by Hank Leukart
May 15, 2019
Hiking the 12-day, 170-km Tour du Mont Blanc with five friends from around the world.
Meet Me in the Alps
ES HOUCHES, France — Experience the stunning Tour du Mont Blanc, a 170-kilometer (106-mile), 12-day circuit around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. Hank gathers five friends from around the world to hike over the route’s 11 mountain passes — including the Col du Bonhomme, Col des Fours, Col de la Grande Ecaille, Col de la Seigne, Grand Col Ferret, and the Fenêtre d’Arpette. They also stop at classic refuges, including Auberge du Truc, La Croix du Bonhomme, Refuge Robert Blanc, Refuge Elisabetta, and the Refuge de la Flégère. WB WB
How to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc
- OVERVIEW: The Tour du Mont Blanc is the ultimate tour of the European Alps. During the trip, hikers earn fantastic views of the highest mountains in Western Europe, climb over 11 mountain passes (depending on route and weather), and get a chance to eat lots of excellent French, Italian, and Swiss cuisine. The standard 170-kilometer (106-mile) route takes about 10 days, though the trip can be made longer with a smattering of side-trips along the way. Our trip’s cumulative elevation gain was about 12,000 meters (40,000 feet), so the hike is often physically challenging — though achievable by most people with decent fitness.
- GEAR: The refuges along the way make this hike unique, because the services they provide make it possible for hikers to bring significantly less gear than they might otherwise on a trip of this length. We completed the trip without carrying a tent, sleeping bags or sleeping pads, and we carried only a minimal amount of snack food, instead eating most meals at the refuges and picking up lunch supplies from bakeries.
- LOGISTICS: Set at least two weeks aside total for the flights in and out of Europe, a couple buffer days for bad weather, and the trek itself.
- ROUTE: Shown below is the 12-day hiking schedule that we followed.
- DAY 1: Les Houches to Auberge du Truc (14.1 km, 1,489 m gain, 8 hours)
- DAY 2: Auberge du Truc to Refuge de La Croix du Bonhomme (18.2 km, 1,473 m gain, 9 hours)
- DAY 3: La Croix du Bonhomme to Refuge Robert Blanc (9.1 km, 909 m gain, 7 hours)
- DAY 4: Refugio Robert Blanc to Refuge Elisabetta (8.2 km, 436 m gain, 6 hours)
- DAY 5: Refuge Elisabetta to Courmayeur (9.4 km, 520 m gain, 4 hours)
- DAY 6: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bertone (11.1 km, 962 m gain, 4 hours)
- DAY 7: Rifugio Bertone to La Fouly (25.4 km, 1,278 m gain, 11 hours)
- DAY 8: La Fouly to Champex (18.6 km, 684 m gain, 10 hours)
- DAY 9: Champex to Trient (16.0 km, 1,272 m gain, 10 hours)
- DAY 10: Trient to Argentiere (14.2 km, 1,036 m gain, 7 hours)
- DAY 11: Argentiere to Refuge de la Flégère (9.7 km, 992 m gain, 5 hours)
- DAY 12: Refuge de la Flégère to Les Houches (19.8 km, 996 m gain, 10 hours)