Everything You Need To Know About Hiking The Tour du Mont Blanc
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Everything You Need To Know About Hiking The Tour du Mont Blanc

Challenging Hikes
Christal Terry
Christal Terry Jul 10, 2023

As an avid hiker, you’ve probably heard of the Tour du Mont Blanc or TMB hiking trail. You might even have plans to conquer this popular hiking destination one day. If so, here’s everything you need to know before you go.

In 1760, a Swiss Geologist and physicist, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, then living in Geneva, discovered the TMB hiking trail. Saussure wanted to explore the Mont du Blanc Mountains to examine and document plant specimens. Also called the Mont Blanc massif, the mountain range is 60 miles by 20 miles long, with 11 summits over 4,000 meters high. Though he discovered it in 1760, Saussure first walked around the entire TMB hiking path in 1767.

Unfortunately, the Swiss scientist failed to climb one of its peaks on that initial journey around the path. The first to achieve this feat were Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat. The two found a path to the apex in 1786 through the Grands Mulets route. Sausurre became the third person to reach the summit shortly thereafter.

Trail Overview 

Though Pacard and Balmat first reached the peak of the Mont Blanc massif via the Grands Mulets route, the Gouter route is today’s standard path. This trail is 105 miles long and passes through 3 countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland. The Gouter Route (also known as the Voie Des Cristalliers and Voie Royale) is one of the two most commonly utilized routes to reach the summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps. Though the Gouter route reaches an elevation of 15,774 ft, it is considered the most straightforward ascent. The route lies on the north side of the mountain, in France, seeing thousands of mountaineers annually. 

The Tour du Mont Blanc difficulty level is somewhat subjective to the hiker. The Gouter route is relatively easy because it takes about two days to reach the ascent and does not require extensive technical skills. Nonetheless, it is physically demanding and mentally challenging if you lack athletic ability. The most difficult aspect of this route includes a narrow passageway of unstable rocks on the mountain’s edge. Seventy-four have died, and 180 were injured in accidents along this dangerous segment between 1990 and 2011. 

Once passing this tricky part, the Gouter route is smooth sailing. It steadily increases in steepness while crossing exposed terrain. Hazardous weather conditions are the most dangerous aspects that remain. Cold and wet conditions can cause hypothermia and frostbite. Therefore, visiting the Tour du Mont Blanc for Summer hiking, Mid-June to mid-September, is safest. During the summer, temperatures will range from 40 degrees at night to 80 degrees during the day. Some days require shorts beneath a warm, sunny sky; others might entail brisk, wet conditions.

Permits And Regulations

No permits are required for the TMB and there are no regulatory restrictions. However, some believe a technical skills test could reduce deaths and injuries along the path. Additionally, residents are disturbed by the amount of trash that hikers inevitably abandon to lighten their loads on the ascent. What’s interesting about the Tour du Mont Blanc is that there are many comforts along the path in the form of hotels and huts. Several companies offer self-guided packages that include accommodations, detailed hiking guides, and set itineraries. 

Trail Highlights And Points Of Interest

The Tour du Mont Blanc hike is considered one of the world’s top ten “bucket list” hiking trails. In addition to the soothing sounds of waterfalls, there are glaciers, streams, high alpine meadows, and the natural beauty of the Mont Blanc landscape. Among the most beautiful and visible flora are the rare Slipper Orchid, the Martagon Lily, Aquilegia Alpha, the famous Edelweiss, and rare Campanula thyrsoides. Though heavily impacted by human presence, the animals that remain in the wilderness of the Mont Blanc massif include Marmots, Ravens, Goats, Mountain Hares, Vultures, and Eagles, among others. 

Safety Considerations

On the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail, the most important considerations will be comfortable shoes and a good quality backpack with appropriate dimensions and weight.  What qualifies as an appropriately sized bag will depend on whether you stick to hiking the trail or detour slightly to local huts and hotels. The former will require a 60L bag, and the latter will require a 30L bag. Remember to break in your footwear a few months in advance and buy shoes larger than usual to accommodate swollen, achy feet. Trekking poles will help lessen aches and pains experienced in the knee and leg muscles. Hiking crampons are a “better safe than sorry” item to add to your Tour du Mont Blanc packing list. They will help maintain balance and avoid slipping across waterways and snow patches, which might even save a life! 

In case of an emergency, administer first aid, note location and grid reference on a map, call for help (cell phone service is generally available along the TMB). If no phone is available, blow a whistle or flash a flashlight six times. If there is an injured person, carefully consider whether to go for help or stay with the injured. If the injured party stays behind, leave them with food, water, and warm clothes. 

Planning and Preparation

Being physically prepared for the TMB hike is a necessary safety precaution. Training should start at least three months in advance and should be in layered clothing, hiking boots, and a fully packed backpack to best simulate trail conditions. Other things that require planning include booking accommodations along the trail and deciding how many days to stay. An itinerary will vary depending on whether two days, two weeks, or even two months are set aside to experience the beauty of TMB. 

Most hikers can ascend the Tour du Mont Blanc self-guided if interested. The trail is easy to follow, with well-maintained paths, directional markings, and clearly understood signs. However, map reading skills are essential, and hikers should also carry a guidebook. 

People Ask: Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Q: What is the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail?

A: The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170-kilometer hiking trail that circles the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps, passing through France, Italy, and Switzerland.

Q: How long does it take to complete the Tour du Mont Blanc?

A: The entire trail takes about 10 to 12 days to complete.

Q: What is the best time of year to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?

A: The best time to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc is from mid June to mid September, when the weather is typically mild and the trails are clear of snow.

Q: Are there any accommodations along the trail?

A: Yes, there are many accommodations available along the Tour du Mont Blanc, including hotels, hostels, and mountain huts.

Q: Is it necessary to hire a guide for the hike?

A: No, it is not necessary to hire a guide for the hike. The trail is well-marked and there are many resources available for hikers.

Q: How difficult is the hike?

A: The hike is considered to be moderately difficult, with some steep ascents and descents.

Q: What should I pack for the hike?

A:You should pack appropriate hiking gear, including sturdy boots, warm clothing, and rain gear. You should also bring a map, a compass, and plenty of water and snacks.

Q: Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?

A: Yes, there are some safety concerns to be aware of, including potential hazards such as steep drops, loose rocks, and unpredictable weather. It is important to stay on the marked trail and to be prepared for changing conditions.

Q: Can I hike the trail in sections?

A: Yes, it is possible to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in sections, with many hikers choosing to focus on one or two sections at a time.

Q: What are some of the highlights of the hike?

A: Some highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc include stunning views of the Alps, charming mountain villages, and the opportunity to experience the unique cultures of France, Italy, and Switzerland.

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a renowned hiking trail accommodating hikers from across the globe. It is mentally and physically challenging, but efforts will be rewarded with breathtaking views along the route. The TMB is accessible with or without a guided tour, as there is food, water, emergency services, accommodations, and other modern amenities along the path. With a reasonable amount of advanced preparation, physical training, thoughtful packing, and a conscientious “Leave no trace” mindset, this unforgettable journey is worth experiencing for yourself. 

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