Driving from Geneva to Chamonix, the scale of the challenge we’d signed up for came clearly into focus as the snow-capped mountains of the Alps loomed large in front of us. People arrived at the hotel from all directions, some having taken the opportunity to travel prior to the start of the trek, others fresh off the plane from Sydney, Melbourne and London. We spent the first day in Chamonix adjusting to the time zone, making some last minute preparations and of course meeting our guide for the trip, Ismael. For our first taste of the mountains we took the Aiguille du Midi cable car to 3,842m (for all you altitude junkies) where there were spectacular panoramic views of the mountains and glaciers.
We set off the following morning from Les Houches and spent the first three days trekking around the southern side of Mont Blanc, spending the nights at Les Contamines and Les Chapieux before crossing over into Italy and finishing at Courmayeur. Each night was spent in small village hotels where we were well-fed and had the luxury of showers and beds – no camping on this trip! Prize for the best lunch had to be the 40-egg omelettes served up on the first day!
Although relatively early in the trek we had a much appreciated rest day at Courmayeur. Despite all the training and preparation, there were a few aching limbs, but nothing that a combination of massage and retail therapy couldn’t fix! The next day we took a bus to the end of the Val Ferret and walked back towards Courmayeur. This was one of the most picturesque walks which luckily Tim managed to film before a software glitch got the better of the drone and it was retired early!
Leaving Courmayeur we then continued on to Switzerland. Although the landscape remained largely the same, it was interesting to see the differences in villages we walked through in each country. Perched on the side of a mountain, the Hotel Splendide, our accommodation for the seventh night, was visible from down in the valley before we started our ascent. It fully lived up to its grand title, with lunch served on the terrace overlooking the valleys below. The hotel is situated in the town of Champex-Lac so after lunch, the team did a quick change and the braver amongst us swam in the pristine alpine lake. We spent one more night in Switzerland at Martigney, before crossing back into France where Mont Blanc finally came into full view, and made our way back to Chamonix.
It’s hard to capture in words the breath-taking scenery, the glorious weather, the satisfaction of digging deep and meeting the challenges along the way, and the camaraderie that developed over the course of the trek. Thanks to Ismael who patiently guided us along the mountain paths and to Tim who lead from the back and made sure everyone crossed the finish line safely. The Tour du Mont Blanc surpassed our expectations in so many ways and justified the hours spent in the altitude chamber and the countless visits to the 1000 Steps!
- Lynne Umbers