TMB Days 0-3

We joined part of our Tour du Mount Blanc (TMB) trekking group Wednesday, Aug 11 at the Geneva airport for the ~30 minute van ride to Chamonix. Everyone else is jet-lagged but, since we have been in France for the past week, we are feeling pretty good. Met the rest of our group and our two guides for dinner. Tomorrow is a short training hike above Chamonix.

Day 0: Chamonix

We took the cog railway up to the Mer de Glace glacier. Bert and I have done this before (when we did  The Haute Route   back in 2017) but it is a new experience for everyone else. We spent the day hiking up above Chamonix with amazing views.

Mer de Glace Glacier

Some folks did the 1,000 foot hike down to the glacier to see the ice cave but we elected to sit at the terrace cafe and enjoy a drink since we had already done this. Unfortunately we had our first casualty of the hike when John, a doctor from Denver, fell on some stairs and cut his shin badly enough to require stitches.

We ended up on the Grand Balcon trail descending to the rustic Chalet Caillet where we had a lovely dinner with more views. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a leisurely hike back to town turned exciting when a thunderstorm moved in suddenly. We ended up walking down, in the dark (using our cell phone lights), in the pouring rain. A great bonding experience!

Dinner at the Chalet Caillet – before the rain!

Day 1: Chamonix to Les Houches

Our first day of hiking the TMB was relatively easy – we split into two groups – the “fast” hikers and the “slow” hikers. Somehow Bert and I got in with the faster hikers which meant a longer hike. We did not do the traditional TMB route for this stage but did a higher alternate that had great views of the Chamonix valley and Les Houches.

Day One

We ate lunch at the Aquillete de Les Houches.

Lunch on Day 1
The Pensive Guide Surveys the Valley

For those of us on the “A” team, today was a ~10 mile, 3500 foot ascent day. We arrived at our hotel in Les Houches around 4:00 so had time to rinse out clothes and take a quick nap before dinner.

And this was the day that Danny (our guide) convinced me to put me hand in and ant hill, collect some ants and then lick an ant’s butt. To taste the formic acid. Tasted just like vinegar.

Day 2: Les Houches to Les Contamines

Another tough day in the alps – very warm. I had some problems on the last climb of the day, a steep 700 foot ascent. I just could not catch my breath near the top of the climb and had to stop for a bit. Think it might’ve been the altitude. But…. after a rest and a drink felt better for the hike into town (Les Contamines).

Had beautiful views all day and lunch on a glacier stream we could rest our feet in was pretty sweet. Another 3,000 foot day!

Another Stunning View!

Day 3: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

A very tough day, over 4,000 feet of ascent today. Hike started along an old Roman road that rises to the Plan des Dames. From there we climbed up to the Col du Bonhomme (7,641′) and Croix du Bonhomme (8,100′).

We had lunch at the high point today – the Croix du Bonhomme.

Bert and Ed on the Roman Road
At the Col du Bonhomme
Lunch time! At the Croix du Bonhomme
What goes up must come down. Heading down to the valley in the upper right.

After a long hike down to the valley to Les Chapieux, Fabrizio (our van driver) took us to a much needed shower and bed in Bourg Saint Maurice.

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