I decided to take the Monte de la Saxe route from Rifugio Bonatti to Courmayeur (I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc clockwise) as the standard route is only four hours and after seven days on the mont blanc trail that seemed far too easy and likely to be busy with hikers – who would have thought!
I was a bit concerned about the weather as the forecast was marginal and I could actually see and hear the electrical storm going off over the summit of Mont Blanc (height 4,707) as I left in the morning. On my side of the valley all was peaceful, however.
It is a pretty walk up to the valley head behind Rifugio Bonatti, with clouds of yellow butterflies and picturesque ruined alp buildings. I saw three marmots and a chamois scuttling among the rocks in the first hour – my reward for following the path less travelled and in the opposite direction to the crowds!
My morning involved a lot of up and down and felt quite strenuous but doable. I think the Mont Saxe route used to be the standard Tour du Mont Blanc path but this is another example of the TMB being watered down over the years to allow for a wider range of hikers to experience this incredible multi-day hiking route.
There were more marmots as I progressed towards the Col Sapin, some of which sat still until I got very close. I must have seen at least 10 over the course of the day.
The views from the ridgeline are spectacular – of the Grand Jorasses and Mont Blanc (although this lady was hiding her head in the clouds). Again I felt a few spatters of rain today but by the time I had got my waterproof out it was over.
I was happy to see some friends from earlier in the hike at the Refuge Giorgio Bertone, and to enjoy a coffee after a knee-bendingly steep descent to the refuge.
A final walk through the woods to the elegant houses and then the bustling streets of Courmayeur, Italy. The heat was rising from the valley floor and the sun was shining by the time I sat down for lunch and a cold beer in this charming Italian alpine town.
By Natasha von Geldern
Here is my day by day account of hiking the TMB:
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