Tag Archives: tour of Mont Blanc

Tour of Mont Blanc Les Houches to Le Brevent (Stage 8 TMB)

A good friend joined me in July 2016 for a series of walks starting with Stage 8 (Cicerone guide) from Les Houches to Le Brevent and if possible La Flegere. The Cicerone guide suggests starting at the tourist office in Les Houches if parking is avaliable, we started at Le Pont des Gures (altitude 980m) where signs state that the Refuge de Bellachat is a 3 hours 40 min walk. For a day walk this seemed challenging but achiveable as we had to walk back to the car in Les Houches.

I was looking foward to the hike, and had done some 10 mile walks in the UK in preparation, and I knew from skiing in the area that the views of the mountains would be magnificent, plus we would pass by the massive Statue du Christ-Roi which I had seen on many occassions from the A40 drive into Chamonix.

The climb to the Statue du Christ-Roi (altitude 1196M, statue height of 25m) was steep and through woods so nicely shaded. It took close to 50 minutes to reach the statue which is on a rocky crag overlooking the panorma of Mont Blanc.

Walk through forest stage 8 TMB

Statue Christ-Roi stage 8 TMB

The path then climbs past Parc Merlet mountain Zoo (altude 1563m), which took about 60 minutes from the statue. The Parc holds 80 mountain animals in their natural environment, eg deer, marmot, chamois and Ibex. Near here the forest ends with abundant photo opportunities of the uninterrupted views of the magnificent Mont Blanc range. After a lunch break, we continued climbing until we were within sight of Refuge De Bellachat but as we started the hike at 1000 am, and it was 1430 we decided to turn around and descend back to Les Houches.

Rog enjoying the Mont Blanc views

Mont Blanc range and Chamonix valley

 

It was a wonderful sunny alpine day with temperatures on the hike exceeding 20 C at altitude. I was appreciative of the forest shade on the return path. Despite the practice walks in the UK the climb (and return) to almost 1800m from 980m on a hot day was a challenging and fanatastic start to a week of alpine walking.

Tour of Mont Blanc Les Contamines to Col du Bonhomme on stage 2

This is a blog in the sequence of walks as day hikes on the stages of the tour of Mont Blanc. The Cicerone book recommends starting the hike in the main village and walking alongside the road and paths past the campground of Le Pontet until Notre Dame de la Gorge where the ascent really starts. Owing to limited parking in the village I opted for parking at a large car park at Notre Dame de la Gorge (1210m), which has a public toilet and supply of drinking water and a small bridge nearby to cross the torrent.

The walk passes nearby to the church, and signs clearly mark out the TMB route to Col du Bonhomme. The  TMB rises steeply on an old Roman path, past a scenic rock arch and over a Roman bridge to the first cafe restaurant on the walk called Alpinus Lodge about 45 minutes from Notre Dame de la Gorge. This is a pleasant place to stop with recliners and tables with parasols and a varied selection of food and drinks.

A few hundred meters further up the trail is the Refuge Nant Borrant which provides accommodation and alternative refreshments and food. The trail then flattens out into a wide valley with magnificent views of the Aiguille de la Pennaz.

As the trail starts to climb again and just before the Refuge de la Balme is a toilet block and a drinking water supply. From the Refuge de la Balme (1706m)  to Col du Bonhomme (2329m) there is no let up on the ascent. In July large patches of snow could still be seen to the left of the trail which zig-zags up the mountain.

This is the highest peak climbed so far on the walks, and maybe it was because it was cooler than my stage 1 walk (24 C on the return to Les Contamines in late afternoon) but I found it easier than the climb to the Col de Tricot.

At the Col du Bonhomme is a warming hut and a map showing the Massif du Mont Blanc peaks of which Mont Blanc was just visible popping out of the clouds and good views of the Dome de Miage.

The descent back to Nore Dame de la Gorge was tricky down to the Refuge de la Balme so walking poles are essential to assist in stability.

I enjoyed a refreshing cold beer, resting in one of the recliners at the Alpinus lodge on the return. Such a treat.

I returned to Les Contamines 7.5 hours after the start, so ideal for a day hike, the maps show a total distance of 15.2 km. To complete stage 2 of the TMB requires a hike from Les Chapieux to Col Du Bonhomme. One for another day.

TMB signs at Notre Dame de la Gorge

TMB signs at Notre Dame de la Gorge

Roman bridge near to Alpinus lodge

Roman bridge near to Alpinus lodge

Valley view of Aiguille de la Pennaz

View of Aiguille de la Pennaz

View back to Refuge de la Balme

View back to Refuge de la Balme

Col de la Croix du Bonhomme

View of Col de la Croix du Bonhomme

Warming hut on Col du Bonhomme

Warming hut on Col du Bonhomme

Massif Du Mont Blanc

Massif Du Mont Blanc

Beer at Alpinus Lodge on return

Beer at Alpinus Lodge on return

Tour of Mont Blanc Les Contamines to Les Houches

This is a follow of my my previous post which described a day walk doing half of stage 1 from Les Houches to Col de Tricot and return to Les Houches. The route here is also the alternative TMB stage 1 route from Les Contamines to Col de Tricot which effectively completes the Tour of Mnt Blanc stage 1.

The route is approximately 15 km and suited for a day walk. I started the route at the Espace Animation in Les Contamines (1167m altitude)  as there is readily accessible parking and made my way onto the  Chemin du P’tou which leads to the small hamlet of La Frasse at 1263m altitude. In La Frasse there is a public car park and a useful source of drinking water, which I used on the return leg of the journey.

Nearby is a large sign giving details of the Reserve Naturelle Contamines-Montjoie with routes and glaciers described. The green TMB signs are well placed at key locations on the climb out of La Frasse, on a 8 foot wide trail before turning right into woods; TMB signs indicate Chalets du Truc and Chalets de Miage.  From La Frasse the signs said 1.5 hours to Chalets Du Truc which seemed about right.

The Auburge du Truc provides accommodation and refreshments, with magnificent views of the Domes de Miage and associated glaciers. The torrents running off the glaciers were in full flow on a hot day in July 2015. The route descends to the Chalets de Miage through a wooded area on a narrow path. The refuge du Miage provides accommodation and useful refreshments/food and is in a beautiful location in the valley with views towards the glaciers. The power of the run-off from the glaciers can be seen when crossing the small bridges. There is also eau potable available near the public toilets.

The formidable climb to the Col de Tricot (1.5 hours from Chalets de Miage) ascends to 2120 m, so a 560 m ascent on a narrow path that zig-zags up the mountain. There is no shade on this route so appropriate clothing and sunscreen is needed on a sunny day. The climb although difficult, steep and slow was not as challenging as the hike to the Chalet Du Bovet at Sixt Fer Cheval.

There is a useful landmark of a cross at the Col de Tricot and provides a very useful focus on the climb. The path is quite stony and thereby difficult if carrying heavy loads, and in a few locations small steams had wet the path making caution advisable. The glacier shed rocks and moraine become more prominent as the top is in reach.

Reaching the top feels like a well worth it challenge that has been overcome, the views are far reaching but the glacier views are better at the Chalets de Miage or on the ascnet from the valley.

The return to Chalets de Miage is equally tricky as the ascent and I was glad to have some good quality hiking poles which provided balance and stability on some of the steep parts of the path.

A cold beer and relaxation at the Chalets de Miage provide welcome relief on a very hot day (which again reached 36 C in Les Contamines) before the return leg of the hike.

I returned to Les Contamines 7.5 hours after the start, so ideal for a day hike.

Start of hike at Les Contamines

Start of hike at Les Contamines

TMB signs at La Frasse

TMB signs at La Frasse

 

Reserve Naturelle Contamines-Montjoie signage

Reserve Naturelle Contamines-Montjoie signage

Domes de Miage view from Chalets du Truc

Domes de Miage view from Chalets du Truc

 

Auberge du Truc (alt 1720m) for refreshments and accommodation

Auberge du Truc (alt 1720m)

Chalets de Miage TMB signs for Col de Tricot

Chalets de Miage TMB signs for Col de Tricot

 

View of climb to Col de Tricot

View of climb to Col de Tricot

TMB signs at Col de Tricot

TMB signs at Col de Tricot

Tour of Mont Blanc Les Houches to Les Contamines – July 2015

As a later life challenge I decided to do the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB)  in stages, generally splitting each stage of the hike into two separate walks, so I can return to the car without having to find public transport or stay overnight in mountain accommodation.

For stage 1 from Les Houches (altitude 1007 m) to Les Contamines I planned to walk from the Les Houches tourist office, located in the centre of Les Houches with plenty of parking space available. As a guide I used the popular Cicerone book by Kev Reynolds. The signposts are excellent with the green TMB logo and GR5 detailed throughout the walk as photographed at various stages throughout the walk. The planned walk was the variant to Col de Tricot at 2120 (via Col de Voza) and back to Les Houches. (NB: the usual stage 1 walk to Les Contamines is via Bionnassay and La Champel with Col de Tricot route classed as a variant)

The climb starts near Le Grand Balcon where you have to ascend a series of wooden steps for a few hundred metres prior to the track commencing. The route to Col de Voza is well signposted and would be difficult to go wrong. At Col de Voza (1653m) is one of the stops on the Tramway du Mont Blanc cog railway that runs from La Fayet to Nid d’Aigle at 2380m. The village de vacances APAS hotel at Col de Voza was having a large extension built on the side making more rooms available. From the Tourist office to Col de Voza was about 2 hours with some great views of Aiguille du midi and the Les Houches ski pistes on the way. The climb was steep in places, but thankfully shady in many parts.

There is a cafe/restaurant on the way to Col de Voza and a pretty restaurant at Col de Voza serving the needs of those who get off the Tramway du Mont Blanc railway to enjoy the scenery and views. More importantly there is a tap saying eau potable (drinking water) which was essential for re-filling water supplies.

The trail from Col de Voza to Col de Tricot passes the Bellevue hotel and runs alongside the railway track for a while until it moves off into a narrow trail through woods.

On walking to the meadows near the Bionnassay glacier I decided to make my way back rather than climb to the Col de Tricot as it was getting late in the day and I had a couple of hours in unusually hot 25 C temperature weather to do the decent back to Les Houches. (temperature in Les Houches reached 31C on this day).

A collage of photos of signposts on the route and some of the spectacular scenery is shown below.

 

Wooden steps on start of walk out of Les Houches

Wooden steps on start of walk out of Les Houches

TMB sign at LE Tremble

TMB sign at LE Tremble

TMB sign at Le Pont de Belleface

TMB sign at Le Pont de Belleface

View towards Aiguille du Midi

View towards Aiguille du Midi

Sign at Cold de Voza station

Sign at Cold de Voza station

Trains at Col de Voza station

Trains at Col de Voza station

TMB sign at Bellevue

TMB sign at Bellevue

View at Bionnassay glacier

View at Bionnassay glacier