Tour du Mont Blanc- around Europe’s highest peak

“Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”

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Dhruv and I did our first long distance multi-day hike beginning of this fall- Tour du Mont Blanc. Company of two amazing friends, 3 countries, spectacular scenery, challenging ascents and descents, glimpse into alpine life and culture, wine and lots of cheese, fondue and raclette, hot showers, gazing at the mikyway, walking along Mont Blanc massif and it’s glaciers for days, wide-eyed and credulous- all this and a lot more is what I will always remember this journey for.

Tour du Mont Blanc is a circuit around Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc, where the hiker covers a distance of about 150 kms, crossing mountain passes through three countries- France, Italy and Switzerland. The classic route is done anti-clockwise which is what we followed, and done at a leisurely place, will take about 10 days. While it may sound daunting and did test our endurance, I consider this hike luxurious for the fact that we could hike from hut to hut, didn’t have to carry tents/sleeping bags and every refuge, gite or mountain hut we got to- were greeted by warm hospitality and epicurean delights.The route we followed is listed below:

Day 1:Les Houches (Gite Michel Fagot) – Day 2:Les Contamines (Gite Gai Soleil Chalet) – Day 3:Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme- Day 4:Refuge Elisabeta- Day 5:Courmayeur -Day 6:Refuge Bonati – Day 7:La Fouly/champex -Day 8:Trient -Day 9:Argentiere- Day 10:Chamonix

 

We used a combination of gites and refuges for accommodation. While we had first 4 days booked, rest we booked during the hike (on our second day at Les Contamines), after we had a better idea of our walking speeds. I would recommend booking upfront if you go during the peak season. We went during the end of hiking season- while that meant little to no crowds, crisp and cool air and a truly magical time by ourselves, it also meant that a number of refuges had already closed down and we had trouble finding accommodation at some places. Irrespective of the time you choose thus, do ensure to call refuges upfront to check if they are available and open.

The stay in refuges has been the highlight of the hike, with my top three below:

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Refugio Elisabetta, Italian Alps, 2195 meters
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Refugio Bonatti, 2100 meters
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Refuge du Bonhomme, 2443 meters

We used this guidebook for planning our trip and I highly recommend it if you are planning the hike by yourself. I have also put together a packing list which you may find helpful. We for sure over-packed and kept getting rid of certain things along the way to reduce the weight as days went by. I have thus edited my original packing list to omit anything that we found unneccasry.

Backpacks- I highly recommend getting these fitted from an outdoor store
Rain Jacket
Rain Pants
Woolen/wool mix inners for base layer, Hiking pants or tights
Map and Map bag to keep it waterproof
Woolen socks
Waterproof stuff sacks
Quick dry towel
Backpack rain cover
Foil blanket
Whistles
Sleeping bag liners (some refuges specify that you use these for hygiene)
First aid kit (highly recommend keeping a pain releif spray, Ibuprofen and Tylenol)
Compass
Head lamp
Emergency food
Fleece
Woolen cap
Gloves
Sunscreen
Swiss knife
Hiking Poles
Lip balm
Eye patch and ear buds
Long thermal underwear
Toilet paper
Paper hand soap
Body wash (travel size)
hiking shoes

We finished our hike in Chamonix on a relatively luxurious note and stayed at a boutique spa hotel Le Morgane. The img_5576hotel was at a beautiful location, right below the shimmering glaciers of Aiguille du midi. While we loved the spa, the restaurant at the hotel was cherry on the cake with delicious food, and impeccable service. Going around Chamonix city center and exploring various outdoor stores, dreaming of what gear I need for the next hike made a very fitting end to the awesome time I had in the Alps and left me yearning for a lot more in years to come by!

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