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Le Tour Du Mont Blanc 2006

France |

This was the trip that I planned because 2 holidays a year isn't enough... especially when it's my aim to visit two new countries a year and Switzerland was far too tempting!

We began by flying Easyjet to Geneva and were met at the airport by our transfer agent (ATS). Due to time constraits I'd had little option but to book a taxi and as it turned out ATS weren't just superb, they were also reasonably priced (£25pp each way).

The taxi meant that after waking up in London, we were walking in the Alps by lunch... well almost, we had to wait for Les Houches Tourist Info to open so we could check the route was safe (unseasonal snow meant it was touch&go in places as it had only stopped a 2 weeks before we arrived!)

After speaking to the very helpful Tourist Info, Steve and I began the trek with a steep walk up to the Col de Voza and upon arrival felt the worst of the day was already behind us...BIG MISTAKE! Most of the day was still to go (we'd actually walked just 1/4 of the distance!) and by the time we arrived at Les Contamines campsite (a demoralising 45mins beyond the town) it was 7 o'clock and we were shattered...

If the first day was a nasty surprise, the second was plain nasty. It was bad on paper and worse in reality 18kms and 1300m ascent doesn't make Matt a happy boy...By lunchtime I was as exhausted as I've ever been - the lack of training (due to ill timed exams) was all apparent and truely hateful.

However, the views more than compensated for the pain - yesterday's blue skies continued and were glorious; the photos don't do them justice. Perhaps the finest decision of my life was also made this day; to cut the day short at the Col du Bonhomme Refuge. It was cheap (€13), clean & warm, but above all, empty. There were less than 10 of us staying at over 2400m and surrounded by snow. Also, unlike in the valley, we got perfect reception for England v Trinidad&Tobago on my windup radio so heard most of the WorldCup game...Rooooooooney!

The second half of yesterday's decision paid off as well. After speaking to the hut warden, Steve and I decided to brave the Col des Fours variant, which saw us reach the highest point of the TMB at 2665m - all of it in knee-deep snow!

The short-cut also enabled us to get back on track and reach the Ref Elisabetta. However, this meant walking about an extra 3kms and 400m ascent, a fair bit extra when the total for the day was already 15km and 1000m ascent. Nevertheless, it was a turning point - I was emboldened, encouraged and enlivened - and we'd reached Italy...

Locations Visited: Geneva, Les Houches

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