TMB: Day 7. How did all these people get on the trail?

Note to self and future TMBers: Don’t save the Chamonix stretch for your last day of hiking.

I forgot that with all the cable cars from the Chamonix valley, on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, the trails would be swarming with day-hikers. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with day-hikers. I work as a guide on these very same trails and frequently bring groups of 20 slow moving people to block your way. I apologize now to all you TMBers trying to finish your grand adventure while passing large groups stopping for picture ops and taking off layers.

I felt a level of frustration today that I hadn’t anticipated, but all I had to do was look around at the all-pervasive beauty and get over it. Still, I wasn’t in my groove.

jump on the La Flégère cable car to get an awesome view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley.

You can jump on the La Flégère cable car to get an awesome view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley.

I was glad to get the opportunity to hike up to Brévent which was much rockier, technical and rougher than I had imagined. Springing chamois greeted me near the top, and it felt like I was taking pictures of the mountain goats I see in print when I read my weekly horoscope. Was I seeing a representation of myself, the Capricorn — steady, independent, free? I would like to think so.

Bounding Baby Chamois.

A bounding baby chamois (mountain goat).

Maybe I really am a mountain goat?

Maybe I really am a mountain goat?

The not-so-well marked trail descending from Bel Lachat to Les Houches was absolutely brutal on my aching knees, and I was forced to take it nice and slow down the steep, slippery slopes and walk with intention. I wouldn’t be making it back up to the Col de Voza in time to catch the afternoon train down to finish the TMB. Just before les Houches, the statue of Christ-Roi greeted me with his awesome grandeur and reminded me it was ok to wake up another day on the trail.

The Christ-Roi statue was build in 1933 by Georges Serraz and looks over the Chamonix valley above Les Houches.

The Christ-Roi statue was build in 1933 by Georges Serraz and looks over the Chamonix valley above Les Houches.

After a quick pizza, I put my throbbing knees to bed around 9 pm in hopes of an early start tomorrow.

Day 7 recap:
Le Tour to Les Houches
8.5 hrs hiking
Refuge: Hotel Chris-Tal, Les Houches

TMB: Day 7-B. A few hours and then goodbye…

Since I only technically walked about 1.5 hrs this morning to finish the trail, I’ll just go ahead and call this Day 7-B. It would be a shame to add on an extra day for a shabby little hour and a half of walking!

I stopped at my favorite bakery in Les Houches just after sunrise and munched on a chocolate chip brioche washed down with a double espresso before hitting the trail. As I observed people’s bakery orders, I had to smile when 6 out of 6 men all ordered pain au chocolat with their baguettes. Women, myself excluded, seemed to order more sensibly.


There were clouds in the sky this morning, and rain was on its way. I was glad to get a move on things.

Although I felt sad that it was all coming to an end, I never dreamed the whole experience would be as rewarding and rejuvenating as it was. The trails, the mountains, the food, the community, the kind-spirited people I met along the way will stay with me for a really long time. Without getting all sappy on you, my Readers, I will say that I simply loved the experience. Every last bit. And I’m going to do it again next year, only faster! So join me if you wish.

The train back down to civilization (Le Fayet) was empty and allowed me to reflect on my week and slowly start to prepare myself to reenter my life off the trail.

ciao, ciao, Mont Blanc.

Ciao, Ciao, Mont Blanc.

Day 7-B recap:
Les Houches to Col de Voza
1.5 hrs

TMB: Frequently asked questions

Since I’ve graduated to the title of mini-expert extraordinaire of the Tour de Mont Blanc, I would like to offer some insight into your most pressing, imitate TMB questions!


Who should hike the TMB?

-Everyone with good balance, good knees and a good pair of walking sticks! Really, I saw grandparents, little kids with little backpacks, people of all sizes, shapes and shoe preferences, mountain bikers, and even a couple of donkeys! You can always take extra rest days and some of the bus transfers in the valleys if you need an extra little boost, just ask my Parisian friend. Go on, you can do it!

What essentiels should I bring?

I like the packing list on the website ‘Walking the TMB,’ although it might be a little bit too extensive.

Here are my absolute essentiels:
–Walking sticks (They save your knees and give so much support)
-One hiking outfit
-One refuge outfit
-Silk sleeping bag liner for the orphanages
-Ear plugs (Don’t forget them like me; they’re hard to find on the trail!)
-Music (I really like listening to my IPod for a couple hours of day when I get tired)
-Journal & pen
-Thermos & good tea
-Trail running shoes (I prefer them to hiking boots)
-Small first aid kit
And all the other necessary stuff…underwear, toiletries, snacks, you know.

Should I reserve my bed at the refuge ahead of time?

-If you plan on hiking in a big group, yes, you will have to reserve ahead and stick to your itinerary. I found that I could always find a bed (even in busy August) for one person if I called the night before. That allowed greater flexibility depending on how I felt and meant I didn’t have to keep canceling reservations, which many hikers do when they realize the itinerary they planned out from their laptop in the big city didn’t pan out like they thought it would on the trail with the addition of rain, fatigue, blisters, etc.

Is it safe for a woman to hike all by her little-lonesome, womanly self?

-Yes, and it will force you to reach out and meet lots of wonderful people when you feel the need. I’ve never felt any danger on the trails or in the refuges.

Who wins the MPV award for your Tour, Lady?

-My magenta thermos, of course! Having mid-morning tea on the trail was just too good to be true. Isn’t she gorgeous?! Make sure to bring an assortment of tasty teas.

I love you, Thermos!

I love you, Thermos!

Can I mountain bike the trail?

-Hell yeah! Especially if you have sexy calves and are a ridiculously skilled biker! The mountain bikers I crossed paths with were pretty bad-ass and were able to bike everything except the stretch above the Chamonix Valley. Bells on all bikes, to warn the hikers, would be a swell addition to your VTT packing list.

What’s your favorite alpine flower on the trail?

-Well, thank you so much for asking! Check out these moisture loving Scheuchzer’s Cotton Sedges. Even the name is cool. I love how light and airy they are in the wind and sun. Simply stunning!


When will you go next year?

-Email me, and we’ll set a date 🙂

Chamonix, you’re cool!

The site of the first winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix wins my vote as the coolest mountain-town in France. Plus, any city with a significantly highly percentage of handsome, rugged, adventure-seeking, outdoor-loving men to women ranks high in my book 😉 But really, tucked in the Arve Valley with unbelievable views of the all-powerful Mont Blanc, the Aiguilles Rouges and all those pointy Aiguilles (needles) of Chamonix, a zillion yummy restaurants (tartiflette, anyone? For those of you who haven’t eaten this rich, creamy concoction, it’s potatoes, onions, bacon and melted cheese all baked into a gooey, artery-clogging mix), and fun bars and cafes on every corner, Chamonix is perfect in any season. Mountain biking, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, trail running, ice climbing, paragliding, rafting, squirrel-suit jumping, you name it, you can do it here. Now I just need to learn to ski so I can go back in the winter…