In two days my husband and I will set out to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, or TMB. This is one of the most famous hikes in Europe. It circles Mont Blanc, one of the mountains in the Alps, passing through France, Switzerland and Italy along the way. The hike is about 110 miles (177 km), which isn’t that long. But you’re hiking up and down the Alps, so it’s said to be pretty grueling. We’ll soon find out just how grueling!
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Ed and I will be hiking with friends Bruce and Amy Eckert. We started hiking together several years ago. We all pitched in to research and plan this hike. You can hike it on your own, either backpacking or using a luggage service to shuttle your bags. You can also sign up for a variety of guided hikes. We decided to hike it on our own – it’s supposedly well marked – but hire a shuttle service for our bags. While we enjoy backpacking, we didn’t want the hassle of flying over our tent and all of that gear, as we all plan to do other sightseeing in Europe before and after the hike.
Since all four of us are active people and have hiked a lot, we haven’t done any specific training for this hike. But Ed and I have spent the last few days exploring Geneva, walking about 10 miles (16.1 km) a day in hilly terrain. Hopefully that will be a little acclimation!
In June, there is sometimes snow on the mountains. We wanted to pack our Yak Trax, but decided not to as our bag size and weight are limited by the airlines and shuttle service. I know these are small and lightweight, yet we had to leave some things behind, and those were one of them. It often storms a little in the afternoons in June on the mountains, so we have rain gear. Nights can be chilly, so we have clothing for both warm and cool weather.
Lodging on the TMB consists of inns and hotels or hostel-style accommodations. We decided to use a mixture of both to get the full experience. For the hostel stays, then, we needed to bring towels and sleeping bag liners, plus sandal-type footwear. This is another reason we ditched the Yak Trax – you have to bring a lot of varied items between the variable weather and staying in both inns and hostels.
Final note/tip: Be aware that Switzerland uses Swiss francs, while Italy and France use euros. You cannot get euros out of the ATMs in Geneva. But you can get them in Chamonix, a French town near the start of the TMB.
My recommended gear:
Sea-to-Summit sleeping bag liner. It pulls double-duty, as you can use it in warm weather when a sleeping bag or quilt is too hot, and in cold weather as a supplement to your sleeping bag/quilt.
BOGI microfiber travel towel. It’s reasonably big, yet folds up pretty small. And it’s absorbent!
Keen Shanti clog-type sandals. These are lightweight, yet quite supportive. While I still like my Vivobarefoot Ultras for rougher backpacking, when you need them to double for river-crossings and camp shoes, these Keens are perfect for this type of hike, when they’re just needed as camp shoes, as they’re sturdier than the Vivobarefoots.