Planning to walk the Tour du Mont Blanc
First and foremost acquire a copy of Cicerone's Tour Of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds. It is the de facto guide to the walk with each day broken down in to manageable and well instructed chunks. This guide will travel with you throughout your walk and will prove invaluable.
You can start the Tour du Mont Blanc from almost any point on the trail. However, most people start from the point most geographically convenient to them, which if you're British probably means starting from Les Houches.
The Cicerone guide allows 11 days. We added an extra 'just in case' day.
Many refuges only open for the summer season, so given the unpredictability of Alpine weather, walking during the summer is probably the best option. This means 1st week in July to mid September, although this window may shift depending on the winter snows. It is also worth being aware of country specific holiday conventions. For instance, in France 1st July and 1st August are holiday start dates and 14th July and 15th August are public holidays. Expect rail, road and air travel to be particularly busy at these times. The TMB Ultra mountain marathon takes place at the end of August, so if you want to walk then, be prepared to reserve accommodation well in advance and expect the trail to be busy. We travelled to Les Houches on 31st July, walked 1st August to 12th August and usually reserved our next days accommodation the evening before.
Alternatively, you may decide you'd prefer to tackle the 'Petit Tour du Mont Blanc' which is Les Houches to Courmayeur in Italy and then back to Chamonix by coach through the Mont Blanc tunnel and thence by train to Les Houches. You could do that in four days walking. If you're especially energetic you could enter the TMB Ultra Marathon and complete the whole 100 mile route in less than 24hrs! From our experience, if you're fit and have prepared for the walk, 11 days is just about right. If you can spare the time and want a less arduous experience then travel less distance each day and add in additional overnight stops. Never forget you're on holiday so make sure it remains fun!
Most people take the anti-clockwise route. Take the anti-clockwise route yourself and you'll find that going with the flow, you seldom come across other walkers until you reach refuges or other gathering points. Consequently, you'll have the pleasure of walking the wilderness much of the time on your own and yet see familiar faces at each refuge you stop off at.
Take the route clockwise and you'll find yourself regularly passing people
We would classify the walk as hard/strenuous. Although the distances covered each day are not very great, there are significant climbs and descents and weather conditions can change dramatically. A good level
With regard to the question of age, the Tour du Mont Blanc attracts people of all age groups and both sexes. We shared dortoirs with fit young men and women in their 20's, 30's and on up to their 70's . In some cases we came across families
coming in the opposite direction and at each refuge you'll come across a new set of faces. It's all down to a matter of preference.
of fitness is advisable along with some experience of long distance walking in variable weather. Even though we'd done a long distance ten day walk in Scotland (Perth to Fort William 2006), we still considered ourselves to be relative novices. So we spent some time with our packs and walking poles training in the Brecon Beacons just to be comfortable that we could cope with more arduous conditions. We ultimately concluded that if you can comfortably walk with your loaded backpack for 15 miles in the UK then you will probably be able to complete and enjoy the Tour du Mont Blanc in 11 days.
hiking with children as young as 8 and in one case, with a toddler in a hiking backpack. The families in particular had planned their TMB to suit the welfare of their children. They introduced more overnight stops, took buses between sections if the weather turned adverse and avoided some of the technically challenging and potentially dangerous sections.
If you'd like to see some other people's experience of the Tour du Mont Blanc have a look at our Tour du Mont Blanc links page where you'll find journals and video clips of the TMB at different times of the year.
Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself if you're ready to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. If you're able bodied and willing to train for the hike, you've the potential to do it. In our experience it's well worth the effort.
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