***The Tour Du Mount Blanc is one of BecauseItzThere’s Bucket List hikes. It will be our headlining trip of 2018, and our fourth Bucket List trip completed as a team!
The Alps is Three Months Away!
ANY hiker worth his or her salt wants to take their game to the Alps. If I have to explain why…then you probably won’t understand anyway.
Now…It’s now just 14 weeks away.
For those of you not acquainted with the Tour du Mount Blanc, it is one of the premier hiking tours of Europe. It winds 110 miles through the high valleys of the Alps Mountains, starting and ending in France, passing through Italy and Switzerland on the way. Here’s the details. Though it is very popular, most people will never attempt anything like this in their lives.
Sylvia and I have attempted many major multi-day hikes in our time, including the Inca Trail, Santa Cruz Trek and Colca Canyon. But we have never attempted anything like this. The further I have ever gone in one continuous hike was seven days and 55 miles of the Long Trail in Vermont. By day seven, I was done.
Neither of us are completely certain we can do this, but our recent experiences have encouraged us to try. If we don’t try, we will never know. At the very least, we are going to have an adventure in Europe!
There are some positive signs to point to. These wonderful people for example.
One of the difficult decisions a hiker must make is whether or not to book all your accommodations in advance or to wing it. The plus side of booking in advance is that one is guaranteed a night at the often fully booked Alpine refuges that line the route of the tour. The downside is that if you are forced to change your itinerary, now all your plans are completely shot.
We decided to book early. That way, at least we have a plan. There are no sure things in adventure travel. If we have to re-book well…we’ll just have to cross that mountain when we come to it.
The TMB (as it is popularly referred to) is also not cheap. We’ll be tracking expenses carefully. Unlike many wilderness treks, food and lodging (and yes, wine and beer) are readily available, sometimes right on the trail. We need to stay in hostels in order to keep our pack weight light; it is realistically the only chance we have of completing this hike. This will mean putting up with some ‘rustic’ establishments (dorms.) But even many of these are pricey, especially in Switzerland, where they probably charge you for the air.
We will fly into Paris and immediately take a train to Chamonix, which is where the hike begins. We’ve completed all of our trail accommodations to this point…all reservations have been confirmed. The last, and most difficult, was the Refuge du Lac Blanc near the finish, considered by many to be the most beautiful on the entire circuit. Sylvia had to call this place directly…the hut attendant fortunately spoke English. For the rest we used online booking tools available at http://www.montourdumontblanc.com/uk/index.aspx
Or the websites of the hostels and refuges themselves. The Google Translate sure is handy!
To get ourselves fit we have already done four training hikes this year, including one to the Smokies which will be featured on this site next week. We plan next on doing a multi-day adventure…cooking that up now! I am also taking physical therapy to get ideas on how to strengthen my ‘trick’ knee.
Keys to this trip are:
- Very light pack weight
- Ending each day in a hut/hostel
- An itinerary that allows some flexibility (we have two rest days planned; we could take more if absolutely forced to.)
- Good preparation and fitness
- The ability to speak rudimentary French and Italian
- Careful tracking of expenses
We’re working on ALL four. French brush up for me starts next week. Sylvia is already doing her Italian lessons. I also picked up a copy of Kev Reynolds outstanding guide book on the subject, considered to the best.
Our itinerary looks like this…First number is distance in kilometers, second Miles
|Les Contanamines||18||12||Les Chapieux|
|Les Chapieux||15||10||Col de la Seigne|
|Col de la Seigne||18||12||Coramayeur|
|Coramayeur||12||8||Grand Col Ferret|
|Grand Col Ferret||20||14||La Fouly|
One thing we’re still trying to work out is what to do with our luggage while we’re in Chamonix. We’ll have too much stuff to pack with us, that would be a huge mistake. Doesn’t seem to be too many options. We found one hostel that will keep our stuff, for a fee…if that’s the only place we will have to go with it.
It was a bit odd asking for three whole weeks off from work but…I kind of enjoyed that too. We hope to finish up the trip with a stay in this place which you may have heard of.
We can’t wait for it to be time to finally go! The TMB is an adventure of a lifetime!
IT’S JUST THREE MONTHS AWAY! ACK!!!