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  1. #1
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    Tour du Mont Blanc Sept-October 20118

    My son and I did the TMB last year, 100 miles in 12 days including a layover day in Courmayeur. We were there during the Tour du Mont Blanc races--there are several different races over the course of a week or so. We did a self guided trip with hotel and hut bookings and maps and instructions arranged by Alpine Exploratory, a British company, which was excellent. I recommend staying in huts when you can for the view but ask for a private if available. In town the dorms we stayed in were pretty scroungy. Nicer hotels would not have been much more although we would have had to pay for dinner in addition.
    View of the Aiguille du Midi from our hotel in Chamonix:
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    Young Goat on the "Himalayan" bridge on the way to Col du Tricot. I highly recommend this variant. The stream comes from the Glacier du Bionassay on Mont Blanc.
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    There are a lot of cows on this hike. MB in the background.

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    The second day took us along the Nant Borrant . . .

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    . . . and over the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to the refuge of the same name

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    The 3rd day took us on the Col des Fours variant--higher, more beautiful and more direct than the regular route and avoids a long descent and climb back up. On the descent from the Col there is a massive stone wave--sorry there aren't any people in the picture to give scale:
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    The descent continued to the Ville des Glaciers with its view of the Aiguille des Glaciers and the Glacier des Glaciers. I guess they ran out of names.
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    We then climbed to the Colde la Seigne and its famous, magnificent view of Mont Blanc, at least that's what the guidebook said.
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    We continued down the Refugio Elisabetta--the least pleasant of the huts on the trip. The dorm was crammed with wet gear and had giant mattresses with up to 10 people per mattress. All night long various racers on the long, multiday variant of the UTMB race were coming and going--getting a couple hours of sleep. Not much sleep for us.
    Last edited by old goat; 07-21-2019 at 01:48 PM.

  2. #2
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    Day 4 took us through the Courmayeur ski area and down to the town for a one day layover. On the way we had a nice view of the massive Freney face of MB. The cliff band at the top is about 2000 vertical feet.
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    And the Peuterey Ridge and Brenva Glacier
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    After our layover we were in the middle of the main UTMB one day race. The leaders had passed through during the night but we were being passed by and occasionally passing stragglers all day. As we left Courmayeur we passed several spots where the racers had dropped trou and squatted in the middle of the road. Seriously? No pics of that, sorry.
    Young Goat with MB:
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    I continued on the main TMB while Young Goat went over the Mount Saxe route, an extra 1000 ft of climbing, for this spectacular view:
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    He did eventually get a nice view of MB
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    And the Grandes Jorasses
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    We spent the night at the Walter Bonatti hut, our favorite.
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  3. #3
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    The next day gave us our last views of the MB range--GJ in foreground, MB back left
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    Over the Grand Col Ferret into Switzerland, where we "dined" 3 nights straight on cheese and potatoes. An unusual view of the Matterhorn from the col.
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    The Matterhorn left, Monte Rosa right
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    The scenery in Switzerland was more bucolic and less spectacular. I spent one day hiking the main TMB through the little refuge of Bovine, which, not surprisingly, is in the middle of a muddy, cow-pie laden cow pasture. My son took the much more difficult Fentre d'Arpette variant which involved some serious talus hopping and a view of the Trient Glacier.
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    Over the Col de Balme and we're back in France and views of the MB range.
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    With views of the Aiguille Verte and the Drus
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    Mont Blanc
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    The Aiguille du Midi on the left with MB in the clouds
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    We continued over the Aiguillette de Argentiere on ladders
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    And down some sketchy steps
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    Eventually arriving at the Flegere hut, which is a large building in the middle of a closed-for-the-summer ski area. The next morning, our last, was completely fogged in, so we took the Flegere Cable car down to Chamonix. If it had been a nicer day we would have traversed to the Brevent cable car with spectacular views of the MB massif. The TMB continues to Les Houches but the trail beyond Brevent involves 4500 or so of descent and reportedly is nothing special. One could easily combine the last 2 days of the hike by taking the Flegere or Brevent lifts down and skipping the segment to Les Houches. Or you could do the whole thing in a day, like the UTMB racers did, but you would miss the cheese and potatoes in Switzerland.

    Our last afternoon, in Chamonix
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  4. #4
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    All the photos were taken by my son, except for the two of him. And yes, that's my ass going up the ladders. Why do you want to know?

  5. #5
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    Props, poppa goat.
    We did much more low key rambles around Bad Gastein and the Dolomites a month earlier.

    It wasn't so gnarly, but the food was better.
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    Props, poppa goat.
    We did much more low key rambles around Bad Gastein and the Dolomites a month earlier.

    It wasn't so gnarly, but the food was better.
    I felt pretty stupid being in France, Italy, and Switzerland and eating badly. We ate well in Chamonix of course and in Les Contamines where we stayed in a nice hotel, and in Courmayeur, where the breakfast buffet at the Hotel Bouton d'Or was fabulous. Otherwise the food at the refuges and dorm hotels was anywhere from meh to awful. Of course it's hard to expect good food at the more remote refuges. One of them was supplied daily by donkey.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Awesome shots OG, great TR!
    Re: food, did you stop at Nant Borrant for lunch? My uncle and his wife run the place, they make the best bougnettes (potato cakes) in the world. Small menu but everything on it is amazing. All the cheeses come from the valley and he still cures and smokes all of his meats. Of course the refuge is only an hour in and they can drive up to it so resupplies are easier than for some of the more remote refuges which see a shitload of traffic and need heli resupplies...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boissal View Post
    Awesome shots OG, great TR!
    Re: food, did you stop at Nant Borrant for lunch? My uncle and his wife run the place, they make the best bougnettes (potato cakes) in the world. Small menu but everything on it is amazing. All the cheeses come from the valley and he still cures and smokes all of his meats. Of course the refuge is only an hour in and they can drive up to it so resupplies are easier than for some of the more remote refuges which see a shitload of traffic and need heli resupplies...
    Alas no, we hit Nant Borrant right after a very nice breakfast at our hotel in Les Contamines. Next time.

    For the less athletically inclined it's possible to do most of the TMB by car--minus most of the scenery of course. We met an American couple on their last trip at the end of a year off. She had just found out she was pregnant and was having a lot of morning sickness. So she was busing and training it while her husband hiked and they'd meet at the next hotel.

    Unlike the US pretty much everyone you meet on the trail says hello. It's easy in France--bonjour. When we got into Italy I started saying buon giorno but nobody seemed to be speaking Italian. And in Switzerland I gave up and just said howdy, since all Americans are cowboys.

    One reason we stayed in dorms and huts was to meet people, but most people just stayed in their own groups. Or maybe it was us.

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