I set out on my final day on the Tour du Mt Blanc long distance hike with joy in my heart. On yet another stunning day, I chose the easier of the two variants leading from Les Contamines to Les Houches has two variants.
This turned out to be a great choice as mid-morning I bumped into a couple of Israelis I had chatted to a few days previously and it was lovely to have their company for a few hours and enjoy a picnic together.
I started in the fresh morning from the exquisite church of Les Contamines and the day warmed up very quickly. With the hot weather this hike from Les Contamines to Les Houches felt strenuous enough for my tired legs. There was a terrible snorer in the Les Contamines CAP Refuge so I hadn’t had the best night’s rest. It was nice to have some dappled shade as the trail climbed through the woods.
Today was a lot about chocolate box villages and hamlets, where every chalet is perfectly decorated and foaming with bright flowers. Indeed, walking down into the Chamonix valley was an exercise in trying to decide which of the gorgeous chalets should be my ski/hike holiday chalet if I were to win the lottery.
This was also a day for domesticated animals, including these gorgeous donkeys.
At the same time there was no lack of stupendous mountain views. From the hamlet of Bionnassay the shining snows of the Aiguilles de Bionnassay and de Gouter, including the impressive Bionassay glacier are mesmerising and kept me going up, up the track through flowering meadows to the Col de Voza.
There I experienced the surprise of seeing the 100-year-old Tramway du Mt Blanc trundling into one of its highest stations. The Tramway du Mt Blanc runs from St Gervais le Fayet down in the valley all the way up to the Nid d’Aigle at 2,372 m (7,782 ft), making it the highest tramway in France and the fourth highest in Europe.
Watching the vintage trains come and go, carrying sightseers made for an interesting picnic spot. There is also a café here and a large hotel.
Descending from the Col it is all about the sweeping line of the Chamonix Aiguilles. Far below Chamonix and its sprawl look like a toy town. The path returns to the ski tows now.
One especially interesting thing that came out of meeting the Israelis was that they were tracking their hike on a GPS and were able to report that every day the actual distance covered was significantly higher than the distance mentioned in the Tour du Mt Blanc guide book. So for this day from Les Contamines to Les Houches the guidebook says 16 kilometres but the GPS said it was more like 24 kilometres. This seems to indicate that the distance in the guide book is simply an estimate based on the map.
Enjoying a cold beverage at a café in Les Houches, I felt totally elated at my achievement, which, as some of you know had been much delayed. Strangely, I found walking along the flat footpaths of Les Houches quite uncomfortable. The muscles in my legs didn’t seem to know how to behave with a flat track!
I hope you have enjoyed following me on my way around the Tour du Mt Blanc. Below are links to each of the 11 stages on the TMB and I hope my words and photos inspire you to do the TMB also. You’ll find information on planning, training, booking accommodation on the Tour du Mt Blanc, as well as a TMB gear list and much more… As I have said before, there are many ways to do this long-distance alpine route and it is so well set up it is really accessible to everyone.
By Natasha von Geldern
Here is my day by day account of hiking the TMB:
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