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TMB Day 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

The Big Climb

September 3, 2020

hiker walking uphill in the mountains

TMB Stage 2 Anti-Clockwise

19 km
1360 m
Les Contamines
Les Chapieux
GPX File
Map map of the hike

After a frugal breakfast due to COVID-19 restrictions, we set off in the morning mist from Les Contamines. The fresh air was exhilarating. In particular, as our hips and shoulders felt quite sore still from yesterday.

Stage 2 of the anticlockwise TMB is considered one of the most difficult because of the ascent (1300+). It starts with a cozy uphill slope, where we ran into the military on foot, probably training. After 3 km, we reached the beautiful Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Gorge.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Gorge. They say that a hermit settled there during the 10th century to offer shelter to travelers.

From there, the climb begins for real. Nine kilometers and 1200m ascent to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, before walking down to Les Chapieux.

Besides some refuges, the first noteworthy thing you’ll bump into is an old “Roman” bridge. This part of the walk is called the Roman road (or via Romana). It goes all the way to the Little St Bernard Pass (not on the TMB), on the border of France and Italy.

The rapids under the Roman bridge are a force of nature. I could not capture the grandeur of it all in one picture.

After a couple of hours, the temperature was pleasant, if not a little warm. We stuffed the sweaters in our backpacks. Note that every time you come closer to water, the temperature drops significantly.

After a quick break the refuge at the top of the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, we started the descent to Les Chapieux. Most of the walk on Stage 2 is happening in the Nature Reserve of Contamines-Montjoie.

If you don’t want to go all the way down to Les Chapieux, you can branch-off in Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. It goes directly to Refuge des Mottets.

We were relieved to finally reached the inn, as our knees and feet felt crushed after walking for so long.

The walk is quite steep until the Col du Bonhomme and a little later, the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme.

steep climb
The day starts with a long, steep slope until the Col du Bonhomme
col de la croix du bonhomme
Finally reached the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
long downward slope
Gentle but long downward slope to reach Les Chapieux