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, returning to Les Houches!
Kickstart your adventure from Les Houches with the aptly-named Bellevue (beautiful view) gondola ride into the mountains. Only the 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. A particularly exhilarating experience (and great photo opportunity!) is crossing the rushing glacial meltwater of the Torrent de Bionnassay on a narrow suspension bridge.
This is the high route option. During poor weather, we advise to follow the traditional TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc) route via Bionnassay.
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.
Points of Interest
Torrent de Bionnassay
Thousands of litres of water rush metres below your feet as you cross the narrow, wobbly suspension bridge that spans the Torrent de Bionnassay. This is an exhilarating section of your Mont Blanc adventure and provides excellent photo opportunities.
Chalets de Miage
As you descend the countless switchbacks of the Col de Tricot, the Chalets de Miage appear like an oasis, scattered across the valley floor promising a warm welcome, hot food, and cold beer for the weary walker. This refreshment stop usually provides a vibrant atmosphere with the opportunity to mingle with other walkers who have just set out (or maybe preparing to finish if walking clockwise!).
Optional Bellevue Telepherique from Les Houches to Bellevue.
This cable car reduces the climb out of Les Houches by 800m and is to be recommended.
The lift operates daily between approx. the 10th of June and the 24th of September. Check the link below for specific timetables. http://www.chamonix.com/telepherique-de-bellevue,231,fr.html
Food and Drink
Between Les Houches and Les Contamines there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
You will pass the Chalets de Miage after 6.3km, and the Chalets du Truc after 7.6km. Both provide an opportunity to enjoy food or drink in a spectacular setting.
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.