Before I go on writing about my amazing Tour du Mont Blanc trip, let me tell you a bit about it.
Tour du Mont Blanc aka TMB, is over 100 miles hiking trail in the alps circling Mont Blanc massif. According to National Geographic it is one of the dream trails. And no wonder it is. I did it and I can endorse it. It’s a heavenly experience. You hike through three different countries (France, Italy, Switzerland) and over several mountain passes with some of Europe’s most dramatic glaciers and scenery on display. The majesty of Mont Blanc with the summer flora of wildflowers and alpine meadows has inspired generations of alpine visitors, attracting mountaineers and hikers from around the world for over two hundred years. To me it was not just the scenery but the civilization and food in between that makes it super awesome. Along the way you will go through villages and huts where your cravings will be fulfilled from locally made wines to Swiss fondue, from cheese and French bread to Italian hot chocolates, you can even pick berries on the way and you will always be a happy hiker at the dinner table :). You can soak it in over seven to ten days or go ultra and run it in 3 days, that’s insane though. No matter how you choose to do it, it is an extraordinary adventure and a treat for a novice as well as an experienced hiker.
I flew to Geneva from Gatwick arrived there in the evening. It was an hour drive from Geneva in Switzerland to Chamonix in France. Here I would like to mention that if you are planning to go to France from Geneva, don’t expect Euros from ATMs at the airport. The ATMs only dispense Swiss Franc, don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. Anyway something to remember. Chamonix is where the trail was supposed to start and end. It’s an authentic French mountain town, located at the foot of Mont Blanc. Its was very lively, almost like the Ibiza of outdoors, full of outdoor activity shops and rentals from cheap to expensive brands, with restaurants and bars everywhere. It lies in one of the most picturesque valleys of the French Alps, with innumerable alpine peaks towering around you, pine forests, alpine valleys to explore, and beautiful glaciers spilling from the high massif. The town is home to 10,000 inhabitants, swelling to 100,000 during peak season. You can see the towering peaks of Aiguilles Rouges and Aiguille du Midi. On a clear day you can even see the north side of the summit Mont Blanc itself.
I managed to arrive at the Chamonix Hotel just in time for the important welcome meeting at 6pm. The interior of the hotel was all in wood, giving it a very typical Alpine atmosphere. I met Clare, our tour lead. She gave us a brief overview of what to expect and I soon figure out that our lead was going to be awesome throughout the trip, which was very important for me because a bad leader can ruin your trip. During the briefing I also found out that we were lucky that the weather forecast for the next few days was going to be fantastic as oppose to how dreadful it had been for the last few weeks.
After the briefing and settling in the hotel, we hit the town, picked up some missing bits from a recommended outdoor shop (can’t remember its name) ,walked through the streets and ended up in a lovely french restaurant for dinner. During this time I met all the people in the group and I was pretty happy to find out that everyone was reasonable :)…well you know what i mean 🙂 There were 12 of us. It was a really good mix of different ages ranging from 21-70 from US, Canada, Wales and Japan. Obviously me from Pakistan. Surprisingly I also found out that one of the guys in the group, Wasim from California, his origin was from Pakistan too. I felt excited as it was great to know that there was someone to have banter in my own language (Urdu) during the next 10 days :)..although at this point I wasn’t sure of his personality completely, he turned out to be one of the best fellow hiker you could ever imagine…more on him later 🙂