Our New exciting adventure is now upon us as we do our final last minute pack ready to fly back over to Europe to explore new trails! We are off to walk the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, also known as TMB, and then head down to the coast of Italy to explore the Cinque Terre walk trails.
- Mont Blanc, (white mountain) is the highest mountain in Europe and sits so beautifully like the Monarch of the land watching over her empire proudly. She is situated on the borders of France, Switzerland and Italy.
- She stands at the height of 4,808m. The first recorded ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc goes back to 1786 and the first ever women to ascend Mont Blanc was in 1808!
- Chamonix, a village below the mountain, held the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924 making this area quite a popular spot for tourists and adventure junkies with skiing, mountain climbing hiking and so much more to do. We visited Chamonix back in 2010 and we both just fell in love with it instantly. We are very excited that we now have the chance to go back and visit as well as explore more of the area while hiking the TMB.
- The TMB walk is approximately 170km
- Every year there is an Ultra Marathon called Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, or UTMB. This takes place either on the final weekend of August or first weekend of September. (might enter Mark into it, hehehe don’t tell him) This can take runner anywhere from 20hrs to 35hr to complete, us 10 days so I don’t think we have a chance of winning.
- There can be up to 10,000 runners so I think it will be a busy time on the mountain.
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We have arrived!
After two flights we arrived in a very warm Geneva then had an hour ride out to Chamonix in the French Alps. It is still as beautiful now as it was 7 years ago and we are so happy to be back.
It became quite obvious to us when we were getting on the second flight in Doha that we were heading to a place of extraordinary natural beauty and ruggedness as most of the people boarding the flight were hikers, runners or some kind of outdoor enthusiasts and all looking quite excited and happy.
This weekend in the alps is the start of the annual Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This event draws people from all over the world as it has become one of the most popular marathon events in the world. On our van ride from the airport out of 8 of us 5 were here to run. There is five different races depending on ability, length and difficulty. The longest race is the ‘Petite Trotte a Leon at 260km’s! The other lengths are 53km’s, 98km’s, 119km’s, 166km’s.
When we arrived in Chamonix you could feel the air of excitement not only by the runners in the car but by the hundreds of people in the village. It’s really exciting to be here to witness this event, (still haven’t told Mark I entered him 😄😝)
As we arrived in the mid afternoon this gave us a chance to have a wonder around and get a real feel for this place. It is so alive right now with the many people buzzing in town but that has only added to the charm and thankfully not taken it away.
After an amazing meal at Le Monchu, (local cuisine) and having a few ‘Mont Blanc’ beers before we headed back to the hotel to crash out and restock our energy ready to play happy tourist tomorrow, (Sunday), then start walking Monday.
Another day playing happy tourist here in Chamonix. Tomorrow we start our walk but for now we are just enjoying this amazing place. Checked out the prices for places here to buy as I really want to live here but unless I win lotto (don’t actually play lotto but might start) I think I will keep living here for now in my fantasy world.
We decided to take the cable car up to Aiguille Du Midi which sits at 3842m. The day was such a clear day so it made the trip more than worth it. For those who have not been here the cable car takes 20 mins up to the Aiguille du Midi and with it terraces all round gives you 360 degree views of the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. The name translates to ‘Needle of the mid-day’, as when in Chamonix in front of the church an you look up at the summit if the sun is above its peak it’s mid-day. This is also the highest peak one can get served by an aerial lift system and closest one can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without hiking or climbing.
On a good day you get spectacular views of the summit of Mont Blanc herself. You can spend a good few hours there just checking out every angle of the surrounding mountains and watching the adventurous ones out climbing the rock faces or trekking over the glaciers.
From there we then caught the Panoramic Mont Blanc Gondola which are small cable cars, (only fit 4 people), and they take you on what I think is the most spectacular ride between the mountains over the Glacier du Geant and into Italy to Pointe Helbronner. This ride was an amazing 5km journey high above the glacier giving us views of mountains and crevasses there were many people (though they could be mistaken for ants) trekking across the glacier. (This is now on my list). On the Italian side there are places to sit have a drink and just enjoy the views of the Aosta Valley below and the mountains.
We spent all day playing up there and just had the most fantastic time. Now we need food, beer and an early night to get ourselves ready for our walking adventure tomorrow.
And we’re off!
Day one of walking the TMB and and we are excited, little nervous but rearing to go. The weather is looking a little bit overcast and as we walked out of the hotel is stated to spit but we were fortunate that was all it did.
I am finding it hard to know what to say (surprising I know) but what a great day! The trail started for us in Le Tour and went up and up and up just a bit more. We watched the people in the cable cars waving to us as they went over our heads and my thoughts are they may have been thinking we were a little nuts not taking the ride, and quietly I was thinking the same but every time I stopped and looked around I realised that I was glad I walked it. The scenery was amazing and yes I would still see the same scene in the cable car but I was looking at where we were walking and felt proud of the achievement.
We took a little detour off our route and walked up to the Glacier du Trient and wow. It was at times a bit of a scramble but was worth the effort and the site just spectacular. Our walk down into the valley towards our stop for the night was steep at times with it all being switchbacks and I do believe I heard a voice behind me say ‘I’m beginning to hate switchbacks. While heading down there were picnic tables placed along the way and some even had fire pits if you felt like a BBQ. Walking into Trient was just peaceful and will say we were glad to have arrived. Now beer time.
Day 2 and we had a night in Trient. The place we stayed was ok, food ok, as Mark put it the bar was good. This morning again we start with up, up and yes more up and over the whole day ascended 1127m reaching the height of 2053m and descended 788m. The day for ascend and descent was basically split down the middle. First half up and second half down. This was no easy day at all, it really got those muscles working especially the heart and also got the lungs going too.
To add to the hills (mountains) was the heat, it was a glorious day today but just a bit warm walking, when we reached the forests it gave us some very welcoming relief.
We met a lot of people today and most going in the opposite direction. There were people walking solo, couples and groups, at lot being tour groups. The nationalities were from all over the world and I love this. It is always so wonderful to meet people from other places, even if for a moment, but a chance to connect. One large group were Norwegians and was great to talk to then briefly about where they were from as we had walked Norway last year. There was one section we crossed paths with a couple from Perth! They told us of more Perth people behind and they weren’t kidding, I think half of Perth ATM are walking the TMB!
Meeting people is always been something I enjoy and it is a part of any journey one takes, it is not just about the place or the walk it’s about it all. Tonight we met up with a hiking friend, Sarah, and shared dinner. Was a wonderful catch up and chat about what we have been up to and she got to meet Mark for the first time. I last saw Sarah the night before I started walking the Bibbulmun track in April and she had just finished it, so we reminisced about our experiences on the track. Thanks for the catch up Sarah and the gifts it was fantastic (can’t believe you found us ginger beer!) Never know which country we might get to meet in next time.
An easier day and virtually all down hill tomorrow. With storms predicted in the afternoon we hope to get to our stop early which means I better not play too long with my drone and get walking. Now sleep.
Day 3 and had a great night last night. Was lovely to catch up with Sarah and we had a wonderful chat. The room was really comfy, I did up grade as I thought after the hard walking we had been doing we deserved it.
Today’s walk wasn’t quite so much ascending and descending so it gave our bodies a reprieve. The views were still again just outstanding the whole day though in a different way. While we still had some elevation we did spend some time wandering through a valley and through the quaintest of villages.
Another very warm day was had today and more so in the afternoon as the cloud cover came over like a blanket. We were meant to get storm this afternoon but I guess their weather forecasting here is as bad as ours at home and get it wrong. Wonder if that will be the same for the next few days as we are expecting rain, storms and possible snow. That will be a relief from the heat but sucks for my droning as she doesn’t like the rain much.
Yesterday we were talking about whether Switzerland has snakes at all as I heard the typical snake slither sound beside me. We thought probably not and it would of been a lizard. Well our question got answered today as right in front of us, sun-baking was a snake, only very small but cute.
Now we are relaxing at our hotel after having a bath (yes we had a bath in our room! Score!) and a cold refreshing beer.
Day 4 and it is no longer hot and sunny. In fact it’s looks to be a white out as we stood in front of our hotel looking towards the direction of our route. Today was wet, wet and just a bit wet.
Only a short walk in kms but a difficult one in height. We ascended to 2537m as we crossed the Swizz/Italian border. Sadly we didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time up there, in fact we had to go straight down as a storm hit as we climbed up and was fierce. The wind was so strong, the rain was ice and hitting hard and to top it off there was thunder and lightning. The descent was fast but very slippery with mud. The cold wind was ripping right through us but once we dropped 50m it started to feel better.
For sections of the climb and the descent it was a white out. At one time I looked back to see if Mark was ok and I couldn’t see him. I waited a moment, knowing I couldn’t stand still for too long as I didn’t want to get too cold, and coming through the cloud was this figure of Mark slowly making his way up. The hard part for him as he wears glasses he was having trouble seeing anything in front of him. Made it very challenging for him but he got through it really well.
It was such a rewarding sight to see when we got below the cloud and could see the beautiful valley below sitting peacefully like the weather was fine. Not much further along we could see our accommodation waiting for us to arrive and have a hot drink.
Day 5 and a much more relaxed day.
We had a short walk and decided that a half day chilling in Courmayeur was to be a grand idea. The atmosphere here when we arrived was still buzzing from this mornings ultra marathon as one of the races officially stared from here at 9am. We noticed as we headed down the mountain this morning a lot of people and officials getting ready for the runners to come up the mountain. It’s all pretty exciting to see.
Now we are in Italy and the food mmmmmm gotta love the Italian food. Lunch today was fresh homemade pasta in the cutest place down an alley way.
For those who know me well I am in Mr Mortetti land (birra moretti) so I’m a happy girl and pizza is on the menu for tonight. Now relaxing and contemplating laundry as we need dry clothes the weatherman is predicting snow! The poor runners in the Ultra marathon. We believe the first lot will pass through Courmayuer around 3am!
Day 6. The weatherman said it will snow and it did!
It snowed for most of the day and it was amazing! Cold but bearable and with the snow we didn’t get soaked thank goodness.
There were a lot of people out and about today, not only a few big groups walking there were spectators for the ultra marathon. When we left Courmayuer this morning we saw some runners come through and as we walked we crossed paths with more. The race is now over and I believe the winner did the 170km run in around 19hrs, (1 hr quicker than last year and the record) and the first female was a few hours behind. It was such an amazing thing to see and as the runners went past you couldn’t help but feel proud and excited for them.
So today added a few firsts for us as well and that was Mark not only seeing his 1st ever Marmott but many of them and for me I got to experience it snowing and getting to hike in it!
Have to say I loved it even though before setting out I was a little concerned of the weather as it is unknown conditions for me but as the day progressed I was less concerned and just enjoyed.
We are tonight at a little B&B and there are 8 others staying. We all shared a communal meal together and it was great as we were from many different parts of the world. We had Uk, Portugal, Holland, Israel and of course Australia. I always love these communal dinners as it is a great way to meet others from different parts of the world and throughout this trip most places we have stayed at have done this. Tonight however was different as everyone was so young! They were all the same age as our kids! We were the old ones! The funny thing is I really didn’t realise this until the end when asked how old our kids were and they said they were the same age!
Was a long but really fun day, I will admit my legs by the end were aching and we are feeling a bit on the old side. We have another large climb tomorrow and the boy is already asleep so I should to.
Day 7 and it was great but pushes those knees!
We went up up and up some more to pass over the Col de la Croix sitting at around 2496m with some magnificent views.
With the snow from yesterday still lying around it was just picture perfect in every direction. The sun was out all day, though the air was crisp, it was just perfect and a complete contrast to yesterday.
Having a chance to play a bit more today with my drone. The Chinese group that we have been crossing paths with over the last few day were very excited to see the drone flying around. Sadly today it is their last day as they have finished their tour, I will miss hearing the singing coming across the mountains from one of them. He sang each day it was so lovely to here.
Our descent today seemed a lot steeper and harder that we thought it would be, with lots of snow, ice and mud. We descended down into the Val Montjoie passing a gorge and near the end followed an old Roman Road to reach the Notre Dame de la Gorge.
It was a long day and we finally reached our accommodation and had such a lovely meal of what we think was curry beef. Not sure but it was tasty. Now with full belly a we need sleep.
Day 8 and having an easier one.
We arrived at our accommodation by 12:30 so we got to laze around for the afternoon. The walk was a complete contrast to yesterday as we stayed in the valley though climbing quite high every now and then into forested areas.
I really enjoyed today as we got the chance to walk through some small villages that were dotted along the way looking like the typical French countryside.
For whatever reason the hills we did climb today seemed brutal yet even though they were of some height we know they were nothing compared to what we have already done. You think by now we should be scooting over, we must be getting old.
After an amazing lunch we spent the rest of the day just lying around in the sunshine (when it peeked through the clouds) just feeling very lazy right now.
The views from of Refuge overlooking a valley on one side and snowcap mountain on the other and I’m lying in a swing chair listening to the birds, the occasional clicking of hiking sticks coming down the road and the water fountain beside me.
Day 9 and after an easy day yesterday feeling pretty good.
I was so lazy in the afternoon yesterday I kept sleeping in the swing chair at the Refuge. At one point Mark yelled out Avalanche! And I (in a deep snooze) bolted up shouting where where? We had the most amazing views of Mt. Maudit and Mont Blanc from our accommodation. I could here the thunderous crashing of snow when I jumped up but by the time I reached Mark I missed the show.
This morning once we started walking we heard another really loud thunderous crashing coming from the mountains.
Today’s walk was up for a bit (when I say up I mean really up!) then downhill for the rest. It was so pleasant as the weather was just perfect. Sunny and not too hot. We passed a lot of fresh hikers starting out on their first day of the Tour. We went the opposite way around where as a lot go anti-clockwise. They all excited, eager and smelt really fresh and looked so clean. Made me laugh to think that was us 9 days ago!
We arrived into the accommodation point by 10:30am and decided that because it was so early and we had an early one yesterday we would keep going and walk tomorrow’s section as well. This way we get a free day before we head down to the Cinque Terre for our next walking adventure.
Thank you all for following our adventure and I have to say to sum up this walk is it was amazing, hard work but worth every aching muscle, great atmosphere from all the beautiful people we have met along the way and to the ones still walking, keep going you are doing well and the ones who have finished a big well done! The scenery of the three countries we walked into was just outstanding. I love the mountains and know that this won’t be the last.
Stick around as in a few days time we are heading down to the coast of Italy and be spending 7 days walking the Cinque Terre, we would like you all to come along with us and see what the Italian coastline looks like.
Check out our other adventures like My 1000km journey…… and West Highland Way
When I saw this email in my inbox I thought it was an invitation to join you (laughter). I’m sad, but enjoy yourselves to the full and I shall enjoy following your journey whilst house-/pet sitting in Pemberton for the next two months. 🙂
Oh Im so sorry Margaret. enjoy Pemberton though it is a beautiful place 🙂
You are indeed inspired. Who is “we” may I ask
We is my other half 🙂
Have a magnificent time, you two!!
Thank you Jan. ❤️👣👣👣
Great pic of alps hovering in background of town. 😊
Love your zest for life, have a fabulous time you two. I will try to follow you.
Thankyou my dear. You guys have the most incredible time on your adventure too. Xx
Looks like you earn that end of the day beer
Gee day 4 threw out a challenge 🙀Loving the pics, the countryside looks so lush. Hope that pizza was enjoyable, you certainly earnt it 😺
Regardless of weather, regardless of gradients you are still smiling 😺
Great to read and view pics of your adventures.
Yes we are still smiling. At times the day, the trail, the weather throw you challengers but I like that. Some afternoons though is hard when your body says enough already 😝
Well done 👍
Great read hoping to do this next year. Did you book accommodation ahead and was it expensive like Norway? And also what was your packing list.
thanks and yes we did book ahead but not as expensive and like Norway there is the option to camp if choose to as there are many camping grounds along the way. I would book ahead as the hiking season (though longer than Norway) is short and this walk is incredibly popular espec with tour groups who book up the accommodation. I am writing up at the moment on the breakdown and guide to help people plan so keep your eyes peeled it may just help. this will include as always a suggested packing list though you know what mountains are like, unpridictable
Hi loved your European blogs. We are hoping to do the TMB next year. Was accommodation as expensive as Norway and did you book ahead? Also what gear did you pack? Cheers Sue
thanks and yes we did book ahead but not as expensive and like Norway there is the option to camp if choose to as there are many camping grounds along the way. I would book ahead as the hiking season (though longer than Norway) is short and this walk is incredibly popular espec with tour groups who book up the accommodation. I am writing up at the moment on the breakdown and guide to help people plan so keep your eyes peeled it may just help.