Alpenwild’s Tour du Mont Blanc Trek: Part 1 – Chamonix to Courmayeur

If you’re considering hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc trek with Alpenwild this summer, but wondering what to expect, you may enjoy our three part trip  series. This series will give you more information regarding the route and a taster of some of the incredible landscapes waiting for you. In part one we cover the first four days of the trip which will take you from Chamonix in France to Courmayeur in Italy:

Mont Blanc Trek – Day 1: Meet and Greet in Chamonix

We meet our guests in the hotel on the afternoon of the first day. We have a welcome meeting where we introduce ourselves and talk about the trek route. There is plenty of time to ask questions and buy any last minute things from the many outdoor shops in Chamonix.

To stretch our legs and get orientated, we take a gondola up from Chamonix up to the top of Le Brevent at 8284ft. Le Brevent is a fantastic vantage point for views of Mont Blanc and along the entire Chamonix Valley.

From the top of Le Brevent, we take the lift back to the valley to get ready for a delicious three course dinner in one of Chamonix’s top restaurants.

tour du mont blanc
Alpenwild guide, Ella Alpinger, pointing out the major peaks and glaciers on the Mont Blanc Massif on a Tour du Mont Blanc in early July 2018. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain on the right with cloud coming off it. Italy lies behind Mont Blanc and it’s possible to see into Switzerland by looking up the valley on the left of the photo.
On a Tour du Mont Blanc in July 2018 we were fortunate enough to meet a family of Ibex near the Brevent lift. As Ibex are protected in the Alps they aren’t usually very shy. This is a young male posing for a photo. Photo by Jennifer Stretton.

Day 2: Chamonix to Les Contamines

The first stage of the Tour du Mont Blanc trek takes us from Chamonix to Les Contamines over our first mountain pass, the Col du Tricot. We begin the day with a short transfer to Les Houches Village and a ride up the gondala to Bellevue. In winter it’s is a popular ski area, but in summer Bellevue is a lush green pasture for cattle.

Bellevue is the starting point for most hikers on the Tour du Mont Blanc, so there is always an excited buzz of conversation on the gondola. It’s not unusual to bump into the same people along the Tour du Mont Blanc which gives it a great sense of camaraderie.

Bellevue is also the starting point for adventurous souls who are climbing up Mont Blanc via the normal route. Those climbing Mont Blanc take the train up to Nid D’Aigle, while we take the trail down through the forest and up, up, up over the Col du Tricot.

flowers on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Beautiful Martagon Lilys on the forest track down from Bellevue. Photo by Jennifer Stretton

A long climb and steep descent are rewarded by a delicious lunch at a mountain hut with incredible views of the Miage glacier and the Aiguille du Bionnossay. After lunch there’s one last short uphill to the picturesque Chalets du Truc where we buy some local cheese and saucisson for tomorrow’s hike. The rest of the hike is downhill to our hotel in Les Contamines where a cold drink and outdoor pool await.

tour du mont blanc miage
Hiking towards the Refuge de Miage where we stop for lunch. Photo by Jennifer Stretton
A very civilised lunch with a group at one of our favourite Alpine refuges – Refuge de Miage. Life is tough in the French Alps!

Day 3: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux over the Col du Bonhomme

This is the big day everyone talks about on the Tour du Mont Blanc as it involves the most total ascent in one day. The hike over the Col du Bonhomme is achievable for any fit hiker, but it’s a good challenge and you will earn your three-course dinner today!

The trail begins in a forested gorge and opens out into a wide valley overlooked by the Aiguilles de la Pennaz. At the end of the valley we take a break, stock up our sugar levels and then start climbing to the Col du Bonhomme.

Aiguilles de la Pennaz
Wide valley walk towards the climb to the Col Du Bonhomme with the Aiguilles de la Pennaz in the distance.
Col du Bonhomme
Hiking up to the Col du Bonhomm which is just visible in the distance. This photo was taken in July 2018 and most of the snow had melted. It’s not unusual for the Col to keep some snow on the approach late into summer. Photo by Jennifer Stretton

On a clear day it’s lovely to stop for lunch on the top of the Col and relax on the wide grassy saddle. From here you can see down through Val Montjoie to the North and Vallon de la Gittaz in the South West. Lac de la Gittaz and Lac de Roseland shine a brilliant emerald blue in the distance.

tour du mont blanc pic nic
A typical Alpenwild pic nic lunch complete with fresh bread from the bakery, local cheeses and meats, vegetables and fruit. Of course we always have plenty of delicious swiss chocolate for dessert too! Photo by Jennifer Stretton

From the Col du Bonhomme we bear left and follow an undulating trail a further 300ft up to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, our highest point for the day. At this point of the Tour du Mont Blanc trek, we are at the most Westerly point of the loop and are just starting to come around the South side of the Mont Blanc Massif.

Ahead of us lies the Beaufortain mountains which look very different from the landscape we have left behind. If time is on our side, then we stop for a drink on the sunny deck of the ‘Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. From there the trail winds down through mountain pastures past herds of sheep to the tiny hamlet of Les Chapieux. Our private transfer awaits us to take us to a hotel in a nearby town.

col de la croix du bonhomme
Descending from the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to Les Chapieux. Photo by Jennifer Stretton.

Day 4: Ville des Glaciers (France) to Courmayeur (Italy)

Today is the day we cross the border from France into Italy! We get picked up from our hotel and driven back up the valley to near where we finished our hike yesterday. The trail begins from the secluded Ville des Glaciers. The only buildings here belong to a friendly farmer named Bernard. His family have been milking cows and producing milk here in the traditional way for generations and he is happy to show us around.

The cheese is produced on sight and the milk comes from cows in the meadows next to the farm – you can’t get more local than that! We take a tour of the farm and watch Bernard’s team making cheese in a huge cauldron next door. Life as an Alpine dairy farmer is hard work and it’s not unusual to work 16 hours a day. We leave the farm with a good selection of cheeses for lunch and start walking up the Valley towards the aptly named Aiguille des Glaciers (needle of glaciers).

To get an idea of life on a dairy farm in the Alps, watch our video on traditional cheese farming in Eigeralp, Switzerland.

Mont Blanc Trek- Aiguille des Glaciers
Walking towards the Aiguille des Glaciers. The Col de la Seigne is on the right of this mountain and forms the natural border between France and Italy. Photo by Jennifer Stretton.

The climb up to the Col de la Seigne feels quick and easy compared to yesterday. The Col de la Seigne is the border between France and Italy, but there’s no passport control here. Just a small stone pillar marked with an ‘F’ on the French side and ‘I’ on the Italian side.

Mont Blanc Trek - col de la seigne
An Alpenwild group in July 2018 at the Col de la Seigne. Mont Blanc and the Aiguille Noir are visible behind. Photo by Jennifer Stretton.

The views at the border are outstanding. Mont Blanc and the spear-like Aiguille Noir dominate the landscape and it’s possible to see all the way to the Grand Combin and Mont Vélan in Switzerland. Our trail takes us down into Val Veny, a valley carved by the Miage and Brenva glaciers.

The descent from the Col is pleasant. Along here, we find a comfortable place next to the river to have our lunch, and contemplate the imposing Italian side of Mont Blanc. The trail continues along the river to the picture-perfect Lac de Combal.

Tour du Mont Blanc Trek - Val Veny
Descending into Val Veny in July 2018. Photo by Jennifer Stretton.
Tour du Mont Blanc Trek - Lac de Combal
The view from Lac de Combal back up to the Col de la Seigne is one of the most iconic on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Photo by David Thexton Photography.

Our pick-up point is an hour easy walk beyond the lake. A twenty-minute car journey takes us to the historic village of Courmayeur. In this small village, old stone buildings, centuries old, compete for space along cobbled streets. Our spa hotel is just a five minute walk from the pedestrian centre. It’s the perfect place to spend a well earned rest day tomorrow!

More in this Tour du Mont Blanc trek article series:

Part 2 – Courmayeur to Champex Lac

Part 3 – Champex Lac to Chamonix 

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Jennifer Stretton
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