Day 1: Arrive in Chamonix – Optional Self-Guided Warm-up Hike – Trip Orientation and Welcome Dinner
Independent arrival in Chamonix. We will provide you with connecting information from the Geneva airport or other points. We will also provide information for an optional self-guided warm-up hike on the North Balcony, allowing you to experience the incredible Mer de Glace glacier up close and personal, or you can relax and just explore this charming and historic town. The guided trip officially begins with a welcome drink and orientation at 6 p.m., when you’ll meet your guide, followed by dinner. Self-guided trip participants may meet with our local guide to review maps and hiking cues, and then will enjoy dinner on their own in Chamonix.
Overnight: Hotel Richemond (http://www.richemond.fr/index.html) or comparable hotel
Day 2: Les Houches to Les Contamines-Montjoie
We transfer by bus from Chamonix to Les Houches. We’ll hike from Bellevue or from the top of the Bellevue cable car, cross a suspension bridge with views of the Bionnassay Glacier and then it’s up and over the Col de Tricot. We descend to the summer village of Le Miage, and end our day in a comfortable small hotel in the village of Les Contamines-Monjoie. We may instead hike via Bionnassay and La Gruvaz for an attractive alternative, especially if the weather is not cooperating, or to reduce the downhill on the first hiking day.
Hike: 14.5 km; 7 ½ hours; 700 m +/1318 m-
Overnight: Hôtel La Chemenaz (http://www.chemenaz.com/) or comparable hotel
Day 3: Les Contamines – Notre Dame de la Gorge – Col de la Croix du Bonhomme - Les Chapieux
In addition to the scenery, which continues to be spectacular, a highlight of today’s hike is the stretch where we walk on a path, which is believed to be part of a link with the Roman Empire from the heartland of Gaul (old France). We hike from Notre Dame de la Gorge, a pilgrimage site, and then follow the Roman Road, recognizable by the huge slabs of stone and a bridge that is more than 2,000 years old. After enjoying lunch at the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, we continue on to our hikers’ inn at the summer village of Les Chapieux, the southern limit of the Mont Blanc massif.
Hike: 18 km; 7- 7 ½ hours; 1316 m+/929m- (possible to shorten with a brief shuttle ride at the beginning depending upon weather, etc.)
Overnight: Auberge de la Nova (http://www.refugelanova.com/Accueil.html) or comparable hotel
Day 4: Les Chapieux - Col de la Seigne – Courmayeur
It is difficult to identify the highlight is of today’s adventure: crossing the Col de la Seigne from France to Italy with the backdrop of some of the best views of Mont Blanc? Walking in the footsteps of countless Roman legionnaires as we enter the Aosta region of Italy? The polenta at the Elisabetta Hut (“rifugio”) where we stop for lunch? The glaciers behind the hut? Today we walk from La Ville des Glaciers and hike up to the Italian border at Col de la Seigne and on to the Elisabetta Rifugio for lunch. After lunch we walk down from the hut to the outskirts of Courmayeur and then transfer into town. Tonight’s dinner is on your own, giving you a chance to select from Courmayeur’s excellent trattorias or pizzerias.
Hike: 18 km; 6 hours; 1004m+/794m-
Overnight: Hotel Berthod (http://www.hotelberthod.com/) or comparable hotel
Day 5: Courmayeur (Italy)– La Vachey – La Fouly (Switzerland) – Champex (Switzerland)
Today we hike over a continental divide between Italy and Switzerland. As we pass over the Grand Col Ferret from Italy into Switzerland we’ll have views of a glacier, and, hopefully, chamois. Rain falling on the Italian side of this pass, which has been in use for several centuries, ultimately flows into the Po River and the Adriatic Sea. Rain falling on the Swiss side flows into the Rhone River and then into the Mediterranean. Our day starts with a transfer to Arnuva and then a walk up the Ferret Valley. As we cross over the Grand Col Ferret into Switzerland we have a great view of Mont Dolent, whose summit is shared by France, Switzerland and Italy. We hike to the village of La Fouly and then transfer to the charming French Swiss town of Champex.
Hike: 20 km; 6-6 ½ hours; 895m+; 1410m-
Overnight: Hotel Glacier et Sporting (http://www.hotelglacier.ch/En/) or comparable hotel
Day 6: Champex (Switzerland) – Trient (Switzerland) via the Bovine Route
Today's hike is a stunning route past farms with great views. We walk straight from the hotel and into the woods and then follow high mountain pastures. The path curves, dips and rises over contours and in and out of indents on the hillside. There are tidy meadows, patches of forest, and high alpine pastures that lead to the alp buildings of Bovine looking down onto the old Roman city of Martigny in the Rhone Valley and across to the Bernese Alps. We then descend from the historic Forclaz Pass to the remote mountain village of Trient. We treat ourselves to cheese fondue tonight at our hiker’s inn if we wish.
Hike: Bovine Route: 19 km; 4 ½ - 5 hours; 845m+; 1025m-
Overnight: Auberge Mont Blanc (http://www.aubergemontblanc.com/en/) or comparable hotel
Day 7: Trient (Switzerland) – Col de Balme – Argentiere (France)
When we return to France today the feeling of excitement will be great as we near the last stage of our adventure. After leaving Trient via a steep trail through larch forest we hike up to and over the Col Balme and cross the French/Swiss border. We start the day with views of the Trient Glacier and then have a view over the glacier to the Fenetre d’Arpette. We spend the night in Argentiere, a village in a dramatic setting with views of the Mont Blanc massif. We are now back in the Chamonix Valley with the Arve River.
Hike: 13 km; 5 ½ hours; 1068 m +; 1178 M –
Overnight: Hotel de la Couronne (http://www.hotelcouronne.com/) or comparable hotel
Day 8: Argentiere – Lac Blanc – La Flegere – Chamonix
For our return into Chamonix and the completion of the Mont Blanc circuit we enjoy the famous Mont Blanc Massif reflection in Lac Blanc and a view of the Mer de Glace (“Sea of Ice”). We feel proud of our accomplishments as we walk back to Chamonix. Our last hike, though high in drama, is our shortest leg, allowing us time to savor the views at Lac Blanc. Those who are staying on for another day on their own in Chamonix will have time to explore the town, perhaps visiting the Alpine Museum to admire the feats of their mountaineering predecessors. Note: so that you can savor the last day of the tour, please plan on a 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. arrival back in Chamonix when making your subsequent travel arrangements.
Hike: 10.6 km; 4 hours; 1000 m +; 570 m -
Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual walks, sites and accommodations may vary due to season, special events or weather. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. In the case of guided tours: your guide is an expert on this tour and will make any adjustments to suit the circumstances and the group’s needs.