One of our Europe Specialists, Cody Brock, recently headed to the Alps to hike the legendary Tour du Mont Blanc, and to find out what makes this journey so special.
For those seeking a classic trek in Europe, the Tour du Mont Blanc is at the top of many peoples’ “must-do” lists. Why is that, when there are many other trails extending to every corner of the continent?
Well, we can start as our trek does, with Chamonix.
Set low in a deep alpine valley at 3,200 feet, Chamonix is a charming French town encircled by stark granite monoliths and snow-capped peaks that culminate in Mont Blanc’s 15,781-foot apex. Looking up to see over two miles of rock and snow above you is humbling, but the town of Chamonix is nothing short of cozy and delightful. Plus there’s no shortage of cake.
From Chamonix, our path takes us around the Mont Blanc massif, crossing international borders on foot from France to Italy, Italy to Switzerland, and Switzerland back to France.
The beautiful mountain scenery is dotted with the occasional refuge, where hikers can set their packs down and have lunch, coffee, beer—whatever warms your soul for the walk ahead.
Beer and an omelette was an unexpected yet completely acceptable breakfast of champions.
Each day’s hike brings a new surprise. From hiking on old Roman roads (elephant bones were found on one nearby pass, likely from Hannibal’s famous march) to learning the history of how brave mountain villagers helped Jewish families cross to the safety of Switzerland during World War II, the trail has been an integral part of Europe’s—and our—history.
Putting one foot in front of the other, we see (often in the same day) the Alps’ modern and stylish ski resort towns as well as traditional and bucolic scenes.
Some of our stays at more traditional auberges give us the chance to disconnect from electronics while meeting fellow hikers from all around the world.
At the end of our week-long trek, it had become clear to us why we had come all this way to walk the Tour du Mont Blanc. The physical effort of each day’s hike was well-rewarded by beautiful mountain scenery as well as varied cultures and cuisines. These are constant no matter how you trek the route.
For me, this adventure transcended “a vacation” and became the experience of a lifetime because of the people who accompanied me. The guides—professional, knowledgeable, and infinitely helpful—as well as my fellow travelers—warm-hearted, lively, and great company—provided the conversation and laughter that I look back on more fondly than any souvenir. Except maybe the Swiss chocolate I brought back.
—Text and photos by WT Europe Specialist Cody Brock, Tour du Mont Blanc.