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Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Tour of Mont Blanc: Everything You Need to Know in One PDF



The Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide book pdf




If you are looking for an unforgettable adventure in Europe's highest mountains, you should consider hiking the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB). The TMB is a 165 km trekking trail that circles the Mont Blanc massif, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. It is one of the most popular and spectacular long-distance treks in the world, offering stunning views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, alpine meadows, and turquoise lakes. The TMB can be completed in 9-14 days, depending on your pace and route.




The Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide book pdf



But hiking the TMB is not a walk in the park. It requires good physical condition, proper preparation, and careful planning. That's why having a guide book pdf can be very helpful. A guide book pdf can provide you with all the information you need to plan and enjoy your TMB adventure, such as maps, itineraries, accommodation, transport, weather, safety, and more. You can download it to your phone or tablet and access it anytime, anywhere.


In this article, we will give you an overview of what hiking the TMB entails, why you should do it, how to choose your itinerary, what are the top destinations and highlights along the way, how to prepare for the trek, and how to book your trip. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the TMB. By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of what to expect from this amazing trek and how to make the most of it.


Why hike the Tour of Mont Blanc?




There are many reasons why hiking the TMB is a great idea. Here are some of them:



  • Epic alpine scenery: The TMB will take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. You will see Mont Blanc from different angles and perspectives, as well as other impressive mountains such as the Aiguilles Rouges, the Grandes Jorasses, and the Mont Dolent. You will also admire glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, meadows, and forests along the way.



  • Cultural diversity: The TMB will expose you to three different countries and cultures: France, Italy and Switzerland. You will experience their distinct languages, cuisines, architectures, and customs as you hike through their territories. You will also learn about their history and traditions related to mountaineering and alpinism.



  • Historical significance: The TMB has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times. You will walk on paths that were used by Roman soldiers, medieval pilgrims, Napoleonic troops, smugglers, and explorers. You will also see churches, chapels, castles, forts, and monuments that testify to the past events and conflicts that shaped this region.



  • Hut system: The TMB has an extensive network of huts (also called refuges or rifugios) that offer accommodation and food to hikers along the trail. These huts are cozy and comfortable places where you can rest, recharge, and socialize with other hikers. They also provide stunning views of the mountains and valleys.



How to choose your itinerary




The classic route




The classic route of the TMB covers 165 km (103 miles) and has an accumulated elevation gain and loss of about 10 km (6.2 miles). It is usually walked in a counter-clockwise direction in 9-14 days. The classic route starts and ends in Les Houches or Chamonix in France and passes through seven valleys: Chamonix valley (France), Montjoie valley (France), Vallée des Glaciers (France), Val Veni (Italy), Val Ferret (Italy), Val Ferret (Switzerland), and Trient valley (Switzerland). The classic route also crosses six mountain passes: Col de Voza (1653 m), Col du Bonhomme (2329 m), Col de la Seigne (2516 m), Grand Col Ferret (2537 m), Col de la Forclaz (1527 m), and Col de Balme (2191 m).


The classic route is well-marked with signs that show a red-and-white stripe or a yellow diamond with "TMB" written on it. It is also divided into stages or legs that correspond to the distance between two huts or towns where you can spend the night. The number and length of these stages can vary depending on your preference and availability. A typical itinerary for the classic route would look something like this:



  • Les Houches - Les Contamines (15 km)



  • Les Contamines - Les Chapieux (18 km)



  • Les Chapieux - Courmayeur (23 km)



  • Courmayeur - Rifugio Bonatti (12 km)



  • Rifugio Bonatti - La Fouly (20 km)



  • La Fouly - Champex-Lac (15 km)



  • Champex-Lac - Col de la Forclaz (15 km)



  • Col de la Forclaz - Tre-le-Champ (14 km)



  • Tre-le-Champ - La Flégère (8 km)



  • La Flégère - Les Houches (16 km)



The alternative routes




The classic route of the TMB is not the only way to hike around Mont Blanc. There are many alternative routes or variantes that offer different challenges, views, and experiences. Some of these variantes are more difficult and require more skills and equipment, such as crampons, ice axes, ropes, and helmets. Others are easier and shorter and can save you some time and energy. Here are some examples of alternative routes:



  • The Col des Fours: This is a high-altitude variant that replaces the Col du Bonhomme on the second stage of the classic route. It takes you to the highest point of the TMB at 2665 m and offers stunning views of glaciers, peaks, and wildflowers. However, it is also more exposed and can be snowy even in summer.



  • The Fenêtre d'Arpette: This is a challenging variant that replaces the Bovine route on the seventh stage of the classic route. It takes you to a narrow window-like gap at 2665 m that overlooks the Trient Glacier. It is one of the most spectacular sections of the TMB, but also one of the most difficult and dangerous. It requires good weather, fitness, and balance.



  • The Balcon Sud: This is a scenic variant that replaces the Col de Balme on the ninth stage of the classic route. It follows a balcony-like trail along the south side of the Chamonix valley, offering panoramic views of Mont Blanc and its satellites. It is longer but easier than the Col de Balme.



The best time to go




The best time to hike the TMB is from mid-June to mid-September, when most of the huts are open and the weather is generally mild and sunny. However, this is also the peak season, when the trail can be crowded and the accommodation can be booked up. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy more solitude, you can opt for hiking in late May or early June, or in late September or early October. However, you should be prepared for colder temperatures, more snow, and fewer services along the way.


Regardless of when you go, you should always check the weather forecast before starting your hike and be ready for sudden changes in conditions. The weather in the mountains can be unpredictable and vary greatly from one valley to another. You can encounter rain, wind, fog, hail, thunderstorms, or even snow at any time of the year. You should also be aware of the risks of avalanches, landslides, rockfalls, and crevasses along some sections of the trail.


Top destinations along the Tour of Mont Blanc




Chamonix




Chamonix is a famous alpine town in France that lies at the foot of Mont Blanc. It is often considered as the starting and ending point of the TMB, as well as a base for many other outdoor activities in the area. Chamonix has a long and rich history of mountaineering and alpinism, dating back to 1786 when two local men first reached the summit of Mont Blanc. Chamonix hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and has since become a world-renowned destination for skiing, climbing, hiking, paragliding, and more.


Chamonix has many attractions to offer to visitors, such as:



  • The Aiguille du Midi cable car: This is a spectacular cable car that takes you from Chamonix to the summit of Aiguille du Midi at 3842 m in 20 minutes. From there, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and its surroundings, as well as access to various activities such as skiing, climbing, or walking on a glass platform.



  • The Mer de Glace glacier: This is the largest glacier in France, stretching for 7 km and descending from 3900 m to 1400 m. You can reach it by taking a scenic train ride from Chamonix to Montenvers, where you can visit an ice cave, a glaciology museum, and a hotel.



  • The Alpine Museum: This is a museum that showcases the history and culture of Chamonix and the Mont Blanc massif, with exhibits on mountaineering, skiing, geology, wildlife, and art.



Courmayeur




Courmayeur is a charming alpine town in Italy that lies on the opposite side of Mont Blanc from Chamonix. It is the main town of the Italian Val Veni and Val Ferret, two valleys that are part of the TMB route. Courmayeur is a popular destination for skiing, hiking, spa, and gastronomy, with many restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels to choose from.


Courmayeur has many attractions to offer to visitors, such as:



  • The Skyway Monte Bianco cable car: This is a modern cable car that takes you from Courmayeur to the summit of Punta Helbronner at 3466 m in 19 minutes. Along the way, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Mont Blanc and its glaciers, as well as access to various activities such as skiing, climbing, or visiting a crystal museum.



  • The Val Ferret valley: This is a beautiful valley that extends from Courmayeur to the Grand Col Ferret, the border between Italy and Switzerland. It offers stunning views of the Grandes Jorasses and Mont Dolent, as well as many hiking trails, mountain huts, and alpine farms.



  • The Pre de Pascal alpine farm: This is a traditional alpine farm that produces cheese, yogurt, butter, and honey from its own cows and bees. You can visit the farm, taste its products, and learn about its history and methods.



Champex-Lac




Champex-Lac is a picturesque alpine village in Switzerland that lies on the shore of a tranquil lake. It is the main town of the Swiss Val Ferret, one of the valleys that are part of the TMB route. Champex-Lac is a peaceful and relaxing place to stay, with many options for accommodation, dining, and leisure.


Champex-Lac has many attractions to offer to visitors, such as:



  • The Lac de Champex: This is a natural lake that was formed by a glacier and is surrounded by forests and mountains. You can enjoy its beauty by walking around it, swimming in it, or renting a boat or a pedal boat.



  • The Alpine Garden Flore-Alpe: This is a botanical garden that displays more than 4000 species of alpine plants from around the world. You can learn about their names, origins, uses, and adaptations to different environments.



  • The Bovine alp: This is an alpine pasture that lies above Champex-Lac and is part of the TMB route. It offers panoramic views of the Mont Blanc massif and the Rhone valley, as well as a chance to see cows grazing and cheese making.



Highlights along the Tour of Mont Blanc




The Col des Fours




The Col des Fours is the highest point of the TMB at 2665 m (8743 ft). It is an optional but rewarding variant that replaces the Col du Bonhomme on the second stage of the classic route. It takes you to a high-altitude pass that offers stunning views of glaciers, peaks, and wildflowers. However, it is also more exposed and can be snowy even in summer.


, and other peaks of the Mont Blanc massif. You will also see a cross that marks the border between France and Italy.


To descend from the Col des Fours, you have two options: either follow the same trail back to Les Chapieux or Les Contamines, or continue to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and join the classic route. The latter option is longer but more scenic, as it passes by a glacial lake and a mountain hut.


The Fenêtre d'Arpette




The Fenêtre d'Arpette is a narrow window-like gap at 2665 m (8743 ft) that overlooks the Trient Glacier. It is one of the most spectacular sections of the TMB, but also one of the most difficult and dangerous. It is an optional but challenging variant that replaces the Bovine route on the seventh stage of the classic route. It requires good weather, fitness, and balance.


To reach the Fenêtre d'Arpette from Champex-Lac in Switzerland, you have to follow a steep and rocky trail that ascends through forests and boulders. Along the way, you will pass by a small lake and a waterfall. Once you reach the fenêtre, you will be amazed by the close-up view of the Trient Glacier and its crevasses. You will also see Mont Blanc du Tacul, Aiguille du Chardonnet, Aiguille d'Argentière, and other peaks of the Mont Blanc massif.


To descend from the Fenêtre d'Arpette, you have to follow a steep and slippery trail that descends through scree and moraine. Along the way, you will pass by another lake and a mountain hut. You will end up in Trient or Le Peuty in Switzerland, where you can rejoin the classic route.


The Grand Col Ferret




The Grand Col Ferret is the border between Italy and Switzerland at 2537 m (8323 ft). It is part of the classic route and is crossed on the fifth stage of the counter-clockwise direction or on the eighth stage of the clockwise direction. It offers panoramic views of Mont Dolent, where three countries meet: France, Italy and Switzerland. It also offers views of Grandes Jorasses, Mont Blanc de Courmayeur, Dent du Géant, and other peaks of the Mont Blanc massif.


To reach the Grand Col Ferret from Rifugio Bonatti or Courmayeur in Italy, you have to follow a gentle trail that ascends through meadows and pastures. Along the way, you will pass by several alpine farms and huts where you can taste local cheese and yogurt. You will also see cows, sheep, goats, and marmots grazing on the grass.


To descend from the Grand Col Ferret to La Fouly or Champex-Lac in Switzerland, you have to follow a gentle trail that descends through meadows and forests. Along the way, you will pass by several waterfalls and streams where you can refill your water bottle. You will also see some wooden chalets and barns that reflect the Swiss architecture.


How to prepare for the Tour of Mont Blanc




What to pack




Packing for hiking the TMB can be tricky, as you have to balance between comfort and weight. You also have to consider the weather variations, the hut facilities, and your personal preferences. Here is a general packing list for hiking the TMB:



  • Clothing: You should pack clothing that is breathable, quick-drying, and layerable. You should also pack clothing that is suitable for different weather conditions, such as rain jacket, fleece jacket, down jacket, sun hat, warm hat, gloves, etc. You should also pack clothing that is comfortable for sleeping in huts or hotels.



, and supportive. You should also pack footwear that is suitable for different terrain types, such as hiking boots, hiking shoes, sandals, etc. You should also pack socks that are cushioned, moisture-wicking, and anti-blister.


  • Gear: You should pack gear that is essential, useful, and lightweight. You should also pack gear that is suitable for different situations, such as backpack, trekking poles, sleeping bag or liner, headlamp, water bottle or bladder, etc. You should also pack gear that is optional but recommended, such as sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, etc.



  • Documents: You should pack documents that are required, valid, and accessible. You should also pack documents that are suitable for different countries and services, such as passport or ID card, visa if needed, insurance card or policy, booking confirmations or vouchers, etc. You should also pack documents that are helpful but not mandatory, such as guide book pdf, maps, trail notes, etc.



  • Personal items: You should pack personal items that are necessary, hygienic, and minimal. You should also pack personal items that are suitable for different huts or hotels and your own comfort level, such as toiletries, towel, ear plugs, eye mask, etc. You should also pack personal items that are enjoyable but not bulky, such as camera, phone, charger, power bank, etc.



How to train




Training for hiking the TMB can be beneficial, as it can improve your fitness level, endurance level, and confidence level. You should start training at least two months before your trip and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Here are some tips on how to train for hiking the TMB:



  • Do cardio exercises: You should do cardio exercises that increase your heart rate and lung capacity. You should also do cardio exercises that simulate hiking movements and conditions. Some examples of cardio exercises are running, cycling, swimming, stair climbing, elliptical training, etc.



  • Do strength training: You should do strength training that strengthens your muscles and joints. You should also do strength training that targets your core and lower body. Some examples of strength training are squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, etc.



  • Do hiking practice: You should do hiking practice that prepares you for the real trail. You should also do hiking practice that mimics the terrain and elevation of the TMB. Some examples of hiking practice are hiking on hills or mountains with a backpack, hiking on uneven or rocky surfaces with trekking poles, hiking on long distances with breaks and snacks.



How to book




Booking for hiking the TMB can be easy or hard depending on how you want to do it. You have three main options: joining a guided tour; joining a self-guided tour; or planning it yourself. Here are some pros and cons of each option:



  • Joining a guided tour: This is the easiest option as you don't have to worry about anything. A guided tour will provide you with a professional guide who will lead you along the trail; a group of fellow hikers who will share the experience with you; a pre-arranged itinerary that will suit your pace and preferences; a pre-booked accommodation that will match your comfort level; a pre-organized transport that will take you to and from the trail; and a pre-packed food that will cater to your dietary needs.



  • Pros: You can enjoy the hike without any stress or hassle; you can learn more about the trail from your guide; you can make new friends along the way; you can have more flexibility in case of changes or emergencies.



  • Cons: You have to pay more for the service; you have to follow the schedule and route of the tour; you have to share the space and facilities with other hikers; you have less freedom and privacy.



  • Joining a self-guided tour: This is a middle option as you have some assistance but not too much. A self-guided tour will provide you with a detailed guide book pdf that will give you all the information you need to hike the TMB; a pre-arranged itinerary that will suit your pace and preferences; a pre-booked accommodation that will match your comfort level; and a pre-organized transport that will take you to and from the trail.



Pros: You can hike at your own pace and direction; you can choose your own companions or hike solo; you can have more control over your budget and expenses; you c


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