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Tour du Mont Blanc

27 July 2016

Trip Report: 27 July–1 August 2016

Somehow I managed to take extended vacation to section hike three trails in the Alps:

  • Tour du Mont Blanc: Les Houches to Champex via Courmayeur
  • Haute Route: Le Châble to Zermatt via Europaweg
  • GR5: Lake Geneva to Modane. Remaining section of this trail, Larche to Menton, is scheduled for September 2017.

Swiss Air trip started from Boston on Monday 25 July 2016 to arrive Genève on Tuesday. I dropped a few supply items in Geneva Hostel to pick up two weeks later before starting GR5 hike.

I took a bus to Chamonix to visit & be close to trail next day.

Cosmo jazz festival was on with concerts across town.

Les Houches–Les Contamines

Rain was in the forecast. But it never did:

Route started with direct view of Mont Blanc. Climbed continuously to Col de Voza (1,653m). Climbed more to Col de Tricot (2,120m). Good restaurant at Refuge de Miage after big descent & bigger final ascent for day.

Refuge des Mottets

Another tough day early in trip, reaching Col des Fours (2,665m), highest point on Le Tour, after climbing to Col du Bonhomme (2,329m) & Col de la Croix (2,483m).

Walk on snow made it difficult to reach Col des Fours. But very fun sliding down on the other side.

Not many signs on trail. Relied heavily on GPS.

Courmayeur

Immediately started climbing from Refuge des Mottets to French-Italian border at Col de la Seigne (2,516m).

Views opened up for the rest of the day. Mont Blanc standing tall head in the clouds surrounded by wall of spikey peaks, glaciers, & grey moraines.

Rifugio Bonatti

Started with steep climb to Rifugio Bertone (1,989m). Kept contour line for remainder of day. Leisurely walk. On left was a massive grey wall below Aiguille Noir & Grandes Jorasses.

Bonatti was a busy stop for trail runners training for UTMB, along with other day hikers climbing from the valley for lunch.

La Fouly

Grand Col Ferret (2,537m) was very close to Mont Dole t (3,820m) at intersection of three countries: France, Switzerland, & Italy.

On the eve before Swiss National Day, dinner was raclette: melted raclette cheese, small potato, with gherkins & pickled onions.

Champex

Started with light rain that soon cleared. Stroll down the valley passing by small villages, water fountains, window flowers, & Swiss flags.

Climb final 5km to reach Champex. Small lake. Amazing bakery.

More celebrations of Swiss National Day late in the evening: fondue dinner & fireworks.

Itinerary

Day Service Log
Tuesday 26 July 2016: Boston, Genève, Chamonix Bed & breakfast: Chamonix Mont-Blanc Youth Hostel
Wednesday: Les Contamines Dinner, bed, & breakfast: Chalet des Contamines, 60€. All services available in town.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava, download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track
  • Distance: 18.40km
  • Pace: 19.28min/km
  • Time: 5:58:17
  • Steps: 34,781
  • Ascent: 1,438m
  • Descent: 1,261m
  • Temperature: 21°C
  • Calories: 1,778
Thursday: Refuge des Mottets Dinner, bed, & breakfast: Refuge des Mottets, 48€. Few services at beginning of route.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 22.12
  • Pace: 20:42
  • Time: 7:37:43
  • Steps: 36,478
  • Ascent: 1,628
  • Descent: 948
  • Temperature: 17
  • Calories: 1,952
Friday: Courmayeur Bed & breakfast: Venezia, 41€. Refuges on route. All services in town.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 24.91
  • Pace: 18.02
  • Time: 7:29:16
  • Steps: 43,290
  • Ascent: 1,181
  • Descent: 1,790
  • Temperature: 16
  • Calories: 1,759
Saturday: Rifugio Bonatti Dinner, bed, & breakfast: Rifugio Bonatti, 45€.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 12.51
  • Pace: 19:59
  • Time: 4:09:57
  • Steps: 21,515
  • Ascent: 1,065
  • Descent: 274
  • Temperature: 19
  • Calories: 1,041
Sunday: La Fouly Dinner, bed, & breakfast: Auberge des Glaciers, CHF48
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Other information not available due to error in GPS reception.
Monday 1 August: Champex Dinner, bed, & breakfast: Relais d’Arpette, CHF67
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 15.52
  • Pace: 15:20
  • Time: 3:58:03
  • Steps: 28,970
  • Ascent: 544
  • Descent: 700
  • Temperature: 20.7
  • Calories: 677

Tips

  • Keep it combined with Haute Route. I would not spend all time circuling the same mountain area. The stages become very similar. Best sections of both can be hiked in two weeks.
  • Start in Les Contamines to finish in La Fouly. Maybe visit Champex to stay for evening.

Packing List

Detailed packing list included with last part of the trip on GR5.

Guide

  • Main refernce was Tour of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds. It had good overview of the route, suggested stages, & lodging options.
  • Reservations agency with reference to most locations available along the route.
  • Web search & Google Maps helped find lodging options & contact information.
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