Trail Running - Chamonix and the Mont Blanc region

40 routes in the Chamonix Valley, Italy and Switzerland

By Kingsley Jones

Guidebook to exploring the classic trail running regions around the Mont Blanc massif, visiting France, Switzerland and Italy. 40 runs are graded by terrain, from wide trails to technical skyrunning, with information on ascent/descent and distance. Includes the 168km ultra-trail of Mont Blanc as well as shorter day runs.



The key season for the majority of routes in this book is the Alpine summer season between early June and late September.


Chamonix, Courmayeur, Champex, Martigny, Orsieres, St Gervais, Servoz, Les Houches, Le Buet, Vallorcine, Trient, Bourg St Pierre


Each route has been carefully graded to indicate the style of running terrain, from wide trails, to single track, or technical skyrunning. This ensures you select a route that suits your experience and aspirations. In addition to the technical grade, distance, height gain / loss and timings are provided.
Must See

Must See

Explore some of the classic trail running regions around the Mont Blanc massif, visiting France, Switzerland and Italy. Run the full ultra-trail circuit of Mont Blanc, or shorter day runs including above the Mer de Glace, the summit of Mont Buet, and above the Col du Grand Saint Bernard.
13 Apr 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.4cm
  • Overview

    A guidebook describing 40 trail running routes in the Chamonix Valley and around the Mont Blanc massif, visiting France, Switzerland and Italy. The routes, which range from 3.8km (2½ miles) to 168km (104½ miles), are graded from 1 to 5 and categorised as trail running, fell running or skyrunning. Starting from Chamonix, Les Houches, Servoz, Champex, Courmayeur, Orsières and Vallorcine among others, and covering classic ultra trail routes as well as shorter day runs, there is something for every runner.

    Step-by-step route descriptions are accompanied by 1:100,000 mapping and route profiles, with notes on safety and useful tips for runners. Also included is a comprehensive equipment checklist plus information on running at altitude, adapting to the Alps, navigation, maps and mountain safety. GPX files for all routes are available for download after you have purchased a book by logging in to your Cicerone account.

    Renowned as a mecca for trail runners, the Chamonix Valley and Mont Blanc region is home to some of the greatest trail running races in the world, including the Tor des Géants and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. The landscape, with its dramatic mountain scenery and ethereal vistas, offers diverse trail options and true adventure – the perfect playground for this exhilarating sport.

  • Contents

    The Chamonix Mont Blanc region
    Bases for a trail running holiday
    Travelling to the Alps
    Travelling around the Chamonix valley and region
    Weather and forecasts
    Safety and mountain rescue
    Mountain running in the Alps
    What’s different about running in the Alps?
    Trail kit
    Adapting to the Alps
    Mountain skills
    Using this guide
    Chamonix start
    Route 1 Mer de Glace
    Route 2 River track to Argentière
    Route 3 Merlet
    Route 4 La Flégère
    Route 5 Refuge Moëde Anterne
    Route 6 La Jonction
    Route 7 Chamonix Vertical KM
    Route 8 Marathon du Mont Blanc
    Route 9 80km du Mont Blanc
    Vallorcine valley start
    Route 10 Lac d’Emosson
    Route 11 Col de la Terrasse
    Route 12 Albert Premier
    Route 13 Aiguilles Rouges
    Route 14 Mont Buet
    Les Houches/Servoz start
    Route 15 Le Brévent
    Route 16 Le Prarion
    Route 17 Col de Tricot
    Route 18 Lac Vert
    Route 19 Charousse
    Outside Chamonix valley
    Route 20 Nid d’Aigle
    Route 21 Refuge de Doran
    Route 22 Mont Truc
    Route 23 Mont Joly
    Route 24 Refuge de Tré-le-Tête
    Route 25 Tête Nord des Fours
    Route 26 Mont de l’Arpille
    Route 27 Croix de Fer
    Route 28 Fenêtre d’Arpette
    Route 29 Cabane d’Orny
    Route 30 Mont Fourchon
    Route 31 Cols Fenêtre and Chevaux
    Route 32 Mont de la Saxe
    Route 33 Tête Entre Deux Sauts
    Route 34 Italian Val Ferret
    Route 35 Col d’Arp
    Route 36 Punta della Croce
    International race recces
    Route 37 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB)
    Route 38 Orsières, Champex, Chamonix (OCC)
    Route 39 Courmayeur, Champex, Chamonix (CCC)
    Route 40 Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS)

    Appendix A Useful contacts

  • Updates
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    July 2018

    Page 60 -Route 6

    I ran this route last week, since when a temporary path closure has been put in place whilst some forestry work is undertaken. However, it's highlighted the fact that the spring avalanches and melt this year have caused significant erosion to the lower Taconnaz trail, and the quality of the ascent path is getting increasingly worse. It is therefore advisable for runners to follow the descent route both to ascend to La Jonction, and come down, as the paths are in better condition.

    September 2016

    Route 6: La Jonction - Due to path erosion, and some unstable moraines overlying rock, there are several sections of paths on the ascent to Col Corbeau, which are especially delicate after heavy rains. On wet days, runners are advised to use the descent route described both for the ascent and descent of the route, as these trails are in the best maintained condition.

    Route 8: Chamonix Marathon - The final two kilometres of this route have been slightly changed, to move the finish slightly up the hillside to the top of the Teleski du Stade. This improvement is much welcomed by runners, as you finish on single track trails, rather than a stony 4x4 track. The route from La Flegere is as before until you reach the 4x4 track beneath the cables of the Telesiege du Col Cornu. Here you run diagonally L across the big track, and turn R onto the Tour du Pays du Mont Blanc path. This climbs in a rising traverse, around the bowl of the Montagne de Parsa, to reach the finish line just above the Teleski du Stade.

    Route 37: UTMB - The 2015 and 2016 editions of the UTMB race have added an additional climb to the route that is not mentioned in the guidebook. After the initial c.200m descent from the Col de la Seigne, instead of descending directly to Lac Combal, the route now turns N to cross the higher of the two Col des Pyramides Calcaires at c.2650m. It then descends E to Refugio Elisabetta Soldini before rejoining the standard route to Lac Combal. This section begins with a vague path on grass that shortly turns into extremely rough scree and snowfields (depending on the season). The descent is very technical steep scree, on a path that becomes clearer and broader as the descent continues.

  • Reviews
    An excellent guide with the kind of detailed knowledge that only comes from someone who is very familiar with their subject.

    I received a review copy of this book at the beginning of January and it struck me as an excellent guide with the kind of detailed knowledge that only comes from someone who is very familiar with their subject. A week later I was given a place in the OCC race as part of this year's UTMB (routes 38 and 37 in the guide respectively).

    It has now become an invaluable resource to plan much of the training, transport and accommodation required for the big event. Once you use Kingsley Jones' book for its true purpose, what was a knowledgeable guide becomes more like the friend who really understands the area you intend to visit. It's a field guide rather than a comprehensive how-to of running around Mont Blanc and for taking with you rather than reading by the pool. So there isn't much by way of travelogue: that's what blogs and magazines are for.

    This book should find a place in the packing of anyone running in the area, it's a shame there aren't more guides like this for other parts of Europe and the UK but with the huge growth in trail running it can only be a matter of lime before more follow, I just hope they are written by people with the same familiarity of, and passion for, their regions as this. 

    Oliver Blaydon, the Austrian Alpine Club

    "Everything you need to know about the running routes of Chamonix Valley is inside Kingsley Jones
    Book! From Step-by-step route descriptions accompanied by 1:100,000 mapping and route
    profiles, with notes on safety and useful tips for runners to comprehensive equipment checklist
    plus information on running at altitude, adapting to the Alps, navigation, maps and mountain

    "This book is great for any British trail runner who is looking to try somewhere different, whether for
    shorter jaunts of a couple of hours or multi-day epics. With its wealth of detailed background information,
    this guide would be very helpful for beginner trail runners or those who are less confident with

    However, the guide book would also be particularly useful for those training for or recce-ing one of the big
    Chamonix trail races. The book breaks down the Chamonix Marathon and UTMB events into manageable
    day-stages with useful logistical and safety information along the way.

    Any trail runner is likely to find something interesting and useful in this guidebook. The extensive
    logistical information will give many the extra confidence they need to book their first Alpine trail running
    trip. But even runners already familiar with the region will find new ideas for excellent days out on less
    obvious trails."

    UK Climbing

    it's written by a highly experienced mountaineer and ultra-runner with a serious CV. The book, as you'd expect from Cicerone, is cleanly designed and organised with an extensive introduction followed by individual route chapters. Each of these gets a detailed map and overview followed by step-by-step instructions and images. There's also a grading system plus specific safety advice where relevant and an elevation chart so you can see just what you're taking on. First impressions are that it's a book you could use at all sorts of levels: as a casual visitor looking for a short evening run, as a hardcore trail runner looking to short-cut the planning process with some inspirational routes or even, if you're that way inclined, as part of your recce and preparation for something like the UTMB.
    Inspirational stuff.
    Outdoors Magic, May 2016

    We're very lucky to have some great running guidebooks out there already, but we think you'll agree this is pretty exciting.
    Chamonix is fast becoming the capital of the trail running world... Reassuringly, runners of all abilities are catered for; the route distances range from 3.8k to 168k, are graded according to difficulty and are categorised as trail, fell or sky running - a nice touch that will impress trail aficionados."
    Trail Running magazine, May 2016

    While known for its climbing. Chamonix's vast network of mountain trails suitable for running remained relatively undiscovered until recently. Events such as the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) and the Skyrunning World Championships have brought trail running around the Mont Blanc Massif into the limelight and exposed Chamanix as a trail running Mecca. And this guidebook is definitely a good place to start.
    Kingsley Jones has done well to keep the book small enough to fit into a pocket. It will have been tough to choose just 40 routes. He has chosen a good variety of runs, varying from 3.8km to 168km (you don't have to run it all at once) which all have a grading system from 1-5 for difficulty, either for trail running or the more technical 'skyrunning'. It also has a handy route summary table at the beginning, making route choice easier at a glance. The route descriptions are comprehensive, giving top tips, and the maps are good quality and easy to follow. There is also good information regarding public transport in order to get to the start and finish of all the routes. Each route also comes with its own specific safety notes: for example, whether it is suitable to run early or late season and whether there are snow traps, above (the snow to worry about isn't always under your feet), rockfall, river crossings, flood areas etc - all good local knowledge and things to be aware of.
    This guidebook is a perfect companion for a seasoned Chamoniard or a first time visitor, whatever their running level. It mixes the bestknown routes with some lesser known gems
    and provides a good level of detail for each choice.
    Scottish Mountaineer magazine

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Kingsley Jones

Kingsley Jones

Kingsley's love of the mountains started as a 5 year old. It wasn't a big surprise that he studied geography and glaciology at university. He's climbed the north faces of the Eiger, Matterhorn and Grandes Jorasses in the Alps, and led expeditions to mountains all over the world. Through mountaineering he developed a passion for a minimalist approach in the mountains, and soon discovered trail running as an ultimate form of fast and light travel. He runs a mountain running and guiding company (, and so divides his time between the Alps and the Lake District each year.

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