The Tour Mont Blanc was one of the most difficult things I have ever done physically. We were completely unprepared for the 105 mile hike and ended up only hiking 70 miles (and some of that was backtracking). Nonetheless, it was a spectacular hike and I hope to do it again with some changes.
- Do not hike in mid to late September unless you are prepared to walk a long, long way each day in cold, rainy weather because many hotels and refugios close in mid-September.
- It’s in the Alps! There is a lot of uphill. When you are not going uphill, you are going downhill which is harder than you think after walking eight hours with 20 pounds on your back. Practice this at home before you go by hiking at least five miles up a steep mountain with a full pack and then back down every day for 20 days.
- If the TMB sign says it is a two hour walk and you are old, unprepared (aka you do not live in the Alps), and you have no idea how to handle a cow with big horns standing in the middle of the trail, it is going to be at least a four hour walk.
- Do not depend on finding taxis, buses, trains, or gondolas to get you those last few miles. They do not exist high up on the mountain (at least not in September). An Uber driver could make a fortune here.
- A less physical lesson learned:
During the hike, we came across this lone runner in the photo (he was part of a 200 mile, seven day race over 23 summits). He was only five hours from the finish, but he stood in this spot for at least an hour (I know this because we passed him twice because we were lost). The other runners we had seen were frantically making their way along the trail, hardly looking up as we made room for them to pass. This runner seemed to be taking it all in, reflecting on what he had accomplished, and feeling grateful for the magnitude of beauty around him. I think he was realizing at this particular moment that although he was not going to win the race, that he already had won.
We are all on our own journey filled with peaks and valleys (and an occasional flat road). Enjoy your adventure.
Photos and more advice in our TMB photo album below.
This is what the runner was looking at: