Friday, June 22, 2018

Tour du Mont Blanc trail conditions 20th June 2018

We are now nearly a week into our summer season & we have one privately guided group that have nearly completed the route. Conditions are getting better day by day & there are lots of groups out on the trail however there is still a fair amount of snow on the trail.

Descent from the Col du Seigne

The affected area are still:

·       Contamines to Chapieux & Ville des Glaciers via the Col du Bonhomme & the Col de la Croix Bonhomme & Col des Fours if going to Ville des Glaciers. 
·       Chapieux & Ville des Glaciers to Courmayeur via the Col de Seigne
·       Refuge Bonatti or Arnuva to La Fouly via the Grand Col Ferret
·       Champex to Trient via the Fenetre d’Arpette

Routes to be avoided are:

·       Via Col du Fours
·       Via Mont Fauvre Spur to Courmayeur
·       Via Fenetre d’Arpette

Advise on essential kit is still the same crampons can be hired in Chamonix & are readily available however if you are intending using MICROspikes it may be better to purchase these before you arrive if you can as availability might be a problem in Chamonix due to a lot of folk buying these for the trails.

Essential kit:

·       Allkit outlined on our kit list not forgetting good waterproof boots (not trainers or trail shoes), gloves, warm hat, warm layers, waterproof outer layers, sun cream & sunglasses to protect against snow glare.
·       Light weight crampons or MICROspikes & walking poles x 2 per person to aid balance.
·       Gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots when walking through snow. 

Important additional information:

There has been a landslide on the lower part of the road in the Val Veny, this means that the bus service isn’t running & taxis are limited as the only access to La Visialle now is via a 4 wheel drive track. They are trying to get the road back open as soon as possible but if you are intending taking a bus or taxi from La Visialle to Courmayeur you need to be aware of this & add in extra time as you might need to walk down the road to Courmayeur. It is advisable that if you are arranging a taxi for the Val Veny that this will need to be booked in advance as there is no phone signal after you leave Contamines until you reach the Col du Seigne.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Tour du Mont Blanc current conditions

Over the past week we have been out looking at the trail conditions in readiness for the arrival of our first clients who arrive next weekend.

There have been many reports of the bumper snowfall in the Alps last winter & that is true and we have received lots of enquires & questions about this however the current conditions are not unusual for early June. In 2013 & 2016 we had equally challenging conditions and 2018 looks to be similar therefore if you are trekking in early season you need to be prepared, equipped and know your limitations.

We have had a warm spring and the situation is improving on a daily basis however the snow above 2000m especially on shaded & north facing slopes will take some weeks to disappear.

The main problem areas:

·       Contamines to Chapieux & Ville des Glaciers via the Col du Bonhomme & the Col de la Croix Bonhomme & Col des Fours if going to Ville des Glaciers.
·       Chapieux & Ville des Glaciers to Courmayeur via the Col de Seigne
·       Refuge Bonatti to La Fouly via the Grand Col Ferret
·       Champex to Trient via the Fenetre d’Arpette

For your own safety please take notice of any advice available, be aware of the additional challenges, know your limitations and where the route is not advisable and change your plans accordingly.

Snow on high ground this can make the route difficult and dangerous in places. A great deal of care needs to be taken when moving on old snow, depending on the weather & temperature this can be frozen solid or slush and without crampons can be impossible to cross without slipping. Ascending on snow can be often feel easy by kicking in steps & making good firm footholds however the main problems occur when traversing steep sided slops, gullies and in descent. Also great car needs to be taken when crossing snow covered streams in case of snow collapse. It is essential that you make a risk assessment before crossing snow, look below and ask yourself if you slipped how far would you slide & fall? Could a slip or fall cause injury? If in doubt retreat back and descend to the safety of the valley.

Tour du Mont Blanc in brief (if doing the westerly, easterly or ‘Best of’ refer to the relevant days)

Day 1: Chamonix to Les Houches: Ok if a lower route is taken, the Col de Brevent is not advisable

Day 2: Les Houches to Contamines: Passable via the col du Tricot however care must be taken. On the Les Houches side of the Col du Tricot there is a fair amount of uneven snow, which makes progress slow. On the descent to the Chalets du Miage although nearly snow free the path has been scoured away by winter snow and great care needs to be taken as the terrain is steep. The route via Chapel is snow free and would be an easier trouble free option.

Day 3: Contamines to Chapieux or Ville des Glaciers: A great deal of snow above 2000m, this section is not advisable without having the correct equipment with you (see below). The traverse between the Col du Bonhomme & the Col du la Croix du Bonhomme can be very difficult with snow as a slip or fall here could cause serious injury. If staying at the Refuge Mottets it is advisable to follow the route card provided to Chapieux & take the road to Ville de Glaciers rather than go over the Col du Fours which is very steep in descent with snow.

Day 4: Chapieux or Ville des Glaciers to Courmayeur: A great deal of snow above 2000m, this section is not advisable without having the correct equipment with you (see below). We advise you take the bus or a taxi from La Visaille to Courmayeur as the route via the Mont Faurvre spur can be dangerous with this amount of snow. The regular bus service doesn’t run until July therefore the Allo bus is bookable on +39 0165 1854653 more information can be found here: or by taxi, Mont Blanc Shuttle +39 347-4213679, TAXI Courmayeur di Granato +39 0165 841821. These will need to be reserved before you leave Contamines as phone signal is not available until after the Col du Seigne.

Day 5: Courmayeur to Refuge Bonatti: ok via Refuge Bertone and the balcony route, do not take the higher options outlined in the guide-book. Care needs to be taken when traversing the sections of snow.

Day 6: Refuge Bonatti to La Fouly: A great deal of snow above 2000m, we advise to descend from the Refuge Bonatti to the Val Ferret and walk up the road to Arnuva then take the 4x4 track to refuge Elena do not attempt to take the TMB route up the gully, the bridge over the gully has not been re-instated as yet and crossing the snow bridge will be dangerous. This section is not advisable without having the correct equipment with you (see below). 

Day 7: La Fouly to Champex: ok no problems, the route is snow free.

Day 8: Champex to Trient: ok via the Bovine route care needs to be taken when traversing the sections of snow.

The variant via the Fenetre d’Arpette is not passable, do not attempt to go this way as it is very steep at the col at either side, due to the amount of snow a slip or fall here could cause serious injury.

Day 9: Trient to Argentiere: There is still a significant amount of snow on the way up to Col du Balme care needs to be taken crossing the snow patches. Go direct to the Col from Trient rather than via Tseppes & Catogne. Little snow on the Chamonix side of the Col and the rest of the route is trouble free. Care needs to be taken when traversing the sections of snow.

Day 10: Argentiere to Chamonix: The Aiguille Rouges nature reserve still has a lot of snow, Lac Blanc is completely covered with snow and remains frozen. Therefore we advise to remain on the lower balcony to Flegere and do not ascend to Lac Cheserys and Lac Blanc, the route from Flegere to Brevent has no problems and is relatively snow free.

Essential kit:

·       All kit outlined on our kit list not forgetting good waterproof boots (not trainers or trail shoes), gloves, warm hat, warm layers, waterproof outer layers, sun cream & sunglasses to protect against snow glare.
·       Light weight crampons or MICROspikes & walking poles x 2 per person to aid balance, lightweight walking crampons can be hired locally in Chamonix, Snell sports is a good hire shop on the main street opposite the Maison de la Presse. Micro spikes (see picture) can be purchased from many of the shops in Chamonix.
·       Gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots when walking through snow.

Important to remember
Walking on snow can be very tiring and time consuming, you will need a good level of fitness in order to be able to cope with this additional challenge. You will also need to allow more time each day to get to your destination.

Snow and bad weather can make navigation difficult as you cannot see the designated path and route markets and signage will be covered with snow although you will find tracks in the snow. Good navigational skills are essential, the ability to read a map, use a compass and altimeter are a pre-requisite of this self-guided trek.

Due to the current conditions information given on the route cards may be inappropriate additional route notes will be given to supplement and additional information you may have received. You need good mountain sense and the ability to make your own decisions, it is your responsibility to select alternative routes from the information you have at hand (map, guidebook & route & safety cards etc).

Please contact us for further information and additional information on current conditions are available on the AuTourDuMontBlanc website:

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tour du Mont Blanc and the Environmental Issues

“From knowing comes caring & from caring comes change”

As Tour provider & of course as a trekking guide Mont Blanc Treks our obligation to minimise any harm on the environment that we work in and has a duty to make sure all our guests visiting are fully aware of the environmental issues that face this most impressive landscape.

It’s a fine balance between the love & passion people have for this area & the effects of tourism, the environment around Mont Blanc is extremely fragile & its location and accessibility is its own worst enemy. This is the third most visited site in the world & Mont Blanc attracts approximately 6 million visitors a year. Tourism has been the focus within the area since the 17th Century and since then Chamonix & its surrounding area has developed into an all year around resort & a mecca for mountaineering, hiking, skiing & sightseeing. The very fact that you can, within an hour from Geneva international airport, be up close & personal with the highest mountain in western Europe & be in spitting distance of the most impressive glaciers in the world is why this environment is under such threat.

In the 25 years that I have been in the valley I have noticed a massive difference & have seen the environmental impact with my own eyes, most noticeable is the retreat of the glaciers to incredible proportions.

Main problems
  • ·      Air pollution
  • ·      Littering
  • ·      Erosion
  • ·      Degradation of vegetation
  • ·      Disturbance to Fauna

Air pollution
Air pollution in the Chamonix valley is a real problem this is caused by the volume of traffic from tourism & also the location of the Mont Blanc Tunnel which connects France to Italy making an easier route for freight traveling through Europe. It is also caused by residents burning green waste during the winter. As the ‘V shaped’ valley is so steep sided polluted air often remains trapped in the valley bottom especially in winter.

So how is the problem being tackled?
  • ·      Redevelopment of the rail system making the valley more accessible by rail from the outlying areas.

  • ·      Free transport system within the valley & the investment in green buses.

  • ·      Forbidden access to the valley for the most polluting vehicles

  • ·      Financial incentives & tax benefits to those renovating properties in an environmentally friendly & energy saving way.

·      There are still major issues with the volume of freight using the Mont Blanc Tunnel which is Swiss, French & Italian owned. Before we see any significant change here there needs to be greater intervention & investment from central government.

How can you help?

Use the local public transport provided, in most cases its free or heavily subsidised.

Use shared transfers to & from the airport rather than arriving individually.

Littering in the mountains
The state of our world oceans has hit major headlines over the past year but this is also a problem in the mountains, it’s hard to believe in this day & age but the mountains are littered with obsolete facilities such as barbed wire, live shells, ammunition, abandoned ski stations and disused cable and of course rubbish left behind by climbers, hikers & skiers.

So how is the problem being tackled?

Since 2002, Mountain Wilderness has been working on this problem, including raising awareness of the adverse impacts of this debris on fauna and fora, soils and rivers, and on the global ecosystem. With projects, such as Cleaning up the Alps

How can you help?

We ask that you do your bit when coming to the Alps this year & in the future. “Take only memories & leave only footprints”, pass though this environment, enjoy what you see & leave minimal trace. Take your rubbish with you!

Erosion & degradation of vegetation
As you would expect the trails on the Tour du Mont Blanc take a pounding between June & the end of September. The trails are scars on the landscape & we are not going to be able to reverse that but we can reduce & stabilise the effects. The effects of trampling on vegetation when folk veer off the trails, and the rate of recovery of vegetation is massive. Considering most of the landscape you walk on between June & September is covered with snow for 6 months of the year there is limited time for rejuvenation. The flora & vegetation is fighting a losing battle when if the only time of the year it can flourish it gets destroyed by us.

So how is the problem being tackled?

·      In most parts of the tour there has been great efforts made by communities & volunteers to implement erosion control.

·      Sections of the trail that are most at risk have been closed & diversions are put in place.

·      Areas of fragility have been sectioned off to prevent human traffic.

How can you help?

Don’t take shortcuts & stay on the trails & respect any signage, notices & redirections.

Disturbance to Fauna
It is fantastic to see Ibex, Chamois & Marmot whilst out on the trail but this has become less frequent in recent years due to the number of hikers. Human intrusion into their territory disturbs them as wild animals are shy and love to be on their own.

So how is the problem being tackled?

·      The creation of National Parks & Nature Reserves & you will pass through several these on the Tour du Mont Blanc & Haute Route.

·      Strict rules & guidelines for folk to adhere to, these are clearly displayed on the boundaries to the Nature Reserves.

How can you help?

Take notice when entering the Nature Reserve, adhere to the rules & regulations. Do not leave food around after a pic-nic stop even biodegradable waste for example, an apple core or banana skin.

Active organisations

There are several organisations that are active in this area & worldwide, take a look at the work they do & the projects they promote & support. They rely on our support whether that be by means of donating, becoming a member or just casting your vote in support of a particular project.

Mountain Wilderness:
Mountain Wilderness International (MWI) is an umbrella organization that facilitates communications and exchanges between the country organizations or chapters of Mountain Wilderness, where most of the action occurs. It coordinates and organizes international actions and is the official representative of the association in all international contexts with Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations. 

European Outdoor Conservation Association:
The outdoor sector and the millions of people who enjoy the great outdoors are active champions for the conservation of nature and wild places*
As a charitable organisation directly funding specific projects, the association wants to show that the European outdoor industry is committed to putting something back into the environment, and all working together a real difference can be made.

The third most visited natural site in the world, Mont-Blanc attracts nearly 6 million visitors yearly. Without the benefit of international protection, the mountain is in real danger to the pressures of economic development and climate change. The goal of proMONT-BLANC is to make this mountain region a model of tri-national management and sustainable development - with a legal and political status recognized by the 3 countries and their local municipalities. ‘‘ Barbara Ehringhaus, Présidente of proMONT-BLANC

Mont Blanc Treks gives financial support to EOCA & Pro-Mont Blanc

For further advice & information regarding the environmental issues facing this area of the Alps then please get in touch at: