Your epic Tour du Mont Blanc adventure is finally underway! Follow the traditional TMB trail along this lower route, which takes you to Les Contamines via Bionnassay.
The alpine village of Les Houches is cradled in a valley at the foot of what appears to be an endless and impenetrable wall of rock and ice. This is the mighty Mont Blanc massif with some 400 peaks, 40 glaciers and some of Europe’s most dramatic mountain scenery – and you’re about to walk a lap of it all.
Kickstart your adventure from Les Houches with the aptly-named Bellevue (beautiful view) gondola ride into the mountains. Only the most purist of hikers will opt to climb this comparatively dull section on gravel roads through woodland, which would transform the first day into a gruelling 18km stretch with nearly 1,500 metres of climbing and descent.
From the top of the gondola, the path plunges into valleys and climbs up to various cols (a low-point between two mountains), which provide unique and spectacular views.
This is the lower route option, it is only slightly less demanding but has less exposed trails and we would recommend embarking on this trail during poor weather.
This is your first day on the trail, take it easy and don't over-exert yourself. We highly recommend taking the Bellevue telepherique, this reduces the climb out of Les Houches by 800m.
There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.
In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.
This route is above 2,000 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
You must cross over the Mont Blanc tramway; be sure to double-check both directions before crossing.
Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.
Points of Interest
Col de Voza
A col with splendid views back down into the Vallee de L'Arve, flanked by a row of Aiguilles. Here you will also find a large hotel, the Tramway du Mont Blanc and some small bar and restaurant stands.
Kickstart your adventure from Les Houches with the aptly-named Bellevue (beautiful view) gondola ride into the mountains. Check their website for the most up to date time table and costs - https://www.chamonix.com/bellevue-cablecar,231,en.html
Food and Drink
You will pass the APAS Cafe and Restaurant on the Col de Voza, shortly followed by the Refuge du Fioux, Bioannassay and La Gruvaz. All provide an opportunity to enjoy food or drink in a spectacular setting.