EUROPE

The Tour du Mont Blanc – Rick Steves’ travel blog


Earlier this fall, four of us – total novices to long-distance trekking – hiked around Europe’s highest mountain. (On the first day, large birds of prey hovered over our heads. My hunch: they were vultures waiting for one of us to fall.)

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a ten-day 100-mile hike—but we cheated a little, hiking our best 60 miles in six days from mountain hut to mountain lodge, riding local buses through the less exciting parts, and allowing “service sherpa “Every day our bags move across France, Italy and Switzerland, from Chamonix to Chamonix.

The Tour du Mont Blanc is located 160 km (100 mi) around the highest mountain in Europe. We’ve done over 100 rewarding kilometers (60 miles) connecting parts to public buses.
Love the Mont Blanc Sherpa service: you leave your large bag in the lobby or in your mountain shelter and trust the shuttle bus to pick it up and deliver it safe and sound to your next accommodations. Every day, our bags were happily waiting for us at check-in.
An array of buses and mountain lifts are available to hikers to assist them along the way, as they choose, on the Tour du Mont Blanc. But the season is short, and most lifts and buses are closed by mid-September.

This was my first time enjoying a slice from Europe with my girlfriend Shelly, we were joined by Sue and David from Minnesota. (I’ve worked with David Preston for 20 years at TPT – Twin Cities PBS. In the world of public television, he’s considered a “pledge engine mentor.”)

Everyone seems to be strolling the Tour du Mont Blanc in a counterclockwise direction, starting at the ceremonial starting point in the village of Les Houches, just outside Chamonix. And this bow is always good for a happy group shot before the bubble pops.

Every day, we hiked what the trail signs said was going to be a five-hour hike—it took us six or seven hours. Our motto: “Take our time. This is why we are here.” In general, the day would begin with a climb of 3,000 feet to a gorge (or “pillar”) at 8,000 feet above sea level. Each column scores a little triumph, with its stack of rocks arranged in a heap, and dramatic weather winding across it, overlooking the views, and taking congratulatory selfies.

Part of our pre-flight training was hiking close to home. Since a typical day’s climb on the TMB is a thousand meters (or roughly 3,000 feet), I recommend choosing a walking exercise with an increased elevation of 3,000 feet so you can use it as a reference point. It was the US Mount C track in Washington State. We even got a term for an elevation increase of 3,000 feet: “Mount Si.”

Every morning at Mont Blanc we would do our hard work, generally climbing 3,000 feet. It seems to last forever…but it didn’t. And getting to the boardwalk (generally about 8000 feet above sea level) was a lunchtime celebration.





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