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(Tour du Mont Blanc) Climbing to Grand Col Ferret (Tour du Mont Blanc) A chamois on a rock (Tour du Mont Blanc) In descent to La Fouly (Tour du Mont Blanc) Swiss Val Ferret (Tour du Mont Blanc) Chamonix from the South

Photos from trips: Tour du Mont Blanc, July 2016

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(Tim Ayriss writes)
Stage One It is the start of the season and I have the privilege of guiding the first Tour du Mont Blanc. Today I and a group of four started out from Les Houches and with the amazing weather forecast we decided to take the Bellevue Téléphonique and walk the alternative route over the Col de Tricot. In good weather this route offers a great challenge with amazing views. It was a great day with plenty of sunshine and a very good start to the TMB.

The group near the start with the impressive Glacier de Bionnassay in the background.

Crossing the bridge at the foot of Glacier de Bionnassay.

Enjoying the view from the Col de Tricot.

Our view of Dome de Miage form Chalets de Miage where we stopped for a much deserved afternoon coffee.

Stage Two of the guided TMB: we walked from Les Contamines to Refuge de la Croix du Bonnhomme. It was sunny and warm with excellent visibility so there were great views from the Cols. There is still snow from Col de Bonhomme and on the traverse to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. The path still has snow on much of it with a very visible track over the snowy sections. It is recommended to have good BOOTS (not shoes) and walking poles for this section as well as taking your time and being careful when crossing the steeper sections. With these precautions this section is passable and it will improve as the snow continues to melt.

Looking up the valley towards la Balme and the Col de Bonhomme.

Morning coffee at la Balme.

My lunch at Plan des Dames.

The start of the traverse from Col de Bonhomme to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme.

Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme.

Stage Three of the TMB from Refuge de la Croix du Bonnhomme to Cabane du Combal was a very enjoyable day. It was overcast with sunny spells and a very slight rain shower at the end of the day. There is still lots of snow on the higher alternative from Refuge de la Croix du Bonnhomme to la Ville des Glaciers (as can be seen in the photos) which would make this route quite dangerous so we went the traditional route. The decent to les Chapieux is fine with some snow higher up but very manageable. There is a new very well built path from les Chapieux to la Ville des Glaciers which is much more scenic and fun than the road if you chose not to take the bus. This path is not on the map but it looks well signed. The climb to Col de la Seigne had no issues with snow but the middle of the three rivers was quite full with snow melt so I put in a couple extra stepping stones so with boots and poles we were able to cross at the normal place the path crosses with dry feet. On the way down in to Italy the visitors center was open and the bridge is now in. After a stop for some coffee at Rifugio Elisabetta we then headed down to a warm welcome at Cabane du Combal.

Setting off from Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme.

Morning coffee at Refuge de la Nova.

Looking down to a Ville des Glaciers on the climb to Col de la Seigne (note the snow covered slopes across the valley are where the higher alternative runs from Refuge Bonnhomme to Ville des Glaciers).

View down the Vallon de la Lee Blanche.

Crossing the bridge below the visitors centre.

Looking back up to Col de la Seigne on the Italian side. (The snow is not an issue as the Col is not steep).

Stage Four We woke to a clear sky at Cabane du Combal this morning, making for a great start to Day Four on the TMB. We took the route up past l'Arp Vieille sup. and over the spur of Mont Favre. From here the path then traverses to Col Checrouit. This section has one small patch of snow in the gully below Crete de Youla with a steep runout but it has a good path over it and if you take your time and make sure you have good footing it is passable but not without risk as a slip could be dangerous. You can see this section in the photos. We stopped at Refuge Maison Vieille for a long break to enjoy some excellent Italian before descending to Courmayeur.

Looking back down to Cabane du Combal as we started to climb.

On the climb to the spur of Mont Favre with Petit Mt Blanc and Glacier du Miage in the background.

Mont Blanc de Courmayeur from the spur of Mont Favre.

The patch of snow with steep runout (the full runout is not seen in the photo).

Lunch in the sun at Refuge Maison Vieille (the food was great as always).

Stage Five After a lovely rest day yesterday in Courmayeur we headed out on day five of waking on the TMB on route to Rifugio Bonatti. We decided democratically to take the very enjoyable balcony route. We first headed up the big climb to Rifugio Bertone where we stopped for a coffee. We then climbed up and headed left to traverse the North side of Mont de la Saxe. We stopped a couple of times and marvelled at the views of Mont Blanc and Grandes Jorasses. This is a truly spectacular place to walk. We arrived at Rifugio Bonatti early afternoon and enjoyed relaxing in the sun and looking at the views.

Everyone happy after a morning coffee at Rifugio Bertone.

Mont Blanc with its sun hat on.

Views of Grandes Jorasses with Grand Col Ferret in the background.

Relaxing and soaking up the views.

Stage Six Day six of walking and the sunshine continued as we walked from Rifugio Bonatti to Ferret. We continued to traverse along the track behind Bonatti and dropped down to Arnuva from Arp Nouva. From here we took the normal path to Rifugio Elena. There are three patches of snow just before the bridge on gullies which have long and steep run outs. The path over the snow was not great and required me to kick and cut steps. If you are not comfortable with kicking steps in snow the much safer route would be up the jeep track to the Elena. After a coffee we climbed to the Col Grand Ferret where we had lunch. The way up is snow free apart from one patch which could be mostly avoided. The way down into Switzerland had snow but none of it presented any danger. We stopped at la Peule for an afternoon break before taking the higher path of the shepherds which traverses from la Peule to le Plampro. From here we descended to Ferret.

Walking from Bonatti with Grandes Jorasses in the background.

The first of the three snow gullies.

Climbing to Col Grand Ferret.

Relaxing at Col Grand Ferret.

Walking the alternative path of the shepherd.

The village of Ferret.

Stage Seven Another day of sunshine on day seven of walking on the TMB. We walked from Ferret to Lac de Champex following the normal TMB route through the Val Ferret. It was great staying in Ferret at Hôtel du Col-de-Fenêtre. It is very quiet and peaceful with great views of Mont Dolent and it also gave us the opportunity to have two coffee stops. One in the morning at la Fouly and one in the afternoon in Issert. The route is fine with no diversions.

Picking wild strawberries along the path between la Fouly and Praz-de-Fort.

Views down Val Ferret.

The old wooden chalets in Praz-de-Fort.

Martagon Lily.

Stage Eight We set out from Lac de Champex this morning in warm sunshine on our eighth day of walking on the TMB. We chose to do the Bovine route as the Fenetre d'Aprtte still has some snow on it and with possible showers forecast in the afternoon the lower route was more reasonable. We had a morning coffee at Plan de l'Au which offers great views. We then took the old Bovine route from le Burmay which is now unsigned but still a lovely walk. We had lunch at the Alpage de Bovine where we all chose the Rösti. At this point the clouds started to close in so we headed on to Trient and luckily the weather stayed dry apart from a couple of rain drops. Both the normal and old Bovine routes are in good condition.

Walking along the traverse on the old Bovine route.

Very tasty Rösti.

Looking back to the Alpage de Bovine.

Stage Nine The sun was gone this morning though it was still dry as we started out from Trient on day 9 of walking on the TMB. We were about 30 minutes in to the climb to Col de Balme when it started to rain. Shortly after it began to rain even harder and there was a cold wind when we arrived above the tree line. The weather was extreme but we pressed on to Refuge Col de Balme. We never went in as it was full of people all soaked. We sheltered by the Refuge out of the wind to add layers and drink some water before heading down to the top of the Télécabine de Charamillon Balme which we then took to le Tour. We then took the bus to our hotel in Argentiere. The group did really well to cope with the heavy rain and cold wind. We are all looking forward to our day off tomorrow and hoping the forecast for things to dry out on Thursday is right. There is only one photo today as it was not really the conditions for stopping to take pictures.


Rest day Today was a day off on the TMB for the group but I took the opportunity to see if there was still snow on the way up to the Brevent. I took the lifts from Chamonix this morning in to the endless mist and waked the route down to Planpraz. Though the path is mostly snow free there is one patch of snow which would be very dangerous to slip on. The path to Col du Brevent is snow free but then there is a ramp of snow going up from the Col (see photo) followed by a larger section of snow about 50 meters wide. This has a very long and steep runout where a slip could be very bad. There are a couple of smaller snow patches to cross before the Ladders but the Ladders and path above the ladders to the track/piste are snow free. There is snow on the track/piste most of the way to the top. To avoid this section we will be taking the lift from Planpraz to the Brevent on Friday and then walking the rest of the route to Les Houches.

Looking up the route from Col du Brevent.

Stage Ten We started day 10 on the TMB by getting the bus up the road from Argentiere to Montroc. It was dry and the sun was trying to burn through the cloud that had been hanging over us for the past two days. The air was quite cool as it had snowed down to about 2000m last night. From Montroc we walked to Tre-le-Champ and then took the normal route up over the ladders. The base of the ladders was also the cloud base so we began the climb into the fog. The weather remained mostly dry as we climbed and we were met by some Ibex as we approached the top. Shortly after reaching the top of the ladders it began to snow which latter turned to sleet and then rain so we took the direct path to la Flegere past Chalet des Cheserys. We are spending the afternoon in the warmth of the Refuge la Flegere watching the cloud swirl about as it slowly clears from the Chamonix valley. The forecast is looking to improve this evening and into tomorrow though the temperature for Chamonix is said to get down to 1 degree meaning it will be a cold start tomorrow.

Approaching the bottom of the ladders.

On the first section of the ladders.

Traversing between the ladders.

Ibex greeting us at the top of the ladders.

Chamonix comes into view from la Flegere as the cloud begins to lift.

Stage Eleven Day 11 of walking on the TMB was a major contrast to the last three days in the Chamonix valley. We woke to a temperature inversion in the valley and the sun lighting up the Aiguilles Rouge to the Mont Blanc Massif. It was a truly impressive sight. The air was quite cold and the rocks of the mountains were white with the snow which had fallen over the past couple of days. The walk from la Flegere to Planpraz is normally a very scenic part of the TMB but with the snow it looked especially amazing. From Planpraz we took the lift to the top of le Brevent to avoid the section of steep snow on the back of the mountain just after the Col du Brevent. Looking down at the track/piste it looks like it would be fine to walk though it still has quite a lot of snow on it. The new show on the path down off the Bevent to Les Houches had mostly disappeared by midday so after having some food in the restaurant we began the long walk to the end our our tour. We arrived in Les Houches with tired legs and sore feet from the long down hill walk but with the satisfaction of having completed the full tour.

Enjoying the sun on the way to Planpraz.

The Aiguilles Rouges from the top of the Brevent.

The team with Mont Blanc in the background.

Taking in the endless views with the Aiguille Verte in the background.

Tired but happy at the bus stop in Les Houches.

Well done all!

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