I can do hard things. I just completed my first multi-day hiking expedition through the beautiful mountain ranges of Mont Blanc in Europe and for those of you asking if I did this for fun…why yes, yes I did! These mountain ranges span over Switzerland, Italy, and France, and the views and experience were just incredibly epic and memorable. My friends who currently live in Germany extended the invite to Daniel and me and we spontaneously said yes to flying from California over to Switzerland to do a 10-day hike not knowing what they really meant when they posed the question, “Do you want to join us for a hike called the TMB?” We had never heard of this hike, but after reading a little bit about it, we were enthusiastic about it! We have a couple of backpacking trips under our belts, but more so we were itching to get out and out to nature. Once we got to Switzerland and started the hike, we quickly learned there’s a difference between “hiking” and “HIKING”. This 10-day hiking journey felt like a slow-burning walk to hell, however, when we reached the peaks using our own legs and mind, it brought us to heavenly views of Mont Blanc. Even with little preparation, physically and mentally, I was able to complete the hike from start to finish. The hike was a slightly different experience for everyone in our group, but I think it’s safe to say that this experience brought the group closer together, we experienced an array of emotions, learned lessons along the way, and made memories to last a lifetime.
I wouldn’t say I’m the fittest person for this hike physically and mentally. The hike was enjoyable and sometimes hard, and in some moments, it challenged my mind strength more than my physical strength. I learned that the only way out is through, there was no way to avoid the pain and to just keep going because I knew I was able to complete it. Throughout the hike, there were so many versions of myself that could have just easily called it quits, call it a day, and go to the spa, but instead, I let whatever uncomfortable emotion pass through my body and took everything in and rise above.
I would highly recommend this hike to anyone who has even an ounce of interest. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share some info, tips, and costs about the trip below!
What is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is a very famous multi-day hiking trek in Europe. The TMB trail circles around the tallest peak called Mont Blanc and surrounding it are other mountain peaks that span across Switzerland, France, and Italy. Along the trail, there are beautiful little towns and villages where you can stay for the night. Every year, these mountains call to thousands of hiking enthusiasts from all over the world to complete the 105-mile trek with an accumulation of around 32,000 feet elevation gain over a span of ~10 days.
There are many ways to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc and the hike can be suited for many levels of experience and age — you can choose your routes, make it shorter, faster, luxurious, or rugged. In this review, I’ll be focusing on my first-time experience, self-guided, hiking with a group of friends and family. Here are the topics I’ll cover:
Cost of Hike
Like I mentioned earlier, there are many ways you can do the hike. You can do it solo or with a group, shorter or longer, wild camping or stay in refugios, self-guided or with a tour guide. You make it your own experience and at your comfort level. In my case, I traveled with a group and it cut down costs in some areas such as lodging and food. We felt like we were glamping as we mostly stayed in refugios and on days we stayed in bigger towns, we chose to stay in hotels and one day we even treated ourselves to a night at the spa.
Using actual costs from the trip in August 2021, once you arrive in Geneva Airport, you can hike the Tour du Mont Blanc in 10 days at the following costs:
Self-guided tour in a 4-person group:
- Total Accommodation Cost (9 nights): $636.28 USD
- Total Food Cost (10 days, outside of accommodation food costs): $200-$250
- Transportation to/from Geneva Airport: $30
Total Spent: $866.28 - $916.28
*to make the conversion easier, I converted Swiss Franks and the Euro to USD.
The total amount spent listed above is calculated based on costs per person for refugio/hotel accommodations, food and drink outside of the refugio costs, and transportation to and from Geneva Airport. I have omitted 4 costs which each individual hiker will need to estimate based on their location and personal needs. These are;
Flights to Geneva/Europe: Depends on where your coming from and what class you fly
Hiking gear: The cost of hiking gear depends on what gear you might already have and what you need to purchase for the trip. For me I already had my backpack, but needed to purchase a hydration bladder, plug adapters, trekking poles, snacks, sleeping bag liner, wool socks, backpack raincover, and new trail shoes.
Travel Insurance: Based on location, age and coverage/excess preferences.
Treat 'yo self days: aka Spa days. We treated ourselves to a Spa night in the town called Courymayear and it was worth every penny. It costed around $60 USD.
Itinerary (Clockwise Route)
Total Miles: ~110 miles
Total Hiking Days: 9 nights/10 days Total Hiking Hours: ~70 hours Total elevation gain: 33,087 ft Total descendant: 33,853 ft Total mental breakdowns: 1.5
Weight of backpack: around 20 lbs Total beautiful views: INFINITY
Start (Clockwise route)
Day 1: Champex-Lac to Gite De La Lechere (Refugio)
5 hours | 5.51 miles | 1225 ft elevation gain | 2275 ft descend
Day 2: Gite De La Lechere (Refugio) to Refugio Bonatti
6 Hours | 14 miles | 4000 ft elevation gain | 2675 ft descend
Day 3: Refugio Bonatti to Courmayeur/Dolonne
3.5 hours | 8 miles | 1625 ft elevation gain | 4250 ft descend
Day 4: Dolonne to Cabane du Combal (Refugio)
6 hours | 12km/7.5 miles | 1200m/3940 ft elevation gain | 400m/1312ft descend
Day 5: Cabane du Combal to Motetts
5 hours | 9.5km/5.9 miles | 500m/1640ft elevation gain | 600m/1968ft descend
Day 6: Motetts to Refuge de Nant Barrant
8 hours | 20km/12.45 miles | 800m/2624ft elevation gain | 1400m/4593ft descend
Day 7: Refuge de Nant Barrant to Les Houches (Refuge: Chalet Les Méandres (ex Tupilak)
9.5 hours | 25.5km/16 miles | 1000m/3280ft elevation gain | 1100m/3608ft descend
Day 8: Chalet Les Méandres (ex Tupilak) to Gîte d'Alpage Les Ecuries de Charamillon
14 hours | 38km/23.5 miles | 2632m/8635ft elevation gain | 1250m/4101ft descend
Day 9: Gîte d'Alpage Les Ecuries de Charamillon to Trient (Refuge: Auberge Mont-Blanc)
3.5 hours | 12.5km/7.75 miles | 500m/1640ft elevation gain | 1500m/4921ft descend
Day 10: Trient to Champex-Lac
9 hours | 16km/10 miles | 1365m/4478ft elevation gain | 1265m/4150ft descend
Day 10-12: Decompress in Chamonix in AirBnB
Top Refugios Along the Tour du Mont Blanc
Each refugio we stayed in had it's own character and pros and cons. Below are some of my favorites.
Cabane du Combal