TOUR of MONT BLANC

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One of the best hikes in the world

Tour of Mont Blanc

Often called TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc)

tmb-map

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AT A GLANCE

  • ChamonixTMB is a hiking classic
  • Alpine charm: valleys, lakes, glaciers
  • great food, history, culture
  • circumambulate Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe (4810m, 15,781ft)
  • 9-14 days
  • 170+kms (106mi)
  • best months June-Sept
  • gains 10,000+m (32,800ft) elevation

UTMB_profile

Why We Like This Hike

  • the most famous long distance hike in Europe is a terrific challenge, but with creature comforts en route
  • by staying in huts (refuge in French, rifugio in Italian) and hostels (gîtes), and eating your meals there, you can hike with a very light pack
  • frequent opportunities to buy food & supplies
  • good trails
  • good signage though you still need a guidebook
  • visit France, Italy and Switzerland in one hike
  • you can carry your own tent, if you prefer, even tenting close to the huts so you can buy meals
  • chance to see ibex and chamois in the wild
  • fantastic glacier views
  • add on an ascent of Mt. Blanc after hiking!

MtBlanc

Considerations

Rain is inevitable. Be ready for it.

  • it can snow on high passes any day of the year
  • off-season footing can be treacherous. Crampons and ice axe may be necessary.
  • late afternoon thunderstorms are common
  • mid-July through August accommodation may be full
  • mountain huts can be crowded & noisy (we prefer tenting, to be truthful)
  • you need climb iron ladders bolted into the mountain
  • cable-cars and chair-lifts are cheating, but you certainly may want to use them to shorten some hiking days (available June-Sept during daylight hours)
  • French is the main language of the TMB though Italian is useful too. Anglophones may struggle at times.
  • at times there are several different paths all heading the same direction. It can be confusing.

Routes

  • most start and finish at Les Houches, close to Chamonix, one of the great hiking towns of the world
  • most walk anti-clockwise
  • if you cannot hike the entire circuit, recommended are the days either side of the Italian town of Courmayeru, and the days above Chamonix, around La Flégerè. Lac Blanc and Le Brevent … perhaps unrivalled in the Alps.
  • get one of our recommended hiking guide books to decide how many days you wish to spend hiking the TMB
  • checking trip reports (bottom of this page) is another excellent way to get a feel for how much distance you will want to hike each day

TMB trailCost

First decision: do you want to stay in huts and gîtes, or carry your own tent & gear? (off-season many huts are closed so you have no choice.)

If you are not tenting, the biggest hassle with doing the TMB independently is getting reservations for accommodation. There is not yet any one place you can book everything for the entire tour. (This is one good reason to sign-on with a guided tour rather than hiking it independently.)

Many of the huts are privately owned. Membership in an organization is not required to use the huts, but discounts apply to some alpine club members.

Our advice is to book just your first few nights. As you hike, make a reservation at the next hut before you leave your current hut in the morning. The hut guardian will normally call ahead for you to confirm your next demi pension (bed, dinner and breakfast). This is risky as the hut you want next might be full — but it allows you much more freedom in your itinerary.

For independent hikers, making their own arrangements, in 2015 cost was around 50 Euro for bed, bedding, breakfast and an evening meal

The TMB is not inexpensive. Compare your total cost doing it independently against what you’d pay a trekking guide. (below)

TMB cows

Trekking Guides

Increasingly popular are self-guided tours. A company organizes all your logistics, but you trek independently. A typical price for a self-guided TMB in 2013 was about $1500.

Contact Pygmy Elephant’s TMBSelf Guided (hotels and refugees) for details and price.

autourduMontBlanc for example, is a website that helps you plan a self-guided route. It has a list of accommodation in each of the TMB villages with prices and email/phone contacts.

Other TMB SELF Guided tour sites:

Logistics

If you sign on with a guided trip logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers.

  • the closest major airport is Geneva about 100km away
  • the train to Chamonix is cheapest, but there are many other bus & shuttle options to get you to the trailhead at Les Houches

Local Information

Best Trekking Guidebooks

We hike with Kev every chance we get. A superb author. Lonely Planet provides a great overview of other options.

Best Travel Guidebooks

Of dozens of good options, we prefer Lonely Planet guides. Start with Europe, then search for the specific countries in which you are most interested.

Other Recommended Books

Best Maps

  • Pays du Mont Blanc – 1:50,000, Rando
  • IGN 3530ET, 3531ET, and 3630OT

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports

Marc Sebastian Pelzer has done 3 TMBs since 2003, in 2007 remembering to bring his wife Romana.

hikers

Marc posted an excellent trip report of their 2007 adventure …

Movies

Starck Olivier TMB video from 2009.
Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

George and Mark’s tour of Mont Blanc 2010
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Check our blog for posts tagged “Mont Blanc”.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

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54 thoughts on “TOUR of MONT BLANC

  1. Love this blog..so helpful! I am hiking this in May, but many huts are closed until June. Does this mean I will have to pack and carry all food, or are there places to stop for food along the way other than the huts?

    • You will be carrying food for some days at a time. But it’s not all that difficult to detour to towns.

      Get a good guidebook ASAP so you can read the day-by-day description. It should tell you the options to resupply each day.

    • Hi – wondering how the hike went for you in May? I am hoping to do the tour or a section of it in May or June 2016, with a tent, but was concerned about any leftover winter conditions in May, and even June. Of course, conditions will vary from year to year, so there’s no way of predicting how it will be in 2016 for now, but would be nice to hear a first hand account to get a small idea of what to expect..Thanks! 🙂

  2. Does the estimate of 1500 include cost of flights (I currently live in France, within driving distance)? We plan to tent as much as possible and avoid the huts. We estimate that our cost will be mainly in supplies and food, but 1500 seems much more than we initially estimated.

    • Nope. That’s mostly the 40 Euro / person / neight for bed, bedding, breakfast and an evening meal if you stay in huts.

      That estimate may be low, however.

  3. ONE STOP WEBSITE FOR SELF GUIDED INFO ON THE TMB

    Hi, Good info on here. If I can add to it, there is now a website where you can plan a self guided route and look at a list of accommodation in each of the villages all the way round the TMB. The lists give you prices and email/phone contacts to book at each point. the address is:

    http://www.autourdumontblanc.com/en/

    If you are looking for a guided tour, try my website: http://www.toughmountain.co.uk. A guide will take the stress out of the language barrier, route finding, give you a lot of information about the culture, customs, flora, fauna, best places to see wildlife, advise you on variant routes depending on your fitness level, help with bag transfers between accommodation and much more besides! And i know what i’m talking about. I’ve been guiding it for 5 years now.

  4. Pingback: Préparation Tour de Mont Blanc | Being in the moment

  5. Hi!
    I am a girl of 20 years. I walked El Camino de Santiago alone last fall and I met a lot of nice people. Do you think I can walk this alone this summer? I don’t like planning and I am very bad at, so this might be a bad thing. When you walk El Camino in the fall, you don’t have to plan anything. It seems like it’s different with TMB.
    All the best
    Marie

    • The TMB does require planning. Accommodation is limited. Many of the best places fill up.

      I’d say you should check with some of the companies offering assistance with that planning, especially if you don’t speak French and/or German.

  6. Hi Rick,
    I am thinking about hiking TMB this month. I want to carry my own tent and camp along the way. Do I need reservations at the campsites for that?

    • Tenting is far more difficult in the Alps than in North America.

      On the nearby High Route I tented every night but one. Every night illegally.

      When it got dark I found a discrete hide-a-way.

      That said, you might get a company to help you put together a legal tenting itinerary. Or a combination of hut / tenting.

      • Hey Rick,

        Thanks for putting this together!

        Re: Tenting, could you explain why/how is it more difficult to tent in the Alps than in North America?

        We are planning to camp for TMB this early August but we haven’t found any resource that has a map of campsites en route. Would you be able to give some campsites map pointers and some general tips of camping en route TMB.

      • Fewer campsites. Restrictions on wild camping. Europeans seem to prefer sleeping in expensive, crowded huts.

        Personally I don’t like the huts. After trying one once, I wild camped (discretely) every other night.

    • Same here. I will start hiking solo on August 23, plan to camp along the way. I am concerned about no reservations at any of the campsites yet, especially that week is the ultramarathon week.

  7. Umm, interesting – my wife and I will be doing the TMB starting Sept 11th. I didn’t even think we’d have problems camping along the entire route. Is this something we need to reserve now or is it just plain illegal to camp on the route? Any other advice will be welcomed…

    • It’s illegal to “wild camp”, though I did. And most often you must leave the trail to get to a legal campground. Europeans tend to stay in the noisy, expensive, smelly huts. 🙂

  8. Are there transportation options along the route to help you “catch up” if you get behind a day and already have refuge reservations?

  9. Just finished the TMB yesterday things I would do differently:
    1- Not bring camping gear. Stove tent sleeping pad etc… just stay at the refuge or hotels they are under 50 € with meals.
    2- Pack light 2 t shirts 1 long sleeve microflece 1 pair pants 3 undies 4 pair socks & a rain suit. A fall hat, light gloves and flip flops. That’s what I ended with after leaving piles of clothes the first few nights because of the weight. Get good boots! I used Keen Targee 2 and we’re perfect for this hike sturdy but light. Others in my group did not listen to me and bought to flexible boots but felt comfortable walking in the store they hurt their feet bad hiking on rough rocky terrain.
    3- would have started 9/1 instead of 9/11 things were starting to close and the only thing we could eat was ham and cheese sandwiches and the weather would be nicer.
    4- go with hikers I was the only one in the group with any experience, trying to tell them what to pack and how caused some of the first fights I had to just let them learn why good socks and a good pack are worth buying one guy refused and had normal cotton and paid for it.also less than 4 together.
    5- I would skip Switzerland come down from crossing out of Italy take the bus when you come down and take it to where you hike back to France. It’s expensive and not on Parr with France and Italy sorry.
    6- It is strenuous try to speed walk as big of hills as you can find at home coming from Michigan we do not have anything like this our hikes are flat with a lot of lakes I was running to prepare but was not in mountain shape and we all struggled.

    To sum it up pack light, get in really good shape, get good light but sturdy boots get a good rain suit (4 days of rain for me) and take a lot of pictures.

  10. Hi,

    Me and my wife want to do TMB mid June 2016. We are looking to do the 4 day trip. This is part of larger 8 week trip. Is there a placed to leave our luggage while we do the TMB and/or have it transported to the overnight stops? I have seen some sites say we should have a 35-40 L backpacks, if we are doing the 4 day is this still recommended? We want to keep our packs light, just clothing articles, water, toiletries and small accessory items. Is purchasing meals at the various stops the best way to go for food? I’m sure as I continue my research I will have more questions.

    Thank you,
    Javi

    • On the nearby Haute Route I (illegally) wild camped for free each night. Cooked all my meals over a camp stove.

      Except one night. Decided to try one of the European huts. Paid too much for a noisy, crowded shared bunk bed and two meals. Decided not to bother with European huts ever again, if I could avoid them.

    • You’ll need to be careful with camping as there are restrictions on the altitude you can legally wild camp at. Also consider that locations you can use may not be near a water source. There are campsites in each of the main valleys but in some places you will need to deviate off the TMB to reach them (i don’t know what they cost). Why not bite the bullet and stay in the huts on the tour. Saves the weight of tent, sleeping bag, roll mat, stove, pans, gas, food! The huts are quite often under 50 euro per night half board (dinner, bed and breakfast) and you’ll meet many like minded travelers to have a social drink with, whether its beer or a cappuccino!

      But if you are sett on camping you’ll need to contact the authorities for each of the countries regions you go through to check the regulations. This might help in France:

      http://www.autourdumontblanc.com/en/

      Good luck.

      Duncan
      International Mountain Leader
      http://www.toughmountain.co.uk

  11. My wife and I want to bring our two dogs with us. Is the trail dog friendly? Are there any restrictions on the trail as fats as pets go? I’ve searched for some time for answers to those questions but can’t seem to find any literature on it. Anything would help.

    • Good question. My best guess is that dogs are not welcomed in those mountains. But I don’t know whether anyone would stop you.

      Certainly the trails are easy enough for dogs.

      Hope this helps.

    • There are local by laws in some areas where dogs must be under control but no reason not to take doggies. Just remember the following:
      Pet Passports are required, with the appropriate jabs and stamps prior to entry to each country during the tour (Rabies, worming and in some cases tick treatment)
      Water – You may have to carry double the amount to have enough for your dog – most streams are glacial melt and not suitable for anyone to drink from directly.
      Distance – is your dog young and up to the standard mileage of the TMB (15-20 kilometres per day for 11 days) You may need more overnight stays to shorten each leg. Or do half TMB this time and return to finish the following summer.

      Hope this helps

    • There are people who bring dogs the refuge usually has a dog house you chain the dog to or it sleeps outside tethered to a tree.

      • That’s interesting! Can’t say that i’ve seen that occurring outside too many huts on the TMB. Please could you tell me which huts provide kennels for dogs – i’ve been guiding this route for 5 years and i’ve never come across this! Certainly none of the Italian huts on the TMB offer this. Only the Bertone hut has a tree outside!

  12. Hopefully this is still active. I plan on doing the hike this year I just had a couple questions or two about gear.

    We are going the hike in August, what kind of rating would you suggest for the sleeping bag.
    Also I just ordered the Mutha Hubba from MSR, should that be adequate (there are a few of us). looking for opinions.

    • Yes that tent will be about perfect if you split up the weight of the fly, poles and tent body if there are 3 of you- just need to keep the dew and rain off you (It will rain). An ultralight 40 F sleeping bag should work depending where you sleep it could get cold or be hot at night.
      A word of advice keep packs under 15 lbs.

  13. I am specifically talking about Elisabetta they have a dog house but they actually let the dog sleep in the front porch. We kept pace with 2 woman from England that brought their dog the full length. It was a very well behaved dog and did not bark. We went at the end of the season starting on 9/11 so maybe people were just happy to have paying guest’s? When I say dog house I mean a small 1 dog miniature house not a kennel that fits multiple dogs. I heard the interaction between the 2 ladies and the hut keepers several times and each time they figured something out.

  14. Great guide, best part was definitely the video at the very end. That Mark guy was seriously handsome ;P

    Thanks for putting this together, I know George and I would have benefited from the information here, when we did our trip.

  15. Great info, very helpful.

    Do you have any advice on making hut reservations to do this tour in early July 2016? I’ve tried emailing each hut (in English and in the native language for each hut), but haven’t heard back from any. Is it possible to reserve via email? Or is a phone call preferred? I don’t know any French or Italian, so thought translating via text would be a clearer way to communicate.

    If I do need to call- are the huts open now (early April)?

    Any and all info is appreciated!!

  16. I have reservations with a company for a self guided tour beginning 6/20. However, I have started having knee problems and I am worried. Since I have already paid for the housing in the huts, is there a way to get transported to each hut so I could wait for my friends and at least sleep and eat where I have paid. The tour company says there is no way to do that and they won’t refund my money at his late date. I figure I would try to hike and if there was some transportation I could at least go hang out at the huts for the day and enjoy the scenery so I wouldn’t waste all my money

  17. Pingback: A Quick & Dirty Guide to the Tour du Mont Blanc | The Hiking Life

  18. Great guide and info on the hike Rick!

    Danielle mentioned above that she was worried about getting from hut to hut with knee problems. Although there are some huts that are inaccessible without at least hiking a little bit, there are several transport options that will help reduce the strain in case hikers are not feeling up to the challenge for the day. For example, you can take the Cableway at Les Houches to Bellevue to save a couple hundred meters of elevation gain. You can do the same thing coming down from Plan Chericout to Courmayeur, which saves 500 meters of elevation loss. Going downhill is often worse on the knees, so this cableway is a good one to utilize. Also, there are several sections where buses are possible including the Val Ferret after Courmayeur. I put together a quick overview of an 11 day itinerary with transport options listed for each stage. http://www.pygmy-elephant.com/blog/tour-du-mont-blanc-guide-to-trekking-the-most-famous-route-of-the-alps

    We also organize self guided treks for hikers as well, in case your readers were interested in an additional option. http://www.pygmy-elephant.com/journey/tour-du-mont-blanc-self-guided

  19. Happy New Year everyone. For those looking at a self guided Tour of Mont Blanc, ‘Tough Mountain’ now offers a self guided tours. I can also cater for those who are less confident with navigation but would like to self guide. Details of the self guided tours and Navigation courses (based in Chamonix) can be view at:

    http://toughmountain.co.uk/tmb-self-guide

    Best wishes

    Duncan
    Owner and Guide at ‘Tough Mountain’

  20. Hope this thread is still active. Has anyone been turned away from the huts when they were full or do all three countries have the law where they can not turn you away and have to provide ‘some kind’ of accommodation? We are planning to go between August 25 and September 9 2017

    Thank You.

    • AFAIK there’s no such law. Unless you have a confirmed reservation and somehow they overbooked their hut (like an airplane) (and I don’t think they overbook).

      AFA camping is concerned, in Italy – Bonatti, they asked us to camp away from the line of sight of the hut. Which we did. Elizabeta folks were nice enough to let us camp outside their hut.

    • Yes, people are turned away from huts, if the don’t book ahead. Especially during the high season of July and August. You should always book ahead – hut guardians are very busy in the evening preparing and serving dinner and don’t have time to deal with late comers who have not made reservations. They are usually helpful in booking your next hut or equally calling to cancel a space if your route changes. You can call ahead on the day to book so why wait until you arrive.

  21. We are starting TMB next week. We are hiking /tenting with kids so our days will be shorter…do you have a camping solution/ suggestion for between Refuge de Mottets but not as far as Elisabeth?

    • Your best bet is to hike up to Elisabetta and camp outside the hut.
      Else, practically, anywhere you can find a flat ground would be a good spot to camp. There’s a research center building on the way to Elisabetta so you might find flat ground near that area.

  22. Great post and some very helpful replies!
    I’m starting the TMB next week. I’ll be camping and I’ll cook most of my meals on a gas stove. Do you know if it’s possible to buy new gas canisters along the way? I’ve read that there are a few stores in Courmaeyour, do you know if they sell that kind of stuff? And how is the water situation up there? How far is it on average between water sources and are campers allowed to take water from the huts? I just don’t wanna find myself without water at the end of a long day..

    Thank you!

    • There are several ‘adventure gear’ stores in Courmayeur that stock canisters.
      I have also seen posibilities to buy canisters in La Fouly, Champex, La Forclaz, Les Housches and Les Contamines

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