Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) by Alpenventures UNGUIDED

Long Distance Hiking · Mont Blanc and La Thuile
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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
165.9 km
Duration
61:13 h
Ascent
9643 m
Descent
9644 m
Public transport friendly Loop Scenic With refreshment stops
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a multi-day hiking tour that circles the Mont Blanc Massif, traveling through France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Arguably the most famous hut to hut hiking tour in the Alps, the Tour du Mont Blanc lures approximately 10,000 hikers from around the world each year. It is characterized by charming villages, lots of elevation gain, and breakthtaking views. This isn't necessarily a tour that has a strong wilderness feel, but rather a tour that offers a great experience in nature with a strong sprinkling of culture.

This route is busy, and the accommodations are often full, so it is advised that you book your tour well in advance (6 to 9 months prior). Backcountry camping is not permitted along most of the route.

Author’s recommendation

I strongly recommend doing the tour from mid-July to the end of August. Although the huts may be open outside of this timeframe, the passes may not be
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Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
2537 m
Lowest point
976 m
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

IN AN EMERGENCY DIAL 112

The Tour du Mont Blanc is well-marked and well-traveled, but it is not to be underestimated. Daily elevation gain on this tour is quite extreme, and although it can be simplified by using chair lifts in some areas, there is still a lot of ascent that cannot be bypassed. There are very few mountain ranges in the world where one can sufficiently train for the Tour du Mont Blanc,

Conditions are best, and safest, from mid-July to the end of August. It is not unusual for snow to hang around on the passes well into the middle of July, and it is also not usual for a snowstorm to block all visibility during the first week of September. Please know that snowstorms in the Alps usually mean that there will be very little visibility, and navigation will be both challenging and time consuming.

The TMB is not recommended between October and May, except for those with extensive mountaineering experience, avalanche recovery experience, and the proper equipment.

Always check at your accommodation for the conditions on the next day's route, and listen to local experts (guides and hut stuff) regarding weather forecasts and other potential risks. 

Equipment

In addition to standard hiking equipment, it is necessary to bring a hut sleeping bag (sleeping bag liner or travel sheet) to the huts with you.

Check out this video Packing for a Hut Hiking Tour as well as this website about Staying in Mountain Huts

Micro-spikes may be required in June and early July

Tips, hints and links

A couple other resources that might be useful

Tour du Mont Blanc Planning

9-Step Guide to Booking the Tour du Mont Blanc

10 Things to Know About the Tour du Mont Blanc

Start

Chamonix Tourist Information Center (2495 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
45.933725, 6.837245
UTM
32T 332334 5088958

Destination

Chamonix Tourist Information Center

Turn-by-turn directions

The route shown here starts by taking the  Le Brévent Cable Car from Chamonix. This ensures some of the most spectactular views of Mont Blanc (weather-dependent, of course) on the first and last days of the tour.

From Le Brévent, head downhill toward Les Houches (optional starting point, and reachable from Chamonix via train or bus). Walk through Les Houches, turning up toward the Col de Voza shortly after passing the Bellevue Cable Car. From the Col, descend through Bionnassay and Le Champel, making your way to a pleasant water-side walk through Les Contamines-Montjoie.

Continue southward through the valley, eventually climbing toward Col du Bonhomme, passing Refuge de Nant Borrant and Refuge de Balme along the way. Descend from the Col, passing Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and then continue descending toward Les Chapieux. Note: the TMB alternate routing over Col des Four, departs shortly after the Col du Bonhomme.

From Les Chapiuex, start the long and sustained climb toward Italy, passing Ville des Glaciers and Refuge des Mottets before arriving at Col de la Seigne. Enjoy the views here before descending into Italy past Rifugio Elisabetta and Rifugio Combal. From Rifugio Combal, the route goes uphill once more, bringing you into the ski area on the south slopes of Courmayeur. Descend to Courmayeur and head for the Tourist Information Office.

The TMB signs can be difficult through Courmayeur, so pay close attention as you begin to make your way uphill through the town. Eventually leave civilization behind, and begin a steep climb to Rifugio Bertone. From here enjoy a somewhat level traverse toward Rifugio Walter Bonatti before descending to Hotel Chalet Val Ferret. Shortly after arriving at the valley floor, the climbing begins again toward Grand Col Ferret, passing Rifugio Elena along the way.

At the Grand Col Ferret you cross into Switzerland. Descend the valley, surrounded by endless green hillsides, passing Gite Alpage de la Peule, before coming to civilization and eventually arriving in the charming village of La Fouly. Continue through the valley. The route up to Champex leaves the valley floor just after the community of Issert.

From Champex, the standard route remains level, but eventually becomes steep as it climbs up to Bovine, and then drops on the other side into Trient. It is also possible to take an alternate route over the Fenetre d'Arpette, meeting the standard route in Trient. From Trient, the route climbs toward France, and crosses the border at the Col de Balme. There are multiple ways to descend from the Col, and the route has been changed over time, so signage and indications on your map might be confusing.

At Tré le Champ, the route begins to climb again toward the spectacular views seen on the first day. The section between Tré le Champ and the turnoff for Lac Blanc is the famous ladder section, and is not for those who have a fear of heights or issues with exposure. It is possible to bypass this section either by taking the trail from Col des Montets (this route was closed due to rockfall in August 2018) or by descending into the valley and walking through Argentière (you will miss some of the best views on the tour if you take the second option).

After conquering the ladders, enjoy the views as you make your way to Refuge de La Flégère. From here you can either take the cable car down to Chamonix, or to close the circuit by completing the last couple hours to the top of the Le Brévent Cable Car.

Public transport

Public transport friendly

There are many points along the Tour du Mont Blanc that are accessible by public transportation. It is also possible to shorten specific walking sections by using public transportation, particularly in the Chamonix Valley and Val Ferret.

Getting there

The most popular Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) starting points are:

  • Chamonix/Les Houches - directly accessible via multiple private bus companies directly from the Geneva Airport
  • Courmayeur - best accessed either from the Milan Airport via Aosta Valley, or from the Geneva Airport via Chamonix
  • Trient/Champex - easily accessed using public transportation from the Zurich Airport

Parking

There is free parking in the white zone in Chamonix. These include:

  • Planards Car Park
  • Biollay Car Park
  • Gendarmerie Car Park
  • Route du Boutchet
  • Rue du Lyret
  • Rue Hellbronner
  • Rue d'Entreves
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Author’s map recommendations

Mont Blanc - Annecy map by Libris Wanderkarte

Book recommendations for this region:

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Responsible for this content
Alpenventures 
outdooractive.com User
Author
Brittany Haas 
Updated: April 06, 2019


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500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 m km 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 Refuge de Bellechat Bellevue Col de Voza Refuge du Fioux Auberge de Bionnassay Camping Caravaning Le Pontet Chalet de Nant Borrant Refuge de la Balme Col du Bonhomme Col des Fours refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme Refuge de la Nova Refuge les Mottets Col de la Seigne Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini Rifugio Combal Rifugio Restaurante Maison Vieille Piazzale Monte Bianco Rifugio Bertone Rifugio Walter Bonatti Hotel Chalet Val Ferret Rifugio Elena Grand Col Ferret Alpage de la Peule Lac de Champex Col de la Forclaz