FoggyLog

Sat Dec 27th 2008 23:29:00: Camping on the Tour Du Mont Blanc (TMB)

Back in July I walked the TMB with my girlfriend and another friend and I've been meaning to write this article ever since! To make the holiday cheaper (for the poor students) we decided to camp and here is some useful info for anyone intending to do the same.

Day 0 (6th July 08) - Les Houches

We flew into Geneva (which is in Switzerland don't forget!) and got a lift with Alpybus to Les Houches (in France!). Alpybus were great - all went smoothly and they matched their competition's internet price (so it's worth checking around and knocking them down if you find it cheaper). We were planning to stay at Camping Bellevue Les Houches, however there was a torrential downpour and the campsite was flooded when we got there! Fortunately we hadn't booked (non of the campsites on the trip took bookings for our small group) so we walked up the road and checked into Hotel Les Melezes.

Day 1 (7th July 08) - Les Contamines

On day 1 we first went shopping to buy some gas [photo]. There was a sports shop to the west of the town center where they sold Coleman gas canisters cheaply. We were using a Trangia with gas converter which was fortunate as we didn't see any Meth's at all during the trip. We then walked to Les Contamines, stocked up with some food and then continued walking for 20 minutes or so to Camping Le Pontet Le Praz. This was a large camp site with good toilet and shower facilities etc [photo].

Day 2 (8th July 08) - Les Chapieux

At Les Chapieux [photo] there is the refuge (Refuge La Nova) and a big meadow. You can camp in the meadow for free and so there were lots of tents and camper vans. There are also toilet and sink facilities available for free.

The facilities at Les Chapieux are good, however it's worth considering the bivi sites up near Col de la Bonhomme. These obviously don't have any facilities, are quite exposed and there are only a few of them, however it avoids the long (knee killing) down hill and allows you to take the "short cut" to Ville des Glaciers which means you avoid the tedious road walk at the start of day 3. Of course the other way to avoid the long road walk is to hitch a lift on the mini bus service. I don't know how much it cost or anything (as we walked), however I can tell you it existed and was running when we were there!

Day 3 (9th July 08) - Refugio Elisabetta (aka Refugio E Soldini)

As we approached the refuge there were some camping spots on the left, however this was quite a way from the Refuge and was being used by a big party. We decided to see if we could stay in the refuge, so we walked up to it (it's slightly off the TMB and up the hill!) only to find it was full (they did offer us floor space!). Fortunately they were quite happy for us to pitch our tents on the ground above the refuge and then make free use of their facilities :-) The ground was pretty rocky, so we had to choose our spot carefully, and it was very exposed to the wind, however we were camping just below the glacier which was very cool [photo]. We then cooked dinner on the refuge's balcony [photo] and spent the evening playing games in the boot room (where it was nice and warm!!)

Day 4 (10th July 08) - Courmayeur

I couldn't find any campsites in Courmayeur - the only ones I found were quite a lot further on. Therefore we stayed in Hotel Edelweiss which was nice and simple (although it did look to be a building site as we approached). They'd clearly come across walkers before as we walked in the door and they sent us straight to our room with no faffing! This was very much appreciated as the down hill into Courmayeur was a killer. We'd planned to hitch a lift on the cable car, however it looked to be all closed up. Moral was soon destroyed when a car went whooshing over the top of us! We later decided that it was probably a service run as we didn't see any more!

Courmayeur had a supermarket etc, however it was generally an expensive place for shopping (Gas was really expensive!). It also had a post office, so we filled a box up with all the unnecessary stuff from our bags and posted the whole lot home! The box took about 2 or 3 weeks to get home, however it lightened our load by a few kilos and made life much easier. We'd definitely recommend taking the bare minimum of stuff and keeping the bags light. The benefit of the way we did it was that after a few days we knew how cold it was so we could send all the dirty and excess warm clothing home.

Make sure you take a map of Courmayeur with you, as ours came in very useful (however I can't find the link to the PDF I used anymore :( )

Day 5 (11th July 08) - Refuge W Bonatti

We had booked to go to Refuge Bonatti on the 5th day (again no campsites in the right place), however due to heavy bags on previous days we were pretty worn down. Therefore we decided to cancel that booking and have a nice easy day and walk along the valley (Val Veny) to Refuge Elena (just before Col Ferret) [photo]. This meant we were ahead of ourselves for day 6 and the Refuge was really nice and modern (a whole bunk bed each!). We cooked for ourselves outside, rather than buy dinner at the refuge, which was fine. Apparently the walk to Bonatti was really memorable, so we'll have to do that some other time!

Day 6 (12th July 08) - La Fouly

La Fouly [photo] was a pretty little village with a cafe and a small supermarket. There was also a small sports shop, but I can't remember if it sold gas (I think they had "Camping Gaz" only). There was a big campsite - Camping Les Glaciers - with good toilet and shower facilities. The campsite also had a building you could cook dinner in which was good as it poured it down that night (I woke up to find my tent in a small pond)!

Day 7 (13th July 08) - Champex Lac

[photo] We had planned to camp at Camping Les Rocailles, however it was still raining and we were bored of being wet. Therefore we went to the Tourist Information and they directed us to the Alpine Garden [photo]. This was a tourist attraction in the town, however we rented a room in the antique looking lodge (and got free entry to the garden!). The room was basic as it just had bed (no bedding - you needed a sleeping bag) and en suite toilet. Downstairs there was a shower and a communal kitchen.

Champex had a few bars and shops and we had a very nice meal out that night. The supermarket was very poorly stocked and really expensive.

Day 8 (14th July 08) - La Peutry / Col de la Forclaz

The walk from Champex past "Bovine" is really cool - it's hard work, but basically you are walking up a little stream which was fun. The refuge at Bovine sells food and drink which looked pretty nice however we had cuppa soup from our Trangia :-)

There are two camping possibilities at the other end - Col de la Forclaz which is up at the pass - and La Peutry which is down in the valley. We decided Col de la Forclaz was by a main road, so we went for La Peutry in the valley. If you want to do the high loop on day 9, then stay up at the Col, else you'll have to climb back up! The campsite in La Peutry [photo] was just a field near the Refuge. Both the refuge and the campsite are unstaffed - someone turns up at the start of the evening to collect your money. The campsite had a roofed area where you could cook and a toilet block so wasn't too bad. At the other end of the village (about 15min walk away past the church) was a little shop selling basic food stuff. The only problem with La Peutry was the next morning it was really really cold. After lots of faffing in the hope the sun would get to us, we eventually set off and within a couple of minutes we were in the sun and over heating! After that we always decided where to pitch our tent based on where we thought the sun would come up first!

Day 9 (15th July 08) - Les Frasserands

The campsite at Les Frasserands is just down the hill from the TMB route. It's not very far though, so is not a problem. The campsite has good facilities and a sheltered cooking area, so got the thumbs up from us! 15 minutes down the valley (follow the path out the back of the campsite) there is a big super market.

Day 10 (16th July 08) - La Flegere

The walk from Les Frass to La Flegere involves ladders [photo] which were good fun, however hard work with big packs on!

We detoured via Lac Blanc with our packs, rather than going to the refuge first. This wasn't too far and we got lots of respect from the unfit day trippers as we ran past them on our way back down to the refuge :-) The lake was very pretty and therefore a massive tourist attraction and meant it was heaving with people.

At La Flegere we stayed at the Refuge [photo] which is near the cable car station. It was really nice to watch the sun go down over the valley whilst the remaining day trippers made their way down on the cable car. We had no choice but to eat at the Refuge, however the meal was really good and the bunk rooms were nice and spacious. I had trouble contacting the refuge to book before we left, so we booked our beds at the tourist information when we were in Les Houches on the first day. The number they gave us was 06.03.58.28.14 (Tel. Refuge) or 04.50.55.85.88 (Tel. Gardien)

Day 11 (17th July 09) - Les Houches

On our return to Les Houches we checked into Chalet Refuge Michel Fagot. This was a cheap hostel with bunk beds and communal facilities. It wasn't a great nights sleep, however it did the job.

Equipment

There are lots of kit lists on the internet, so I won't bore you with all that, however I'd comment that walking poles are essential and you'll need a nice warm sleeping bag. I used an Ajungilak Kompakt which was really nice. Tent wise, the girls used an old 2 man Jack Wolfskin tent whilst I used a 1 man Terra Nova Laser Competition. The Terra Nova was nice and light, but handled the weather conditions with no problems. The only problem I had with it was the build up of condensation which made getting out of bed quite a wet experience if you were not careful!

We didn't really use our torches very much (we were normally fast asleep by the time it got dark and too lazy to get up in the morning!) so you don't need anything particularly big and heavy. We didn't need GPS at all, however the guide book, map and compass were essential. We found the Carte de Randonnees 1:50,000 map wasn't nearly as good as an OS map, however when combined with the guide book we didn't get lost. I highlighted the TMB on the map with a highlighter pen which was quite useful.

I'll also mention again that you need to travel light - you will smell foul at the end of it, so there is definitely no point taking more than 2 sets of clothes (1 of which you are wearing!). Don't try and carry anything more than bare essentials else it will hurt! Of course, don't skimp on the emergency equipment though.

Footnotes

If you find anything mentioned above is out of date, or you have more details to add, please leave a comment or drop me an email. Likewise for any questions... can't promise to be able to answer, however I'll try my best ;-)

 

Would love to see your photos - the link is broke?

Have done the tmb twice and going again in August. Great fun.

Comment by di at 16:24 on Wed 18 March 2009

Bummer... Facebook seem to have broken my links by changing their website. I'll upload the photos to this site and update the links when I get a moment.

Thanks for pointing the problem out!

Gary

Comment by Gary at 16:43 on Wed 18 March 2009

hello,we are planning to do the tour of mont blanv this summer,we want camp free in the woods during the tour,do you believe it is possible?

Comment by dimitris nikolitsis at 8:47 on Tue 24 March 2009

Hi Dimitris,

You could try it, however I wouldn't recommend it. In many places there wasn't really anywhere to camp and I'm told the authorities are pretty hot on illegal campers.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 21:51 on Tue 24 March 2009

How much does camping cost for each night?

Is there camping available for each night?

We need to do it as cheap as possible.

Comment by Shiri at 23:06 on Tue 26 May 2009

Hi Shiri,

I've linked to all the camp sites in the article above, so with a bit of research, you should easily be able to find out all the current prices. If there is no campsite for a night, then that is also mentioned in the article above.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 23:22 on Tue 26 May 2009

Hi Gary,

Your site has been very helpful to my friend and I. We are leaving for our trip in two weeks and have a few last minute questions.:

What was your experience with getting fresh drinkable water? Did you bring a filter? Did you use it? Any thoughts on water?

In the camp sites, are there covered cooking areas in every one you stayed in, or should we bring a tarp in case of rain?

We have an international stove so we can use pretty much any type of fuel, but white gas is the best, What was your experience with food and fuel?

We have some dehydrated dinners, but we're wondering about the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables?

Did you use a cellphone? Is it worth it? We are from the U.S. and would need to rent an international phone.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Have a great week!

Comment by Mary at 3:24 on Tue 4 August 2009

Hi Mary,

--> What was your experience with getting fresh drinkable water?

There was plenty around. There were sources in all the camp sites and in lots of places along the way.

--> Did you bring a filter?

Nope - never considered it.

--> In the camp sites, are there covered cooking areas in every one you stayed in, or should we bring a tarp in case of rain?

There were in many, but not all. We had the possibility of cooking in our tent's porch, however we never needed to do that in the end.

If you are carrying your stuff, I wouldn't recommend the extra weight of a tarp unless you are feeling strong. Our experience was that you wanted zero excess weight!

--> We have an international stove so we can use pretty much any type of fuel, but white gas is the best, What was your experience with food and fuel?

I think everything I can remember about fuel and food is already details in the article above. Don't think I've got anything to add I'm afraid.

--> We have some dehydrated dinners, but we're wondering about the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables?

You can get it in some places, but not all. Again everything I can remember is above.

--> Did you use a cellphone? Is it worth it? We are from the U.S. and would need to rent an international phone.

Only to call parents a couple of times. We didn't need it otherwise.

Comment by Gary at 21:31 on Tue 4 August 2009

Looks great --- well done, I'm off to do it this week but i've just heard that screw top gas canisters for my stove are not available, Is this correct? What about meths, is that available? or should i take my whisperlite? happy walking

John

Comment by John Watson at 19:20 on Mon 31 August 2009

Hi John,

We used screw top gas canisters (coleman) and they were available. We didn't see any meths anywhere.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 19:27 on Mon 31 August 2009

Hi Gary, me and some mates are planning to camp the tour de mont blanc this summer in august. We really dont have much experience with camping or hiking but we really want to give it a go.

I was wondering if u needed expedition level equipment for this hike or if ur ordinary tents and sleeping bags will do the job. in general i would be really grateful for any details for necessary camping equipment. i cant find any info on the web!

cheers mate!

rob

Comment by Rob at 17:32 on Tue 12 January 2010

Hi Gary. Thank you for this site/article.

I'm going backpacking this summer. Starting off in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, where I'll take the train to France. The only plan I have for France is checking out the Alps, and Tour de Mount Blanc seems like a good way to do it.

Where there anything you didn't bring but that you wish you had?

Comment by Henrik at 22:55 on Sat 6 February 2010

Rob - It can get cold, so you need good kit to stay warm. Obviously the better the kit is, the lighter it will be to carry!

Henrik - I can't think of anything we missed. Have a look for the various kit lists published on the web and you should remember everything. Generally if you forget anything, you can pick it up when you are out there.

Comment by Gary at 0:09 on Tue 9 February 2010

Hi Gary. Great website - lots of useful tips! We're going to do the TMB in August and thinking about what sleeping bags to buy. How cold did it get at night when you were there?

Thanks!

Comment by Tiz at 12:16 on Sun 28 February 2010

Hi Tiz,

"you'll need a nice warm sleeping bag. I used an Ajungilak Kompakt which was really nice"

It was pretty cold in the morning before the sun came up. I don't have any figures, but pack warm!

Comment by Gary at 19:33 on Mon 8 March 2010

Just wanted to express my appreciation. Great write up and very helpful for our 2010 excursion in July

thanks

Johno

Comment by Johno at 20:47 on Wed 24 March 2010

Gary, thanks for the great site - extremely helpful. I'll be doing the TMB in August this year. I'm preparing for cold, but what kind of temps can I expect during the day and at night? Also, did you have any reservations at the campsites, or is it fairly easy to just walk up and find a spot? We'll be camping as much as possible, and wild camping where we can. Thanks.

Comment by Will at 19:52 on Tue 22 June 2010

Hi Will,

Glad you found the info useful. During the day it's hot. I wore 3/4 lengths everyday. At night it's cold - you'll need a good warm sleeping bag. It stays cold until the sun hits you in the morning - then it warms up very quickly.

No need to book at the camp sites - for small groups of 1 or 2 tents, just turn up.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 23:36 on Wed 23 June 2010

Hi Gary,

I have a question for you. You camped at the meadow near the Refuge La Nova. Is there any running water for cooking?

Thanks for your response, Dominika

Comment by Dominika at 10:51 on Sat 3 July 2010

Hi Dominika,

Yes - the toilet facilities provide drinking water. There is generally no shortage of water on the TMB.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 16:14 on Sun 4 July 2010

hey gary,

thank you very much on the post one of the better ones i read. i wanted to do tmb with friends this summer and was wondering if u need to be in good shape or can we just do it since we never realy done a long trip (we are 19 years old and in cosiderabley good shape)

Comment by daniel at 18:00 on Wed 28 July 2010

Hi Daniel,

I was quite cycling fit, but not that walking fit and did ok. Got left behind by the girls on the up's, but was much faster than them on the downs :)

You don't need to be that experienced at doing long walks, as long as you've got a sensible head if the weather turns bad. The main thing with long distance walks is having stamina!

Gary

Comment by Gary at 22:51 on Wed 28 July 2010

Thanks for the info - always pleased that someone takes the time to compile these things - most info out there seems to be in regard to staying in refuges and hotels. I am going to print the details off and use it. Well, it'll probably just get wet and I'll lose it, but still.

Did you spot many people bivving along the way? I guess not, unless you were walking in the dark.

Comment by NR at 8:59 on Thu 29 July 2010

Hi NR,

I assume there were people bivving, however we never saw them - we were always asleep before dark!

Gary

Comment by Gary at 23:32 on Thu 29 July 2010

HiGary-

i'm hiking the TMB this summer with 2 friends. We were thinking of setting up hammocks which pack easier than tents. DO you think this will work at any of the campsites? Are they mostly open sites or are trees generally available to hang them from? What about off the trail? Thanks!!

Comment by Jamie at 1:04 on Tue 14 June 2011

Hi Jamie,

Humm... I would say you are unlikely to find suitable trees every night. Some nights are spent in some remote places where there are not trees at all and the camp sites were pretty open if I remember correctly.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 19:56 on Tue 14 June 2011

Hi Gary,

me and three more friends are going to the TMB mostly at the same date you did (the begging of July), and i have some questions about the course.

- How many liters of water did you carry?

-What's the temperature like (in numbers please, everyone has a different limit for cold) at the days and nights?

-How many cloth did you pack? Did you need a coat for the nights?

-Do they have pharmacies up there? What about supermarkets?

Thank you for the blog, it's very helpful!

Comment by Yoav at 7:50 on Fri 17 June 2011

Hi Yoav,

Water - a couple of litres to get you across the more remote parts was plenty - there were water supplies all over the place otherwise.

Not having a thermometer I have no idea what the temperture was. All I know was that it was hot during the day (except at altitude obviously) and really cold at night - we were wearing coats and fleeces until the sun got to us in the morning.

We had thermals, fleeces and waterproofs for evenings and mornings only one set mind!

The main towns had pharmacies. Supermarkets were as described in the article above.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 10:14 on Fri 17 June 2011

Hi Gary,

one more thing- when you say that we'll need only 2 sets of clothes- is it because there are washing machines at the camp sites?

Comment by Yoav at 12:32 on Fri 17 June 2011

As mentioned in the text - more than 2 sets is too heavy. We did 2/3rds of the walk in the same set of clothes. The other set got posted home to make the bags lighter.

We were not aware of any washing facilities.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 23:28 on Fri 17 June 2011

Hi Gary!

First of all. thank you for excellent guide! It's been really helpful!

One thing I wanted to know is did any of the campsites had a WI FI connection? It seems to be more cheap to communicate via Email than phone calls..

Comment by John at 15:06 on Mon 20 June 2011

Hi John,

No idea about wifi I'm afraid. I didn't have a wifi enabled phone at the time so didn't look for wifi.

Gary

Comment by Gary at 17:54 on Mon 20 June 2011

Hi Gary,

Thanks for all the information, it's been really useful in helping us plan our trip. Apologies if this question has already been asked but what time of year did you do the trek? as we are thinking of doing it in August.

Cheers, Ross

Comment by Ross at 15:02 on Thu 21 July 2011

The date is next to the day numbers ;-)

Comment by Gary at 15:07 on Thu 21 July 2011

Thanks for your nice diary. I'm going with my friends in a few days TMB and we' ll surely make good use from your experiences.

Comment by Mikos at 1:06 on Thu 4 August 2011

Thanks for sharing your adventure! Getting ready to do the TMB this summer...can you please share some cost information? Just wondering how much I need. Thanks.

Comment by Andrew Thaller at 20:38 on Tue 5 June 2012

Great post. I am printing this to take with us as we are leaving next week (August) and planning to camp a lot along the way. Because of weight, we are bringing a very light sleeping bag (40 degrees) but bringing long underwear, a hat and gloves and a lightweight down jacket. Hopefully, with all of that we will fair well in the cold. We could trade all of those clothes for a heavier bag I suppose but we want the option of layering. I will come back and post here if that was a really bad idea so others know. I will also bring a thermometer :)

Comment by Jessica at 21:08 on Sun 5 August 2012

A lot of great info here! I definitely want to camp as much as possible when I do this route. Was it free to camp in a tent or did you have to pay for a site? Are camp fires allowed?

Comment by Josh at 9:35 on Fri 22 November 2013

Hi Gary,

I have been at couple of summits (Mont-Blanc and Elbrus) but never had more than 4 nights hiking. Now preparing to do the TMB this summer, most probably solo as can not find partners.

Thank you for very helpful info which seems to be the best.

Just today visited chamonix to have a look for some maps and materials. There is a good book shop near office du tourism on the way to elevator aguile du midi having a lot of TMB materials. Was happy to find out that I preferred to buy the same "red" hiking map that you refer.

Additional great thanks to refer the tent manufacture where I found the "tent of my dream" self standing (!) but light and reasonably priced - "Terra Nova Solar Competition 1".

Comment by Nikolay at 19:08 on Sun 5 January 2014

We also camped the whole route, only paid for camping three times (once at Col de la Forclaz once at Tre-le-champ, which was amazing and well worth it, and once at Les Houches). We only paid for camping in order to use the shower. We wrote about our experiences here: TMB

Comment by Aisling at 0:04 on Sun 16 March 2014

This is epic!! such a real experience thanks :)

About the phones... does anyone know if you have signal out there on the TMB ??

Also would love to know if taking a lighter sleeping bag and taking layers was any better than taking the large sleeping bags..good or not?

Comment by Nushka at 22:36 on Wed 19 August 2015

Hi, me and a few friends are considering doing TMB for a second time this summer. However, this time we are organising it ourselves.

We're unsure on camping arrangements and so were just wondering how many campsites you had to book in advance or if you could just check into most campsites on arrival?

Comment by Bryony Sanders at 14:59 on Sat 20 February 2016

As mentioned in the text above.... "(non of the campsites on the trip took bookings for our small group)"

I contacted all the camp sites in advance, but non of them took bookings.

Comment by Gary at 17:17 on Sun 21 February 2016

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