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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!