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Hiking trail

Planpraz to Les Houches

Hiking trail · Rhône-Alpes
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Macs Adventure Verified partner  Explorers Choice 
  • La Brévent Gondola and Mont Blanc
    / La Brévent Gondola and Mont Blanc
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Col du Brévent (2,525m)
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / High slopes of La Brévent
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / View to Chamonix Valley from La Brévent
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Ridgeline Path
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
  • / Steep Descent to Les Houches
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
m 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 12 10 8 6 4 2 km Brévent Cable Car Top Station Plan Praz Refuge de Bellachat Bellevue Cable Car Bellevue Cable Car

Tighten your bootlaces one final time for the Tour du Mont Blanc finale! There’s a climb to Le Brévent which, at 2,525 metres, offers a dramatic 360° panorama, before a long leg-busting descent into Les Houches… back where it all began!

difficult
12.5 km
5:00 h
764 m
1781 m

Congratulations - today’s the day you complete your full circular loop of the Mont Blanc massif. You’ve seen this mountain range from every point of the compass and the very act of walking has allowed the mountains to reveal their secrets; glaciers, peaks, rivers, alpine meadows - you’ve seen it all! You’ve met the locals from three unique countries who live in the shadows of this mountain and you’ve encountered others who, like you, have made a pilgrimage here to witness some of Europe’s finest nature. Your opponent – the mountains – aren’t diminished by your victory but have instead demonstrated their majesty, and hopefully instilled in you a new appreciation of their splendour.

The final day of walking reaches a high-point, from both an elevation and an experiential perspective, at Le Brévent. For years this has been recognised as one of the best vantage points to gaze across the Chamonix Valley to the icy dome of Mont Blanc, and it seems a fitting conclusion to the trip, and one that’s sure to leave an imprint in your memory. There are a few fixed ladders and rocky scrambles on the walk up to Brevent, which vertigo-sufferers may find challenging, you can skip these by taking the cable car to skip this section.

On the long descent from Le Brévent you might begin to recognise features you saw roughly 170 kilometres ago, like the Bellevue Gondola, the Col de Voza or Les Houches itself, that provide a fitting sense of completion.

Author’s recommendation

It is a long descent from Le Brévent to Les Houches so break it up with a break in the Refuge de Bellachat.

outdooractive.com User
Author
Josiah Skeats
Updated: February 12, 2020

Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
2500 m
Lowest point
971 m

Safety information

There are a few fixed ladders and rocky scrambles which vertigo-sufferers may find challenging, you can skip these by taking the cable car up to Brevent. 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 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.

Equipment

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.

Tips, hints and links

Points of Interest

Aiguilles Rouge

The Aiguilles Rouge translates as the ‘Red Peaks’ due to its presence of iron-rich rocks, and is a separate massif on the opposite side of the valley to Mont Blanc. Due to the significant biodiversity in this area, the Aiguilles Rouge National Nature Reserve was formed to protect it in 1974. Ibex, chamois and golden eagle all call this region ‘home’ and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might get a lucky sighting.

Christ-Roi

A 25-metre high statue of Christ pokes above the pine trees from its lofty perch on the mountain slopes overlooking Les Houches. It was constructed in 1933, and you will pass right beside it on the TMB trail.

 

Le Brévent

 The rocky promontory of Le Brévent sits at 2,525 metres elevation in the Aiguilles Rouges and is perfectly situated to gaze across at the Mont Blanc massif and down into the Chamonix Valley. It was from here that early pioneers plotted their route to the then-unclimbed summit of Mont Blanc. Since 1930 it has been possible to travel up by gondola, and today climbing, skiing, hiking and wingsuit flying are all popular around here.

 

Transport  

Chamonix– Planpraz Cable Car - Check the up to date information here: http://www.chamonix.com/planpraz-brevent,82,en.html 

Approx €15.00 single ticket from Chamonix. This cable car runs until approx. 16th of September, after this time you will need to ascend on foot (approx. 900m ascent)

Brévent – Plan Praz – Chamonix Cable Car - Check the up to date information here: http://www.chamonix.com/planpraz-brevent,82,en.htm l

Approx €15.00 for a single ticket

Les Houches – Chamonix by bus - Check the up to date information here: https://www.chamonix.net/english/transport/bus 

Les Houches – Chamonix by train - You can take the Mont Blanc Express from the station at Les Houches to Chamonix. Check the up to date information here: https://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/?redirect=yes#/ 

 

Food and Drink

Between Planpraz and Les Houches there are few opportunities to buy food or drink so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.

You will reach Refuge de Bellachat after 5.5 kilometres, which has a beautiful terrace overlooking the Mont Blanc massif, and is a good place to break up the long descent.

Start

Planpraz Gondola (2027 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
45.936016, 6.852793
UTM
32T 333546 5089180

Destination

Les Houches

Turn-by-turn directions

Take the Planpraz gondola from Chamonix to return to the TMB trail. Full information available here: https://www.chamonix.com/lifts,88,en.html

Upon leaving the gondola, take a moment to appreciate the view before walking uphill on the gravel road in the direction of the La Brévent top gondola station. (You can skip the climb by taking the Brévent gondola itself). You will pass a paragliding take-off site where, if conditions are right, you will see people plunging off the steep slopes and taking flight. After 400 metres continue straight on to pass above La Parsa chairlift and ascend on a rocky footpath, signposted to Col du Brévent. At 1km turn left sharply to continue climbing uphill; there is only a small wooden signpost with ‘Brévent’ written on it, so this junction is easy to miss - check the map regularly as you approach 1km.

From the Col du Brévent at 1.5km, bear left to follow the sign to Brévent. This will continue climbing towards the gondola station. This enters an otherworldly boulder-strewn and rocky lunar landscape, with snow remaining late into spring; a combination of red-and-white blazes of paint, red dots, yellow dots, and cairns (piles of rock) help guide the way. At 2.3km there are a few fixed ladders and rocky scrambles which vertigo-sufferers may find challenging, however, if you completed yesterday’s section to Lac Blanc you shouldn’t have any difficulty today.

As you emerge onto a gravel road beside a large cairn at 2.7km, turn right to walk towards the gondola station. The viewpoint from La Brévent is a slight detour from the trail but well worth the effort. From the gondola station, the descent begins. Bear right to head downhill in the direction of the lake, Lac du Brévent, but after 1.1 kilometres continue straight, ignoring a right turn to the lake.

At 5.5km you will pass Refuge de Bellachat. From here the path forks; ignore the left turn to Chamonix and instead bear right to Les Houches. The path will zig-zag steeply downhill so walk with care. Walking poles will be advantageous for this section. At 5.9km, there is a steep, rocky section and it is advised to use the chain handrail for support.

Once into the peaceful wooded section at 7km there are numerous junctions, however, these are well-signposted; continue following the signs to Les Houches Chef-lieu. As you emerge onto the paved road at 8.3km, bear right, and then after 200 metres, turn left into the wooded section, again following the sign to Les Houches.

At 9.8km the path forks with both directions signposted to Les Houches. For the official TMB route bear right, following the sign to Statue du Christ-Roi and the red-and-white icons. You will pass Christ-Roi after 700 metres, and then continue zig-zagging downhill towards Les Houches. The path will join the paved road and soon cross a bridge over the railway, river and main highway to finish in Les Houches.

Note


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
12.5 km
Duration
5:00h
Ascent
764 m
Descent
1781 m

Statistics

: h
 km
 m
 m
Highest point
 m
Lowest point
 m
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