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Ten days, seven valleys, five cols, 2,650 meters in elevation at our highest point, 85 miles, and one grand adventure. Some blood, sweat, and tears, but mostly mud, definitely still sweat, and cheers. The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) was all of that and so much more.
This trip started off the same way as many of our recent trips have, with a whole lot of research. From blogs, to guide books, to Pinterest, to YouTube videos, we exhausted every resource that we could find to learn as much as possible about the trek. How long should we take? What gear MUST we have? Do we need to be able to speak French? Can we bus portions of stages instead of taking full rest days? Camp or stay in refuges? Should we book all of our refuges ahead of time? Clockwise or anti-clockwise? What the heck is anti-clockwise?!?
These questions and dozens of others raced through our minds, but the more we read, the more confident we became. We learned the stages of the trek that we would take and we picked out what seemed to be the most highly reviewed refuges for that break-up of the stages. Although we read reassuring articles both ways, we decided that we would be less stressed if we booked all of our refuges ahead of time instead of winging it on the trail. Most of the refuges now have on-line booking capabilities, whether through a website or e-mail conversations with the refuge steward. There were, however, a few phone calls made where Evan dusted off the cobwebs in his brain and used his rusty French to make sure we had a place to stay for the night. Overall, we were definitely glad we booked ahead of time and, with the exception of Lac Blanc, we were able to stay at all of our top choices.
Trek mapped, lodging booked, and the Kev Reynolds Cicerone guidebook purchased (THE guidebook for the TMB), the final big detail was packing. Evan and I love camping and we do it quite often in our home mountains, the Adirondacks, but neither of us will claim to be particularly good about packing concisely when we don’t have to. Having never completed a multi-day trek where you are literally carrying everything you need on your back, we were stepping into new territory. Luckily, there are plenty of great guides out there that can act as packing templates. We relied pretty heavily on a list assembled by the couple that runs the “Walking the TMB” website. The whole website is great, and their packing list was an excellent place for us to start.
After all was said and done, our packs ended up weighing around 35-lbs each – pretty heavy, but Evan had his camera equipment and I ended up carrying all of our first aid supplies, sunscreen, etc. The little things definitely add up! After taking care of some last minute details, like ordering enough Euro and Swiss Franc through our bank to be able to pay for the refuges (most only accepted cash) and purchasing some fun little flags for each country on the TMB to bring with us, we felt prepared and ready for our next grand adventure.
Departure and Arrival
Flying out of Syracuse, we connected to our red-eye overseas flight in Newark, NJ. The flights went smoothly without any hitches, and our baggage was on the carousel to greet us after we landed in Geneva. A quick side note about baggage – we checked both of our backpacks since they were too big to bring as carry-on. We ended up purchasing some lightweight duffle bags from EMS to protect our packs in flight. They worked wonderfully as protectors and they actually functioned as a seat cushion along the trail once they were folded up – multipurpose!
So, upon retrieving our packs and putting them back in order, our next step was to find the AlpyBus station to catch our ride to Chamonix. AlpyBus offers an easy to use service that transports you from the Geneva airport to anywhere within the Chamonix Valley – they delivered us right to our hotel’s doorstep in Chamonix.
Realizing our reservation said that we couldn’t check in to our hotel (Hotel Alpina) until 4:00, and being too delirious and jet-lagged to even consider that we could ask about checking in early, we decided to roam around Chamonix until that time arrived. We managed to be pretty productive – stopping at the tourism office to figure out how to get to Les Contamines the following morning (where we would start our hike), grabbing lunch, and checking out the webcams at Aiguille du Midi to see if we should take the ride up (unfortunately, no – it was way too cloudy).
Exhaustion was really starting to kick in by the time 4:00 rolled around, so we very gladly checked in, and then promptly took a nap. When we finally convinced ourselves to get up, we decided on the Micro Brasserie de Chamonix for dinner. The food was very good – massive burgers – but the service was a little slow. After dinner, we decided that it would be best to get as much sleep as possible to make up for not sleeping on the plane, so straight to bed we went.
Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions about our trip.
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Evan, Hilary, and Lucy 🐾