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Walking in the Alps: The Alpine Pass Route vs the Tour du Mont Blanc

Travellers who are looking to go walking in the Alps often ask us, 'Which is better, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) or The Alpine Pass Route?' We believe that’s a pretty tricky question: both are 2-week long challenging walks threading their way through some of the finest alpine scenery one could find in Europe.

A number of travellers who have walked both routes judge The Alpine Pass to be top of the list, however the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the world’s most popular mountain walks. This spurred us on to compare the two walks to try and explain popularity of the alpine walking holidays.

 

walking in the alps - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Scenic Variety of Europe’s Alps

The Alpine Pass Route is said to have more scenic variety and is claimed to be more spectacular with more sheer-sided peaks flanking the route. The Tour de Mont Blanc concentrates quite naturally on the majestic domed top of the highest mountain in Western Europe that seems to draw walkers like a magnet to the Mont Blanc Massif. Here, the impressive sideshows along the way include the Dent Blanche and Aiguille Vert. In contrast, the Alpine Pass Route has a whole procession of beautifully different mountains including the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, Titlus, Wellhorn, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Breithorn, Gspaltenhorn, Blumlisalpernhorn, Doldenhorn and Wildstrubel.

 

Walking the Alpine Pass Route - Sherpa walking holidays

 

walking the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays

 

Both tours stay at mountain inns in beautifully quiet locations. Both routes involve walking up a multitude of alpine valleys and over high passes. The Fenetre d’Arpette (2665m) is the highest one on the TMB but this is trounced by the Hohturli (2778m) on the Alpine Pass, an amazing gateway into the glacial scenery suspended above Kandersteg and the magnificent Oeschinensee glacial lake. The other two big passes on the Alpine Pass Route, Sefinenfurke (2,612m) and the Bundechrinde (2380m), have very different outlooks.

 

Circuit vs Linear Walks

The TMB is a circuit, the Alpine Pass a linear route – is there a preference? Is closing the loop preferable to completing A to B? The efficiency of the Swiss rail system certainly makes starting and ending in different places insignificant.

The route that you follow on the Alpine Pass walk with Sherpa Expeditions is the most spectacular half of a 4-week walk that crosses Alpine Switzerland. It’s holistic in its own right passing between the high Bernese Oberland peaks into the Valais and towards the Rhone Valley.

On the other hand, the TMB is a complete long distance walk. The Tour du Mont Blanc route certainly has more walkers, is best-known and has many articles on it appearing in magazines and books. Perhaps you can ‘dine out’ for longer with a Mont Blanc tour under your belt. The Alpine Pass Route has less press; perhaps this is one of the main reasons for the difference in popularity.

 

Alpine Highlights

There are highlights for mountain lovers on both alps walking holidays: particularly Grindelwald and Klein Scheidegg on the Alpine Pass Route, and Chamonix, Champex and Courmayeur on the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Walking in the Alps on both tours include 'rest days.' Although most people would use these for doing extra walks or variations, they are handy if you want to rest weary limbs or go sightseeing. On the 14-day Tour du Mont Blanc you have rest days in La Palud, Champex and Chamonix (on the 11-day option, we have removed these days and you can continue walking). On the Alpine Pass Route, you’ll have time at leisure in Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Kandersteg. From Grindelwald you can join other visitors and take the train up the Eiger, while from Chamonix you take the cable cars up the Aiguille du Midi for equally spectacular views. 

 

Viewpoint when walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions

 

TMB walking in the Alps - Sherpa Expeditions 

Borders of the Alps

Perhaps the TMB is popular because you get the chance to walk into three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. This does mean that you have to remember changing your money into Swiss Francs and Euros. The Alpine Pass Route passes from the German speaking Oberland to the French speaking Valais, two areas with distinct cultures and traditions (and that have the Euro as their currency).

 

Getting Out of the Mountains

One concern when walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is what to do if you are unlucky and experience really bad weather or sprain an ankle or knee. Some of the sections do not have public transport to the next place, or if they do, it may take a lot of time. On the Alpine Pass Route, there are no such worries as all accommodation can be reached by rail and post bus combinations.

 

Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland walking holidays

 

Tour du Mont Blanc walking holidays in France

 

So, which is best?

We have to say it is hard to find a clear difference on these walking holidays in the Alps. Perhaps the Alpine Pass Route has the edge on scenery but the Tour De Mont Blanc has the recognition. Certainly, if you have already enjoyed a walking holiday on the TMB, we believe you should definitely consider the Alpine Pass Route for your next trip, and vice versa! Afterwards, do let us know which you preferred.

 

 

With Sherpa Expeditions, you can begin a self-guided Alpine Pass holiday on any day from mid July through to the end of September.

This season’s escorted departures for the Alpine Pass Route start on 3rd July and 14th August and there are just a few spots left.

 

Walk the Tour du Mont Blanc in either 11 days or go for the 14-day version that includes rest days.

 

If you are toying with the idea of walking in the Alps around France and Switzerland, besides considering the TMB don’t overlook the Alpine Pass Route as a great alternative. To discuss your options with one of our travel experts, please contact us by email or phone

 

Pack Your Hiking Boots: 5 Guided Walking Holidays to Book in 2018

On an escorted walking holiday, every day you will have our guide to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. As he or she leads the way and looks after all arrangements, all you need to do is take in the impressive scenery, enjoy the fresh local produce and put one foot in front of the other. 
Enjoy the benefits of our experienced guides whose passions are to bring to life the flora, fauna and history of the region you explore. Immerse in local life of Switzerland, England, and Italy and join the company of kindred spirits on a guided small group trip. Our group sizes generally vary from 6 to 14 people. 
We choose below five of the best guided trips in Europe and the UK to book in 2018.

 

 

Perfect Introduction to Swiss Mountain Walking

Guided walking holidays in Bernese Oberland, Sherpa Expeditions

 

Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls 

The iconic Matterhorn, famous for its four steep faces rising above the surrounding glaciers, was not climbed until 1865 when British climber Edward Whymper summited the peak. Since then, the walking scene has developed extensively, while the landscape fortunately is still as stunning as it was back then. This guided walk is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Swiss Alps as there are different trails we can take each day. Together with the group, our leader decides which routes we’ll follow to take in vistas of flower-strewn alpine meadows and vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country (many over 4,000m!). Travel to the Swiss Alps’ two most postcard perfect regions: the peaks of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the quintessential mountain-lover’s town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn. 

Guided departure in August (now fully booked)

Self guided departures daily between 23 June - 22 September
Show me everything about the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk >>

 

a UK Classic

Guided walking holidays on Wainwright's Coast to Coast, Sherpa Expeditions

 

Coast to Coast Guided Walks

Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks” and widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails, there are different ways to walk the 192 miles (309km) Coast to Coast trail. 
For 2018, the longest version of the walk (18 days) is sold out and now also the 17-day version is sold out for 2018. For those walkers with less time in their hands, you can still choose from selected departure dates for the 15-day version of the Coast to Coast walk. 

Guided departures for the 15-day trip are still available in June (now fully booked), July, August & September (limited)

Options for self guided departures range between 15-18 days and are daily between 16 May - 29 September
Show me everything about the Coast to Coast Guided Walks >>

 

A Quiet Alpine Classic

Guided walking holidays around Wildstrubel, Sherpa Expeditions

 

Wildstrubel Circuit Guided walk

As the name implies, this is a circular tour of the Wildstrubel mountain range. We take in both the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and a small part of the French speaking Valais. Starting from the municipality of Kandersteg that lies west from the Jungfrau massif, our guide will take you over a series of mountain passes. In a series of linear walks, we will pass the villages of Leukerbad, Crans, Lenk and Adelboden, before we together finish our circuit back in Kandersteg. This route is known as a quieter Alpine classic and includes two stages of the famous Alpine Pass Route. We grade this as a moderate to challenging walk.  

Guided departure in July

Self guided departures daily between 14 July - 22 September
Show me everything about the Wildstrubel Circuit Guided Walk >>

 

Mountain Thrills in Italy

Guided walking holidays in Italy's Dolomites, Sherpa Expeditions

 

Guided Walking in the Dolomites

They may not be exceptionally high but the gigantic limestone peaks of Italy’s ‘pale mountains’ (or Dolomites) provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the Alps. Join our guide as you walk the region that is dotted with flowering fields, green forests, idyllic mountain lakes, and vast high plateaus and natural parks. Thousands of trails wind their way between the characteristic jagged mountains, while high in the cliffs are tunnels and bunkers from WWI, when the mountains were the setting of fierce fighting.

Guided departure in September

Self guided departures daily between 15 June - 15 July & 15  August - 23 September
Show me everything about the Guided Walking in the Dolomites trip >>

 

Alps Beyond Tour du Mont Blanc

Guided walking holidays on Alpine Pass Route, Sherpa Expeditions

 

The Alpine Pass Route

The complete Alpine Pass Route extends from the Liechtenstein border to Lake Geneva in Switzerland; however, our two-week itinerary focuses on the central – and most spectacular – section. This is a programme for experienced walkers with much daily uphill and downhill hiking. Most of the passes are only open to walkers and are above 2,000m, the highest point of the trip is at Hohturli with 2,778m. One of our guides will lead you along an almost unbroken succession of magnificent rock and ice peaks, including the classic triptych of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Plus, you will have three free days for optional walks or taking in other attractions of this splendid part of Switzerland.

Guided departures in late July & early September (now fully booked)

Self guided departures daily between 9 July - 15 September
Show me everything about the Guided Alpine Pass Route >>

 

For more information and bookings please contact our team of travel experts in the London office by phone or email and it will be a pleasure to assist you more.  


 

2017 Guided Walks Now Live

Popular Guided Walking Holidays in Europe for 2017


The 2016 walking season may be close to an end, but we’ve already sold out on some of our guided walking holidays in 2017!

Dates for our guided walking holidays in the summer of 2017 are now live and bookable on our website. With new trips and extra departure dates, there is a fantastic pool of 5 different trips for you to choose from for next year! Make sure to be among the firsts to plan your walking holiday for next summer and book your place in order to join the dates you prefer.

 

overview of guided walking holidays for 2017:

 

Guided Walking in the Dolomites

Guided walking holidays europe - Dolomites with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Italy, the Dolomites rugged mountains

What? Hiking beneath dramatic limestone peaks of the Dolomites, alpine pasteures & mountain passes, and the peaks of Tre Cime, Tofana and Sella mountains.

When? September 2017

Take me there >>

 

The Alpine Pass Route Guided Walking Holiday

Guided walking holidays europe - Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland, with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Switzerland

What? Swiss alpine walking at its best, new views every day, a variety of passes to cross – from easy to challenging, comfortable accommodation.

When? July/August 2017

Take me there >>

 

The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk

Guided walking holidays europe - Bernese Oberland, Switzerland, with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? Switzerland, Bernese Oberland

What? A fantastic introduction to the delights of walking in the Swiss alps, trek around the famous peaks of Wetterhorn, Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau & Matterhorn, undertake a variety of walks and make use of the ubiquitous local transport.

When? August 2017

The Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls 

 

Wainwright's Coast to Coast Guided Walk

Guided walking holidays europe - Lake District England, Coast to Coast with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? England, the Lake District

What? The dramatic landscapes of the Lake District with majestic lakes & rugged mountains, classic English rural countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, walk from the Irish Sea to the North Sea coast in 15 days.

When? June, July, August & September 2017  Note: the July trip has already sold out

Coast to Coast Classic Guided Walk - 15 Days

 

Coast to Coast Guided Rambler

Guided walking holidays europe - Wainwright's Coast to Coast with Sherpa Expeditions

Where? England, Lake District

What? Walk across England on Wainwright’s Walk on one of the world’s great walks and experience the English Lake District, Pennines & North York Moors in 18 days.

When? May, July/August 2017 Note: both trips are selling out fast!

Coast to Coast Guided Rambler - 18 Days

 

2017 dates and prices are now available on Sherpa Expeditions website! Browse around for the trips that you like and book early to avoid disappointment. Contact our team of travel experts today for any questions or trip details.


Alternative Places in Europe: If You Liked X, Try Y!

We’ve probably all had those conversations where you’ve been advised to visit Y after mentioning that you liked walking in destination X. Perhaps because it offers the same kind of weather, walking conditions, historical sites or because it is a remoter place with a similar feel.

For this latter reason, we sat down and came up with these four alternative travel destinations in Europe that are less visited, but offer a similar walking experience to places better known like the Alpine Pass Route, Majorca, the French Pyrenees, and Burgundy.

 

If You Liked the Alpine Pass Route >> Try the Wildstrubel Circuit

Alternative Travel Destinations Europe_Wildstrubel Circuit_Sherpa Expeditions

WHY? The Wildstrubel Circuit uses trails that have served since Roman times to link the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and the partly French-speaking Valais. At the time, the mountains of the Bernese Oberland and Valais formed a natural barrier and Kandersteg was a hamlet literally at the end of the road. When you follow the ancient trails, cross the Gemmi, Rawyl, Lotschen, Bundeschrinde and Hahnenmoos passes linking attractive Swiss villages that are still hidden places. Throughout the tour, the scenery is expansive, with views extending across the Oberland, to the 4000m peaks of the Valais, and down the Rhone valley. Tell me more about the ‘quieter’ Alpine classic, the Wildstrubel Circuit >>

 

If You Liked the French Pyrenees >> Try the Spanish Pyrenees

Alternative Travel Destinations Europe_Spanish Pyrenees Alto Aragon_Sherpa Expeditions

WHY? The Spanish side of the Pyrenees has a drier climate than the French side and is less visited, the Spanish Pyrenees are therefore a great alternative travel destination. It offers a magnificent array of rugged mountains, deep gorges, beech and pine forests, cultivated terraces, ancient stone bridges, unspoilt towns and villages with many historic buildings. All of this is linked through a network of waymarked trails and paths. Tell me more about the less-visited Spanish Pyrenees in Alto Aragon >>

 

If You Liked Burgundy >> Try the Douro Valley

Alternative Travel Destinations Europe_Douro Valley in Portugal_Sherpa Expeditions
WHY? 
Calling all wine lovers! The surprisingly unspoilt Douro Valley is home to the first demarcated wine region in the world and a great alternative travel destination to Burgundy. Established in 1756 when the Port industry developed, Douro Valley has Portugal's highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’ and, although associated primarily with Port, these days it produces just as much high-quality table wine. Tell me more about the unspoilt Douro Valley >>

 

If You Liked Majorca >> Try Corsica

Alternative Travel Destinations Europe_Corsica Walking Holiday_Sherpa Expeditions
WHY?
Do you love the classic Mediterranean travel destinations like Majorca in Spain but are you running out of ideas of what else to try? Only two hours by plane from the United Kingdom, the Corsican landscape boasts granite peaks, deeply wooded valleys, pine forest and cascading streams before leading to the clear blue waters of the sea – and all this with a French twist! Corsica is an alterative travel desitnation that is especially attractive for walking holidays. Tell me more about French-influenced Corsica >>

 

For more information on these alternative places for walking in Europe, please download the trip notes on the trip page or get in touch with our team of travel experts.

Things to Do in Switzerland: Walking the Haute Route

Sherpa Expeditions guide John on the Haute Route, Switzerland


Our resident guide John was on the Haute Route in Switzerland last month and gave us a page of his diary and some stunning pictures to share with you. There are so many things to do in Switzerland, but for us, a Haute Route walking holiday is definitely one of the best! 

 

Learn more about what a walking day on the Haute Route can look like by reading the below page of guide John's diary. 

 

The Haute Route is a blazing 28 degrees C in the valleys and crystal clear views of the big mountains: Mt Collon, the Weisshorn, Dent Blanche, and Aiguille Rouge de Arolla are just some of them.

Our ascent to Col de Torrent was spectacular, including the picnic stop at Lac des Autanes.

 

Spectacular views in Switzerland while walking the Haute Route - Sherpa

 

Today we have been on a rest day, which involved an ascent up the Roc Orxival and a journey on the brand new cable car up from Grimentz to Sorebois. We were lucky with great views over the Barage de Moiry. The cable car trips are free here if you hold a regional hotel card.

 

Mountain walking - Things to do in Switerland - Sherpa Expeditions

 

A hotel in Switzerland, Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

While I’m writing this, I sit at the Sherpa Expeditions hotel in Grimentz and watch a spectacular aloe glow across the valley.

Tomorrow we will move to the Weisshorn, well the Hotel Weisshorn to be exact.

 

If a walking holiday on the Haute Route is one of the things you like to do in Switzerland, we have several options available for you to choose from. Whether you are interested in guided or self-guided walking holidays and depending on the number of days you like to travel, here is a complete overview of walks in Switzerland for you. 

In the Centre of The Action: 4 Trips

It’s easy to think of advantages for centre based walking holidays: only unpack once, really get to know your hosts, and a chance to explore every corner of the region you’re in.

 

On Sherpa Expeditions’ centre based walking holidays you get a pack of day walks, sometimes circular and sometimes with a short train or bus ride, from which you can pick and select one each day. Let the weather, your mood or physical conditions decide which walk to go for that day and have the freedom to explore an area exactly the way you like.

 

Here are four of our centre-based walking holidays with departure dates throughout the year.  


Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps

Meiringen in the Swiss Alps - Sherpa Expeditions

Situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cascade that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A place for anyone who wants to see the real Switzerland: in summer the meadows are full of flowers and in autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour. Walks here encompass all grades from gentle strolls to high ridges, while a superb integrated network of cable cars, postbuses and trams takes you in all directions quickly and easily.

>> 8 Day self guided walking holiday, departs daily from mid-May to the end of October

 

Yorkshire Dales Mini Break

Yorkshare Dales walking holidays with Sherpa Expeditions

Escape to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales staying at the Old Brewery: a tastefully decorated house that retains its old world charm, yet offers every modern comfort. The accommodation is a stone’s throw from the River Swale and at the foot of the castle hill. From the base of your hotel it’s just a short walk to the cobbled market place. The day walks we provided for you make sure you are surrounded by peaceful trails, quiet country lanes and sleepy villages of the Yorkshire Dales.

>> 4 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily year round

 

Cinque Terre Villages

Cinque Terre, Italy, walking holidays - Sherpa Expeditions

The coastline of the Cinque Terre in north-western Italy is as stunning as Amalfi and even more colourful. For centuries, artists and poets have praised the tiny aquamarine inlets that serve as fishing harbours and the ancient terraces rising steeply out of the coastal crags in words and pictures. It is the Italian Riviera at its best and you can explore the region on your own pace on the various day trips on this centre based walking holiday.

>> 6 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily between March and October

 

Tuscany Uncovered

walking in Tuscany, Italy - Sherpa Expeditions

The beautiful fortified village of Monteriggoni forms the perfect base for the series of walks we provide you with on this trip. Right on the Via Francigena, the village is surrounded by Chianti vineyards, museums and the beautiful hills of Tuscany. The way we’ve set up this centre based walking holiday allows you to do a combination of walks, relax in the village, visit Siena or San Gimignano, and use the bus connections. Of course wine tasting is always an option and we can easily book extra nights for you should you wish so.
>> 6 Days self guided walking holiday, departs daily between April and November

 

 

Do you feel that such a centre based walking holiday is something that could suit you? Browse each trip's page to find the trip notes for more details or contact our team of travel experts in our London offices to discuss your options. 

Walking in the Austrian & Swiss Alps

Last-minute walking holidays in Switzerland and Austria - Sherpa Expeditions

Sunny Summer Strolls in the Alps

The Alps of Austria and Switzerland often see crisp and attractive walking weather in the summer months with daylight until 9pm. 

 

This year the Austrian Lake District is a region that appeals and on one of our trips you can easily combine a visit with hiking the peaks of the Dachstein Alps. 

Even though the Haute Route is a classic walking region, compared to most other areas in Switzerland the majority of the paths is little trodden. 

If you like to see the flower-strewn alpine meadows of the Bernese Oberland and Rachstein Falls at their best, the coming months are your best option.  

 

Head to the Alps of Switzerland and Austria this July to September to enjoy an excellent variety of alpine flowers, animals, bountiful picnic lunches, and incomparable mountain panoramas. 

 

Take me there >> Walking holidays in Switzerland >> 

>> Walking holidays in Austria >> Show me all

 

The majority of our active European holidays can be booked from a week in advance. So if you like to escape to better weather, just use the booking form linked to the trip you like, or contact our team of travel experts in our London offices. We look forward to help get you on your way! 

 

Picture This! Magnificent Mont Blanc

Hikers walking the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa Walking Holidays

 

It's just two months until the walking season of the Mont Blanc in France kicks off again. To already get you into the mood of long hikes, picnic lunches and scenic mountain vistas, we thought it a good idea to bring you this magnificent trek in pictures.

 

 

The ancient church in Notre Dame de la Gorge - Sherpa Expeditions - walking holidays

>> Via the Col du Bonhomme we reach Notre Dame de la Gorge with its ancient pilgrimage church. It's remoddeled in 1699 and can be a place of prayer for walkers of the Tour du Mont Blanc. 


On the way to Mottets on the TMB - Sherpa Expeditions - walking holidays

>> When crossing the Torrent des Glaciers at the hamlet of La Ville des Glaciers, you bypass the Chalet des Mottets and ascend via switch backs through flower fields with a backdrop of glaciers.

A forest descent on the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa Expeditions - walking holidays
>> On the 700 meter descend through forest on the way to La Palud from Les Chapieux. In the summer this can be a great piece of shaded walking. 

Scenery on Tour du Mont Blanc - (c) Alix Campbell - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Hikers walking on the Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa walking holidays
>> Walk from meadows to mountain passes and make sure to have enough time to take in the stunning views along the way. 

Col de la Seigne - Tour du Mont Blanc - Sherpa Expeditions
>> After a steady ascent past Ville de Glaciers, the Tour du Mont Blanc leads walkers to the Col de la Seigne (2516m) from where you cross into Italy.

Accommodation on the Tour du Mont Blanc TMB - Sherpa Expeditions
>> Trient is a tiny village in the Val Trient and is home to some simple relais or auberges

Scenic lunches on the Tour du Mont Blanc TMB, France - Sherpa Expeditions
>> Scenic spots like these make walking the Tour du Mont Blanc a most rewarding trekking holiday in France.

 

The Tour du Mont Blanc, also known as TMB, circumnavigates western Europe's highest mountain. With Sherpa Expeditions the circular walk takes 14 days and is shaped as a semi-individual walk: where you guide yourselves and walk along with other Sherpa travellers. Accommodation is in 2-3 star hotels with en-suite facilities. For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office

Off to do the TMB: First Ascent from Les Houches

Walking Tour du Mont Blanc Day 2_Sherpa Expeditions


At last, after many years of prevaricating, I’m off to do the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t know why I hadn’t been before, maybe because I perceived it to be too famous, but an opportunity arose to do one of Sherpa Expeditions bestselling trips and one of Europe’s most beloved long distance walks: Le Tour du Mont Blanc with my first ascent from Les Houches.


It’s day 2 on the Tour du Mont Blanc and after the usual continental breakfast, with benefits such as yoghurts and pastries, it is time to take off for my first real ascent. Stocked up with baguette, pain-au-chocolat and a handy thermos full of coffee, I’m on my way!


Walking-around-flowers-in-meadows-on-Mont-Blanc_Sherpa-Expeditions


I walk down past the Bellevue gondola, which can be taken to reduce the altitude gain by 800m. Most people starting their Mont Blanc circuit, at least today, seem to be taking it. However I decide to walk up the steep trail. It is quiet – there’s no one around. Pastures are brightly verdant with summer flowers and herbs. The sheep will be happy! Reaching Bellevue a couple of hours later, it is time to slip out the thermos flask and enjoy my coffee.


So after this refreshment the trail descends rockily and early in the season it can still be slippery. The trail drops to a bridge over the torrent from the Bionnassay Glacier. Weird? On the Mont Blanc map I have, the glacier appears to descend all the way to the bridge, but nowadays it is about a mile up the valley. Global warming is alive and kicking. A steep ascent follows up to the Col de Tricot (2120m). There are ruins of what once was some sort of French farm, which now act as a windbreak. The local sheep resting here with me are adamant to discover if there are any snacks to be had…


Walking-with-sheep-on-the-Mont-Blanc-away-from-les-Houches_Sherpa-Expeditions


Walking-Mont-Blanc-amidst-Spring-flowers-with-Sherpa-Expeditions


From here I move on to a 600 metre descent into the charming Miage Valley. I thread through the chalets and avoid the temptation to get a drink in the refuge, because it is already full with walkers and it would take too long today for me to get served. 


Flowers-and-mist-on-the-Mont-Blanc_Sherpa-Expeditions


There is then a steep 200 metre ascent to a high wild farm at Chalets du Truc. I would love to stop, but everyone has gone to ground and I am getting tired and want to keep going. Today’s final 700 metres descent is into the town of Les Contamines and I am feeling as if I’ve worked up an appetite. I visit the local supermarket before heading off to the Hotel La Chemenaz. It’s probably the finest lodging on this Sherpa Expeditions Tour du Mont Blanc walking route and, joy of joys, the room had a hot bath so I could try to steam out the tiredness! At the mountain hotel I enjoy a great dinner and then have an early night.


Today's first real ascent on the Tour du Mont Blanc certainly got my legs and heart working! Tomorrow evening I sleep in a traditional mountain guesthouse..

 

>> Keep an eye on this page for further posts on the 14 day Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) with Sherpa Expeditions!

Off to do The TMB: Geneva to Les Houches

Mont Blanc Walking Holidays


At last, after many years of prevaricating, I’m off to do the TMB in France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t know why I hadn’t been before, maybe because I perceived it to be too famous, but an opportunity arose to do one of Sherpa Expeditions bestselling trips and one of Europe’s most beloved long distance walks: Le Tour du Mont Blanc starting in Les Houches. 

Making the way up the Mont Blanc with backpackMont Blanc is a huge adventure playground, a mountain theme park. You realise this when you witness the full range of people active on the massif: TMB walkers in groups coming one way, other groups the other, individual backpackers carrying huge loads staying in the huts and others intent on climbing the multifarious mountains and walls in the massif. There are mountain bikers, marathon runners with poles, paragliders, Scouts, multi-stage dog walkers whose pets carry tins of food in panniers and groups travelling the route with ponies carrying all their gear. Groups sleeping high and groups sleeping low. 

Having said this, there are also long sections where you might not see anyone at all. People tend to concentrate around or just beyond passes catching their breath. Doing the route I realised that there are several TMBs. The maps show various Variants from the ‘established’ route, which can make the route longer, shorter or more or less adventurous. But basically the TMB is around 170km with 10,000m of positive altitude change. 

Those with too little time to walk the whole tour around western Europe’s highest mountain in two weeks can take part in the annual TMB sky race, that starts in Chamonix - about 8km distance from Les Houches. Winners can expect to do it in 21 hours, more mortal runners will be expected to make it in 45.

Now, let's move on to my 14 days of walking the Tour du Mont Blanc organised by Sherpa Expeditions. 

Day 1: Geneva to Les Houches

The main street in Les Houches, FranceEarly morning I take a flight from the UK to Geneva in Switzerland where I meet my friend at a tea shop. At the Geneva Airport we very conveniently check into the Chamexpress desk for the near-hourly transfer to Les Houches in France. This is the village at the start of the walking holiday and where we meet our ground support representative. The transfer to Les Houches is very convenient, only taking an hour and a half. I was kind of expecting the minibus to be there outside at Arrivals, but we walk with our baggage out of the airport, into a lift and into a car park. The hardest work of day 1 of my trip. 

When we arrive at Les Houches, we are welcomed to a charming main street with a few shops and restaurants. At the hotel, which is in typical mountain chalet style and conveniently located, we try to have a bit of a siesta before walking around the village. There are great views to rocky spires and walls below Aiguille du Gouter, Mont Corbeau and Aiguille du Midi. You will notice a lot of ‘Aiguilles’ on the walking map provided and once you see one in the flesh, or rather the rock, you will realise that ‘needle’ is quite a good description. 

 

Church choir in Les Houches, FranceOn the way back to the hotel from dinner there is some beautiful choral singing in Les Houches church, delightful and a bit of a send off for bed.

Tomorrow will have a steady climb for us on offer!

 

>> Keep an eye on this page for further posts on the 14 day Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) with Sherpa Expeditions!