In this post we want to share with you our final thoughts and tips about the Tour de Mont Blanc trail. For us it was very beautiful but challenging trail that required quite a bit of preparation. It is an amazing trail that allowed us to discover lots of scenic places. We are going to share what gear is better to take with you, what distance to make a day, the weather patterns you can meet, how to wild camp on this trail and the best season to hike it. Hope that you´ll find some useful information here.
The TMB is a challenging trail
Tour de Mont Blanc is a very beautiful trail but it’s very challenging at the same time. There’s lots of mountain crossing so you have to be ready to hike up and down quite a lot. We ourselves underestimated the difficulty of this trail. We thought it would be easier in a way. We were ready for the mountain paths and stuff but we didn’t realize how high actually these mountains are. Because we come from Pyrenees, Spain and there the mountains are lower so we weren’t quite ready for it. But it turned out that we have to climb the peak of the mountain every other day or so. So it is quite challenging for sure.
Good physical form is important
Talking about the difficulty of the trail you have to be in a good physical shape in order to do it properly. It’s better to have some hiking practice beforehand at least several months before and better in the mountains. If the mountains are accessible to you – it’s the best option to get the hiking experience there. If not just walk a lot and do some leg training in the gym because for the legs it’s very demanding. And in that manner you’ll be more prepared and the muscles will get used to it and it will be less painful for you when you actually get on the trail.
Go as light as possible
Do not take too heavy backpack, go as light as possible. For the same reason because there are some challenging parts on the trail where you wish you had less weight always. So make sure to dedicate time to pack light, it’s very important.
Long distances are hard to do
The total distance of the trail is 170 km. And normally you are able to do around 15 kms a day. And usually the official guides tell you the same. It was very rare when we did more than 20 kms a day because the trail is not that easy. And we don’t recommend you to plan hiking big distances. Because again this trail is quite hard. And it doesn’t make sense to do more because it’s always better to take time to enjoy the places and be present rather than just run through them and don’t see anything. It’s not the same as with the Camino de Santiago for example when you get on the trail and it’s more or less the same and flat all the way through. And you can do bigger distances this way.
Go well equipped
It’s very important to be equipped well for this trail. The most important thing is having good boots or shoes. We had the trail running ones and we are very happy about it. Because we find that for us the boots are not really working that well – they are too warm and hot. And we have a lot of calluses from them – so it’s absolutely impossible for us to walk. Even though the waterproof shoes and boots would be great because we had to cross lots of waterfalls, rivers and water streams. But if the weather is fine and warm the shoes will be drying up very quickly. So for us it wasn’t really a choice we love the running shoes a lot. Trekking poles also would be useful, we saw a lot of people using them, most of the people actually. Especially on the snowy or rocky uphills and downhills. We personally didn’t use any trekking poles during this trail. But we felt like at least one pair of them would be useful for us as well. And after this mountain trail we are thinking about buying some. But some very lightweight of carbon material because we are already taking lots of things with us, lots of electronic equipment etc. So for us the weight is a big deal. Also because we are filming a lot we need our arms to be free so that we can hold the camera actually. But for the regular people, not cameramen it will be fine.
Bring warm clothes
You have to bring warm clothes with you as well because the weather can change very quickly. The change from a sunny day to a thunderstorm can happen in a matter of minutes. And because of that it is very important to have good raincoats as well. As we always stay in the tent we bring tent with us as well as sleeping bags and sleeping pads etc. But if you’ll stay in the refuge house it will be optional.
Make sure to watch of what we pack and what we bring with us video that we previously released on our Youtube channel. There we show all the things we take with us in our backpacks and we think it will be useful for a lot of people so make sure to check it out.
The best season to hike
We hiked Tour de Mont Blanc in the middle-end of June and it was fine. We had several days of thunderstorms and rain but for the rest it was fine. Most of the days were fresh and cool and for hiking it’s a perfect kind of weather especially when you’re hiking uphill. Because compared to the last days of the Tour that we had they were very hot – like 30-35 degrees Celsius and we were dying of heat. We think it would be close to impossible to do or you need to start the hike very early in the morning like 6am and hike till 12am. And then it may be possible, otherwise it’s too hot.
Be prepared for the snow
So the month of June is fine but just be aware of the snow. There’s still quite a bit of snow left in the mountains higher than 2000m. It was quite a surprise for us to see so much snow in the mountains because again we come from Pyrenees and there is not so much snow. But here because the mountains are higher and it’s probably a bit of different climate – there is more snow. And we still remember the moment when we faced snowy steep uphill it was like our day 2 or 3 of the Tour. It was our first mountain climb and right away we faced the snowy steep uphill. And it was absolutely crazy. We were looking at it and thinking to ourselves it is impossible to do. And we even considered to stop the trail at this moment because we thought that most of the trail would be like that so that we have to cross the snowy mountains over and over again. But it looked more scary and impossible than it actually is up close. We saw that it was possible to do, there were footsteps of people. And they were making like hard ground for you to step on, so it was quite doable. So it was one of the biggest challenges on our way when we faced and overcame our fears of the snow. And as we don’t enjoy walking in the snow that much, if we knew that this going to be the case we would wait more until July-August and do this trail in this season. So just be aware of that, if it’s not the problem for you – then go for it. If not wait until warmer season to come – like July, August and September are good.
Changeable weather conditions
Talking about overcoming our fears thunderstorms were a huge deal for us. They say summer is the season of the thunderstorms and they can happen very suddenly. So always check the weather forecast for every day of hiking. That was also one of the most challenging moments that happened actually on the first day of hiking when we were stuck in the thunderstorm almost on the top of the hill. And we underestimated its power and how fast it is. First there were just some dark clouds coming our way and then it suddenly started to thunderstorm very fast like in several minutes probably. We were absolutely not ready for that. We were just on the side of the hill on our way down and basically we had to lay on the ground on the rocks and cover ourselves with our raincoats. And it was scary to hell, it’s probably one of my personal biggest fears when I’m in a thunderstorm in an open space like this. And also in the mountains you never know is it going to be long or short, is it going to be strong or not. So it was very scary. In the end we were all wet and miserable and cold. And in that case it was even worse because there was actually ice coming down from the cloud. So it wasn’t just raining, it was ice raining. So absolutely crazy. In the end we ended up being wet and miserable and cold but at least we survived. Fortunately we found the refuge house and the fire to dry up our clothes a bit. So not to be stuck in the situation like this always check the weather forecast for every day. And also if you see dark clouds coming your way find any shelter or a house or some roof so that you can be safe.
As you know we were wild camping all the way through and in France it was best experience because they have clear rules. You can camp almost anywhere for the night from 7pm till 9am. They even have special dedicated areas for camping in some places and it’s amazing. It is called “air bivouac”. You can search it on the map. In Italy it’s more complicated. They say you can’t camp lower than 2500m. And it’s not completely clear about day and night camping, does it mean any camping or wild camping for a night is fine, it’s not clear. Also there were signs crossed with rubbish and fire setting that we never do. And we guess that is the reason why they’re not allowing camping in the first place. Because just setting up a tent for several hours at night won’t hurt nature much in our opinion. And we do everything that we can not leaving any traces. Of course no garbage and we just use our camping gas to cook our food and that is all. So the common sense will help you and we camped several times in Italy and it was fine. They say that there can be some forest rangers that potentially can fine you but it didn’t happen to us and we hope it won’t. In Switzerland there is no clear prohibition, have not seen it anywhere. But we guess that camping for a night and early leaving is fine.
There are campsites on the way but not everywhere. The price is quite acceptable. It’s normally around 20 euros for a night. Normally less than a refuge house. Our favorite campsites were “Camping Hobo Val Veny” in Italy and “Camping des Glaciers” in Switzerland. It’s also an amazing place to stay.
Talking about the refuge houses there are a lot of them, they are almost everywhere. Some of them are very high in the mountains in very inaccessible locations, some of them are down in the valleys. But for us it was a bit of disappointment because we learnt that they are quite costy and expensive. And for one person you would pay for a dormitory room around 25 ueros. And knowing that there are campsites that charge you 20 euros or even 15 euros we think it’s not fare to people. We were expecting that there would be some cheap refuge houses. Also they don’t allow to camp close to them normally especially in Italy they were really strict about it for whatever reason. Saying just that you don’t have a choice – you either stay in the refuge house or you can wild camp but there is a risk that you’ll be fined and found by the forest rangers. So we didn’t like that.
The language spoken everywhere is English but also French in most of the area.
Switzerland is expensive
Also we noticed that in the region of Mont Blanc in Switzerland prices for the food in the supermarkets are very high. And there is not enough variety, not enough to choose from. So we felt like we were paying triple the price for the bad quality products. At least that was our experience. For us it would be better to have our own dry supplies to not depend on that. That would be a great solution.
This trail is breathtaking
We wanted to end this post saying that the places the trail goes through are amazing. It’s a paradise for any photographer and videographer. You can shoot forever and have great shots. We enjoyed it very much and it will be always in our memory.
Hope you have the best experience possible with this trail and our tips and advice were useful for you. Let us know about that in the comments below. Make sure to watch our 11 day series of the Tour de Mont Blanc trail that you can find here on our website.