mont Blanc!
Described as the “rooftop of Western Europe”, the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB) is a 11 day, 170km trek that takes you through three different countries (France, Italy, Switzerland) and over several mountain passes. Walking along high alpine paths, this is a non-technical trek with the highest point reached being 8,478ft.
It’s a trek of splendour: of wildflower meadows, charming hamlets, dramatic passes, and soaring peaks. We’ll stop at villages along the way to enjoy local cheeses, fondues and homemade bread while sleeping in auberges and refuges perched up high on mountain “spurs”.
Dates for the 2017 trip are July 1 – 14.
July 1: Arrival Day: Chamonix, France
Overnight: Grand Hotel des Alpes
Arrive in Geneva and transfer to our hotel in Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc and in the heart of the Alpine mountains. Built in 1840, the Grand Hotel des Alpes is an upscale, old world hotel that provides a perfect welcome to our travellers.
July 2: Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines – 16km
Overnight: Hotel la Chemenaz
Welcome to the Tour of Mont Blanc! After breakfast, we transfer to the French village of Les Houches and ride a cable car to Bellevue where our hike officially begins. Stage 1! You’ll be relieved to know that the first stage of the Tour is fairly straightforward enabling newcomers to the Alps to get into their stride and witness some of the spectacular scenery that has given TMB its reputation as one of the great walks of the world. From the Col de Voza (a col is a pass between mountain peaks), our route will take us through the small hamlets of Bionnassay, Le Champel, and La Villette to our final destination, the picturesque village of les Contamines. We’ll overnight at the Hotel la Chemenaz, a classic savoyard-style chalet.
July 3: Day 2: Les Contamines – Col de la Croix du Bonhomme – Les Chapieux – 18km
Overnight: Auberge de la Nova
On this stage, the TMB travels along a tree lined path which passes the pilgrimage chapel of Notre-Dame de la Gorge and then into the Reserve Naturelle des Contamines-Montjoie, a protected area created in 1979 containing the upper reaches of the Val Montjoie.
The TMB climbs through two cols, Col du Bonhomme (2,329m) and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2,493m), where large patches of snow often lie. The hillside folds down to the “Vallee des Glaciers” and Les Chapieux, a small relaxing hamlet nestled on the valley bend. The Auberge de la Nova welcomes us with their local cuisine and Savoyarde specialities of fondue, tartiflette, beaufort cheese, and fine Savoie wine.
July 4: Day 3: Les Chapieux – Col de la Seigne – Rifugio Elisabetta – 15km
Overnight: Rifugio Elisabetta
On this exciting stage, the TMB crosses out of France and enters Italy at the Col de la Seigne. After two demanding days, this relatively short stage allows for a bit of relaxation as we head northeast to La Ville des Glaciers, a scattering of farms renowned for their world famous Beaufort cheese. We’ll lunch at the atmospheric Refuge des Mottets, a former dairy farm, and then onwards, ascending high pastures to the Col de la Seigne and “the revelation of a new world”. “Arrival at the col is an eye opener. Standing on the borders of France and Italy, views in all directions are magnificent.” We’ll overnight at the unique mountain refuge, Rifugio Elisabetta. One of a kind, this refugio stands on a spur overlooking the Vallon de la Lee Blanche. Totally incredible.
July 5: Day 4: Rifugio Elisabetta – Dolonne – Courmayeur – 18km
Overnight: Auberge de la Maison (Entreves, near Courmayeur)
Today’s hike to Courmayeur is truly wonderful. The undulating nature of the route follows along the south flank of the Val Veni and it offers scenery of the highest order “… the route follows a balcony path of immense appeal – every step further unravels a sumptuous view of the disordered and magnificent cluster of the great peaks, and of Mont Blanc itself.” We’ll pass through Col Checrouit and then on through the attractive stone-built village of Dolonne, before arriving in Courmayeur, a bustling Alpine town nestled in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta.
Our hotel is a treat – located in the heart of Entreves, Courmayeur’s most picturesque village, Auberge de la Maison is a charming wood and stone hotel “standing on a vast lawn with the most marvellous views of Mont Blanc.”
July 6: Day 5: Courmayeur – Rest Day
Overnight: Auberge de la Maison
A day to relax and rejuvenate in this serene alpine setting.
If the weather is clear, we’ll take a ride on the cablecar (the Funivie Monte Bianco) from La Palud to Point Helbronner. A truly memorable mountain experience.
July 7: Day 6: Courmayeur – Rifugio Bonatti – 12km
Overnight : Rifugio Bonatti
This stage promises to be one of the highlights of the Tour. The grandeur of yesterday’s views from the high route above Val Veni is matched on this stage by the views of the ridge of Mont de la Saxe. Hiking on an easy, undulating path, we’ll witness the great walls of rock and ice across the Val Ferret. The path develops into a “balcony trail” covered in junipers, alpenrose, bilberry and larchwoods, and crosses into open meadows with breathtaking views every step of the way. Our final destination is the splendid and privately owned Rifugio Bonatti. This unique refuge is located at the mouth of the Malatra Valley and overlooks a panorama that encompasses the chain of Mont Blanc, from Col de la Seigne to Col Ferret. It was opened on August 2, 1998 and was named after the world famous alpinist and explorer Walter Bonatti.
July 8: Day 7: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly – 20km
Overnight: Auberge des Glaciers
Today we cross out of Italy and into Switzerland and hike along the eastern edge of the Mont Blanc range. It’s a good route on a glorious trail that takes us to the pass, the Grand Col Ferret (2,537m), for our first view into Switzerland and then down into the idyllic Swiss Valley of Ferret on the far side. Hiking over rolling pastureland, the beauty of the Swiss meadows comes alive with flower meadows, colourful chalets, milky streams and clanging cowbells.
We’ll overnight in the small village of La Fouly at a family Inn perfectly situated in a mountain setting in the heart of Val Ferret.
July 9: Day 8: La Fouly to Champex – 15km
Overnight: Alpina Champex
This is the easiest stage of the TMB with only a modest amount of height gain and loss. It’s a pastoral walk through a Swiss mountain valley with no passes to cross nor remote country to traverse. Dairy cattle graze the pastures and local farming communities dot the landscape. Enjoy the pastoral scene for “the old ways still carry weight, and it seems appropriate somehow that in this slightly unreal world the chief produce should be strawberries.”
We’ll rest at the Alpina, a chalet run by the Tissieres family who will share with us with great pride, their passion for the mountains and their art of living.
July 10: Day 9: Champex – Alp Bovine – Col de la Forclaz – 16km
Overnight: Hotel du Col de la Forclaz
The 9th Stage is marked by an undulating walk that makes a loop around the northern slopes of a rocky spur. The route curves, dips and rises over unsettled contours. There are neat meadows, patches of forest, rough combes, and high alpine pastures leading to the simple alp buildings of Bovine. Bovine is a working dairy farm located on a gentle slope of pasture. Once past the farm, the pleasant woodland path is mostly downhill to Col de la Forclaz.
July 11: Day 10: Col de la Forclaz – Col de Balme – Tre-le-Champ – 13km
Overnight: Auberge la Boerne
Col de la Forclaz marks the northern extent of the TMB, the furthest point from the summit of Mont Blanc. This stage carries the route over the final mountain barrier and returns it to the Vallee de L’Arve. As it does so, Mont Blanc reappears, the first time since leaving Rifugio Bonatti. Walking through woodlands, we’ll reach a path that climbs in steep zigzags up the south flank of the valley to the famous pass, the Col de Balme (2,204m) across which runs the French-Swiss border. A magical view awaits. We’ll take it all in while enjoying refreshments at the refuge – perfectly situated on the broad grassy saddle of the Col. The mountain remains in sight for most of the descent to the hamlet of Tre-le-Champ. The descent is achieved along the crest of the Aiguilette des Posettes, an elevated path with some of the best panoramic views.
The Auberge la Boerne is a typical alpine chalet dating back to the 18th century and located in the peaceful hamlet of Frasserands.
July 12: Day 11: Tre-le-Champ – Refuge La Flegere – 8km
Overnight: Refuge La Flegere or Refuge du Lac Blanc
The final two stages of the TMB are along the acclaimed Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most scenic of all alpine paths. It runs along the north side of the Vallee de l’Arve and provides a stunning, uninterrupted panorama of the Mont Blanc range. A series of metal ladders, rungs, platforms and timber steps are used to overcome steep rock slabs so that climbers can indeed experience the sensational bird’s eye view of the whole north flank of the Mont Blanc range. To quote Alexander Pope: “And Alps upon Alps arise”. The view across the valley from the Refuge is exquisite and the ambience is “such to make a night spent here a truly memorable one.”
July 13: Day 12: Refuge La Flegere – Les Houches – 17km
Overnight: Grand Hotel des Alpes
The final stage of the Tour of Mont Blanc is as varied as any on the walk. On the way to Le Brevent, we’ll pass through Plan Praz, a landscape that has been reshaped by the ski industry with chair lifts and cable cars. The climb to Col du Brevent is well worth the effort for its unrivalled viewpoint from which to study Mont Blanc in all its glory. An amazing full frontal view of Mont Blanc and an aerial perspective of Chamonix, lying almost 1500m below, is a picture perfect end. From here the descent to Les Houches is steep, tiring, and … spectacular. There’s nothing difficult about the route with the final series of footpaths winding through forests to the pleasant village of Les Houches.
We’ll end our tour where we began, at the charming Grand Hotel des Alpes, in Chamonix, only a short shuttle ride from Les Houches. We’ll celebrate and raise our glasses to Mont Blanc, the Monarch of the Alpes.
July 14: Depart to Toronto
Saturday July 1 to Friday July 14, 2017
$5,500 USD + HST. Airfare to/from Chamonix and Insurance (both travel and medical) are not included in the expedition cost.
December 1, 2016 – Deposit: $1,000 USD
February 1, 2017 – 1st Payment: $2,500 USD
May 1, 2017 – Final Payment: $2,000 USD + HST
Please make cheques payable to Suvara Travels Canada. Money orders or US cheques can be mailed to 49 Elm Avenue, Toronto, M4W 1N6