Tour du Mont Blanc Tips – good advice before you begin

by Mags Nixon
tour du mont blanc tips

The Tour du Mont Blanc is an epic hiking adventure through three countries. It’s lofty elevation is daunting and when you find out the combined elevation of this world classic hiking route is higher than Everest, you’ll want to read our top Tour du Mont Blanc tips before embarking.

Our Tour du Mont Blanc tips below will help you prepare physically and mentally for this challenge of a lifetime! If you have any questions, ask away in the comments section, and check out our other Tour du Mont Blanc posts for detailed information on the ladders, the refuges, the TMB itinerary and much more.

trek around Mont Blanc

 

Our Top Tour du Mont Blanc Tips 

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 1:  Do some training!

I expect few people depart on the Tour du Mont Blanc without doing any training whatsoever however do make sure you’re putting in some long day hikes regularly a couple of months before.

As the weeks get nearer, one of our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tips is to start training with the backpack that you’ll be taking with you. Don’t buy a new backpack last minute. It’s good to get to know your backpack beforehand and try filling it on your training hikes with the kit you’re actually planning to take, to get an accurate estimate of the weight you’ll be carting along with you. You’ll soon want to cull a few unnecessary items.

Try to do a couple of two day overnighter hikes before you leave, or at least do some long hikes day after day to get your body ready for the duration of multi-day hiking.

 

training tour du mont blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 2:    Book your TMB refuges early!

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a very popular route. The limited accommodation along the trail, particularly the more desirable refuges get booked up quickly from January to February.

Realise this – it will take quite a lot of time to research and plan your Tour du Mont Blanc route if you are trekking the trail self guided. Each refuge or hotel needs to be booked separately and it can take some days to hear back from each refuge as to whether you have been allocated a place or if they are ‘complete’!

You need to do your homework on the route, studying the terrain and work out how many kilometres you want to hike each day before booking each stage of your TMB accommodation.

Read more: TMB refuges – the good, the bad and the ugly

tmb refuges

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 3:   Don’t book too early in the season

The trail generally opens from the last two weeks of June until the end of September or early October.  Beware booking too early, for example in the last two weeks of June.

Often later June many parts of the trail are still covered with snow, depending on how much snow fell during the winter. Chamonix guides do prepare the route at the beginning of the season with ropes in various sections but if booking in June be prepared to take crampons and an ice axe and know how to use them.

Book from July if these items aren’t generally your thing.

snow tour du mont blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 4:  Make sure you take enough cash!

Another of our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tips is that most of the Tour du Mont Blanc refuges don’t accept credit cards, so make sure you take enough cash en route with you.

When you book online some refuges take a deposit and then you’ll pay the rest on arrival in cash. Other refuges don’t take a deposit at all and will expect you to pay cash on arrival.

As you will be hiking through three different countries, you’ll have to take both euros for France and Italy and Swiss francs for Switzerland.

ATMS are readily available in Chamonix, Les Houches, Les Contamines, Courmayeur,  Champex-Lac and Argentière.

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 5:  Set off early each morning on the trail!

This should be obvious, but setting out early on the trail will give you a good head start every morning.

The trail is long and arduous in places. Paired with the elevation gain, a supposedly ‘easy’ day can turn quickly into a more challenging one, depending on weather conditions or simply not giving yourself enough time.

Allow at least an extra two hours each day to complete each stage compared to Kev Reynold’ timeframes in the Cicerone Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc guidebook.

swiss tour du mont blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 6:  Bring medical supplies from home

If you’ve ever been to a pharmacy in France you’ll know how eye wateringly expensive every single item is. Make sure your medical pack is fully stocked with the basics before you arrive to avoid any last minute pharmacy rushes. This includes blister plasters such as compeed, vitamins or rehydration salts – bring them with you! 

Read more: Our Tour du Mont Blanc packing list

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 7:  Take lots of lightweight snacks

Sstock up on snacks in your home country. Lightweight snacks such as biltong or protein bars will be much less expensive outside of France. Chamonix is very expensive, even in the supermarkets.

how to hike the tour du mont blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 8:  Pack clever using packing cubes

I swear by packing cubes and trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different. One, I’m convinced you can get more in a bag using packing cubes (although remember less is more for trekking the TMB!) but two, having your refuge gear separate from your day trekking gear is a lifesaver when you arrive weary and broken at the refuges each afternoon.

Not having to think about where to find my shower gear, change of clothes, ear plugs and head torch was heaven every day.

tmb luggage transfers

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 9:  Use luggage transfers to keep your pack light

Even if you’re planning to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided (which is easy to do Read our Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided) it’s easy to arrange luggage transfers so your kit is transported from hut to hut along the trail each day.

There are few exceptions (Les Mottets to Elisabetta and Courmayeur to Bonatti) where accessibility is an issue so you might have to do without your main bag for two days on some of the stretches.

Did yo know you can even book mules to trek alongside you if you are a group hiking self guided!

Read more: Our ultimate guide to trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc includes all luggage transfer options

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 10:   Only carry 10kg in your day pack

The official advice for trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc is not to carry more than 10kg in your day pack. Having hiked the trail I completely concur.

My biggest advice or tip for the Tour du Mont Blanc is ONLY TAKE absolute essentials.

By this I mean take a look at the contents and TAKE OUT everything that is not absolutely necessary to take with you.

Limit your clothes to trekking clothes (2 changes – you can wash one pair out on the trail) and to refuge clothes. Instead of PJ’s I took thermals to sleep in which reduced weight & doubled up as well thermals, should the cloud and cold weather arrive on the trail.

Read more: Our Tour du Mont Blanc packing list

 

tour du mont blanc signpost

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 11:   Take earplugs

Yep. Sleeping in refuges is not a very sleep inducing experience. Even though you’re convinced you’ll be passed out in two seconds given the extreme weariness your body is coping with – believe me, snorers in a dorm don’t get louder than hikers who have been marching the Tour du Mont Blanc all day.

Take ear plugs and take a spare pair!

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 12:   Keep a hard copy of paperwork in a ziplock

Another top Tour du Mont Blanc tip is to take a wad of ziplocks with you to keep essentials dry. The most important of which are your printed confirmation of refuge bookings, travel insurance details and your passport.

Yes you are hiking through three different countries and whilst there is no border inspections on the high mountain cols, you will need to keep your passport on you at all times.

trekking poles

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 13:   Flying hand luggage only? Rent poles.

If you’re looking to avoid checked baggage fees and are travelling light, know that trekking poles cannot be carried as hand luggage. However, it’s easy to rent trekking poles in Chamonix. Go to Sport Technique near to the Aiguille du Midi for the most competitive rates in town (€3 a day per pair).

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 14:  Start your day with the col climbs

If you book your Tour du Mont Blanc huts cleverly you can organise your stages to tackle the mountain cols first thing. This way you’ll be full of energy to battle the elevation thrown at you.  Not all of the cols have a refuge at it’s base but some good options are:

Refuge du Balme is at the base of Col du Bonhomme (although Nant Borrant an hour before would be a better experience),  Refuge des Mottets is slap bang at the bottom of Col de la Seigne, whilst Cabane Combale is at the base of, not a col but a strenuous up on the stage into Courmayeur.

Read our post: TMB Refuges – the good, the bad and the ugly

climbing tmb cols

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 15:  On a budget? Speed through Switzerland

Switzerland will make a hole in your wallet. If you’re planning to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc on a budget then aim to hike faster or smarter through Switzerland.  Most refuges in Switzerland charge around €80 a night half board. Many hikers miss the stage from La Fouly to Champex-Lac, by catching the bus and saving a night’s accommodation on the Swiss side. 

 

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 16:  Get the right insurance!

High altitude trekking is normally an extra on standard travel insurance so don’t assume you’re covered. You will need a policy that covers you to trekking up to an altitude of 2,665m – the highest point on the trail.

TMB Italy

Tour du Mont Blanc Tip 17: Put mountain rescue numbers in your phone

Please please please, if you take none of the advice above, please take this one. This is our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tip that most other hikers are oblivious What will you do if you’re trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided if an emergency occurs? Imagine someone is seriously injured and needs medical attention immediately. Make sure that each member of your group (not just the lead hiker) puts in the mountain rescue number for each country into their mobile phones. Call the local mountain rescue number first. Their response times will be MUCH faster than the general country emergency number. These are:-

FRANCE Chamonix Mountain Rescue  00 33 (0) 4 50 53 16 89   (or general number 112) 

ITALY Aosta Mountain Rescue 00 39 (0) 0165 238 222  (or general number 112)

SWITZERLAND general number 144

Read through these guidelines here before leaving on your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure to make sure you know in what scenarios to call the emergency mountain rescue team.

 

Related TMB content

Read day 1 (stage 10) Tré-le-Champ to La Flégère

Read day 2 (stage 11)  La Flégère to Les Houches

Read day 3 (stage 1) Les Houches to Les Contamines (& onto Nant Borrant refuge)

Read day 4 (stage 2) Nant Borrant Refuge to Les Chapieux

Read day 5 (stage 3) Les Chapieux to Refugio Elisabetta

Read day 6 (stage 4) Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

Read day 7 (stage 5) Courmayeur to Refugio Bonatti

Top Tour du Mont Blanc Tips

Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List

Ultimate guide to your self guided Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges – the good, the bad & the ugly

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty? Transport options on the TMB

6 Day Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary (half circuit)

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty – Can You Manage the Ladders?

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2 comments

Ange Fine 19th January 2020 - 3:55 am

Hi Mags,
Thank you for your comprehensive research and description of the MTB half
your family undertook. It has made me feel more confident to do the same.
We are planning to do the full circuit in July this year and was wondering
if you have any advice with respects to the Courmayeur-Chamonix half so far
you can share..
Sections to do/avoid, accommodation, shortcut/transport options etc.

We would like to do a self-guided hike organised by a reputable company with
our luggage transferred between stops where possible. Would you recommend
any particular company?

Looking forward to your response and doing this trek.

Reply
Mags Nixon 21st January 2020 - 2:43 pm

Hi Ange. Great to hear from you. I’m just in the process of writing up the last stages. The Courmayeur – Bonatti, and Bonatti to Ferret (La Fouly) are now live. All my TMB posts are grouped here https://www.thefamilyfreestylers.com/tour-du-mont-blanc-self-guided/. I will continue to upload the remaining sections of Champex-Lac to Trient and Trient to Tre-le-Champ over the next two days. We caught the bus from Ferret to Champex-Lac which I would also recommend if you are wanting to cut down some of the stages. It also helps with saving money on the very expensive Swiss side! The Ferret/La Fouly to Champex-Lac is a lovely forest walk, charming but with none of the magnificence of some of the other stages. The bus is CHF12 or €12 per adult one way or CHF6 or €6 per child.

With regards to luggage transfers, CVT (Chamonix Valley Transfers) are very good. They are an English company so you can email them directly in English and ask them to quote you. They will need to know how many stages and how many bags. They charge €65 for 6-7 baggage drops. There is no weight restriction but the driver should be able to easily lift the bag! Mention our blog name when you enquire! I’m hoping they may give a discount to our readers this year or next!

Happy trekking – and check out the link in the next couple of days for the remaining stages 🙂

Reply

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