The Tour du Mont Blanc or TMB is one of the most popular European multi-day hikes. This 170-kilometer long trail with more than 10,000 meters of climb turns around the Mont Blanc. It is one of the most popular multi-day tracks in the world and it is visited by thousands of people every year. On its path through Italy, Switzerland, and France it reaches some of the most beautiful regions in the Alps.
There is no default point of start for this track. Most of the people decide to start the journey from Les Houches near Chamonix simply because Chamonix is the largest place on this trail and easiest to reach. By unwritten rule, it is walked in a counter-clockwise direction. The usual duration of this hike is 11 days. If we ignore the endurance race whose participants finish Tour du Mont Blanc in just 22-26 hours, the shortest time required to walk TDM is 7 days.
On the track, you can expect some of the most beautiful scenes that the Alps can offer. The route passes through seven incredibly beautiful valleys whose untouched nature will leave you absolutely breathless. Eight passes above 2000 meters will give you countless opportunities to admire and enjoy spectacular beauties of nature. These views will for sure remain etched in your memory for a lifetime.
Walking Tour du Mont Blanc is usually compared with Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit and Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash trek. TMB is ranked as one of the 10 most beautiful hikes in the world. There are many ways to cross this track including guided and unguided tours, hiking it on your own, or even partially hike just a couple legs of this epic trail. But I know one way which you will not find in many guides – crossing TMB by bicycle.
“Finding friends with the same mental disorder as you! Priceless!”
It’s a big mystery, even for me, about how we prepare our travels. It usually starts with the claim that someplace is especially pretty, then somebody jokes about going there, then another one adds a bike to the equation, and in a day or two, roots of new adventure are created.
Then, one of us develops a complete and total obsession with this idea and cannot sleep until he creates a plausible but absolutely mad plan for its execution. Then it is easy, we just follow that crazy plan without questions. Let’s just say that this approach requires that all participants are… well… mentally ill from the same disease, have a lot of understanding for each other, and in short that they are very very good friends.
Crossing Tour du Mont Blanc with bikes was one of the craziest and most brilliant ideas we ever had. This idea was brewing inside our heads for a couple years, but one aspect of this adventure was unsolved: how to organize logistics. It’s easy to hike or ride as long as in the end, you will find your tent or some type of accommodation. Not to mention food and clean clothes. Last but not least, long rides require technical support. Bike malfunctions will inevitably occur on such a long journey and not being able to continue ride because of them would be devastating. So, for a couple years, finding someone willing to sacrifice riding in favor of the role of logistic manager was almost impossible. Until in beginning of 2016, I found out that evergrowing pain in my knees will not go away without surgery.
It’s a long story, but most of that year I was on the waiting list for arthroscopic knee surgery and more than available to take the role of a logistic officer for our little expedition. Plan for a Tour du Mont Blanc was completed in a few days and having in mind that usual TMB hiking plan includes 9-11 days with recovery day at every 3-4 days, our plan sounded like complete madness.
The plan included 5 riding days with one free day at the Chamonix in the middle of the course. Courmayeur, Italy was chosen as a start and endpoint. It is a normal decision when you have in mind that we are arriving at the Mont Blanc massif from the southeast. Also, this way, we choose Chamonix as a place where we will spend one free day resting from the ride. Only heaven knows how many wonderful places are available to nature lovers near this popular town.
From: Courmayeur, Italy
To: La Fouly, Switzerland
From: La Fouly, Switzerland
To: La Forclaz, Switzerland
From: La Forclaz, Switzerland
To: Chamonix, France
Note: It is probably wise to distance myself from the information I have just presented to you. Mont Blanc has shrunk by 3 meters from my first visit to him. And it is a damn solid piece of rock that no one would expect to be shorter without obvious reason, especially not in a lifetime.
Always keep in mind that glaciers are moving, rains are falling, avalanches are roaring and all numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, we all know that 8 km can be insurmountable if they are called Gangkhar Puensum (the highest unconquered mountain in the world). Also, on the other hand, the longest leg driven on day 3 was easily defeated by a girl who was our guest that day.
My point is – check the math before step into the wilderness.
Here you can download a version of navigation track which was a source for our plan. You can see that TMB has different paths in some areas. Which you will choose, depend on your preferences and conditions on the track. Take with reserve all the information you read on this or any other unofficial site. I was very well informed about the condition of the track and any problems you might expect on the road a couple of years ago. Since the situation in the mountains changes from day to day, my knowledge of the situation from a couple of years ago can be completely useless. Always inquire about the condition of the track at the official services of France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Let’s finish the start of this story here. There is too much to tell and show to put it in just one post. In the next posts, I will show you locations, give you maps and navigation of each day trail. And most of all, I’ll share thoughts about each leg of adventure called Tour du Mont Blanc by bike. There were a lot of challenges and even some drama when search and rescue were organized by our families in one of those series of unfortunate circumstances events. In future posts I’ll show you places we visited, roads I conquer as logistics while racing with cyclists and pieces of information from first hand about how is it looks to ride one pedestrian track.
But more than anything else, I’ll show you that true friendship is really priceless, precious, and in fact invaluable.