Tour du Mont Blanc – Stage 1 Les Houches to Refuge de Tré la Tête

Renowned as one of the greatest multi-day walks in the world, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a ~160km circuit of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. There are many refuges along the way with duvets serving meals which eliminate the need for a sleeping bag and food, allowing a refreshingly light pack.

From day one I understood why it has such a high reputation, with a relatively straightforward if physically challenging track and some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a lot now in New Zealand, Patagonia, Georgia, and Iceland).

The track is exceptionally well signed posted, other than it seems at the popular starting point of Les Houches, where I needed to carefully follow the instructions in the near mandatory Kev Reynolds guide, which almost everyone on the track seemed to have a copy of. After a quick look inside the distinctive church I headed uphill for the first of four significant climbs, totalling around 2,200m of ascent, and 1,500m of descent, over about 21km, a decent first day warm up!

Within an hour I could just about see the summit of Mont Blanc itself, and the first of a near endless number of glaciers seen over the trip.

The views back down the valley toward Les Houches and Chamonix weren’t bad either.

There is a cable car and train up to Col de Voza but I put the graft into walking up, making the views from the Wes Anderson like Bellevue even more rewarding.

From here the track started to head around the mountain, across a sizeable footbridge to a lovely meadow below the huge Glacier de Bionnassay.

It was a bit of slog from here up to the Col de Tricot before coming down the steep other side to Chalets de Miage.

More ascent and descent was required to get into Les Contamines, making my way around this rather large (and seemingly lost) group.

Before I could rest for the day though I had a ~800m ascent to the wonderful Refuge Tré la Tête, passing some colourful mushrooms on the way.

The refuge is in a spectacular spot, perched at 1,970m on a ridge overlooking the town and valley below. Inside it had a sizeable dinning room, three course dinner (soup and cheese, beef and rice, chocolate cake), a decent bunk room (I ended up next to a Kiwi couple who live ten mins from me in Auckland!), and the most amazing hot showers. A great end to a challenging but wonderful start on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

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