Monday 10th August 2020
We are settled in Chamonix for two nights one day. The reason being is we are undertaking the Tour Du Mont Blanc on Tuesday…starting from right here in the town.
We previously visited Chamonix in 2014 and although we did say at that time we would come back to this area, I never thought it would be to undertake TMB!
10 days. 3 countries. 170km of hiking. 10,000 metres of ascent and descent. No wifi. No cars. No makeup. No worries.
The TMB is one of the most famous long-distance treks in the world. This trek circles the entire Mont Blanc massif, passing through spectacular scenery in France, Italy and Switzerland.
On reading up on the route we learned that we will traverse high mountain passes, see stunning glaciers, pass azure lakes, wander through tranquil green valleys and alpine pastures, with snow-capped peaks visible above…what else could one wish for.
The most important aspect of trekking the TMB self guided has been the PLANNING. And quite a bit of planning at that as we needed to get acquainted with the trail, choose how far we wanted to trek each day and then book the accomodation accordingly – we always find doing all of this by ourselves far more adventurous than booking through a guide or something organised.
The only draw back with self guided is you have to carry a lot of extra kit. Everything you need is on your back so we need to be brutally strict with what we take – damn, there goes my hair straighteners!!
We always much prefer to be self sufficient but would never knock anyone for choosing another option based on their own circumstances.
Also throughout the hike, we will stay in dorm-style accommodation in mountain refuges. Compared to the VERY basic tea houses we stayed in when hiking to Everest Base Camp 2017 this is going to be like 5* accomodation. These appear quaint, clean and well-equipped with proper toilets and hot showers…it’s complete luxury!
But for now…were sightseeing. And where better and more fitting to visit first….Mont Blanc by cable car.
As we draw closer to the near top the mountains rise ever upwards and we get our first real sense of the Mont Blanc massif itself. Are we really going to walk all the way around this great White Lady, this colossus of a mountain.
It seems like quite a challenge but I am excited by the prospect of the journey ahead.
This is our second time up here and we are still blown away. It beautiful, stunning and transfixing.
This famed peak would be our focal point for the next 10 days.
We watch climbers going up cliff faces, some abseiling down and I wonder how they have the courage, nerves, attitude to undertake such a task…I’m envious of their demeanour!
We stand in awe as we watch at least 5 mountaineers undertake their summit climb…
…and then our conversation starts…would Maxs our Russian Mount Elbrus Guide take us on again!
….I think altitude is affecting our brains again so downwards we go quickly!
From here we head to the Mer Dr Glace, a valley glacier located on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif.
The Mer Dr Glace (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France, 7km long and 200m deep and is one of the biggest attractions in the Chamonix valley.
We reach this by a very beautiful train journey. Then a small cable car allows us to descend from the train station onto the Mer de Glace glacier where we can enter a man made ice cave.
From the cable car, a sunning panorama opens out before us, with the glacier below, it’s an excellent testament to the climate change in this day and age.
This is our second time visiting here (2014) but we were interested to see how far the glacier had retreated since we had last been.
And we were shocked. On the rocks as you walk towards the glacier down hundreds of stairs the glacier retreat is marked over the years. On heading down the many steps we reach 2014 (Picture 1) and look ahead to see how far we still need to walk before reaching it (Pictures 2&3)….it’s still a very long way off!
We eventually reach the Ice Cave which allows visitors to walk through the very heart of the glacier.
This is re-sculpted every year as it moves about 70m each year. As we walk through it there are descriptions about the lives of the mountain people in the early 19th century.
Global warming is real and I felt quite sad at seeing how drastic it was!
We head back to Chamonix for a wonder round town, dinner and then it’s off to pack…we have a very long 10 days ahead.