There is only one good reason for walking the Tour de Mont Blanc – the experience of the walk itself. We did what we thought we could manage – anti-clockwise from Courmayeur in Italy, through Switzerland, to Chamonix in France over six days (with the help of the wonderful ‘Enlightened Traveller‘ who organised all the hotels and provided excellent walking notes). There may be some who do the whole tour – and especially those who do the ‘haute route’ – for whom it is another challenge to tick off, but we are no longer at the stage of life when we boast about challenges and adventures. We simply want to enjoy each day and the experiences it brings.
Photos give some idea of the magnificent views we enjoyed,
but neither pictures nor words can convey the sound of the trees rustling or the music of the cowbells, the scent of pines and alpine flowers, the feel of a cooling breeze on hot skin, or the exhilaration when you reach the col and look back at where you’ve come from.
There is the anticipation, and trepidation, as you look forward to where you are going –
(Our third day of walking was easy, through interesting alpine villages along this valley, but we could make out the hotel we were to stay at half way up the mountain ahead and knew we had a climb to accomplish.)
– and there is the satisfaction of looking back to where you have come from, at what you have accomplished.
As we climbed up towards the Col de Balme we looked back to the Col de la Forclaz, where a winding road (beloved by motorcyclists!) crosses the mountain ridge. We descended sharply into the pretty village of Trient, only to climb steeply again.
But the climb was worth it! At the Col de Balme we crossed over to see into the next valley, of the river l’Arveyron. Mont Blanc, hidden from us for a few days, came into view again.
The high point of the walk – literally – came on the second day when we crossed from Italy into Switzerland at the Grand Col Ferret – a height of 2537 metres
And this is the view I was enjoying:
But the greatest sense of satisfaction came when, on the last day of walking, we completed the ‘delicate passage’:
The ‘delicate passage’ is the euphemistic title given to the series of ladders to tackle a cliff on the climb up from the valley of Argentiere.
This is what the climb looked like before
-you can just make out a climber on top of the rock stack, and the path we’d followed at its base.
While we were climbing we tried not to look down into the valley below, where Argentiere, where we’d spent the previous night, lay.
But it wasn’t all about tremendous views. Tiny flowers created delicate rock gardens, like this one I photographed on the way down from the Col de Balme into the valley of Argentiere:
– and there were meadows of flowers
We saw gentians on mountainsides
and orchids in valleys.
When we stayed in Champex, at the suitably-named ‘Hotel Splendide’ we took a walk after dinner into the pleasant little town that lies alongside a peaceful lake. We sat at the eastern end of the lake and watched the sun light the sky in glorious colours while the land deepened into darkness. The mountain peaks behind which the sun was setting were reflected perfectly in the still mirror of the lake. It was a view that one could only sit and gaze at – to photograph it would have shattered the magic. But when we returned to the hotel we saw from our balcony the moon appear at the other side of the sky:
This wasn’t the only hotel balcony with a wonderful view – this, while the sun was still shining brightly! – from our room at the Hotel Edelweiss in la Fouly
and we had great views from the refuges that we passed, such as Bovine
where we had a pre-lunch drink on our way between Champex and Col du Forclaz
But this is the ‘ultimate’ picture – it’s the last one I took before we descended (via the ski lift) into Chamonix – and the ultimate image of Mont Blanc: