Trekking in the Alps

In this section we present a chapter from the book "Per Alpes, Discovering the Alps in 20 circular walks". Read the tour description below and check other publications of the Alps Convention.

  • Mont Blanc tour
  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 3
  • Day 4
  • Day 5
  • Day 6
  • Day 7
  • Day 8
  • Day 9
  • Day 10
  • Day 11
  • Tourist info

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Route descriptions: Countless books have been written about Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc (Italian: Monte Bianco; 4810m). Together with Matterhron/Cervino, this mountain is certainly the most popular peak in the entire alpine area. Its impressive size and snowcap attracts climbers from all over the world all year round. Mont Blanc has become a mass phenomenon: on fine days the mountain is literally assaulted by experienced and aspiring climbers. Many people tend to underestimate the long uphill slopes, hidden crevasses and especially the insidious height of this gigantic mountain. Sometimes, however it is better to admire these formidable mountains from a different perspective and discover the landscape diversity they offer. The Grand Tour of Mont Blanc takes 11 days but you can also opt for a shorter 4-day tour. This icy massif offers a new impressive aspect on each side. The tour takes you to popular tourist destinations such as Chamonix and Courmayeur, as well as remote regions whose authenticity is still intact. Moreover, the track takes you to France, Italy and Switzerland, so that you can get more familiar with their cultures and traditions. The tour of Mont Blanc is a classic, and this popularity is reflected in the number of routes available, varying in difficulty and length. The tour described in this brochure, can be shortened by using the cableway or the bus in certain parts. However, these options are not mentioned here, because the tour is designed to be completed in 11 days entirely on foot, weather permitting.

Skills required: Considering that this tour takes you around the highest mountain in Europe, you might assume that only experienced climbers would be able to tackle it. You would be mistaken. The tour of Mont Blanc is in fact considered to be easy. Needless to say, fitness, careful footwork, endurance and a head for heights are always necessary.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Les Houches – Col di Voza – Ref. de l’Arc – Col de Tricot – Ref. de Miage


Travel time: 6-6,5 h.

The trailhead of the Grand Tour is Les Houches (980m), on the outskirts of Chamonix. Unlike other TMB itineraries that normally begin this tour travelling by cableway, you leave Les Houches on foot. Starting from the lower cableway station, follow the path as it rises gently towards Col de Voze (1553m). Leave the main trail and take a secondary path, much quieter and with a real alpine feel to it. Follow it as far as Ref. de l’Arc (1600m). Cross over the stream fl owing directly from the glacier and carry on ahead on the short steep path leading to Col de Tricot (2120 m). Finally, the path glides down to Ref. de Miage (1559 m).

Accommodation:
Ref. de Miage (1559 m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50932291, open from mid May to mid October, private.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Ref. de Miage – Auberge du Truc – Les Contamines – Notre Dame de la Gorge – Ref. de Nant Borrand – Chalet de la Balme

Travel time: 4-4,5 h

From Ref. de Miage (1559m) walk uphill for 30 minutes to reach Auberge du Truc (1750m), a panoramic highland area. From this point you start descending to the pretty town of Les Contamines (1167m). Follow the stone path running along the Le Bont Nant stream to reach the beautiful little baroque church of Notre Dame de la Gorge (1210m). You can then step into the past by following an ancient Roman pathway all the way to Ref. de Nant Borrand (1459m). After ascending into the wood, you reach a valley from which you will already be able to catch sight of Chalet de la Balme (1706m).

Accommodation:
Auberge du Truc (1750m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50931248, open from mid June to mid September, private.
Ref. de Nant Borrand (1459m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50470357, open from mid June to the end of September, private.
Chalet de la Balme (1706m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50470354, open from mid June to mid September, private.


The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Ch. de la Balme – Col du Bonhomme – Col de la Croix du Bonhomme– Col des Fours – La Ville de Glaciers – Ref. des Mottets

Travel time: 6-6,5 h

You may feel short of breath as you climb up the small but surprisingly steep Plan des Dames highland (2043m). Do not worry, it won’t last long! The next slope up to Col du Bonhomme (2328m), although full of scree and snow residues, is rather pleasurable. After one hour you reach the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme saddle (2483m). Right below the col hides a hut carrying the same name*. Once you have reached the col, you should really make the effort to climb over Tête Nord des Fours (2756m; about 30 minutes walk). From here the view ofmont Blanc is unforgettable. From Col des Fours there is one last downhill slope left to walk and it leads you to La Ville de Glaciers (1789m). From this point it is not long before you arrive at Ref. des Mottets (1850m). *If weather conditions are bad, it is advisable to end the journey here and to get from the Ref. de la Croix du Bonhomme to Col des Fours (2665m) on the following day!

Accommodation:
Ref. de la Croix du Bonhomme (2443m): Tel. +33-(0)4-79070528, open to mid June to mid September, CAF.
Ref. des Mottets (1850m): Tel. +33-(0)4-79070170, open from mid June to mid September, private.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987 m
Alp Convention

Ref. des Mottets – Col de la Seigne – Rif. Elisabetta Soldini – Lac de Combal – Alpe Vieille inferiore & superiore – Col Chécrouit/Rif. Maison Vieille

Travel time: 7-7,5 h

The slope starting from Ref. des Mottets (1850m) is not a diffi cult climbing route and it leads you to Col de la Seigne (2516m). Here you see a large rock pyramid shaped landmark, indicating the entry to Italy. The views of Mont Blanc and its neighbours are outstanding and contrasting, such as the rocky peaks and the pyramid of Aguille Noire de Peuterey. The descent to Elisabetta Soldini hut (2197m) glides down through an outstandingly beautiful valley. Go past Lake de Cobal and if the meadows are in full bloom you will find yourself staring at a sea of colours. Follow the path through the pastures of lower Vieille (2073m) and upper Vieille (2303m) until you reach Col de Chécrouit, where your last stop for today is the Maison Vieille hut (1956m).

Accommodation:
Rif. Elisabetta Soldini (2197m): Tel. +39-0165-844080, e-mail: rifugioelisabetta@alice.it, open to mid June to the beginning of September, CAI.
Rif. Maison Vieille (1956m): Tel. +39-337-230979, e-mail: maisonvieille@tiscalinet.it, www.maisonvieille.com, open from mid June to the end of September, private.
Rif. CAI UGET Montebianco (1670m): Tel. +39-0165-869097, e-mail: info@rifugiomontebianco.com, www.rifugiomontebianco.com, periodo di apertura: da metà giugno a metà settembre, CAI UGET.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Rif. Maison Vieille – Dolonne – Courmayeur – Villair – Rif. Bertone

Travel time: 4-4,5 h.

Take a wide path sloping down from the Maison Vieille hut (1956m), to the ancient town of Dolonne followed by the popular tourist destination, Courmayeur (1226m). Here you have time to go sightseeing because today’s tour is quite short. When you are ready, continue walking towards Villair (1327m), veer right to the Sapin valley and after a steep descent, you reach the Bertone hut (1991m).

Accommodation:
Rif. Bertone (1991m): Tel. +39-0165-844612, e-mail: info@rifugiobertone.com, www.rifugiobertone.com, open from mid June to the end of September, private. For further information: A.I.A.T. Monte Bianco – Courmayeur.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Rif. Bertone – Tête Bernarda – Col du Sapin – Col entre deux Sauts – (Tête entre deux Sauts) – Rif. Bonatti – Alp Gioé – Lavachey – Rif. Elen

Travel time: 7-8 h

Follow the broad ridge to Tête Bernarda (2534m) and after a short descent you reach Col du Sapin (2436m). The next slope climbing up Col entre deux Sauts (2524m) is short and easy. If it is not too late, you could climb 200m more and reach the Tête entre deux Sauts summit (2729m). From this point, all the main summits of Mont Blanc massif are on parade. As you reach the Bonatti hut (2056m), it is advisable to go towards Alp Gioé, to the small village of Lavachey (1642m). From the village, follow the road all the way to the far end of Arnuva. At the end of the valley there is a path rising up to the Elena hut (2062m).

Accommodation:
Rif. Bonatti (2056m): Tel. +39-0165-869055, e-mail: info@rifugiobonatti.it, www.rifugiobonatti.it, open from mid March to mid October, private.
Rif. Elena (2062 m): Tel. +39-0165-844688, open from mid June to mid September, private

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Rif. Elena – Grand Col Ferret – La Peule – Ferret – La Fouly – Praz de Fort – Issert – Champex

Travel time: 8-8,5 h

The ascent to the Grand Col Ferret (2537m) is demanding at first, however the path soon slopes gently down to delicate pastures. Once you reach the Grand Col Ferret you are in Switzerland. On the north-western side of the col stands the towering Mount Dolent (3820m) whose summit is the tripoint between France, Italy and Switzerland. The descent to Val Ferret is easy and inspiring. Some people might find this landscape too gentle compared to the spectacular scenery of the previous days. However, this valley and its cultural heritage add new interesting elements to this fascinating alpine scenario. In La Fouly (1594m) you might have the impression that mass tourism has taken its toll on the town, but as you reach Praz de Fort (1151m) you can still find the typical houses of this region and in Issert (1049m) there is still an old mill and an old bread oven. Here, tradition, culture and modernity mingle harmoniously. Cross the wood and after eight long hours you reach today’s destination, Champex (1466m) and the splendid Lake de Champex.

Accommodation:
For information: Office du Tourisme La Fouly and Offi ce du Tourisme Champex.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Champex – Relais d’Arpette – Fenêtre d’Arpette – Chalet du Glacier – Trient

Travel time: 6,5-7,5 h

Today’s experience will be one you will never forget. Not only will you cross a glacier, observing its crevasses and seracs, but on the same day you will see a century-old piece of cultural heritage of great relevance: the so called bisse - long man-made canals designed to trap water melting from glaciers. Leaving Champex (1466m) follow a bisse as far as Relais d’Arpette (1630m). The next slope going up to Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m) is rather steep. However, once you arrive at the col, the fine view of the Glacier du Trient repays you for all the effort made. The descent to Chalet du Glacier requires very careful footwork. Take a short reinvigorating break and prepare yourself to tackle the last part of the journey to Trient (1297m).

Accommodation:
Relais d’Arpette (1630m): Tel. +41-(0)27-783122, e-mail: info@arpette.ch, www.arpette.ch, open from mid December to mid October, private.
For further information: Office du Tourisme Trient.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Trient – Peuty – Tsanton des Aroles – Col de Balme – Aiguillette des Posettes – Tré-le-Champ

Travel time: 5-5,5 h

From Trient (1297m), walk past Peuty and climb uphill. Follow the canal fl owing from Col de Balme down towards Tsanton des Aroles. Keep following the path running through large pastures and you get to the chalet “Les Herbagères“ and eventually to Col de Balme (2205m), on French territory. From this point, instead of walking towards the cableway station, choose the path directing you to Col des Possettes (1997m) and Aiguillete des Posettes (2201m). Go past Tête du Chanavier (1927m), and just after the Chaleyre chalet, follow the trail as it slopes down to Tré-le- Champ (1417m).

Accommodation:
Ref. du Col de Balme (2205m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50540058, open from the ned of June till the end of September, private.
Centre alpin du Tour CAF (Tré-le-Champ; 1417m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50540416, e-mail: catour@clubalpin.com, open from the beginning of April to the end of September, CAF.
Auberge/Refuge La Boerne (Tré-le-Champ; 1417m): Tel. +33-(0)4-50540514, e-mail: laboerne@club-internet.fr, www.la-boerne.fr, open all year, private.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Tré-le-Champ – Tête-aux-Vents – Ref. de la Flégère

Travel time: 4-4,5 h

From the small Tré-le-Champ village (1417m), initially the path ascends gently. However, soon after the majestic rock wall where climbers usually train to improve their skills, the slope soars uphill. Shortly before the massive rock wall of Tête-aux- Vents (2130m), you must climb some rocky areas with the help of fixed ladders. This part is not particularly difficult, but you must certainly not suffer from vertigo. Leaving Tête-aux-Vents you follow the path through the Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most popular scenic trails of the entire alpine area, with its fine view across the Chamonix valley to Mont Blanc and its glaciers. Finally, follow the path to Ref. de la Flégère (1877m), next to the cableway station.

Accommodation:
Ref. de la Flégère (1877m): Tel. +33-(0)6-03582814, open from mid June to the end of September, private.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Ref. de la Flégère – Planpraz – Col de Brévent – Brévent – Ref. de Bellachat – Les Houches

Travel time: 6,5-7 h

The landscapes you will see on this last day are breathtaking. Avoid doing this route on weekends and start early in the morning, otherwise you will most probably end up struggling in crowds of ill-equipped tourists that come up by cableway. From Ref. de la Flégère (1877m) head towards the Planpraz station (2080m) then take the diversion to Col de Brévent (2368m). Once you reach the col, without facing major difficulties you get to the Brévent summit (2526m), towering over Chamonix. This is one of the best spots to admire Mont Blanc. From this point, start descending to Ref. de Bellachat (2151m), where you could stay overnight. However, because you are only 2 and a half hours away from Les Houches (980m), it is best if you end the tour of Mont Blanc walking down the valley on the same day.

Accommodation:
Ref. de Bellachat (2151m): Tel. +33-(0)5-40534323, open from mid June to mid September, private.
For further information: Office du Tourisme Les Houches.

The roof of Europe


Mont Blanc tour

Trailhead: Les Houches (980m, regular train connections)
Highest point: Col des Fours and Fenetre d'Arpette (2665m)
Total travelling time:64,5-70 h
Overall height gain/loss: + 9987m - 9987m
Alp Convention

Useful information

For booking and for more information on all-inclusive tours of Mont Blanc:
Association of Alpine Guides Alpine Courmayeur 1850: Tel. +39-0165-842064 www.guidecourmayeur.com
Alpine Guides of Chamonix: Tel. +33-(0)4-50530088
Offices in Les Houches Tel. +33-(0)4-50545076 Argentière Tel. +33-(0)4-50541794 e-mail: info@chamonix-guides.com, www.chamonix-guides.com
Cairn (Les Carroz): Tel. +33-(0)4-50900274 e-mail: cairn@cairn-fr.com, www.cairn-fr.com
Transalp-Sportreisen (Genève/Croix-de-Rozon): Tel. +41-(0)227-713553

Tourist information
Office du Tourisme Chamonix: Tel. +33-(0)4-50530024 e-mail: info@chamonix.com, www.chamonix.com
Office du Tourisme Les Houches: Tel. +33-(0)4-50555062 e-mail: info@leshouches.com, www.leshouches.com
Office du Tourisme Les Contamines: Tel. +33-(0)4-50470158 e-mail: info@lescontamines.com, www.lescontamines.com
Centro prenotazioni: Tel. +33-(0)4-50470510
A.I.A.T. Monte Bianco – Courmayeur: Tel. +39-0165-842060 e-mail: info@aiat-monte-bianco.com, www.aiat-monte-bianco.com
Office du Tourisme La Fouly: Tel. +41-(0)27-7831171 e-mail: lafouli@st.bernard.ch, www.saint-bernard.ch
Office du Tourisme Champex: Tel. +41-(0)27-7831227 e-mail: champex@st-bernard.ch, www.st-bernard.ch
Office du Tourisme Trient: Tel. +41-(0)792-731511 e-mail: info@trient.ch, www.trient.ch

Alpine Guides
Courmayeur Society of Alpine guides 1850: Tel. +39-0165-842064 www.guidecourmayeur.com
Mountain Guide Adventure(Chamonix): Tel. +33-(0)4-50010298 e-mail: info@mountain-guide-adventure.com, www.mountain-guide-adventure.com
Alps Adventures (Chamonix): Tel. +33-(0)6-70069143 e-mail: philippe@alps-adventure.com, www.alpes-aventures.com
Neil Hitchings – mountain guide: Tel. +33-(0)4-50534760 e-mail: neil.hitchings@orange.fr, www.neil-hitchings.com
Mt. Blanc – Guides (Les Houches): Tel. +33-(0)4-50933957 www.montblancguides.com

Maps
Map IGC Monte Bianco - Courmayeur - Chamonix Mont Blanc - La Thuile Sheet 107: 1:25.000
Map IGN 3630 OT Chamonix: 1:25.000
Map IGN 3531 ET St.-Gervais: 1:25.000 Map Kompass Monte Bianco, Sheet 85: 1:50.000

Alpine clubs
Club Alpino Italiano (CAI), Sezione di Aosta: Tel. +39-0165-40194, www.aosta.caivda.it
FFCAM Fédération française des clubs alpins et de montagne (CAF): Tel +33-(0)1-53728700, www.ffcam.fr
Swiss Alpine Club (SAC-CAS): Tel. +41-(0)313-701818, e-mail: info@sac-cas.ch, www.sac-cas.ch

Websites
www.via-alpina.org
www.walkingthetmb.com