Ah the Tour du Mont Blanc. Probably the hardest hike we have been on thus far. It was a really steep gradient, steeper than we are used to (especially living somewhere so flat) and just so hot. Well actually no. It wasn't really that hot temperature wise, but when the sun was shining it was really hard to walk up hill cause I would overheat. It was absolutely beautiful though. We have never done a circular hike before so that was new, plus you go through a lot more small towns and villages which was fun. Really a great trip.
We flew in late the night before we were to start our hike and took a shuttle bus from the Geneva airport to the trail. I didn't realize it but the Ultra Marathon Tour du Mont Blanc had started the day prior. Those people...I don't know how they could run the whole thing in 24 hours. That is crazy! Whenever we were walking I would think of that and man you have to be in good shape to do that. We stayed in Les Houches, the start of the trail, and got up early to start our hike. Of course we had a baguette for breakfast cause it is France and the bread is delicious.
The first part of our hike was a pretty steep uphill climb up into the woods. The trail sort of followed a windy road. When we first woke up I was a little sad it was all cloudy, but I quickly realized that was WAY better than if it had been sunny. As it was it was so damp and warm that the sweat just dripped off me. It was hard work especially with our bags full of food (a lot of people go hut to hut, eating breakfast and dinner there, but we like to camp. A note on camping - before the trip I had been trying to find info on camping along the trail which as almost impossible to find. There was plenty of info on the huts, but camping was almost non-existent. Then I found a guidebook that marked places to camp and we were good to go. You can't just camp anywhere, you have to camp in campgrounds which luckily are about a days walk apart. I read that some people didn't do that and their tent got taken away and they were fined and I just figured might as well try and follow the rules).
At the top of the hill there was a little restaurant and snack shop with cold beverages. Before we started I thought oh no, we will just skip that since they are expensive (3.50 Euro for a small can), but by the time we got up there I was so hot I didn't care. Bring on the sodas! It is also where the tram stops that we could have taken up the hill instead of walking. It came while we were there and a bunch of hiker got off to start their hikes. From here we could have taken a more difficult variant route or continue on the main trail. We had wanted to do the variant, but it was all cloudy so we decided if we are not going to be able to see anything might as well take the easier normal route.
Our first views of the mountain
Yes, there will be lots of pictures of it!
The clouds were really fun and as the day went on they really started to break up
Lots of little houses we walked by with lovely flower boxes
In a lot of ways the afternoon was much easier than the morning as it was mostly downhill. It was sunny though and on any kind of incline I was sooo slow going up just because the sun was trying to kill me. It was crazy. The temp wasn't that hot, but the sun was way intense.
The birthplace of Alexis Bouvard the astronomer who discovered Neptune
After a long day of walking, 15km, we made it to the campground just past Les Contamines. The campground was in this huge complex of fun things - tennis courts, and horse riding and all kinds of things. Really we got there, set up our tent, and got some junk food. We we chatting with some nice people from Ireland who were just waiting until their dinner time (you can get food at all the places you stop, but usually not vegan). It was just so nice to get there as it had been a long, hot day of walking. The campground also let you order bread for the next morning so baguette breakfast was waiting for us the next day as well! We ate our dinner and crashed in our tent and rested up.