Tour of Mont Blanc - Self guided

Welcome to your self guided Tour of Mont Blanc!
On this page you can find out all about the 'Tough Mountain' self guided options for trekking around Mont Blanc. Whether you want to go clockwise, anti clockwise, do a half tour (either way) or mix the itinerary, so that you can take extra breaks on route to explore some area's a little bit more.
We offer competetive pricing for all budgets and accommodation needs, from huts to hotels!
So please, browse the page and start planning your 2017 adventure today! 
Looking at Mont Blanc one evening, last September, from above the Val Ferret (Italy), a couple of hundred metres below the Bonatti hut
Navigation on your self guided tour

Whilst a Self Guided trip offers the excitement of exploration in unfamiliar territory, using the map and the trip notes provided, once you hit the higher remote mountainside on each day of the tour, you may still require the use of Map and Compass. If you are unfortunate enough to experience a day when the rain is horizontal or mist/low cloud obscures the view (they are faily rare), sometimes the path. Having guided this route more than a dozen times in the last four years, i have on many occassions been asked by lone walkers or small groups in remote places for confirmation that they are going the right way. I would rather you didn't get to this stage!

When it comes down to it, trip notes will become an AID to Navigation in bad visability. To see the whole picture you still need all the other 'tools in the box' (that we provide) - map, compass and most important of all, knowledge and confidence in using them.

So before you skip forward to the itinerary, please answer the following questions honestly:

Do you know what map orientation is? Can you orientate the map using the compass?

Are you confident in 'interpreting' the features on the map? (path or stream junctions, a col, rock outcrops and cliffs? Can you visulizie what contour lines on the map, look like on the ground - examples might be concave or convex slopes and how steep you would expect them to be - the closer together the contour lines are, the steeper the slope.

Can you identify a path that you want to follow and take a compass bearing from the map, in order to point the way?

Measure the distance to the next identifable feature, using the corect scale, found on the on the compass 'base plate'?

Work out the time it will take you to walk this route, allowing for ascent and your regular walking speed? (Distance + your group speed + height gain)

If the answer is yes, then I am sure you will be able to extract yourself from a situation where the weather has closed in and visability has been reduced.

If you were not so confident in your answers then why not take a short Navigation course with 'Though Mountain' to brush up your skills?
​We can arrange a one or two day course in the United Kingdom or in Chamonix, France, prior to the start of your trips.

Part of the self guided booking conditions include a declaration that you can answer yes to all of the above questions, so if this isn't for you, why not consider a guided tour instead?

Looking back at the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (2443 metres altitude) after lunch. This beautiful location is wildly regarded as one of the remotest locations on the TMB

The iconic traditional route marker found on the Italian sections of the TMB

Route choices

'Tough Mountain's guided TMB tours are all about the personal touch. We will engage with you to find out what sort of tour YOU WANT. From advising you on the varient routes, which can offer tougher challenges on some of the days (taking into account the 'gains' of a more rewarding view, or a higher chance to see some wildlife). Also you may want to consider the many combinations of different accommodation on routes. Spending a night in a hut does not necessarily involve sharing a dormitory with 30 other people! Some huts have smaller private rooms.

Start in Chamonix, France or Courmayeur, Italy?
Go clockwise or anti clockwise?
Full circuit or half circuit?
Accommodation types and choices?
When to go?

So if you are considering this journey then get in touch with use and we'll arrange a chat on skype to discuss your personal tour.

Sample Itinerary

Based on a 12 day clockwise tour starting and finishing in Chamonix, France, 3 nights in huts and 9 hotel nights.

Day 1 - Arrive at Chamonix and check into the Hotel Richmonde. After settling in you can wonder down the high street and take coffee or head into one of the many outdoor stores if you need any last minute gear.

Day 2 - Leaving Chamonix, we take the cable car up to Plan Praz at 2000 metres We start the grand tour with a climb of just under 500 metres towards the Aiguille de la Charlanon before turning towards  Lac Blanc for lunch. The 'White Lake', is the prime spot from which to view the Mont Blanc massif from the French side. After lunch there are oppotunities to spot Ibex as we decend into Argentiere. Distance of 12 kilometres, ascent 800m/descent 1100m.

Day 3 - Argentiere - Trient, Switzerland. Leaving our hotel, we walk through the old village of Argentiere and up to Montroc. A steady climb through the Pine forest rewards us with a view of Le Tour, and the Le Tour glacier. After a coffee break in one of the 'Alpage's' we continue up to the Col du Balme refuge, the border with Switzerland. After lunch, spent gazing down the length of the Chamonix valley, we continue up for about 30 minutes to the Tete de Balme 2,321m. Beyond, our descent begins through Alpine pastures, inhabited by grazing cattle, giving way to the pine forests before arriving in Trient. A final short climb brings us to the Col du Forclaz and your hotel. Distance 9 Kilometres and 1200 metres ascent/1100m descent.

Day 4 -  Trient - Champex Lac. The Bovine Route (800 metre ascent, 6 hrs) with a lunch stop at the 'Alpage', is the easier option. Alternatively, if the weather is suitable and the you are feeling strong, there is the Finetre d'Arpette (1200m, 8 hrs) with its glacial views. Either route ends at the Hotel Splendide in Champex Lac.

Day 5 - Champex Lac - La Fouly - An easier day with an initial drop through forests to the valley floor. The afternoon is spent on an easy incline following the valley up through a series of farming villages, over a long extinct terminal moraine and narrow paths above the river to arrive in the small resort of  La Fouly. Overnight in hotel or hut.

Day 6 - La Fouly - Rifugio Bonatti (Italy). This morning climb to the Grand Col Ferret, the border of Switzerland & Italy. You now crossing into the western flank of the Mont Blanc massif. A chance to see the glaciers close up and some of the inpressive rock formations that make up the Grande Jourasse. There are huts to stop at throughout the journey, for refreshments. A compulsory hut stay is in the Rifugio Bonatti, named after the famous Italian climber and explorer Walter Bonatti. Luckily it is probably the most spacious, comfortable hut on the TMB! Distance 14 kilometres and 1200m up/1000m decent, 7.5 hrs

Day 7 - R. Bonatti - Courmayeur. Follow the traditional TMB route, up into a rock ampitheatre before climbing to the Col Sapin. This place is very special to me, the one place on the TMB where you will find the 'Stella Alpina' (Eidelweiss) growing in it's natural environment on the rocky mountainside. We descend through forests, passing donkeys, goats and sheep before arriving in Courmayeur for a 2 night stay. 12km, 800m ascent/1400m descent. 6.5 hrs.

Day 8 - Rest day - Courmayeur. Take a ride on the Cable car up to the glacier, visit the spa at Pre st Didier, cable car up to an outdoor swimming pool for a sun bathe and swim or just walk along the old padestrianised high street of Courmayeur for Coffee and 'Gelato'. In the evening, stroll over to Dolonne and have dinner in one of the restaurants in this quiet mountain village.

Day 9 - Courmayeur - Refuge Mottets (France). Climbing above the Val Veny, offers fantastic close up views of Mont Blanc and the glaciere Miage below. We drop into the Val Veny high up and after a stop at the Rifugio Elizabetta we continue our climb to arrive at the Col du Seine, the border of Italy and France. An hour and a half descent brings us to the Refuge Mottets and our overnight stay. 14 kilometres, 1500m climb/1200m decent. 8 hrs.

Day 10 - Refuge Mottets - Refuge Nant Borrant. Follow the glacial waters along the valley for half an hour before beginning a steady climb to the Col du Fours. Many times i've seen Ibex on this reletivily quiet section, I hope you do too. From the Col, the joint highest point on the circuit, we are only 25 minutes from the Refuge Bonhomme and lunch!. After lunch we contour around the mountain for an hour before starting our descent into the valley below to arrive at the Refuge Nant Borant, home of 'Oggy' (you'll have to book a trek 
if you want to know more!). 15km, 900m ascent/1000m descent. 8 hrs.

Day 11 - Refuge Nant Borrant - Les Houches - This morning your start in a gentle walk down an anciant Roman road, to arrive at the Notre Dame de la Gorge church. Continuing along the valley to the village of Contamines and a coffee stop. After, begins a climb through the forest to the Auberge de Bionnassay for lunch. Continue up a short way after lunch to cross the cog railway that runs from Saint Gervais up to the Nidge Aiguille (Eagles nest),on route to the Goutier Hut. You now have the option of a pleasant descent into Les Houches or Cable car if you want an early finish. 14km, 

Day 12 Les Houches - Chamonix - Today a grand ascent that will once again bring us to the Plan Praz Cable car, via Brevent, and some stunning views of the Bossons Glacier as well as the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Tacal and Mont Blanc. A great place to picnic! After lunch we continue over Brevent and down to Plan Praz. Use the return portion of your ticket to descend into Chamonix and return to the Hotel Richmonde for the final night. 12km, 1300m ascent/500m descent. 7 hrs.

Day 13 - Departure after breakfast.

On the northern end of the Mont Blanc massif, sit the Aiguille Verte and the 'Dru', photographed from the Lac Blanc side of the Chamonix Valley
Above: the Argentiere Glacier. You can reach this view by cable car from Argentiere and a walk of just over 1 hour. 
Below: the tip of the Argentiere Glacier. about 45 minutes above the cable car station you can picnic in safety, whilst watching for the occasional chunck of ice to fall off!

Fitness Level

Suitable for anyone who is a regular walker. You will need to carry a medium sized rucksac, a maximum of 30 Litres in size and the total weight, based on the kit list provided, should not exceed 10 kilograms, when overnighting in huts or if not using baggage transfer for the duration of the trip.

Time & Pace

5- 8 hours per day, based on a walking speed of 3 kilometres per hour, known to some as 'Alpine plod'. It's not a race and there is plenty of time for taking in the scenery and stopping for picnic lunches on route. The tracks and paths are rocky in places, but of good quality
Mont Blanc at Dusk, late summer 2016
The footbridge across the Bionnassay Glacial outflow, one of the optional routes between Contamines and Les Houches, french section of the TMB.
Meeting some Donkey's on the TMB above Courmayeur, Italy
I contacted a vet and sent some photo's - turned out they have a bit of sunburn after rubbing their heads on tree branches or, more likely, a barbed wire fence. 

What's included in the price?

Maps, detailed daily itinerary and trip notes.
Half board accommodation in a mixture of hotels and refuges on the tour.
Assistance with arranging in-country transfers to/from airports or rail terminals.

Not included:
Transfer to start point, from airport. (currently 24 euro single from Geneva)
Cable car (day 2 & day 12 - 17 euro return)
Evening meal on the arrival day.
Lunches each day - picnics can be purchased at huts and hotels
Transfer from end of trip.

Additional information

Information on how to arrive at Chamonix or Courmayeur from any airport/rail station will be included in your welcome instructions on receipt of booking. 

Price Guide

Basic 12 day trip (arrival day,11 walking days and 1 rest day in the middle of the trek) - £1,250 pp
Hotels, only 3 hut nights, from £1,595 pp

Your price could fall anywhere in between, depending on your accommodation combination, peak/off peak dates, so please get in touch for an accurate quotation.

2017 Dates

Any time from mid June until mid September.

​Just press the button below to go to the contact page
or call +44 7955 280053 to discuss your requirements