One of the best hikes in the world
Tour of Mont Blanc
Often called TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc)
AT A GLANCE
- TMB 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
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!
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.
- 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
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)
- Great Walks
- Bredeson Outdoor Adventures
- Tough Mountain
- Trekking in the Alps – TMB details
- Sherpa Expeditions
- Wilderness Travel
- Sherpa Expeditions
- Distant Journeys
- REI Adventures
- Chamonix 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 TMB – Self 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:
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
- Chamonix.com – tourist information
- Office de Haute Montangne – accommodation, trail conditions (French)
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Cicerone Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide 2012 – Kev Reynolds
- Trailblazer Tour du Mont Blanc 2008
- Rucksack Tour Of Mont Blanc 2005
We hike with Kev every chance we get. A superb author. Lonely Planet provides a great overview of other options.
- Lonely Planet Walking in the Alps – McCormack, et al., 2004
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
- Mont Blanc: discovery and Conquest of the Giant of the Alps – Stefano Ardito, 1997
- Savage Snows: The Story of Mont Blanc – Unsworth, 1986
- The Mont Blanc Massif: The 100 Finest Routes – Gaston Rebuffat , 1996
- Pays du Mont Blanc – 1:50,000, Rando
- IGN 3530ET, 3531ET, and 3630OT
Best Web Pages
- Chamonix – Wikipedia
- Mont Blanc – Wikipedia
- Tour Mont Blanc – wandersite.ch (German)
- UTMB – Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc, mountain ultramarathon
- tripadvisor Tour du Mont Blanc
Best Trip Reports
Marc Sebastian Pelzer has done 3 TMBs since 2003, in 2007 remembering to bring his wife Romana.
Marc posted an excellent trip report of their 2007 adventure …
- Dave and Brenda’s Tour of Mont Blanc independently age-65
- Sonny Bennett 2012
- TMB – Laura Jones 2010
- TMB – Huw and Carole 2010
- TMB – Lavish Living
- TMB – Keith and Gina 2008
- TMB – Mountain Environment 2004
- TMB photos – Gareth McCormack
- TMB trip report – Nicola Tosi & Elena Montini, English & Italian
- TMB – GoXploring.com in 12 days
- TMB trip report – Steve & Judy Pardoe, 1999, clockwise
- TMB photos – Steve & Judy Pardoe, 1999
- TMB – Wes and Masami
- TMB – Anne-Marie, 2007
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”.
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