Tour du Mont Blanc

After various plans fell through for the second of May’s long week-ends, I jumped on a night-train down to Chamonix, with the idea to do half of the Tour du Mont Blanc from Courmayer in Italie back round to Saint Gervais on the French side.

Solo style.

Loaded-up with a 20kg backpack containing food for four days, a tent, sleeping bag and several litres of water, I set-off to catch the bus over to Italy to begin.

FAIL — the bus doesn’t run on bank-holidays: I’d have to wait for the following morning.

OK, so I’ll catch the cable-car up over the top of Mont Blanc and get there that way.

FAIL — the winds up near the Aiguille du Midi were too strong and it wasn’t operating.

Right. Hitch-hiking it is. After hiking up near the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel, I got a lift through with a French guy & his two visiting Venezualan buddies.

I started the first day of hiking a lot later than expected, but by around 4PM I had reached the first of the refuges on the Italian side. I knew it would be closed, but I hadn’t banked on the amount of snow that there would be, nor the weight of my pack.

After hiking up a bit further, to around 2000m, it became clear that I would not be able to carry on in this snow with the gear that I had. Or rather, the lack of suitable snow-gear.

I reluctantly headed back, deciding that a few days hiking around the Alps on the French side, and camping out in the mountains would have to suffice.

I eventually made it back to near Chamonix after getting a lift with another Frenchie (Italians don’t treat hitch-hikers kindly!), and pitched my tent as the rain started to roll in.

The next day I woke with my body aching. I set-out a little route, and managed to get up a lot further than I expected, even though the final ascent to Le Brévent involved hiking accross the snow, with no reference to the trail. But it was shared with chamoix and marmottes, and for several hours, I didn’t see a single person.

The next couple of days continued in much the same way, camping out under the glacier de Miage, getting accustomed to the diminishing weight of my back-pack as I chowed down on a diet of bread & saucisson, all under the shadow of Mont Blanc. Ignoring the advice of a sign, which said that the Sentier est fermé due to the absence de passerelle, I was reminded later that passerelle did not mean hand-rail, but foot-bridge. I courted death for five minutes or so, considering the option to shimmy accross the 20 metre deep gorge by the cable which would normally support the bridge, before trekking further upstream to cross the freezing glacial melt-water stream. It was a good job nobody was around to hear my screams as the water stabbed my legs with cold.

Four days hors communication? It’s good for the soul.