Oh my goodness, today’s hike from Courmayeur to La Fouly was … insane! To back up a bit, when we’d planned our hike, we’d hoped to hike about 10-15 miles (16.1-24.1 km) a day. We knew the terrain was super hilly, so we’d need more time than normal. Plus, we wanted to enjoy the experience. But this is a popular hike, and the lodging that we needed wasn’t always available. So that meant today’s hike would be about 20 miles (32,2 km), which is pretty long for the Tour du Mont Blanc.
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We got up early, since our hotel was nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) from the TMB route. We’d hoped to catch a bus down to the start, but the buses didn’t hit the bus stops leading to the TMB until 8:15 a.m., and we were setting out at 7:15 a.m. We didn’t want to add any more miles to our day, but we had to.
The one perk: We stopped for cappuccino at the city center near the start of our hike. The place we found had amazing pistachio croissants – something we’d never had before. I will long for these forever!
Leaving Courmayeur Behind
Today’s trek began with a grueling 3.5-mile (5.6 km) hike uphill. The first mile or so was in town, but then it segued into the woods. It was just so tough, it’s hard to describe. Near the end the terrain was rocky and exposed. As always on this hike, the saving grace was that the views were incredible. The peak was near a refugio, where we stopped and bought some Coke Zero and Pringles chips. We also topped off our water stores at their outdoor fountain, which was created from an old log – very common here.
From the refugio, the trail wound through a cattle grazing area. I was nervous, as I’ve hiked through cattle pastures before, and sometimes the cattle don’t like it. But the cattle here were fine. One tried to bite Ed’s backpack straps. Ha!
The next few hours were heaven. The path was gently undulating, and the scenery was amazing. Although we were leaving Mont Blanc proper behind, the Mont Blanc range is still so impressive. Not only are the mountains beautiful, but there are wildflowers galore and all you can hear are the gazillions of waterfalls cascading down the mountains, thanks to the snowmelt.
After enjoying the gently rolling path, the trail wound downhill to a park near Val Ferret. We were in good spirits until it became clear we’d be climbing again. But we thought it would be short lived. Sadly, we were very wrong.
It was about 3:30 p.m., and the trail began pitching steeply uphill. And it just never relented. We saw many mountaintops in the distance, and had no idea if we’d have to climb over any of them. Psychologically, it was hard. Eventually we reached the peak, the Col du Grand-Ferret, which marks the border between Italy and Switzerland.
Once we crossed the border, we had many miles of downhill, which was wonderful. We made back a lot of time. Still, by the time we got down most of the mountain, we were beat – and we still had 4 to 5 miles (6.4-8.1 km) to go to our lodging.
Day Is Done
The last few miles were fine, in that they were largely flat. The trail wound along some gravel roads traveled by cars, across some bridges and through some woods. At one point, we hiked through another cattle pasture.
We got to our lodging, Hotel Edelweiss, a little after 8 p.m. I’d emailed the staff yesterday to say we’d be arriving around this time. Most of the guests – who are hikers – had arrived much earlier. But they gave us our half-board dinner and now we’re crashing.
Thank goodness we will never hike this many miles in one day again!
Tour du Mont Blanc Miles Today: 19.8 (31.9 km)
TMB Miles Overall: 63.5 (102.2 km)
TMB Miles to Go: 46.5 (74.8 km)
Today’s priceless gear: My fingerless hiking gloves, which protect my hands from the sun while also providing warmth in the cool mornings and evenings. Be aware of how much the sun can wreck the skin on your hands!