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TMB Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines

Warming Up Our Legs And Shoulders

September 2, 2020

hiker on the train

TMB Stage 1 Anti-Clockwise

17.5 km
1010 m
Les Houches
Les Contamines
GPX File
Map map of the hike

After closing all the windows and making sure all the appliances were off the electrical grid. We shouldered our backpacks (ugh, heavy) and hopped on a train to Geneva.

In Geneva, we changed trains to reach Saint-Gervais-les-Bains Le Fayet, where we had to take the bus to Les Houches.

The toilets on the train were out of order. The train was delayed. I almost cried. I had to pee so badly.

We finally reached Saint-Gervais, and, holy cow, they had public toilets in working order. But then we missed the bus. But then the bus was stuck in traffic. We ran for it. The driver let us in. Jeez.

We finally landed safely in Les Houches. I put some Glide on my feet, and off we went.

The first stage starting from Les Houches was the one with the most road walking. It’s also where the Ultra Trail of Mont Blanc (UTMB) starts and finishes. The UTMB generally takes place at the beginning of September. This year, it was canceled because of the pandemic. Unofficially, people were running.

TMB starting point
The official TMB starting point in Les Houches, next to the Tourist Information office.

The weather was beautiful, and lucky for us it stayed that way until the end. Psyched.

The first part of the hike is a steep 600 meters climb to the Col de Voza. After eating lunch there, we slowly progressed down to Les Contamines. You go through really nice villages, groves, crossing rivers, pastures, and bus stops.

The signage in France is okay-ish but could frankly be much better. The signs are not always visible nor well positioned. We ended up doing an extra 200m ascent because we missed a signpost. What a start.

In smaller towns, the signposts are quite detailed but confusing. Their location is sometimes head-scratching. Later, when you come back to France from Switzerland, the signposts become useless.

As far as a first day should be like, I think it was a difficult first day. The last kilometers to Les Contamines felt long. The backpacks made their toll on both shoulders and hips. So much that we decided to eat at the hotel instead of in town (the fact that the restaurant was highly rated did not help).

Le Christiania Hotel
Le Christiania Hotel was good value, and the sisters (owners) were super friendly. Online reviews recommend The Stem restaurant for their cheese specicaptionies.

Here’s for the first Culinary Tour of Mont Blanc: high cheese specicaptionies ratings. Cheese. Nomnomnom. It was delicious. But wait. We’re vegetarian. What are we going to get along the rest of the journey?

forest path
One of the numerous forest path that we will encounter during the walk
water streams
Melting ice and snow creates many water streams that slightly erode the earth
The birthplace of French astronomer Alexis Bouvard
bus stop
An exquisite bus stop in Les Hoches (not to be confused with Les Houches)