Tour Du Mont Blanc – Strolling At The Edge Of The World

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A man looking at the Mountains

Like all adventures, it arrived suddenly with a bang and was over in a flash. The end of the great story.

Well not really. It was a special adventure. For one tiny thing – this time there were two of us!! We planned little, had no travel gear, and definitely took only the bare minimum of clothes. To be precise we took with us short and long pants, one warm jacket, sneakers and a raincoat. The rest like tent, food and other necessities were bought in France (for cheap at Decathlon). Our one small request to the gods of the mountains were great weather and no injuries.

By the way, this was the first trip going camping on our own.

How it all started?

Simple on a whim for an adventure and excitement. Took us some time to plan it all since we did not want to spend a lot of money. In the end, we made it in more or less 350$ each the whole shebang – tickets, food, and lodging (we camped 99% of the trip).

To find cheap tickets from Lithuania to Lyon France we used Azuon. As you know everything is simple if you look from the right angle. However, there was a small problem. There were no tickets from Lithuania. Luckily we live “near” Warsaw Poland that usually has great offers. The only hassle is a 7h, 18$ (return) ride from Vilnius to Warsaw. But the trip is worth it since the flight back and forth cost only 45$. However, the best part was that we had the whole day to explore the capital of Poland. Slept in the botanical garden, relaxed in the city center. Listened to Chopin music across different installments at the Warsaw center and just hanged out with local sparrows.

The flight to Lyon was not long – few hours max and little excitement to tell you about. Lyon airport was perfect since it was open 24/7. Perfect in a sense that we were able to sleep there and save around 100$ instead of going to town and sleeping in a hotel. AND! The bus to Mont Blanc was leaving from the Airport. So it was a Win Win!

Sacrifice to the mountain

[Day 1] We did not go directly to the Mont Blanc. First, we stopped at Annecy which has a beautiful tiny old town next to the Annecy lake. Were we had lunch in a local boulangerie and bought our camping necessities – tent, cooking equipment and mattresses for sleeping.

From there we picked a ride using “Bla Bla Car” with a very nice lady who took us to buy some groceries and dropped us at the start of the trail – Les Houches!!

The time when we officially started the trail was around 15h. Right from the start we have forgotten half of our bought food and leg shavers of my girlfriend near the trail while we repacked. We were too excited to start to notice that we left something behind.

The first day we had to walk 11km to the first camping location with bags weighing like a fridge as Arune liked to say. The day was hot, Montblanc was in front and the heat was perfect. For me. Unbearable for my companion.

We should have known that the way you start the day it will always be so. We started the day with a steep hike up the mountain. After a few stops, lots of cursing and Arune being white from weight, heat and first-time mountain climbing we reached the pass. Where you could see an old train slowly going up. What a bummer it was…

Here at the first pass – Col de Voza 1680, we had a choice to continue going up or slowly go down and reach the sleeping spot from the other end. Which looked easier at that time. Taking into account that we had almost no sleep for 3 days and already reached a 1.7km height from 900m. It was a wrong decision. Because the original camping spot was never reached. We stopped near the pasture of cows and a newly built house that was vacant for tonight. Only Cows, two campers, and Mont Blanc. The only problem was water! But since I knew that this house had to have a hose I went and silently, without leaving a mark searched and found it. Took a cold glacier water shower and poured enough water for us to boil our dinner. The first day ended being passed out happily in the tent somewhere in the bushes near the cows on the way to Col de Tricot.

The Uh Ahh Uuuu Ahh kinda day

[Day 2] The following days were a monotonous UH ahhhh uuuuu ahhh kinda days. With every turn a more scenic view then the previous at each walked meter up. At the same time, you could say it was the sounds of my partner going up. Since the fridge like weight were with us for the next three days.

There were few funny, notable or purely crazy things that happened on the second day. A Japanese guy with 26kg backpack… I could feel his pain! A Himalayan-style suspension bridge (1650 m) and a roaring glacial torrent which was a peaceful rest stop before we continued our hike as the way led us through a picturesque valley path up to one of the highest passes that day – Col du Tricot (2120m). My friend’s shoulders were hurting badly, but the smooth path, handful of blueberries and clear blue sky granted the energy to enjoy the journey to the fullest. Damn horses and sheeps that tried to rip open our backpack steal food and for f sake ruined our guidebook, which the horse stole and wanted to trade for our food. It happened in the beautiful valley near Refuge de Miage 1550m, a spot which was perfect lunch location near the mountain streams. We also crossed a beautiful alpine village Les Contamines, where we bought some fruits and ice cream in the supermarket and got a really pleasant walk through the nature parks.

And finally, a fantastic place to sleep at La Balme 1708, surprisingly with a free camping spot. There were a public WC and a water tap near the camping area as well. As so it happened once again we did not reach the intended sleeping location… 22 km on a second day was simply too hard for us.

The rainy day

[Day 3] The third day saw us climbing to one of the highest passes Col des Fours 2665. That day we passed actually two passes Croix du Bonhomme 2483 being the second one. Had a freaking thunderstorm that rushed in like crazy on us. Used the first time our raincoat (we used in total 2 times) got wet, frustrated but excited at the same time for the experience.

This day we slept near Refuge des Mottets, next to the mountain river. It stays at an altitude of 1864 meters, craved in the Valley of Glaciers, south of Mont Blanc. We had no doubt to stay there overnight, as there was a perfect place for a tent just across the river passed the hut, facing glaciers and Seigne mountain pass. Such places truly thrills a heart, with views that photos could never describe… I am lying my Girlfriend photography skills are way better than mine. So yes photos can describe it.

Pizza!!

[Day 4] The next two days were the crazy ones. And the setting tone for the rest of masochistic trail kinda trip. If not for the views I think we both would have cried the rest of the trip.

The day started by climbing to the pass of Col de la Seigne 2516m, getting down to the Italian side Val Veni. An amazing picturesque valley. It covers all the way from Col de Seigne to Courmayeur. This section of TMB is extremely beautiful. The landscape is different and the start of the trail hits the lake which is incredibly refreshing after a climb.

But getting injured on the rock while swimming (if the pain of the fridge on the back was not enough), climbing back again up to around 2 km height and then 4h hike down in a dusty shitty Italian road to the most beautiful alpine town Courmayeur on the track with its ancient old town, it’s narrow streets and luxurious villas was very tiring… Since the stupid shitty cable car was too expensive. I mean they cost the same amount as a Pizza … And you know that any hiker will rather eat pizza than take an easy ride down…. Oh oh and I forgot to tell you that we slept in a freaking parking lot (well nearby) illegally since in Italy camping is illegal but the rent for a room in a cheap old people home was 60 euro per person!!! Ridiculous. And of course, there were cascades nearby the parking lot so dead at the night I went and had a shower there. 32 km were done that day. I won’t lie the second day we did another 32 km and it wasn’t easy…

I think I forgot to mention every day we climbed at least twice up to a 2.3km high pass and down.

Italy 30h 64km

[Day 5] We spent only 1 day and a half in Italy until we passed another high pass – Grand Col Ferret 2537m and entered Switzerland. 32 km back to back in 30h not something I would suggest doing. The second part of the 64Km hike I would say easier compared to the first. I think for me personally the mountain pass between Italy and Swizz was the most beautiful… This stage of the track was bike friendly, and we met lots of riders on the way. But 2-day hike around 32km required a lot of power from us and we felt totally exhausted as we had our feet skin peeled and legs were hurting badly until we reached our first camping spot in La Fouly (Switzerland (1610m)). We found a big camping site almost in the dark, paid around 14 euro per person, took a hot shower twice, bought some snacks and enjoyed a little bit of civilization.

The Relaxing Hike

[Day 6] The next day in Switzerland we walked no more than 14 km since we needed a rest and also knowing that one of the highest crossings is awaiting us the next day. A hike from La Fouly to Champex had a modest height gain and was quite an easy stage of the route. We walked through Swiss mountain valleys and crossed a few small farming villages with no sign of modern touch. We reached Champex in the afternoon in the leisurely mood, did some grocery shopping, found a very nice camping site to stay overnight (paid around 13 euro per person), enjoyed hot showers, charged our electronic devices and stayed for a few hours near Champex lake dipping our hurting feets in to the ice cold lake water. By the way better not run out of food in Swiss side. We spent 50$ on a very small amount of ration that lasted only for 2 days.

The Highest Peak

[Day7] Another day another pass to conquer – 2665m Fenetre d’Arpette and it took us only 5 hours. It was an interesting climb through gigantic rocks while hearing the sounds of cracking glaciers on the top which made us both feel uncomfortable, yet we denied the fear until we crossed the pass and felt safe to discuss it.

Once we were on the top of Fenetre d’Arpette, we saw a completely different view on the other side of the way. We started to descend and felt only loose gravel under the feet, which was quite a challenge for us as it was very complicated to keep the balance and not to injure our legs. It took us around 2 hours to go down to Chalet du Glacier du Buvette (1583 m). And just because we were not tired (or we were in our rush hour) we climbed back again to around 2113m height as we found a remote place to stay near Refuge Les Grands. The place is just magic as it is surrounded by mountains, meadows full of blueberries and two huge glaciers. Very few people come to stay there due to demanding climb up to 2133 meter height. BUT it was one of the most exciting places for me to stay overnight and not just because of outstanding 5-star view from the outdoor toilet.

The Most Beautiful Place

[Day 8] The last two days that followed were both awesome, exhausting and very picturesque. At night while we slept a large number of runners that do UTMB ran near our tent… They did not let us sleep well and a restless night did not help us much. Since when morning came we needed to reach to Col de Balme 2191 m before we started to descend to Tres-Le-Champ village (1417m). Secondly, the legs were aching like crazy when climbing down, it was super hot, and once we reached our bottom point, we had to start the climbing up to 2352 m almost right away. So that we would reach the most beautiful place before the sunset. We chose a more exciting trail that required us to use some crazy ladders that were etched in the mountain to reach the Lac Blanc the place with ice cold water, most beautiful view of mont blanc and the best place for a campsite. Super expensive candies and super sweet Sprite renamed Lac BLanc Sprite.

Important note: on the way from Tres-la-Champ to Lac Blanc we didn’t see any freshwater springs to refill our canteens, which was very rare on TMB track. Everywhere else we didn’t have to worry about the water at all as every few hundred meters we could drink as much as we like and refill our water stocks whether it was a village or a valley…

The Last Hike

[Day 10] The rest of the trip as you probably guessed was getting down to Chamonix. Since we were already super slow zombie couple dreaming about ice cream and a hot shower, we decided to find a camping place and stayed there overnight with our fellow Mont Blanc snowy cap in front of our eyes for the last time.
P.s. Arune got her longtime dreamed ice cream from a random French guy as a cadeaux! Yes, she looked that tired!

The End Of A Hike

[Day 11] As a friendly goodbye note, the sky got dark and we got rained on (the second time overall). We went to Saint Gervais Les Bains by train to sleep in our cozy Airbnb apartment, did some shopping in a local French market (Rhone-Alp cheese and nugga were fantastic!) and next day we were ready to get a bus ride to the Lyon Airport.

On a final note, until you get out of the mountains you have to always be ready to climb some more even if you think the trail is over!!

Authors
Simonas R.
Arune M.

P.s. Pictures are all originals. If you would like to copy or use them you have to get a permission from the authors.

Part 1 Generic Outline Of Backpack Content – http://palmtree.life/2018/10/03/tmb-or-tour-du-mont-blanc-preperation/
Part 2 Wild Camping Spots – http://palmtree.life/2018/10/04/tour-du-mont-blanc-wild-camping-spots/

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