Thursday, May 30, 2019

Accommodation Update on the Tour du Mont Blanc

We are getting lots of self-guided enquiries at the moment, please note that accommodation on the Tour du Mont Blanc is limited, therefore we advise you to think about coming AFTER THE THIRD WEEK OF JULY now, in order that we can book your accommodation for you in good quality, tried and tested locations.

We say this because if we don't like staying in some of the places on offer, we don't want to book you in to them!

 For our standard Tour du Mont trek we use 3* hotel, auberge or mountain refuge accommodation depending on location.  The Tour du Mont Blanc is very busy this year and already accommodation is full for the peak season.

However, if you can come at the end of July or in August, we are sure to be able to book you accommodation that we know you will love.  Get in touch if you have any questions

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Multi-Day Treks - What Kit do I Need? Our top 10 tips on day bag essentials

Spring is in the air and it’s about this time of year that we start to talk to our clients about what they need to take on their trek. We are asked all sorts of questions and are very happy to answer them individually, but feedback has taught us that with packing – less is definitely more and with advice the more the better!
Today I will cover the absolute essentials that you need to pack in your day bag – our website has a great guide for more information. Next time, we will go over what to clothes to wear and carry with you.

Top 10 Essential Tips for Equipment in the Day Pack!

1)    A 2-litre water bottle (or bladder). These come in all shapes and sizes and it’s up to you which you prefer, but you definitely don’t want to be in the glorious sunshine – at altitude without a bottle of water!

2)    Sun Barriers – cream, glasses and/or a hat. We will be walking for much of the day and only you know what you need to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun – then you can ensure you enjoy being outside in in it!

3)    Medication – don’t forget to carry your essential med’s and add in some blister cream and plasters, water purifying tablets and lip salve.

4)    Documents – we trek across countries! Don’t forget your passport, insurance and money

5)    Munchies – We eat well on our tours, but not necessarily at every moment you could do with an energy boost. Dry fruit and nuts, energy bars – think ahead to what works for you

6)    Head torch – the last thing you want to be doing is wandering on mountain trails holding your mobile out for torch-light!

7)    Tools for the route: A pocket knife – Everyone has a Swiss army knife or equivalent knocking about – now is the time to use it! And if you are self-guiding, you certainly need a map, compass, altimeter and route notes

8)    Wash kit – You and your overnight bag will always be re-united but a small wash kit (hand sanitizer?) and fast drying towel can be useful to freshen up when you need to

9)    Dry sack/ liner – we hope you don’t use it, but they weigh nothing and literally save everything in the event of a downpour.

10)Camera/phone – we know it’s all about living in the moment - but some of the sights you will encounter are “once-in-a-lifetimes” and surely worth recording too?

We are getting excited just recalling all of this – we hope you are too! Remember we are always here if you need advice. Here is to trekking 2019!

Trekking in August - What's Not to Love?

From our experience of organising Trekking holidays here in the French Alps, August always seem to be the month which is forgotten, and remains the quietest on the Trails and Accommodation whether it be Hotels / Auberges and Mountain Refuges.  We’re scratching our heads and wondering why ?!

 A couple of thoughts spring to mind :- Do Trekkers naturally think August will be the busiest month because of school holidays maybe ?  Or the hottest ? Or is it simply because a well known Guide book makes a suggestion that September is one of the best months to Trek?

 In our opinion all may be a little misleading and here’s why:-

 We find from our experience School Holidays do not impact on the amount of folks here on the Mountain Trails.  Whilst it is great to see families trekking together, and we always welcome children, they are in the minority when looking at the demographics of the average Trekker.

Whilst Chamonix town itself can be busy with visitors throughout the Summer months, especially August, the surrounding areas of the TMB and WHR are quieter.   With this in mind, Trekkers who opt for August dates are usually more successful with first choice itineraries and accommodation.

I guess the other factor could be the weather,  believing August will be the hottest month of the Trekking season ?  Well I think we all know the weather has it’s own agenda these days, and no two Summers are the same.  We’ve on occasion experienced snow on high ground throughout the Summer months, and the weather can change very quickly, hence always requesting Trekkers be prepared with the full wet weather gear, which is mentioned on our detailed Kit List.

Turning to the huge volume of Guide Books available, which are great by the way and we fully support them !  A fantastic and useful source of information;  in fact we issue 'The Cicerone Guide Book'  to all our clients, together with a detailed Travel / Trekking pack.  The challenge that the Guide books do have however is keeping up to date with local knowledge, changes and annual events that take place that can deem the information a little dated or slightly inaccurate for the current day.   So taking my example of September being the ‘best month to Trek the TMB’…… guessed it - September is now extremely popular for Trekkers, and thus can bring with it accommodation challenges.

Alongside that, what the Guide Books don't highlight is the annual events Chamonix (and the surrounding areas) host on a regular basis.  As an example :-  'The Ultra Trail Marathon' events that take place early September see tourists and extreme athletes visit from all over the world. This in itself is a spectacular time of year, the atmosphere in and around the Mont Blanc is electric with extreme athletes taking to the Mountains to undertake near-on impossible human challenges !   Don't take our word for it, search on 'Ultra Trail’ and you'll see what we mean !  Although the dates do vary ever so slightly year on year, we see the visitor numbers increase to capacity towards the last few days in August into early September, thus accommodation is limited and at a premium - not just here in Chamonix, but seen all around the Tour du Mont Blanc.

 It’s fair to say, July and September remain the most popular months for Trekking, however if you are thinking of coming to see us this Summer or next, we would advise coming in August.  The spectacular mountain views remain the same, the Flora and Fauna will be at its best, and your experience on the Trails, Hotels and Mountain Refuges will be just as magnificent !

 So why not come and join us for your next Trekking adventure! 

The Walkers Haute Route - A fabulous journey across the Alps

The Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, takes you on a visually stunning journey between Europe’s two most iconic mountains – Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Along the way, you pass by 10 of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps, as it winds its way through glacial valleys, alpine meadows and enchanting villages.

The ancient trail of the Walkers Haute Route - all 180km (112 miles) is wonderful for walkers looking for a new challenge. The daily height gain is substantial, the highest pass is at 2964 m (9,800 ft) and the overall accumulation over 12 days is in the region of 12,000m (39370 ft).
 To ensure that you get the most out of your walking holiday we offer treks across different parts of the Walkers Haute Route.
 The easterly route takes 5 days (6 nights), from the beautiful Evolene valley to the famous town of Zermatt and covers 80km (49 miles). This trek is ideal for those wanting to trek independently & experience the route in a shorter space of time.
 Our walkers haute route westerly itinerary takes you from the famous alpine village of Chamonix to Les Hauderes or Zinal in the Swiss Valais over the course of 7 days (8 nights) and is approximately 115km (72 miles) in length. This trek is ideal for those who haven't the time to complete the full route yet want a real flavour of this classic trek.
 The full Walkers Haute Route takes you on a spectacular journey with unforgettable landmarks during the course of 10 days (11 nights) trekking. We begin in France in the wonderful town of Chamonix Mont Blanc in the heart of the Haute-Savoie, cross the border into Switzerland en-route and end in Zermatt at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn.
 Whichever trek you choose, we are sure this ancient walk will surpass your walking vacation expectations! Our groups cater for solo and group trekkers and our guides can’t wait to welcome you this summer. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss which of our trek options might be best for you.

Am I ready for a Mountain Trekking Holiday?

Essential Tips and Guide to Preparing for and choosing your Mountain Trek
Anyone who has experienced a trek will remember the absolute thrill they felt having completed it, a wonderful feeling of triumph and true accomplishment. There is nothing quite it: preparing for the trail, embarking upon the journey, overcoming the unexpected along the way and finally walking over the “finish line” feeling like a super hero.
But what happens next? Luckily, there is always another fantastic route to follow, hill to hike, mountain path to meander your way through – but for serious walkers, how do you know when you are ready for the “next step” (pardon the pun).

When choosing a mountain trek, besides the total number of miles hiked each day, you also need to consider the elevation gain. You are likely to be in good physical condition if you’re doing upwards of 20 miles a day. However, if that’s with 1000 metres or more (~3280 feet+) of elevation gain, you’ll require a higher level of fitness than you may expect.

When walking at higher altitude, the air is thinner and has less oxygen, which obviously impacts walking. Dependant on where you live you may not be able to practice walking at a higher altitude, but everyone can take on board the following tips:
·       Aerobic Training: Aerobic activities will improve your VO2 max – the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can use.
·       Drink Water: At altitude you should be drinking water more frequently than you would normally, no matter what activity you are undertaking.
·       Breathe: Breathlessness comes quicker at a higher altitude, practice yogic breathing - breathing in a rhythm, taking deep, abdominal breaths.

The best way to see what’s within your limits is to experiment on day trips. Do this before you book your trek. You want something that’s challenging, yet something that you can complete.  Although it may be hard to increase the altitude of your training treks (especially if you are training in Great Britain), one thing you can do increase the distance and time you walk as you train.
We recommend WalkingWorlds App, which gives you the ability to view local maps, zoom in tightly to see all the detail if you need to and you can also save as many walks as you like which are stored on your device. Whether you use an app or not, keep a record of the length of each walk, the time it took you and the elevation gain. Over time, you will see what you are capable of in a day.

All good trekking companies provide guidelines on their treks. We grade ours from 1-10 and have detailed information on our website as well as wealth of information that we would gladly discuss in conversation with you – as every person is different. We have successfully guided Mums with babies (yes it’s true!) and people of all ages, experiences and disabilities. This is because we are not afraid to say “no” this walk isn’t right for you and instead work with you to provide a mountain trek that is the perfect option for you.

We have a wide range of treks, to suit all abilities and to ensure that you experience the walking holiday that you have been dreaming of.  We also split some of the treks into sections so that you can find a holiday that is the right length for you.  And if you don't find exactly what you want, we can create it or you can choose to guide yourself, safe in the knowledge that we have provided you with everything you need.  It is our job after all, to ensure that you both start and leave our mountains on top of the world!

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: