Tour du Mont Blanc – Stages 8 & 9 Relais d’Arpette to Charamillon

Another day of spectacular scenery and steep walking up and down hills in the Alps, finishing the day crossing the border from Switzerland back into France. From here I could see Chamonix in the valley below, where I started the TMB six days ago, but still had two more days of walking to go.

Morning light in the mountains is a wonderful thing, as these photos hopefully demonstrate. Otherwise it was a pretty hard two hour, 1,000m ascent up a steep rocky track to the 2,665m Fenetre d’Arpette.

Crossing passes is always a magical experience as you don’t know what will just be over the hill, particularly in the Alps the landscape can change quite dramatically. In this case the huge Glacier du Trient appeared on the left, and would stay with me for much of the day.

I got to see it from all angles on the equally long, if slightly less steep descent down to Chalet du Glacier for much needed lunch.

I then headed back up the hillside, passing this strange overhanging tree and heading up this impressive section of track, on my way to the closed Refuge Les Grands.

From here I started to lose views of Glacier du Trient on my way round the hillside to the 2,191m Col de Balme, much easier than the pass this morning. I had expansive and increasingly colourful views on the way there, and the surreal sight of a cyclist on top of the mountainside. Turns out that it’s a popular spot with bikers as they can get a ski lift up most of the way, or cycle up the road from Trient.

From the pass I headed down to Gîte d’Alpage Les Ecuries de la Charamillon, overlooking Chamonix below, and a great spot to spend the night with only 16 people there. Arriving by 4pm I had the place to myself for an hour. It had the best wifi and possibly food of any of the refuges I stayed at. Also met a good group of four Americans from the Mid-West who’d known each other since school, who were walking the TMB to mark their 50th birthdays this year, good choice!

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