Mont Blanc Walks
50 day walks and 4 multi-day treks
By Hilary Sharp
Guidebook to 50 day walks in the Mont Blanc region near Chamonix and Courmayeur, plus outlines of 4 multi-day treks around both sides of the Mont Blanc massif. The walks range from 3 to 20km and cover a variety of terrains from easy valley walks to more challenging routes over boulders, scree and on via ferratas.
SeasonsUnsurprisingly, summer is the usual season for walking in the mountains, as its when they tend to benefit from more stable weather conditions: it's also when the huts are open and the lifts are working. So to have maximum choice of walks that's the time to come. This season extends from late June to mid-September and is busiest between 14 July (Bastille Day in France) to 15 August (Assumption). Earlier, in June the weather is often hot and sunny and the days are long, but snow often remains above 2000m or lower, and can seriously interrupt a high level walk, and facilities may be closed, as is also the case in September and October: the chance of snow is far less in autumn, too.
CentresChamonix; Courmayeur; Ferret; Les Houches; Plaine Joux; Servoz; Vallorcine
DifficultyWalks are presented as one of three grades: • Grade 1 walks are of a standard that any reasonably fit person can manage, not involving more than about 500m of ascent and/or descent. Paths are good and usually waymarked. Grade 1 walks do not call for more than basic map-reading skills. • Grade 2 walks are usually quite long and involve up to about 1000m ascent and/or descent. Terrain can be rough but paths which are quite good and waymarked. • Grade 3 routes are long, often with no trail or where the path is difficult to find; there could be some scrambling, and there is considerable height gain and loss. These walks should only be undertaken by experienced walkers who have already hiked in the Alps.
Must See54 alpine walks centred around Chamonix, the 'capital of mountaineering' Sublime high-altitude landscapes: glaciers, flower-decked slopes and rocky trails Gastronoic specialities including cheese, chocolate and ice cream Chamonix alpine museum, cable cars and mountain railways for the bad weather days All routes feature a detailed route description and mapping and are illustrated with spectacular photography
The 54 walks in this guidebook explore the popular region around Mont Blanc(4808m), the highest mountain in Western Europe, showcasing the very best routes on both the French and the Italian sides of the massif. Includes 50 great day walks – from 3 to 20 kilometres – and 4 multi-day treks, taking in a variety of terrain including valley footpaths, airy ridges and via ferratas. Walks are organised according to the nearest town base: St Gervais les Bains and Les Contamines, Servoz and Plateau D'Assy, Les Houches, Chamonix, Argentière and Courmayeur. The multi-day treks are Vallorcine to Plaine Joux, the Tour des Aiguilles Rouges, Vallorcine to Servoz and a circuit of the Italian Val Ferret.
Walks are Graded 1 to 3: grade 1 walks are manageable by any reasonably fit person on good, usually waymarked paths, while grade 3 routes are long, tough routes, often without waymarking, making navigation difficult: there could also be some scrambling. Additionally there is often a valley walk that can be done whatever the weather, or on rest days, with children, by bike, or as a run. All routes feature a detailed route description and mapping and are illustrated with spectacular photography.
The major centres of Chamonix and Courmayeur are often busy with holidaymakers and associated industries: cafés, accommodation, and lifts and signposts... but these valleys have walks equal to anywhere for their views, terrain and variety, with their sublime glaciers plunging towards the valleys, high snowy summits glinting in the sun, flower-bedecked slopes and rocky trails. Be it spring, summer or autumn, the sheer beauty and range of the walking here will satisfy any hiker – and there are plenty of facilities for the end of the day.
How it all Started
Animals and Birds
Flowers and Trees
Transhumance and Alpages
When to Go
Security and Rescue
Walking with Dogs
Things not to be Missed
How to Use this Guide
Chapter 1 – St Gervais Les Bains and Les Contamines-Montjoie
1 Mont Truc
2 Mont Joly
3 Lac d’Armancette
4 Col de la Fenêtre
5 Tête Nord des Fours
6 Lacs and Monts Jovet
Chapter 2 – Servoz and the Plateau d’Assy
7 Lac Vert
8 Pointe Noire de Pormenaz
9 The Dérochoir and the Désert de Platé
Chapter 3 – Les Houches
10 Le Prarion
11 Mont Vorassay
12 Aiguillette des Houches
Chapter 4 – Chamonix
13 Chamonix Valley Walk
14 La Chapeau and Tête des Prapators
16 Montagne de Blaitière
17 Chalet de Cerro
18 Montagne de la Côte
19 Refuge de Bel Lachat and Le Brévent
20 Grand Balcon Sud – La Flégère to Planpraz
21 Lac Blanc
22 Tête de Villy
23 Col de Salenton
24 Lac Cornu and Lacs Noirs
Chapter 5 – Argentière
25 Argentière Valley Walk
26 Pierre à Bosson
27 Tête du Grand Chantet
28 Aiguillette d’Argentière – Les Chéserys
29 Argentière Glacier Pointe de Vue
30 Aiguillette des Posettes
31 Refuge Albert Premier
32 Croix de Fer
Chapter 6 – Vallorcine
33 Vallorcine Valley Walk
34 Pointe de la Terrasse and Tré-les-Eaux Valley
35 Cheval Blanc
36 Dinosaur Tracks
37 Bel Oiseau
38 Col de Barberine and Fontanabran
39 Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard
40 Mont Buet by the Normal Route
41 Refuge de Loriaz
42 Emosson from Loriaz
43 Mont Buet by the north ridge
Chapter 7 – Courmayeur
44 Punta della Croce
45 Mont Fortin
46 Mont Chétif
47 Col and Lac Liconi
48 Mont de la Saxe
49 Tête Entre Deux Sauts
50 Tête de Ferret
Chapter 8 – Multi-day Treks
51 Vallorcine to Plaine Joux
52 Tour of the Aiguilles Rouges
53 Vallorcine to Servoz
54 Italian Val Ferret Circuit
Appendix A Mont Blanc Region Tourist Offices
Appendix B Useful Terms and Glossary
Appendix C Transport in the Chamonix and Courmayeur Valleys
Appendix D Rainy Day/Rest Day Activities
Appendix E Hut Etiquette
Appendix F Climbing Peaks and Hiring Guides
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WALK 17 CHALET DE CERRO
The Chalet de Cerro is, like many in this area, a café or crémerie on a site where there has been a shelter and viewing point since tourists started showing an interest in the glaciers. When the Bossons glacier was much deeper it was very popular to hire a guide for a crossing. And even without setting foot on the glaciers, back in the late 19th and early 20th century the views from either side of the glacier weere quite stunning.
Things have changed over the last century and the retreat of the glaciers has been especially marked these last decades. To the extent that the glacier views are very different now.
The hike up to the Chalet de Cerro remains a pleasant outing, but you need to go onwards 30-45 minutes to get any glaical views. And even then, the view is of the edge of the glacier in profile but nothing more. This is no longer the place to study glaciology, but it will bring home the fact that the climate is changing and this change is having a huge effect on our mountains.
The route to the chalet is correctly described. Once at the chalet follow a well-marked trail from tbhe terrace. This goes up the moraine, past several viewpoints. Eventually it is clear you can not safely go any further.
My description of views on P124 is no longer correct. But it should be pointed out it's still a good walk.
WALK 18 MONTAGNE DE LA COTE
The views from the Chalet du Glacier des Bossons and the Chalet des Pyramides are also compromised by the retreat of the glacier. Again, still worth going but just in the last few years the glacier has lost a massive amount of ice and is a shadow of its former self. However, the Montagne de la Côte is a great walk, especially with the added historical interest described in the book.
Book of the Month for May 2016 - Trek and Mountain magazineHaving lived in Vallorcine (near Chamonix) for 23 years, and having led walking groups in the region for most of that time, the author of this book Hilary Sharp must know the mountain paths like the back of her hands. That certainly comes across in this book of 50 day walks and four multi-day treks which focuses on the French and Italian sides of the Mont Blanc massif. The book presents a variety of walks containing everything from easy 3-hour valley walks to challenging 9-hour alpine routes, and covers the areas around Chamonix, Courmayeur, St Gervais les Bains, Les Houches, Servoz, Les Contamines, Plateau D'Assy and Argentiere. Many of these areas (and indeed paths) will be familiar to anyone who has walked the Tour du Mont Blanc, and if that gave you a taste for the endless variations and corners to be found in this part of the world, then 'Mont Blanc Walks'is a great place to start if you want to spend more time exploring some of these areas.Cicerone's recent design style is clear and easy to read, with background information presented at the beginning including accommodation, mapping, plants and wildlife, transport, languages and more. Most of the obvious questions about hiking/ backpacking in the region are answered in this section, though one omission is an explanation of the legalities/practicalities of wild camping, one of the least understood issues for visitors.The routes themselves are clearly described and come with sketch maps that, used in conjunction with local maps, are ideal for planning your hikes. There are plenty of our personal favourites included here: the spectacular walk to La Jonction in Chamonix (where glaciers split), the beautiful walk to Lac Pormanaz in the Fiz mountains, the north ridge of Mont Buet, Tete Nord des Fours... the list goes on. The itineraries for multi-day treks is a great little section too, as not only are there some terrific suggestions here, it also gets one thinking about what other routes one can devise to pack in the views, test the legs, and beat the crowds. With the snows melting fast in the region, why not treat yourself to this excellent book and start planning your summer?Trek and Mountain magazine"This is a super guide for anyone planning some summer days walking near Mont Blanc. Chamonix and Courmayeur can be extremely busy and this suggests other valley options that have top-class walks and top-class views. In all it features 50 day walks and four multi-day treks, all graded for difficulty and with indications of the best periods for setting out - or not. Handily sized for a rucksack or jacket, it is meant to be used with the IGN Top 25 maps but an overview map is also recommended so you know what is in sight at the top. Good little tips can suggest extras on the route or options to avoid such as a "little southward ridge that gives good walking but has very exposed sections'. Detailed route descriptions are matched with superb photos and sketch maps but a bonus is information on transport links and accommodation.In short, this is an incitement to head for the hills, especially as many of the walks require just ordinary fitness levels."Connexion, February 2016The whole area is a great outdoor destination and if you haven’t been before you are missing out on one of Europe’s great travel destinations. The area has an abundance of accommodation options to suit every budget, awesome infrastructure and a truly glamourous feel about it (especially the honeypot of Chamonix).
Hilary describes the area with the expert knowledge she has. The introduction section is very well thought out with plenty of information on flora and fauna, getting there, geology and a little bit of history and a detailed section on the all important safety and security. Mont Blanc Walks is a great little guide and those used to the Cicerone way of presenting guides will not be disappointed. The guide is jam packed with 50 day excursions throughout the whole range, including Courmayer (if you can cope with the eyewatering fee through the Mt Blanc tunnel).
What I like about Cicerone guides is that most guides usually include several multi day treks. Alpine regions are superbly serviced for these with a wealth of comfortable mountain huts that can sometimes be as large as a small hotel, complete with WiFi and TV! The area will be most famous for the Tour de Mont Blanc but not everyone wants a 10 day endurance challenge. Mont Blanc Walks has four short multi day treks to offer, each 3 or 4 days long and staying in mountain huts. The descriptions are purposefully vague so you can plan for yourself the actual route you want to do if you feel there is something special you want to see. The routes are either circular (as the spectacular Tour du Aiguilles Rouges) or finish at points where a bus connection can be caught. So there is no excuse to get out and have a spectacular night in the mountains.Mont Blanc Walks is an ideal companion to a holiday in the region, it is well written by someone who is local and has a wealth of knowledge, Hilary has made a great job of the third update. I am definitely excited about going for a visit and one of the short treks is certainly on the cards. I would have liked to have seen a graded list of the routes as that would save a little time when planning a day out but other than that a nice guide that you should definitely pack if you are visiting the area.Climbing Gear Reviews, April 2016
All levels are catered for, with some quite low-level walks and a decent number of more challenging hikes into the higher altitudes. The author lived in the Chamonix valley for many years and the guide benefits from her insights.
Arguably the most useful aspect of this guidebook is the range of off-the-beaten-track walks. These will allow users to avoid the crowds that flock to the slopes of the Mont Blanc area in peak season. On a similar vein, a selection of four multi-day treks is proposed. Any of these would provide a good introduction to multi-day walking while again avoiding the well-beaten tracks of the Tour de Mont Blanc and the GR5.Irish Mountain Log, Spring 2016
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Hilary Sharp is British, a qualified Accompagnatrice en Montagne (International Mountain Leader), and is based permanently in France. After 23 years living in the Alps she now lives in northern Provence, within easy driving distance of the southern French Alps. She runs her own trekking business, Trekking in the Alps and Provence, guiding walks in winter, spring and summer (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.trekkinginthealps.com; www.trekkinginprovence.com). Her love of walking and climbing has taken her to many parts of Europe and further afield. Hilary occasionally contributes to British walking magazines and is author of Trekking and Climbing in the Western Alps (New Holland, 2002).View Articles and Books by Hilary Sharp