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Explore the Mont Blanc region with a Cicerone guidebook - Sample Route

Cover of Mont Blanc Walks
Availability
Published
Published
14 Jan 2016
ISBN
9781852848194
Edition
Third
Size
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.6cm
Weight
320g
Pages
288
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Mont Blanc Walks

by Hilary Sharp
Book published by Cicerone Press

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.

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Description

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.

  • Activities
    Walking; trekking; hiking; scrambling; via ferratas; food and drink; mountaineering history
  • Seasons
    Unsurprisingly, 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.
  • Centres
    Chamonix; Courmayeur; Ferret; Les Houches; Plaine Joux; Servoz; Vallorcine
  • Difficulty
    Walks 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 See
    54 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
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Contents

Contents
Introduction
The Region
How it all Started
Glaciers
Via Ferratas
Animals and Birds
Flowers and Trees
Transhumance and Alpages
When to Go
Getting There
Alpine Accommodation
Language
Currency
Maps
Safety
Security and Rescue
Guided Walking
Walking with Dogs
Mountain Biking
Trail Running
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
15 Montenvers
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

Sample Route

WALK 2
Mont Joly
StartPont de l’Ile, La Chapelle 1050m
FinishPont de l’Ile, La Chapelle 1050m
Distance15km (9.3 miles)
Grade/difficulties2/3, for the amount of ascent and also for the terrain which is rough, steep in ascent and descent, and in bad visibility to be avoided. Early in the season névé will probably remain on shady slopes so this walk should not be attempted until well into the summer season
Time8hr
High PointMont Joly 2525m
Altitude Gain1475m
MapIGN Top 25 3531 OT Megève Col des Aravis
Public TransportBus Les Contamines–St Gervais
Car parkTurn off the main road at a sign to La Chapelle. Follow the road around right to Les Hoches. Park at the bridge just beyond – Pont de l’Ile
TipYou will probably look at the ridge running on southwards beyond the Tête de la Combaz and wonder if it’s an option. The answer is yes, but not only is this very long but it also has some precipitous sections around the Aiguille Croche. This can be done in a day but to do it north to south from Les Contamines would be a very demanding expedition. Taking the chairlift from Les Contamines to Le Signal allows the whole ridge to be traversed from south to north, but it cannot be overemphasised that this ridge is airy and exposed and a fall would have bad consequences.

Since the summit of Mont Joly will give you the ‘Rolls Royce’ of views, save this walk for that perfect day.

Seen from Megève, the summit of Mont Joly may appear to be an easily attained objective, but don’t be fooled – whilst the ascent has a gentle pastoral start, the summit ridge bears a certain resemblance to the haute montagne, exposed and buffeted by winds.

The summit can be ascended and descended by the same route from Les Contamines, and this is a fine outing. However, once at the top your eye will be drawn to the long, narrow ridge snaking away south past several smaller tops. What a shame, having made such an effort to gain the altitude, not to continue along this delightful and unusual route – and so we shall. The walk onwards to the next peak, the Tête de la Combaz, provides a wonderful continuation before having to leave this unique position to return to the valley depths.

Views from the Top

Mont Joly is seen from so many places down in the Arve valley that it goes without question that it must be a good viewpoint. It is actually one of the best belvederes from which to view the Mont Blanc region – an orientation table helps you to identify the many peaks which greet your arrival. Straddled between the Arve valley and the Contamines valley, it’s almost true to say that what you can’t see from here isn’t worth seeing! Close up are the Dômes de Miage and the Aiguilles de Tré-la-Tête, de Bionnassay, du Goûter and des Glaciers; beyond Mont Blanc are the Vanoise and Ecrins massifs, their distant misty summits seeming to stretch away forever. Slightly nearer, the Beaufortain can be recognised by the pronounced tooth of the Pierra Menta, whereas the limestone massifs of Belledonne, Les Bauges and the Jura present more gentle profiles. Further east the Swiss Diablerets is recognisable by its flat plateau-like summit.

This walk should be avoided in anything but good stable weather. In fog and rain it would be easy to become disorientated, especially on the eastern slopes of Mont Joly itself; the ridge, whilst not too difficult in dry conditions, quickly becomes slippery and treacherous when wet.

Route

From the car park take the track signed to Pocherey, heading west. This leads up through meadows and soon arrives at the pretty hamlet of Le Carteyron. Don’t be distracted here – it’s very easy to miss the signpost indicating a steep 4-wheel drive track which is signed to Pocherey and takes off from behind the chalets.

Mont Blanc as seen from the Mont Joly ridge (photo: Patricia Loffi)

Keep following the track and eventually you’ll reach the ridge which separates Les Contamines from Megève. The immediate surroundings are rather compromised by ski lifts and associated junk, but lift your eyes and admire that fabulous view of the massif.

Head up the ridge, at first on a good steep path which becomes less worn after a path heads off rightwards. Stay on the small ridge path to a flat area where a wide track heads off right, but don’t take this; instead go on to the top of a chairlift. Beyond it is a wooden hut – the path goes left of this up the ridge. It’s not obvious until you get on it, but despite being very eroded there are some paint flashes and, although steep, it’s still a proper path and it soon reaches the summit of Mont Géroux 2288m on a nice flat and grassy ridge. This is a good place to catch your breath before continuing along the all-too-obvious ridge path to a final ascent to Mont Joly and its rather fine orientation table.

The views are magnificent and you may decide to call it a day once here and return by the same route. However, the ridge may draw you on.

Once you have recovered, the onward route is not so demanding, but still requires care, especially at the start of the descent where the huge cleft of the source of the Nant de la Chovettaz stream forms an interesting obstacle. This is avoided on the right (west) to then take the ridge downwards.

Ahead is the Tête de la Combaz (2445m), and this cairn can be reached to make for a two-summit day, before retracing your steps for 200m to the path that plunges off to the east towards the Contamines valley.

The path winds down past the old buildings at La Combaz, to pick up a steeper trail near to the stream valley of the Ruisseau du Ty. Easier ground then goes down to the jeep track at Colombaz. Turn left and follow this to Le Baptieu and then along the back road staying to the west of the Bon Nant torrent all the way into La Chapelle. This last part of the walk coincides with the TMB trek so you may suddenly find there are other weary hikers around.

Apollos butterflies are common in mid-summer in the Alps

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