Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc: A circular Alpine trek

 

About a third of the way down, a view of the valley peeks through.

We will be walking the 110 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc over the next two weeks, with a couple of breaks. The trek circles Europe's highest peak, which is really a mountain range of Alpine peaks, above 15,000 feet.

We are starting in France and will go counter clockwise through Italy and Switzerland, finishing where we started in Chamonix, France. There will be about 68,000 feet of elevation change. It is Europe's most popular long-distance trek.

The clouds have parted a couple times to give us a look at the spectacular mountains that rise above the charming towns below. We are looking forward to the views as the weather brightens over the next few days!

 

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Tour du Mont Blanc: More from Day One

This hut about a third of the way down was our lunch stop. Rustic, to say the least, perched on a cliff, great coffee!

 

Chains provided a security blanket at a couple of places.

 

On a clear day, you could see 5,000 feet down to Chamonix and across the valley to Mont Blanc, at more than 15,000 feet. Clearing weather is in the forecast! At times today, it felt like we were walking in the jet stream.

 

 

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Tour du Mont Blanc: Our challenge begins

 

Sue begins our trek down from Le Brévant.

Reg takes it slow and easy across a snow field at about 8,000 feet.

We were strongly advised to begin our trek with two gondola rides from Chamonix, taking us more than 5,000 feet up above spectacular terrain to Le Brevant, more than 8,000 feet high. Clouds blocked our view across the valley to Mont Blanc and made visibility poor for most of the day.

So, after ascending into the clouds, all we had to do is walk to Les Houtches, about 10 miles away, but more than a mile below. It is impossible to describe how challenging, exciting, tiring, painful, and wonderful it was. We walked across snow fields and hung on to railings and chains as our feet made their way on rocky ledges. Most of the way, each step had to be measured.

The skies held their moisture most of the way, but there were a few episodes of icy rain and we finished with an hour of rain.

We arrived at our hotel after seven hours, exhausted but filled with vivid memories of our first day on the Tour du Mont Blanc. We shall see if we can walk when Day Two begins!

 

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The way to Chamonix: Trains and costly surprises

Glaciers are revealed, but the clouds hide Mont Blanc in this view from our hotel this morning.

 

Naïveté, bad luck and good fortune all had parts in our eventful journey from sunny Strasbourg to rainy Chamonix in the French Alps on Monday.

Three trains were to take us on the nine-hour trip, but a bus and a very expensive taxi ride saved the day in the end.

The second train ride, meant to take us from Lyon in southern France to Saint Gervais, started well. But, when we got to the end of the line, we discovered we were in Evian! (Try that word backwards.)

Our hotel, La Chaumiere, in Chamonix. A nice breakfast buffet and a bottomless cup of coffee (our first on this trip) were a great start to the day.

We had lost half our train! It turned out that at one of the stops, the last three cars decoupled and they went to Saint Gervais, without us.

It was 9 p.m. and we were in Evian, a long way from our hotel room. We found the train engineer and he found us a bus, which took us back to Annemasse. He said to tell the folks at the train station what happened and that they would call a taxi to take us to Chamonix. A Japanese photographer in the same boat followed us.

We pulled into the Annemasse train station about 10 p.m. The bus driver spoke little English, but had been told of our plight and waited while we sought help.

However, the station was deserted. Now what? The benches looked like last-resort beds. Ouch!

Sue tried calling a taxi, but the first call went unanswered and the second got a recording in indecipherable French. The driver needed to go. We needed a taxi. A bilingual woman on the bus hopped off and called a taxi for the three of us.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when we pulled into Chamonix. The meter read 240€. As Sue and I approached the locked lobby of the La Chaumiere Hotel, tourists from London unlocked the door. An envelope on the counter welcomed the Spittles, our key inside!

It has been raining all day in Chamonix; our Tour du Mont Blanc begins tomorrow with more rain forecast. We will begin, rain or shine.

In Scotland, they might say “It never rains on the trail!”

 

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