Backpacking,  Camping,  Hiking in Europe,  Hiking in France,  Tour de Mont Blanc Hike

First 1000m uphill on the way and worst thunderstorm in our lives | Day 2 of TMB from Houches to Chalets de Miages

We started the day at 6.30 am in the wild camping spot that we found yesterday at the ski trail. The surroundings were quiet and river sounds were very lullabying. We ate the food left from yesterday’s night just heating it up, wrapped everything up and were good to go.

We had to descend down to the village to collect some drinking water from the source because we knew that the uphill awaits us right from the start.

We saw that there was a cable car taking the people around half of the way up but we obviously didn’t need to take and skip any scenic parts.

The plan for the day was to do around 15 kms and get to the next village Contaminas Montjoie. In order to do so we had to go over the big mountain and ascend to 2100 m from initial elevation of 1000m.

The start of the day was cloudy and the mountains were completely covered up.We started to go uphill and went through several small house holdings and sheep pastures and then went out to the ski resorts. There are several of them and we had to go through all of them. The trail was quite steep al the way through. Not too extreme but steep.

The views of the Mont Blanc were absolutely breathtaking. Especially when the sky was clearing up it was very magical. Every time we turned back we saw incredibly high and beautiful mountains. It was hard to believe our eyes.

Then we met the tramway of Mont Blanc that turned out to be an old rack and pinion train that goes through the scenic trail with the great views of Mont Blanc and has an elevation profile from 500 to 2300m which is incredibly high for this type of train in our opinion.

We continued to go uphill and we met a lot of other hikers on the way as well. It was just hard to tell if they were hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc or just doing a day hike.

Then we reached one of the first highest points Hotel de Bellevue and then the trail started to go downhill. And we saw on the map that there was a waterfall going from a glacier and probably a hanging bridge going over it.

Angelina is scared to hell of the hanging bridges for whatever reason, she’s not afraid of the height but these bridges are one of the biggest fears for her. Because she doesn’t feel the stable ground under the feet and it is very scary. This particular bridge turned out to be quite a solid one, not very long and it wasnt bouncing too much, so we went through it quite easily. And we even managed to do some photo shots from it.

Then we saw that there is one last uphill of the day of 2 kms to the Col de Tricot of 2100m. We were in quite a good mood of doing it fast but we underestimated the uphill as we had to do around 400m up and it was quite steep. Already a bit tired and hungry we started the ascension to the mountain. The backpacks felt extremely heavy now and anchoring us down. We remembered now that 2 kms can be a lot in such coditions and mountainous relief.

There was quite a bit of snow left and we were deepening down quite a lot. We were almost at the peak when the dark low clouds started to come down at us and we heard the thunder. It was very scary as it was very close to us. So we tried to go faster. But it was hard with the tireness that we had already. We hoped that it will go away soon and it wont rain heavily. So we got over the mountain quickly but soon realized that the clouds are staying abd it getting worse with the fierce wind and rain with thunder. We started coming down hoping that we manage to come down in time but it was too late.

The wind started to blow extremely strong and it was not only pouring rain but ice coming down at us. We got all wet in seconds. So we just had to stop at the side of the rocky steep trail right in the wet grass and wait for it to calm. We took out our raincoats, covered our heads and backpacks and got almost in panic praying for it to stop or at least to calm down. We haven’t been in such harsh conditions before and so didn’t know how to behave. The thunder and lightning were just right over our heads and the wind was trying to blow us away with the ice that was crushing onto our heads. That was the scariest weather conditions we’ve been to in our lives.

Later we realized that if we pitched up a tent up on the mountain it would have been better to wait for the storm to go away. But we just didn’t have a good reaction in the moment. Also some piece of waterproof sheet would be helpful to have to be able to set it up quickly over our heads everywhere. This way we would feel less stressful about bad weather conditions. But that’s something to consider for the future.

When the wind calmed down a bit and it wasn’t ice raining we started to descend down. The ground was extremely slippery and our legs were very sore already from the long uphill, they were shivering so we really tried hard not to lose the balance.

We did the downhill in around 30 min and headed straight to the refuge house as we were very cold and wet and at least needed to dry up our clothes. When we saw the prices 25 euros a person for the night we were s bit shocked as we expected that the name refugee means for everybody and it should be cheap or even donative. Because everybody has the right to have a shelter from the storm. So we already knew that we are not going to stay there. But we asked for some tea and place to dry our clothes and fortunately they had a roofed glass terrace with a fireplace. So we spent there a good couple of hours and the rain was persistently staying all that time.

We could dry our pants and most of the clothes but not the shoes unfortunately, they were still completely wet. And we were so hungry at that time that our heads were spinning. At one moment the rain almost stopped and we had to get out of this warm place.

We knew that we are not gonna be doing it till the planned village so we had to search for the place to camp here in the outskirts. So we collected some water from the source and found our place at the river bank as it seemed quite flat and the trees were protecting us from others sight. Luckily we still had some daylight left to properly pitch up a tent and set up everything for the night. So we cooked our delicious cereals with mushrooms and tomatoes, ate as much as we could and went to sleep.

Here is the link to Google map to follow the hike:

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