10,030 meters of ascent, or 10 times up Ben Nevis, or higher than Everest. 172km. Whichever way you look at it, we did it – what a team.
Starting at Planpraz, above Chamonix, we walked the TMB clockwise. Settling in at the Couronne in Argentiere, the forecast was good and our band of 12 (plus stowaway owl) were set to go. The mountains and cols were all magnificent, but it’s the little things, as well as the big vistas, that make the trip…
On day one we meander along the Grand Balcon Sud, I make frequent mentions of coffee and deckchairs (setting the right tone I hope) and tell stories about Mont Blanc. We make it to the Col des Montets just about smiling after the fairly relentless 1,300m descent.
On day two, we loved the Col de Posettes, the mad woman was only slightly barmy on the Col de Balme as we crossed into Switzerland. We smell the vanilla orchids. The suitcases took an unsheduled trip to the campsite in Martingy.
Day three, we escaped all sign of the ski lifts, skipped around the Bovine (with lots of cows) picnic by the bubbling waterfall, Katheryn continues to wow us with her encyclopaedic flower knowledge, and off to the Hotel Edelweiss in La Fouly.
Day four, lots of gnomes, beautiful villages, some property speculation, and reached Champex and the Splendide. Ice cream on the terrace with that view…
Day five, the trusty back marker whistle is being passed around the group, it’s our highest point over the Col Grand Ferret 2054m, we leave early with the threat of a thunderstorm. We’re over in record time, jig around at the top to ELO Mr Blue Sky, and like magic, 10 minutes later he makes his appearance, there is the Italian Val Ferret and Val Veny spread before us, we gaze up at the stunning glaciers and along to Col de la Seigne, where we’ll be in 3 days time.
Pizza fest in Courmayeur and the next day a great mushroom risotto at the Refuggio Bertone. We are making the most of Italian cuisine. We walk the second half of the Val Ferret, experience the wild thunderstorm in the woods. The alpine flowers are stunning.
Rest day: a trip to the spa at Pre St Didier for some, others go up to the Hellbronner, some swim up the mountain and walk Val Veny. Everyone enjoys the fabulous Bouton d’Or breakfasts.
Day 8 and we’re over the Col de la Seigne, wilder, weird limestone pyramids, astonishingly good hot chocolate at the refuggio elizabetta. Perfect reflections in the lakes. More stunning glaciers. Another thunderstorm and we shelter in leas Chapieux in the lovely lounge of the B&B!
Day 9 we get ove the Col du Bonhomme, down past the gorge, the church, and more wonderful ice cream. We enjoy our frequent meetings with the friendly German couple ( that man with the orange shirt). Ingrid loses her New Zealand hat so is sad, but then finds it in her lunch bag!
Day 10 and we’ve raced up the Col du Tricot in 1hr 10 ( so much quicker than the sign saying 2 hrs) then, after some lovely moments on the Himalayan bridge, there is a unanimous decision to take the Bellevue lift down to les Houches and Hotel Campanules.
A final day off (adding a few Prosecco corks to Julia’s cork collection) and we complete our tour with the 1600m climb, on a murky day, some rain, some patches of clearing, and some snow! Chips at the top of the Brevent. A celebratory drink at the National.
Thanks so much to you all, my first time leading on the TMB I could not have wished for a better group. My initial scepticism that the hotel tour was not the ‘real thing’ has been totally dispelled. I’ll be back for more next year.
A few more outstanding pictures from Kathryn: