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Start at the designated hotel in Chamonix, France. In the evening there is an introductory briefing by your leader.
Follow Grand Balcon Sud, excellent views of Mont Blanc; return to Chamonix.
From Chamonix we walk to Les Praz and take the téléférique to La Flégère (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 a final climb down to the hamlet of Montroc (1,371m - 4500ft) from where we take a short scenic train journey back to Chamonix. In the afternoon there is a very short section of ladders/steep steps with handrails to descend.
Over Col de Balme into Switzerland; night at Col Forclaz.
We travel back to Montroc at the top of the Chamonix valley where we begin our ascent to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2201m – 7200ft), descend a little and then climb 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'Argentière and Aiguille du Tour and its glacier. After lunch we walk through to the small Swiss hamlet of Trient (1,296m – 4250ft). Good views of the Trient Glacier. A sting in the tail today as we finish with a steep climb from Trient to our hotel at the Col de la Forclaz (1527m – 5010ft).
Follow Bovine Route to Champex.
We leave the Col de la Forclaz, where we can look directly down into the Rhône valley and the Swiss town of Martigny and follow an historic path used to take the cows to high pasture, the 'Bovine route' (2049m – 6720ft). Our trail 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.
Along 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 quite a good day for flowers, including orchids. We continue up the valley to the remote village of La Fouly (1600m/5250ft). This is at the foot of Mont Dolent, whose summit is at the meeting point of France, Switzerland and Italy.
Follow river La Drance; climb to the highest point of the tour at Grand Col Ferret and into Italy. Overnight at La Palud.
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 the Grandes Jorasses dominating the scene. We walk down the valley to Arp Nouva (1,770m/5800ft) then travel by bus to our hotel in La Palud near Courmayeur.
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 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. Alternatively you might wish to relax and recover in the Spa bathes at Pre Saint Didier a short bus ride from Courmayeur.
Return by bus to Planpincieux and then climb steeply from the valley to Mont de la Saxe.
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 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 back to our hotel.
Cross the Col de la Seigne back to France, descend through la Ville des Glaciers to Les Chapieux.
Today we are heading for the Val Veny and the start of our walk at La Vissaille (1660m/5450ft). We'll reach this by bus to then start climb gently along good paths beneath the massive glacier de Miage and pass Lac Combal before the gradient becomes steeper as we follow the old Roman road and head for today's pass: the 'Col de la Seigne' (2,516m/8250ft), which marks our re-entry into France. A fairly steep descent brings us through la Ville des Glaciers (1,789m/5870ft) and finally after quite a long walking day to Les Chapieux (1,553m/5090ft), a small remote hamlet inhabited only during the summer months.
Ascend to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, then contour across to the Col du Bonhomme.
We have now reached the southwest corner of the circuit and turn north to climb once again. First we make a steep sustained 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 start the proper descent on a steep path, through meadows and over a Roman bridge and finally to the village of Les Contamines (1180m/5900ft). A short bus ride down the valley takes us to the pretty village of St Gervais, the perfect place for a day off.
A well-earned rest day. There are many options to fill your day including taking the cog railway to Le Nid d'aigle, the Eagles Nest, a popular start point to climb Mont Blanc, or browsing around the local market of Les Contamines. There are plenty of optional walks in the area or one can simply relax around the pleasant town of St Gervais or even treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa.
Over Col de Tricot to the Chamonix Valley; overnight at Les Houches.
Today is a challenging day with plenty of ups and downs. From St Gervais we have a 10 min transfer to re-join our route before ascending to the Chalets de Miage (1,560m/5120ft). From here we take a 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 ascent to reach the Col de Voza (1,652m/5418ft) where we re-enter the Chamonix Valley and make our final descent to the village of Les Houches (993m/3225ft).
Best views of Mont Blanc today; long ascent to the Brevent, descend to Chamonix.
We cross to the north side of the Chamonix Valley and climb steeply through pine forest and then on open mountainsides to reach the high point of the day at Brevent (2,525m/8290ft). This is a long walking day but will probably afford the best views of the French side of Mont Blanc and its neighbouring peaks that we shall have on the whole trek. We descend to Plan Praz (1970m/6460ft) and take the cable car to Chamonix (1,061m) for a well-deserved beer.
Free day in Chamonix.
Free day in and around Chamonix. There are several good walks around Chamonix, and also spectacular (optional) excursions by cable car or mountain railway.