*The Tour du Mont Blanc is the most famous and celebrated hike in Alpine Europe and is the fifth Bucket List Hike that Brian and Sylvia have completed together. It is also our first hike together of any kind in Europe.*
I am sure how when exactly when I became seriously interested in the idea of completing the Tour of Mont Blanc, aka the Tour du Mont Blanc or TMB, the walking tour of the high valleys and passes that encircle Western Europe’s highest mountain. I was actually asked this question several times on the trip and was somewhat surprised by it, to the point of being unable to fully reply. I simply don’t remember a time when I didn’t wish to do this; it must have been many years back, but it’s been a wish of mine so long I’ve forgotten what it was like not to have it looming at the back of my mind.
Sylvia caught the bug of the TMB after marrying me (it’s safe to say she had never even heard of Mont Blanc, let alone the tour of it, before meeting me.) Her ‘re-progamming’ at the hands of Brian was easy; all I had to do was show her one video on YouTube and she was convinced. From that point on, we HAD to do this thing; it only became a question of when, and how.
We had strongly considered an attempt in 2015, but the sickness and eventual death of my mother in the spring of that year rendered the undertaking entirely impossible. We tried to gear up for an attempt the following year but it proved equally impossible; we were still digging ourselves out from the serious personal and financial setbacks of the previous year, one of the most challenging periods of our lives. We needed to be in solid financial shape, have time to physically and mentally prepare, do a ton of planning and brush up on two foreign languages. It was all too much; we settled for a trip to the Pacific Northwest instead.
2017 came and we still weren’t ready; overdue renovations to our house had to be completed, draining our time and budget. Instead, we opted for the less ambitious (but challenging enough in itself) chance to do Colca Canyon and Misti in Sylvia’s native Peru. While we failed to reach the summit of Misti (a volcano that dwarfs Mont Blanc) our experiences on this trip once again convinced me that we were ready for the TMB if we chose to do it.
In 2018, the well of excuses had finally ran dry. Brian, turning a youthful 50, decided that this was the year to make the attempt. We had the time, the resources and the wherewithal to do the entire tour. While I had toyed with the idea of doing the whole tour and nothing but the whole tour, all 110 miles of it, I had never been convinced that it was a good idea. Might we not better break it up into more manageable sections, which is entirely doable using the excellent public transportation options available in the Alps?
It was Sylvia who ultimately argued in favor of the full tour, and finally won me over. While I do not believe in the moniker of Go Big or Go Home (mine has always been, first, Live So That You CAN Go Home) there is that persistent feeling that a risk not fully taken is a challenge not fully met. We wanted to be able to say, both to ourselves and others, that we done the TMB. Not part of it…all of it, without qualifications.
In July and August of 2018, facing record temperatures in Europe and the prospect of a major French Rail Strike on the very day we were travelling, and with Sylvia nursing a swollen ankle, we set out to finish all 110 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc, spanning three countries, two languages, eleven days of hiking and ten mountain passes. What follows will be the story of this expedition.
The Tour Du Mont Blanc, One Hundred Miles on foot in the Alps….it was there. So there we went.