Guest Author - Julie Emrich Fredrick
If the idea of hiking in mountainous terrain and visiting multiple countries while still maintaining certain creature comforts sounds intriguing, then the Tour du Mont Blanc (or TMB) may be the ideal trip for you. Long known as one of the great walks of the world, the TMB has been enticing walkers from all over the world for nearly 200 years.
Imagine traversing the Alps of France, Switzerland and Italy carrying only the necessities-clothing, personal toiletries and water, spending your nights in comfortable refuges complete with meals. The trails are well marked, and several detailed guidebooks have been published, allowing hikers to travel independently, although if you wish to carry only a light daypack, there are dozens of tour operators that would be happy to lighten your load and take the guesswork out of the trip.
This 105-mile circuit traverses 10-12 majestic alpine passes, descending in to lovely valleys, each with a unique character of its own. From bustling Chamonix, France, and Courmayeur, Italy to pastoral villages and glacial communities, the TMB brings magnificent beauty to all who undertake its challenges. A moderate hiker can complete the walk in 10-12 days, although most people figure in at least one “rest day” in case of inclement weather. If travelers are pressed for time, it is possible to use public transportation (busses, trains, gondolas) between certain points in order to shorten the duration of the trip.
Summer is the best time to complete the walk, since many of the refuges are only open from early July until mid September. Accommodations vary, but guests typically find clean, comfortable lodging in either shared dormitories or a private room. Showers are often segregated by sex. Dinner and breakfast are included in the set price, shared family-style, allowing hikers interact with each other over a warm meal. Wine and beer are available for an additional cost.
The huts, or refuges, are typically spaced within 2 to 5 hours of one another, making it easy to plan your distance according to how long you wish to hike. Only on busy weekends or holidays may it be necessary to call ahead to reserve a bed for the next night’s lodging. Most hikers take a noontime snack along with them, although it is common to pass a refuge serving food at any time of the day. Some of the refugees will prepare your next-days lunch if you arrange for it the night before.
Since the TMB is typically walked in an anti-clockwise direction, it is common to encounter the same people at huts, and many friendships have developed from these meetings. Sharing stories, pictures, and often bunkrooms leads to a special fellowship between travelers. After all, together, you have experienced some of nature’s finest handiwork while traversing the Tour Du Mont Blanc.
Here are the 2 essential guides for hiking the TMB.