Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) 170 km and +10,000 m

About the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB)

The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is an amazing long distance trek accros three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy. It circles the Mont Blanc Massif covering a distance of roughly 170 km with 10,000 m of ascent. The full trek is usually done anti-clockwise in 7 to 10 days. It is more and more done by trail runners in 3 to 5 days and even in less than 21 hours during the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) ultramarathon. It is described here as a four stages trail running. There are plenty of Refuges (hut) or hotels along the way which gives a lot of flexibility for the stages.

There are several possible start points in Chamonix, Les Houches or Les Contamines in France, or Courmayeur in Italy, or Champex-Lac in Switzerland. There is a main route and multiple alternatives, called TMB Variantes. Some of the Variantes cross higher passes, staying closer to the mountains, while others follow lower trails and are less demanding. The TMB crosses many passes and valleys: Chamonix, Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Val Veni, Val Ferret and Trient. Some parts of the TMB are common with the GR5, a footpath crossing the Alps.

Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) in 4 days

We decided to run the TMB in 4 days to get the time to enjoy the scenery and take plenty of photos and videos. We also decided to follow some variantes to stay at higher altitude and closer to the mountains. Here are the variantes we chose:

-Trient – Col de Balme – Tré-le-Champ

-Flégère – Le Brévent – Refuge Bellachat

-Col de Voza – Col de Tricot – Chalets de Miage – Les Contamines-Montjoie

We started from Courmayeur which was more convenient for us but as said earlier, there are many possible starting points. Here are our 4 stages:

-Courmayeur – Champex-Lac

-Champex – Refuge de Bellachat

-Refuge Bellachat – Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme

-Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme – Courmayeur

The distances given below have been measured with a GPS and the ascent/descents have been measured with an electronic barometer. Overall the TMB is pretty well marked with signposts and paint marks but it is recommended to bring maps and a GPS.

Day 1: Courmayeur – Champex: 48 km and +2513 m / -2258 m

Leave the center of Courmayeur (1205 m) toward the Refuge Bertone (1991 m), firstly on the road and then on a good trail.

After the Refuge Bertone there are almost 10 km flatish on a very good trail.

Then continue to the Refuge Bonatti (2025 m) with splendid view over the Mont Blanc, Dent du Geant, Grandes Jorasses and the Val Veni below.

After the Refuge Bonatti continue to the Northeast, still more or less flat for around 3 km and descend to the Chalets Hotel la Vachey. Start the climb. After the Refuge Elena (2062 m) the climb becomes steeper. Keep climbing for 470 m to the Grand Col Ferret (2531 m, Switzerland) which is almost half way.

From Grand Col Ferret be prepared for 21 km and 1400 m of descent, most of it on a good trail and then a dirt road.

Go down on a good trail to the Refuge La Peule (2100 m). Shortly after, the trail becomes a dirt road.

Cross the nice village of La Ferret and continue to La Fouly.

Pass Praz de la Fort and Issert, most of this section is on a road or good trail.

This is the low point at 1050 m. From there, go up to Champex-Lac through a nice forest along the Mushroom trail. There are many hotels and restaurants in Champex-Lac.

Day 2: Champex – Col de Balme – Refuge de Bellachat: 45 km and +3216 m / -2559 m

Leave Champex, follow the road for a while and then get back on the trail to la Bovine. From the bottom at 1300 m to the top at 2000 m it is 6 km with a steep section in the forest and then less steep above the forest. Then go down to the Col de la Forclaz (1526 m).

From Col de la Forclaz there are two options; either go to the Trient and Vallorcine, or like we did, go down to Trient (easy and good trail) then go up the Col de Balme (2191 m, France), 4.5 km and +700 m.

After the Col de Balme we took the West trail to the Chalet de Balme (easy trail) and then down to Tré-le-Champ trough a steep trail in the forest.

From Tré-le-Champ go up along the TMB to Flégère. There are 3 km and +700 m to the high point which is below the Lake of Cheserys.

There are some technical sections along this trail, including ladders.

From there, go down to Flégère, mainly a descent of 3.4 km.

After Flégère, the UTMB goes back down to Chamonix. Instead we continued to the Chalet de Planpraz (5.2 km, +200 m), climbed to the Brevent (2421 m) on a steep trail, 2 km, +400 m.

Leave the Brevent and follow the TMB / GR5 down to the Refuge de Bellachat (2152 m): 2 km.

Day 3: Refuge de Bellachat – Col du Tricot – Croix du Bonhomme: 41 km and +2752 m / -2465 m

The view from Refuge de Bellachat over the Chamonix valley and Mont Blanc is stunning.

The day starts with a steep descent to les Houches: 7.5 km, -1100 m.

From les Houches (1003 m) get back on the same route as the UTMB, climbing to the Col de Voza (1653 m). After the Col, we chose another variante of the TMB. Instead of going down to St Gervais, we went up to the Col de Tricot (2120 m).

From the Col de Voza follow a good trail to Bellevue. Les Houches – Bellevue: 6 km, +750 m. Then continue on a single track in a forest to the Chalet de Tricot. From the Challet to the Col de Tricot it is 2 km, +415 m on a good trail. Amazing view over the Aiguilles of Gouter and the North face of Bionnassay.

The descent from the Col de Tricot to the Chalets de Miage is short and very steep, tough for the legs: 1.9 km, -531 m.

Climb again to the Chalets du Truc and then go down to the Contamines-Montjoie (1227 m) on a dirt road: 6.4 km, +190 m / -560 m.
That is where the long climb to the Col du Bonhomme starts: 12.6 km, +1320 m. The first section up to the Notre dame de la Gorge is not very steep and on an easy trail.

There are two refuge/hotels above Notre dame de la Gorge: Nant Borant and Balme. Keep climbing up to the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m).

From the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m) continue to climb to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2433 m) on a technical trail. The refuge is a bit after the col.

Day 4: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme – Courmayeur: 35 km and +1452 m / -2610 m

Again the day starts with a long descent from the refuge of Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to Les Chapieux: 5 km, -850 m. The trail is steep and sometimes technical.

After Les Chapieux (1585 m), there is a long climb to the Col de la Seigne (2516 m): 11 km, +965 m.

The first section up to La Ville des Glaciers (1789 m) is on small road and not steep.

Leave the road at La Ville des Glaciers and climb along a good trail up to the Col de la Seigne: 5 km, +707 m.

Enjoy the view from the Col de la Seigne (2516m) and start the descent in the Val Veni (Italy).

The descent from the Col de la Seigne is very nice and on a good trail with fantastic view. Pass the Refuge Elisabetta and continue on the dirt road.

After 6.5 km and 540 m of descent; leave the Val Veni and climb to Chécroui through at pass at (2420 m): 3.2 km, +440 m.

The descent from Chécroui to Dolonne is very steep and not fun to be honest: 8 km, -1170 m. From Dolonne join Courmayeur on the road.

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