Our circuit begins and ends in France, in Chamonix. Today is an arrival day so there are no planned activities until the important welcome meeting at 5pm. You may arrive at any time throughout the day (please note that check-in at the hotel is usually around 2-3pm). Look out for a message from your CEO at the hotel reception regarding this important meeting, during which you will meet your CEO and fellow group members, as well as complete some admin, and learn more about the trip. As this is a challenging active trek, demanding good fitness and equipment, it is very important that you arrive on time for this briefing to learn more about the route and to hear your leader's recommendations on equipment. Please make every effort to arrive on time. If you are delayed, your CEO will leave you a message detailing where they can be contacted and when to meet later in the evening or early the following morning. The Mont Blanc mountain range is one of the most spectacular regions in the Alps. Marked trails on the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) circuit straddle three countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) and cross over mountain passes allowing hikers to enjoy the magnificent scenery on this long loop. The majesty of Mont Blanc with the summer flora of wildflowers and alpine meadows has inspired generations of alpine visitors, attracting mountaineers and hikers from around the world for over two hundred years. Late spring to summer is the best time for hiking in this area. The town of Chamonix is an authentic French mountain town, located at the foot of Mont Blanc. It lies in one of the most picturesque valleys of the French Alps, with innumerable alpine peaks towering around you, pine forests, alpine valleys to explore, and beautiful glaciers spilling from the high massif. The town is home to 10,000 inhabitants, swelling to 100,000 during peak season. This evening is our first opportunity to try out some of the best Alpine specialities in a typical restuarant, such as "Savoyard", Cheese fondue, Tartiflette or Raclette accompanied with some famous "Vin de Savoie" wine. Overnight in Chamonix: Please note that the Hotel Chamonix is affiliated with the nearby Hotel Crete Blanche and that in some cases the group could be divided between the two hotels. These two lovely hotels in the centre of Chamonix have everything we need to enjoy the area and get a good rest before and after our trek. The interior of the hotels are all in wood, giving them a very typical Alpine atmosphere.
We set off this morning after breakfast for our first day's hiking. We'll take the bus or train to the village of Les Houches, where we begin with a cable car ride to Bellevue. From here on a clear day you’ll enjoy great views of the Chamonix Valley and the Mont Blanc Range. Today's hike takes us past the Bioniassay glacier and the Col du Tricot, if weather conditions permit, after which a steep descent brings us to the Valley of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Then we we climb up along an old Roman road, past an original Roman bridge to the Gîte which is our stop for the night, in the valley leading to the Col du Bonhomme Overnight in the Les Contamines valley: Tonight's "gite" is one of the most authentic of the mountain refuges that we will stay at. The idea behind the establishment of these "gites" or refuges, is that local shepherds would provide food and shelter to anyone in need in the mountains. In use for three generations, this cosy place offers accommodation in large unisex rooms equipped with long multi-share bunk beds, inside an authentic renovated “bergerie” (barn). This is one of the most basic of the overnight accommodations we use on this trip with everyone sharing in the same room in true authentic mountain refuge style. The family who run the gite will cook a basic but delicious local dinner for us on arrival. Estimated Hiking Time: 6hrs30mins Approximate Distance Hiked: 20 kms Elevation: Start 1801m; Highest 2500m; Finish 1450m
Estimated Hiking Time: 7hrs30mins Approximate Distance Hiked: 18 kms Elevation: Start 1450m; Highest 2483m; Finish 1554m Today we have a steep ascent to the Col Du Bonhomme (2329m), from where we make the traverse to the Croix du Bonhomme (2483m,) where we can stop for lunch, and are rewarded with awesome views down into the Vallee des Chapieux. We then descend to Les Chapieux, our home for the evening. Today we test ourselves with the first up and downhill difficult stretches, but the fantastic views and the satisfaction of coming over the Col du Bonhomme make it all worthwhile! Please note that the terrain on todays walk is rough and the ascents and descents both steep and unremitting. Overnight in Les Chapieux: Owned by a lovely French couple, tonight we stay in the most accurate version of the local "auberge" on our trip, where you can sleep and eat well after a long hard day's walking. We sleep in dorms, the facilities are shared but modern, and the restaurant serving up delicious local specialities is very lively - a favourite with many fellow campers, hikers and bikers visiting the region.
Estimated Hiking Time: 8hrs Approximate Distance Hiked: 28 kms Elevation: Start 1789m; Highest 2516m; Finish 1240m Today we continue climbing through open pastures and snowfields, arriving at the Col de la Seigne (2,516m) and the border with Italy, before descending into the beautiful Val Veny, passing picturesque glacier lakes en route. There then follows another steep ascent to the Tête d'Arp and a ridge walk to Col de Chécroui. We finish by way of long and a steep downhill to the picturesque Italian town of Courmayeur, the biggest town in the Italian Mont Blanc circuit, where we’ll have a free evening to explore the town’s restaurants and bistros. Today is the hardest and longest day of our trip. Please note that on some trips (midsummer only and depending on opening hours) there may be the option of catching a cable car to avoid some of the descent, at your own expense, if you wish. Overnight in Courmayeur: For the next two nights we have two possible accommodations (where each group stays will depend on availability). One is the family home of the famous mountain guide Emile Rey, renovated into a very nice hotel, with very friendly and helpful owners. This hotel is in the village of La Saxe, a very typical old village from the Middle Ages, with tiny streets (cars cannot pass sometimes) and plenty of hidden alleyways to explore, located 10mins on foot from the centre of Courmayeur. The other is a beautifully cosy, typical wooden Aosta structure of a hotel in Courmayeur, furnished in the traditional Alpine manner, with a lovely garden and terrace for relaxing in after your hard day's walk. We use multishare accommodation at our Courmayeur hotels so you may be in rooms with three, four or five people or even on rare occasions dormitories.
Today we have a scheduled rest day to put up our weary feet or take the opportunity to enjoy the lovely town of Courmayeur and La Saxe. Why not indulge yourself (you deserve it by now!) at the amazing Spa Centre of Pré St Didier with its thermal baths and massage treatments. Another great option is to take the spectacular cable car ride from La Palud to Pointe Helbronner on the Mont Blanc Range, and either return from there or continue on another cable car for a stunning transglacial crossing from Italy into France (weather permitting). Enjoy an optional dinner with the group and our leader to taste some of the Italian Alpine specialities on offer in Courmayeur's many atmospheric restaurants. Overnight in Courmayeur.
Estimated Hiking Time: 5-7hrs Approximate Distance Hiked: 14 kms - 20 kms Elevation: Start 1240m ; Highest 2125m or 2500m (route dependent) Finish 2025m Time to get those hiking boots back on! We start the day with a steep climb up to Rifugio Bertone (1970m) but with the great reward of one of the best views on the Mont Blanc Massif. We continue along the Mont de la Saxe, taking the balcony path facing the ridge of the Grandes Jorasses, where we stop for our picnic lunch, enjoying fabulous panoramas as we eat our picnics. We finish our day with a descent to Rifugio Bonatti, overlooking the Italian Val Ferret. Overnight in Val Ferret: Tonight's accommodation is the most modern version of a mountain refuge, where we sleep in big dorms but the beds are large and we have plenty of space for luggage. The shared bathroom may be a little bit small and the hot water for showers is restricted by tokens allowing only 12 litres per person. Aside from that, this is the best refuge we will use, very comfy and modern, and the food is great!
Estimated Hiking Time: 8hrs Approximate Distance Hiked: 20 kms Elevation: Start 2025m; Highest 2537m; Finish 1456m Another long day as we set off down to Arp Nouva and then take a steep climb up cross the Grand Col Ferret (2537m), dropping down afterwards into Switzerland, to the hamlet of Ferret (1705m). A short bus ride takes us down the pretty Swiss Val Ferret, through charming towns and beautiful countryside. The scenery, now forestry and pastoral scenes, will not disappoint. We get off at Praz de Fort (1151m), famous for its very old wooden buildings and we'll pass through some small villages, the most charming of which is Les Arlaches. Notice how the woodpiles are stacked meticulously, like perfect building blocks. Here it's an art. We finish the day with a final climb up to the lovely lakeside town of Champex. Overnight in Champex: Even if our accommodation tonight calls itself a hotel, rooms are multi-share, with plenty of beds in each room, and there are only two showers for everyone to fight over (expect lines!!), so it is more like a mountain refuge in style. A third shower is under construction, so you might be lucky! This is a very typical Swiss place with a great restaurant and friendly owners. The lake is really and truly right in the backyard of the hotel!
Estimated Hiking Time: 8hrs Approximate Distance Hiked: 16 kms Elevation: Start 1466m; Highest 1987m; Finish 1297m Taking the Bovine Way, an old trail used to access the flower-filled summer cow pastures high above the valley, we continue along our circuit today, passing the Col de la Forclaz (1526m) and then heading downhill to Trient (1297m). Weather and group ability permitting, we have the option of taking the Fenêtre d’Arpette route, a “window” through the mountains offering spectacular views, but only after a very long, technical and steep up and downhill (8hrs, 1210m up and 1360m down). Overnight in Trient: Tonight (availability and group size permitting) we may have the fantastic and unique opportunity of a homestay in a gaite converted from one floor of a family home. The accommodation is basic and can be tight depending on group size, and there is only one shower for the group. The family will cook some homemade delicacies for dinner and we will have the pleasure of being invited to eat with them. This is the place where you can really discover all about the way of life in the Swiss Alps as you get to know our lovely hosts.
Estimated Hiking Time: 6hrs Approximate Distance Hiked: 14 kms Elevation: Start 1297m; Highest 2201m; Finish 1471m Saying goodbye to Switzerland, we head back to the Chamonix Valley walking uphill through a larch forest and then open alpine slopes to the Col de Balme (2201m). Then a last steep downhill leads us to Tré le Champ or Montroc in the Chamonix valley, where we take the bus or train back to Chamonix for a final night on the town to celebrate our incredible journey. Overnight in Chamonix.