I'm going to tell you about my first experience of trekking the Tour du Mont-Blanc in 7 days. In this article, you'll find all the details of my experience, as well as anecdotes from my adventure around Mont Blanc. Whether you're a trekking beginner or an expert, here's a sneak preview of the Tour du Mont Blanc from the inside.
To this day, I had never done an organized trek before I was offered the chance to do the Tour du Mont Blanc with Cairn Trekking. I went with some friends and we called on Cairn for our first experience of trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc in refuges. I can't tell you how much I don't regretted this decision, even when I woke up on day 7 in the snow at the top of the Col du Bonhomme - quite the contrary! During this adventure, we had the chance to cross 3 countries: France, Italy and Switzerland for a total of over 100 km in 7 days, can you imagine? And we did it all with the help of our super mule and, of course, our guide.
We completed our TMB in 7 days in mid-September. Why this period? Initially, it wasn't by choice; we'd just found this week together with some friends. In the end, we had no regrets, as we were able to make the most of the beautiful days at the end of summer, which is also a much quieter period on the hiking trails and in the refuges.
In fact, we hadn't realised the reputation of the Tour du Mont Blanc, which is relatively popular.
In summer, it's sometimes difficult to get places in the refuges, as we were informed, unless you make arrangements weeks/months in advance.
That's why using a travel company means you can secure a place in the refuges, buses or simply enjoy every moment, without worrying about all the logistics involved.
For the dates of the trip, you have to take into account the weather, which can be quite changeable in the mountains, and even more so outside the summer period. I remember the last time we woke up at the Col du Bonhomme Refuge. We got up under a snowpack and started the last day in a storm. Where some might have been discouraged, but we took it as yet another challenge.
If you're thinking of preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, I can advise you to do a few hikes of more than 3 to 4 hours beforehand. You don't need to climb a mountain, but a bit of positive and negative drop in altitude to get used to the type of effort can be reassuring. It's just as important to try out your equipment, such as footwear, and to avoid blisters in advance, for example.
But don't worry, the walking pace is adapted and there are plenty of breaks. You'll have enough time to do your photo shoots in front of the different panoramas and inspire your friends and family!
If you're a heavy sleeper, that's not a great place . We generally set off around 8.30am and arrive at the refuge in the late afternoon.
I have to admit that one of my biggest fears was that I'd get bored, with all those hours of walking. But you know what? Each day went by so quickly, and time on this kind of experience is really different. The return to reality was strange, not seeing the faces which had become familiar, even though we hadn't known them a few days before, was nostalgic
If the equipment for the TMB and the contents of your bag are at the bottom of your list of questions, don't worry! Before you set off, you'll receive a guide with all the information you need: from the map, to how to get there, to full details of the tour, or a list of everything you'll need for your Tour du Mont Blanc. Leave without worrying about the details with Cairn Trekking, word of mouth from a hiker who's tried the experience.
Before our start on the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, we were in a hurry, excited and stressed at the same time at the idea of setting off on this new experience. We had a thousand and one questions on our minds ("Will the group be nice?", "Which guide will we have? Are we going to get the mule on the first stage? about the different refuges or even about meals). In short, we had a lot of questions on our minds.
We arrived in Chamonix where we were checked on the weight of our bags (if you're wondering if you can add one or two kilos to your bags, you've missed out...). So we were finally able to put a face on our guide and on the people we were going to be sharing this experience with. We had our first briefing of the day and the week, and then we set off on our TMB.
Here we are, taking our first steps around Mont Blanc! During the first few kilometres, we were able to get into our stride and get used to walking in a group, with our packs, poles, etc. But we were also able to get to know the rest of the group and exchange stories about our lives, our fears about the trip... But we also got to know the rest of the group and exchanged anecdotes about our lives, our fears about the trip... As I've already mentioned, there were people from everywhere in the group, and the mix was enriching. We all had different backgrounds, ages and lives, and we had so much to talk about.
We were soon faced with grandiose panoramas, particularly of Mont Blanc. During our first picnic, we stopped in a quiet spot where we had a complete panorama of the mountain ranges and Mont Blanc.
If you have a lot (too many) questions, that's normal. I was setting off on my first trek with this 7-day TMB. I was apprehensive about managing tiredness, the dynamics of the group or simply about being able to walk for 7 days in a row... We did the TMB starting from Chamonix and finishing at Notre Dame de la Gorge in Les Contamines Montjoie.
In my opinion, the most difficult thing to manage was the weather: we had one day of rain and, as I mentioned, some snow. On the other hand, the statistics speak for themselves: we had one of the only rainy days the guides have had during the summer, and in fact the sun reigns around Mont Blanc to offer us the most beautiful landscapes. The difficulty of the hike really depends on each person, with some stages being more difficult than others. For example, if I remember correctly, day 6 to get from the Refuge Elisabetta Soldini located between the top of Val Venis and the Col de la Seigne to the Refuge du Bonhomme was a more difficult day than others, but today we only remember the beaufort we tasted and the chamois we met on the side of a path.
Another point that can be difficult, depending on your profile, is community life. It's true that we have to live with the whole group 24 hours a day. What's more, we did the Mont Blanc tour in 7 days in dormitories. It's good to know that the dormitories range from 4 to more than 35/40 people, depending on the refuges. In terms of comfort, we can say that this is enough, but you shouldn't expect to have your own room etc. otherwise it's better to opt for the 7-day Tour du Mont Blanc Confort. This option offers greater comfort and privacy than dormitories or bivouacs.
On the other hand, I would recommend everyone to have the experience of sleeping in a refuge, where the atmosphere is so warm, the meals so comforting and the people you meet unforgettable.
To complete the TMB in 7 days, we had to be creative to get through the rainy day and the climbs, which could sometimes be endless.
Our strategy? Anticipate, plan ahead and be aware of the stage ahead of us, and prepare ourselves mentally for the stage that was coming up so that we didn't have to suffer through the day. In reality? We sang, we talked, we admired the scenery and we snacked a lot too. The group dynamic was a real driving force, helping us to push ourselves to the limit and get to the top together.
When I set off on the Tour du Mont-Blanc, I thought I'd see some magnificent landscapes, but I didn't really know what to expect. Of course, I'd looked at some photos before setting off, but the reality is quite different! Every step you take takes you to a new view, a new landscape from a different perspective. On the whole of the Tour du Mont Blanc, we don't actually see a lot of Mont Blanc because we're all around it. On the other hand, we were delighted by the diversity of the landscapes, the glaciers and the summits in each of the countries we crossed, the valleys and the paths we hiked. Discover the most wonderful point of view when hiking around Mont Blanc.
If you want to do the Tour du Mont Blanc, you have two options for accommodation: bivouacs or refuges. We chose the Tour du Mont Blanc in refuges for our first trek. Discovering mountain refuges was a truly unique experience. Each refuge was different, in terms of atmosphere, decoration and even comfort. They're not hotels, but there's a really warm and welcoming atmosphere that encourages sharing, with communal areas, large dining rooms, uninterrupted views at breakfast, just like paradise !
Moreover, Cairn has its own mules, the mascots of the week (the guides are trained to look after them, look after them in case of minor problems, etc.), who accompany us on the trails carrying some of our belongings. This gives us access to refugees that are not always accessible by vehicle and that other organizations cannot reach. Doing the Tour du Mont Blanc with a mule is really more authentic than using 4x4s, which have a much higher carbon footprint. Without wishing to sound like an environmentalist, I think it's a shame to take the step of going on a trek in the mountains, with such beautiful landscapes, and to bring vehicles into a natural environment.
However, I was expecting refuges be regulated in order to be able to live in a community. Some things surprised me the first time. Water, for example, is a rare commodity and is counted in the majority of refuges. If I tell you that water is counted, it's not for filling your water bottles, but more for the shower (yes, the one you have been waiting for all day). Well, you'll have the right to a lovely coin that counts down the number of litres of water before the water is turned off (no, it's not a joke). If you're looking for an adventure, this is the place to go.
I have really good memories of the different refuges, such as the Bertone refuge, the Elisabetta refuge, the Croix du Bonhomme refuge and the Fouly refuge... Each of these refuges was an unique experience, with comforting meals and sharing. Although comfort was clearly not at its best, it made the experience of this Tour du Mont Blanc authentic and memorable.
It really was magical to take part in this organised trip around Mont Blanc with Cairn Trekking, and I'd recommend it to anyone! Furthermore, not having to organise all the logistics of our trek meant that we were able to leave with complete peace of mind. If you like leaving without having to worry about the details, and you want to enjoy an unforgettable, unusual experience, put your trust in an organisation like Cairn Trekking and you won't be disappointed !
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