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Start at Les Bossons, near Chamonix.
Just outside Chamonix, France. Wonderful views from the campsite of Mont Blanc and the dramatic crevassed Glacier des Bossons, especially at sunset. Those not flying with the group join us at the campsite in the afternoon (see 'Airport Transfers' above). In the evening there is an introductory briefing by the trek crew.
From Chamonix the route heads past Lac Blanc to Les Frasserands.
From Les Bossons (1,012m/3320ft) we have a short bus journey to Chamonix from where we walk to Les Praz and take the cable car to La Flegere (1,900m/ 6230ft). The trail today is named the 'Grand Balcon' and is on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc, affording excellent views of the whole massif lying to our south. Initially we contour and then climb to reach the high point of the day, Lac Blanc (2352m/7715ft). The trail descends and then contours high above the valley before dropping steeply to the hamlet of Les Frasserands (1,371m /4500ft). In the afternoon there is a very short section of ladders/steep steps with handrails to descend.
Cross over Col de Balme to Switzerland and camp at Trient.
We begin by climbing steeply to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2201m/7200ft), descend a little and then ascend towards the Col de Balme (2,191m /7190ft) from where we follow one of the paths across the border from France to Switzerland. Excellent views all morning of Aiguille d'Argentiere and Aiguille du Tour and its glacier. After lunch we descend to the small hamlet of Trient (1,296m/4250ft). Good views of the Trient Glacier. Rough camp near Trient.
Cross Col de Forclaz to Champex.
We climb first to the Col de Forclaz (1527m/ 5010ft) and then onwards from where we can look directly down into the Rhône valley and the Swiss town of Martigny. We follow an historic path used to take the cows to summer grazing, the 'Bovine route' (2049m – 6720ft) that takes us through meadows and high alpine pastures before we descend to the charming town of Champex (1486m – 4880ft) set beside a picturesque alpine lake.
Head up Val Ferret to La Fouly.
Now on the east side of the main Mont Blanc massif we walk south, descending through woods to the Val Ferret and on to Issert (1,055m/ 3460ft) and other small, pretty alpine farming villages. This is also quite a good day for flowers earlier in the season, including orchids. We continue up the valley to the remote village of La Fouly (1600m/ 5250ft) which lies at the foot of Mont Dolent, whose summit marks the meeting point of France, Switzerland and Italy.
Climb to Grand Col Ferret, the highest pass of the trek.
Still following the same valley and the river 'La Drance', we climb to the 'Grand Col Ferret' (2537m/ 8320ft), the highest pass of the tour. Now in Italy, the valley is also called 'Val Ferret'. The mountain views from the Col are stunning with Grandes Jorasses dominating the scene. We walk down the valley to Arp Nouva (1,770m/ 5800ft) where we then take an optional bus to Planpincieux (1,600m/5250ft). For the first and last trip of the season the bus may not be running and we may need to walk to camp.
The nearby ex-spa towns of Courmayeur and Entreves have picturesque older sections, which are worth a visit, especially for the keen photographer. There is a cable car from La Palud to Point Helbronner (3,461m/11350ft) and on across the glacier to the Aiguille du Midi (and in fact on down to Chamonix). This is a splendid (optional) excursion, which gives close-up views of all the big peaks.
Ascend to Monte de la Saxe, then steep descent to Courmayeur and on to Val Veny.
We start with a short bus ride to pick up the TMB and from the road (1675m – 5500ft ) climb up to the Bonatti refuge (2025m – 6640ft). Today we follow a beautiful contouring path around Mont de la Saxe to Courmayeur. The views of the south Mont Blanc massif are exceptional as are those of the towering, cliffy peak of the 'Grandes Jorasses' and the glaciers which crowd the northern flank of the Val Ferret. In the afternoon we have a long, steep descent to Courmayeur (1,230m – 4030m) (superb ice creams!) from where we take a short bus ride into the spectacular Val Veny (1530m – 5020ft).
Re-enter France across Col de la Seigne and through La Ville des Glaciers to Les Chapieux.
The trail climbs gently along the Val Veny beneath the moraine of the massive glacier du Miage and passes Lac Combal before the gradient becomes steeper as we follow the old Roman road across today's pass, the 'Col de la Seigne' (2,516m/ 8250ft), marking our re-entry into France. A fairly steep descent brings us through La Ville des Glaciers (1,789m/5870ft) and finally to Les Chapieux (1,553m/5090ft), a small hamlet which is only inhabited in the summer months. This is one of the longer walking days.
Climb to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and contour around to Col du Bonhomme.
We have now reached the southwest corner of the circuit and turn north to climb once again. Today is a longer day; first we make a steep climb to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2,478m/8130ft) and then contour around to the Col du Bonhomme (2,328m/7640ft). We then descend (again on a Roman road) to our campsite in Les Contamines (1180m/5900ft).
There are short and long optional walks in the area. Time can be spent visiting the half-day market in Les Contamines, or you can simply relax around town or in camp and recharge your batteries for the days ahead.
Cross Col de Tricot and Col de Voza to re-enter Chamonix Valley and descend to village of Les Houches.
Another long day; we walk through Les Contamines, ascend to Chalets du Truc (1,720m/5614ft) and then descend to the Chalets de Miage (1,560m/4120ft). From here we take the trail that climbs steeply to the Col de Tricot (2,119m/ 6950ft) before descending very close to the snout of the Glacier de Bionnassay. Good views of the north side of the Mont Blanc massif. Eventually we make another short ascent to reach the Col de Voza (1,652m/5418ft) where we re-enter the Chamonix Valley and descend to the village of Les Houches. A short bus ride takes us to our camp in Les Bossons (1,012m/3320ft).
Probably best views of Mont Blanc today on the long ascent to Brevent; descend to Les Bossons.
We cross to the north side of the Chamonix valley and climb through pine forest. The high point of the day is Brevent (2,525m/8290ft) from where there are panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif and the Chamonix valley. We walk down to Plan Praz (1970m/6460ft) and then descend by cable car to Chamonix and then on to our camp at Les Bossons (1,012m/3320ft). Our last day on the TMB circuit is long with a tough climb of over 1500m but affords the best views of Mont Blanc and its neighbours of the whole trek.
Free day at Les Bossons.
Free day at Les Bossons (near Chamonix). There are several good walks in the Chamonix valley. Chamonix itself is also a great place to spend a day. The most popular excursion, weather depending, would be the spectacular ascent by cable car to the Aiguille du Midi or the Montenvers cog railway.
End Les Bossons.
End Les Bossons.