Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB)
170 km and +10,000 m Trail running, France
Tour du Mont Blanc: 170 km and +10,000 m Trail running, France (© P. Gatta)
About the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB)
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB)
is an amazing long distance trek accros three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy.
It circles the Mont Blanc Massif
covering a distance of roughly 170 km with 10,000 m of ascent.
The full trek is usually done anti-clockwise in 7 to 10 days.
It is more and more done by trail runners in 3 to 5 days and even in less than 21 hours during the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)
It is described here as a four stages trail running.
There are plenty of Refuges (hut) or hotels along the way which gives a lot of flexibility for the stages.
There are several possible start points in Chamonix
, Les Houches
or Les Contamines
in France, or Courmayeur
in Italy, or Champex-Lac
There is a main route and multiple alternatives, called TMB Variantes
Some of the Variantes cross higher passes, staying closer to the mountains, while others follow lower trails and are less demanding.
crosses many passes and valleys: Chamonix, Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Val Veni, Val Ferret and Trient.
Some parts of the TMB are common with the GR5
, a footpath crossing the Alps.
Anna toward Col Ferret (© P. Gatta)
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) in 4 days
We decided to run the TMB
in 4 days to get the time to enjoy the scenery and take plenty of photos and videos.
We also decided to follow some variantes to stay at higher altitude and closer to the mountains.
Here are the variantes we chose:
Trient - Col de Balme - Tré-le-Champ
Flégère - Le Brévent - Refuge Bellachat
Col de Voza - Col de Tricot - Chalets de Miage - Les Contamines-Montjoie
We started from Courmayeur
which was more convenient for us but as said earlier, there are many possible starting points.
Here are our 4 stages:
Courmayeur - Champex-Lac
Champex - Refuge de Bellachat
Refuge Bellachat - Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme - Courmayeur
Mont Blanc and Chamonix by night from Refuge Bellachat (© P. Gatta)
The distances given below have been measured with a GPS and the ascent/descents have been measured with an electronic barometer.
Overall the TMB
is pretty well marked with signposts and paint marks but it is recommended to bring maps and a GPS.
Day 1: Courmayeur - Champex: 48 km and +2513 m / -2258 m
TMB: profile of the first day (© P. Gatta)
Leave the center of Courmayeur
(1205 m) toward the Refuge Bertone
(1991 m), firstly on the road and then on a good trail.
Refuge Bertone (© P. Gatta)
After the Refuge Bertone
there are almost 10 km flatish on a very good trail.
TMB: after Refuge Bertone with the Grandes Jorasses behind (© P. Gatta)
Then continue to the Refuge Bonatti
(2025 m) with splendid view over the Mont Blanc, Dent du Geant, Grandes Jorasses and the Val Veni below.
TMB: Refuge Bonatti (© P. Gatta)
After the Refuge Bonatti
continue to the Northeast, still more or less flat for around 3 km and descend to the Chalets Hotel la Vachey
Start the climb.
After the Refuge Elena
(2062 m) the climb becomes steeper.
Keep climbing for 470 m to the Grand Col Ferret
(2531 m, Switzerland) which is almost half way.
TMB: Anna toward Col Ferret (© P. Gatta)
From Grand Col Ferret
be prepared for 21 km and 1400 m of descent, most of it on a good trail and then a dirt road.
TMB: going down from the Grand Col Ferret (© P. Gatta)
Go down on a good trail to the Refuge La Peule
(2100 m). Shortly after, the trail becomes a dirt road.
TMB: Refuge La Peule (© P. Gatta)
Cross the nice village of La Ferret
and continue to La Fouly
TMB: Village of La Ferret (© P. Gatta)
Pass Praz de la Fort
, most of this section is on a road or good trail.
TMB: Issert, Champex is not far (© P. Gatta)
This is the low point at 1050 m. From there, go up to Champex-Lac
through a nice forest along the Mushroom trail.
There are many hotels and restaurants in Champex-Lac
TMB: Champex and its lake (© P. Gatta)
Day 2: Champex - Col de Balme - Refuge de Bellachat: 45 km and +3216 m / -2559 m
TMB: profile of the second day (© P. Gatta)
, follow the road for a while and then get back on the trail to la Bovine
From the bottom at 1300 m to the top at 2000 m it is 6 km with a steep section in the forest and then less steep above the forest.
Then go down to the Col de la Forclaz
TMB: Grand Combin seen from the trail to Bovine (© P. Gatta)
From Col de la Forclaz
there are two options; either go to the Trient
, or like we did, go down to Trient
(easy and good trail)
then go up the Col de Balme
(2191 m, France), 4.5 km and +700 m.
TMB: view over the Chamonix valley from Col de Balme (© P. Gatta)
After the Col de Balme
we took the West trail to the Chalet de Balme
(easy trail) and then down to Tré-le-Champ
trough a steep trail in the forest.
TMB: Descent from Col de Balme (© A. Gatta)
go up along the TMB to Flégère
There are 3 km and +700 m to the high point which is below the Lake of Cheserys
TMB: Montagne de la Flégère (© P. Gatta)
There are some technical sections along this trail, including ladders.
TMB, trail to Flégère (© P. Gatta)
From there, go down to Flégère
, mainly a descent of 3.4 km.
TMB: amazing view going to Flégère (© P. Gatta)
, the UTMB
goes back down to Chamonix
Instead we continued to the Chalet de Planpraz
(5.2 km, +200 m), climbed to the Brevent
(2421 m) on a steep trail, 2 km, +400 m.
TMB: Mont Blanc Massif (© P. Gatta)
Leave the Brevent
and follow the TMB / GR5 down to the Refuge de Bellachat
(2152 m): 2 km.
TMB: Between Brevent and Bellachat (© P. Gatta)
Day 3: Refuge de Bellachat - Col du Tricot - Croix du Bonhomme: 41 km and +2752 m / -2465 m
TMB: profile of the 3rd day (© P. Gatta)
The view from Refuge de Bellachat
over the Chamonix valley
and Mont Blanc
TMB: breakfast at Bellachat (© P. Gatta)
The day starts with a steep descent to les Houches
: 7.5 km, -1100 m.
TMB: descent from Bellachat to les Houches (© P. Gatta)
From les Houches
(1003 m) get back on the same route as the UTMB
, climbing to the Col de Voza
After the Col, we chose another variante of the TMB.
Instead of going down to St Gervais
, we went up to the Col de Tricot
From the Col de Voza
follow a good trail to Bellevue
Les Houches - Bellevue: 6 km, +750 m.
Then continue on a single track in a forest to the Chalet de Tricot
From the Challet to the Col de Tricot it is 2 km, +415 m on a good trail.
Amazing view over the Aiguilles of Gouter
and the North face of Bionnassay
TMB: crossing a river below the Glacier of Bionnassay (© P. Gatta)
The descent from the Col de Tricot
to the Chalets de Miage
is short and very steep, tough for the legs: 1.9 km, -531 m.
TMB: Col du Tricot (© P. Gatta)
Climb again to the Chalets du Truc
and then go down to the Contamines-Montjoie
(1227 m) on a dirt road: 6.4 km, +190 m / -560 m.
That is where the long climb to the Col du Bonhomme
starts: 12.6 km, +1320 m.
The first section up to the Notre dame de la Gorge
is not very steep and on an easy trail.
TMB: on the way to the Col du Bonhomme (© P. Gatta)
There are two refuge/hotels above Notre dame de la Gorge
: Nant Borant and Balme.
Keep climbing up to the Col du Bonhomme
TMB: Col du Bonhomme (© A. Gatta)
From the Col du Bonhomme
(2329 m) continue to climb to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
(2433 m) on a technical trail.
The refuge is a bit after the col.
Sunrise and full moon over the Refuge de la Croix Col du Bonhomme (© P. Gatta)
Day 4: Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme - Courmayeur: 35 km and +1452 m / -2610 m
TMB: profile of the 4th day (© P. Gatta)
Again the day starts with a long descent from the refuge of Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
to Les Chapieux
: 5 km, -850 m.
The trail is steep and sometimes technical.
TMB: descent from la Croix Col du Bonhomme to Chapieux (© P. Gatta)
After Les Chapieux
(1585 m), there is a long climb to the Col de la Seigne
(2516 m): 11 km, +965 m.
TMB: Les Chapieux (© P. Gatta)
The first section up to La Ville des Glaciers
(1789 m) is on small road and not steep.
TMB: between Les Chapieux and La Ville des Glaciers (© P. Gatta)
Leave the road at La Ville des Glaciers
and climb along a good trail up to the Col de la Seigne
: 5 km, +707 m.
TMB: La Ville des Glaciers (© P. Gatta)
Enjoy the view from the Col de la Seigne
(2516m) and start the descent in the Val Veni (Italy).
TMB: view from Col de la Seigne, Mont Blanc on the left (© P. Gatta)
The descent from the Col de la Seigne
is very nice and on a good trail with fantastic view.
Pass the Refuge Elisabetta
and continue on the dirt road.
TMB: trail along the Val Veni (© P. Gatta)
After 6.5 km and 540 m of descent; leave the Val Veni
and climb to Chécroui
through at pass at (2420 m): 3.2 km, +440 m.
TMB: Val Veni (© P. Gatta)
The descent from Chécroui
is very steep and not fun to be honest: 8 km, -1170 m.
on the road.
TMB: Val Veni (© A. Gatta)
Map and track of the Tour du Mont Blanc
The four stages are in different colors.
Usage: use the arrows or "drag & drop" to move the map. Click on + or - to zoom in or out.
Click on Terrain to get the map with altitudes, Satellite to see the satellite photo, Hybrid to get the satellite photo with the names of cities and road. Click on the icons to see location's names.
TMB: Val Veni (© A. Gatta)