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The Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB): Planning

Planning a Successful Trek

August 23, 2020

start sign of tour of mont blanc
Table of Contents

We decided to tackle the TMB in 11 days. It’s the first time we would be hiking for more than three consecutive days. That felt like an accessible and fun challenge.

Step 1: Plan Sections

I can warmly recommend the book Trekking the Tour of Mont-Blanc by Kev Reynolds, published by Cicerone. You can buy the paper version, digital book, and it comes with location data (GPX tracks). You can import these files and display them on your favorite map app. I use Google My Maps to plan ahead and MAPS.ME on my phone, exporting the KMZ file from the former to the latter.

Here's an overview of the different sections (between pins) and accommodations (pins). We'll start between Chamonix and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, in Les Houches.

I summarized all sections, bookings details, payment details in an Airtable base. This allowed me to work collaboratively with Clotilde on the planning, plus share with our friends (for those that join us along the way).

Day 1: Les Houches – Bionnassay – Les Contamines
Start Les Houches (1007m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 5:30 17.5 km 1010 m 850 m Sleep Hotel Le Christiania
Day 2: Les Contamines – Croix du Bonhomme – Les Chapieux
Start Les Contamines (1167m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 7:30 19.0 km 1360 m 970 m Sleep Hotel Les Chambres du Soleil
Day 3: Les Chapieux – Col de la Seigne – Rifugio Elisabetta
Start Les Chapieux (1554m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 5:00 14.0 km 1100 m 460 m Sleep Rifugio Elisabetta
Day 4: Rifugio Elisabetta – Courmayeur
Start Rifugio Elisabetta (2195m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 5:30 15.5 km 580 m 1550 m Sleep Hotel Berthod
Day 5: Courmayeur – Rifugio Bonatti
Start Courmayeur (1226m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 4:30 12.0 km 1080 m 280 m Sleep Rifugio Bonatti
Day 6: Rifugio Bonatti – Grand Col Ferret – La Fouly
Start Rifugio Bonatti (2025m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 6:30 20.0 km 980 m 1400 m Sleep Maya Joie
Day 7: La Fouly – Champex
Start La Fouly (1610m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 4:30 15.5 km 510 m 650 m Sleep Hôtel du Glacier
Day 8: Champex – Alp Bovine – Trient
Start Champex (1466m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 6:00 16.0 km 850 m 1040 m Sleep Auberge du Mont Blanc
Day 9: Trient – Col de Balme – Tré-le-Champ
Start Trient (1279m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 5:00 14.0 km 980 m 840 m Sleep Auberge de la Boerne
Day 10: Tré-le-Champ – Refuge La Flégère
Start Tré-le-Champ (1417m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 4:00 8.0 km 730 m 270 m Sleep Refuge La Flégère
Day 11: Refuge La Flégère – Le Brévent – Les Houches
Start Refuge La Flégère (1875m) Time Distance Ascent Descent 6:30 18.5 km 900 m 1770 m Sleep

Step 2: Book Accommodations

Once we’ve agreed on the route and approximate stops, I used Google My Maps to check the vicinity of each section end point. I then cross-referenced what I found with the accommodations from the book.

I listed all the accommodations and initially called the ones that were isolated, with no alternatives around. I had heard that the TMB can be quite crowded and I feared to start booking accommodations without guarantees that the next one would be available. Once I had called and booked the riskier spots, I confirmed by email (including sending a signed COVID form when necessary). The next step was then to book the remaining nights, either by phone, email, or Booking.

There are more accommodations along the route. If you want to sleep elsewhere, end your stage earlier, or go the extra mile, you can always choose for another refuge or hotel.

The official TMB sign. Signs are not always so well maintained.

Step 3: Prepare the Trek

Now for the prepping. I spent a couple hours to check online for recommendations regarding backpack size, equipment, safety, and generally stories about the Tour.

You’ll find everything about backpack, equipment, and first aid in the next section. I made a list of everything I would need. Clotilde helped me sanity check it which allowed us to further reduce the number of items. We took all the needed clothes out and piled them on the sofa.

Same for the gear. I checked the batteries and bought spares. Cleaned and waterproofed our hiking boots. Cleaned and sweat-proofed our clothes. Checked the sunscreen supplies.

I went to the pharmacy to get refills for the first aid kit, just in case (in particular Compeed), buy toothbrushes (bamboo) and get some toothpaste samples.

We also had to make sure the clothes we selected would meet the walk’s requirements. The weather changes quickly in the mountains which is why you have to plan for every situation. Check.

Finally, we had to plan transportation. I thought that we could reach Les Houches from Lausanne in the early morning and start the walk immediately. It worked, even though we almost missed a connection (continue reading the rest of the series for more details!).