This trip was originally published on travelfreak
Last fall, we went for a 2 day trekking trip to the Alps during which we covered a part of the 'Tour du Mont Blanc' trail. Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps and located between Italy and France. It is very popular among trekkers and the 'Tour du Mont Blanc' is a multi-day trek around the Mont Blanc mountain.
We however, covered only a part of this trek - starting at the Italian town of Courmayeur which is on the south of the Mont Blanc tunnel, doing a day trek till Les Capieux in France and then coming back to Courmayeur the next day. It was a very beautiful and strenuous trail but I must say it also made me realise that I seriously need to do something about my fitness and stamina levels!
We flew in to Geneva, took the French exit, drove through Geneva city center (to avoid the Swiss tolls!), drove through France (touching the town of Chamonix) and then drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel to reach the village of Courmayeur in Italy. It was also my first time through the Mont Blanc tunnel, and I was amazzed! A 10 kilometer tunnel under the mountain is definitely impressive.
It took us about 2+ hours to reach Courmayeur and we missed the whole beauty of the area as we were driving at night. The town of Courmayeur seemed like a cosy little ski town with small wooden houses and mountains all around, though we did not get a chance to spend much time there.
Our first day of trekking covered approx 17 kms (it was 21 km but we got a lift the last 4 kms of walking on the road to reach the refuse) and we walked up 1250 mts and then came down approx the same. We started the trek from Val Veny, walked for some time next to a stream, and then took a detour up Mount Fortin.
The mountain face that we climbed was full of loose stones and quite a steep hike. The trek up just to reach the Mount was by itself about 1000 mts of going up. It was the toughest part of the trek, which tested our strength and resolve the maximum. And of course it did not help, that the weather was wet and windy and cold!
Once on top of the Mount, we came across a structure built of stones laid out in the form of rooms but completely broken down. You can get a 360 degrees view of the scenery all around - stark hills and icy glaciers with some green vegetation but mostly covered with small rocks.
After crossing the Mount, the trek down was also a bit challenging. The face on the other side consisted of walking on loose stones mixed with slate and clayey soil. There was a tinge of blue on the stones too, which might be due to some mineral common in this area.
The trail then goes over some hills and then into the valley. It passes by a lake, and you also see many streams and waterfalls on the way. We also crossed some refuse huts on the way but all were closed by this time of the year. On the way, we also caught some views of Mont Blanc in between but the weather was rainy and so visibility was limited. We also saw loads of wild flowers, and a red mushroom (!) on the trek. The landscape though green did look a lot like what I had seen in Iceland - a bit bare.
Once we reached Co De La Seigne (which is on the border of France and Italy), a meeting point of multiple trails, the trail got easier. After that point, there was about 5-6 kms on the trail going down into the Les Chapieux valley.
Right across the mountain we were climbing down, was a grazing ground for cows. There must have been a couple of hundreds of those cows wearing the bells (made famous in DDLJ) and grazing away to glory. The sound that was made by so many bells was very very loud in the valley, and irritating after a point.
By the time we were down in the valley, I was almost dead. We had walked for 10 hours straight in wind and rain and over steep mountains. But the views during the trek were worth the effort.
We were however able to avoid walking the last 1 hour on the road to our refuse, Auberge De La Nova as the very helpful owners of the refuse gave us a lift for the last 4 kms. Once at the hostel, we had a tasty dinner, and then crashed completely with thoughts of how we would complete the same trail the next day to go back to Courmayeur!
The next day, half of the trek was the same as the previous day but the weather was even worse. We covered about 17 kms in less than 7 hours, trekking from 1800 mts to 2500 mts and then down back to 1700 mts.
From Les Chapieux, we walked up to Co De La Seigne, but did not go up Mount Fortin (thankfully!) but walked directly back into the valley. The weather of course did not help - it was rainy and foggy and very very cold. But the views here were magnificent - of the mountains on either side, with moving glaciers and waterfalls. Here are some photos of the trek back.
Once back from the trek, we drove back to Chamonix, had a quick Mexican dinner at PocoLoco and then were back to take off from Geneva. It turned out to be a very very hectic weekend, but a good introduction to trekking in the Alps. A definite option for future vacations.
At Courmayeur, we stayed at Camping Green Park, which was basically a camping ground plus with options to stay in a chalet. I wasn’t impressed with the chalet though, it wasn't good value for money. But the view just when you wake up and look out is breathtaking! Its also a good place to camp if you are into camping.
At Les Chapieux, we stayed at Auberge De La Nova, the last available refuse which was still open in September!! It is located in a green valley, with a beautiful view of the mountains around. The dorms are comfortable, though as expected quite basic. And they have an in-house restaurant which serves very tasty fare (or at least it tastes amazing after a 10 hour walk up and down the mountains!).
The owners are also quite friendly and helpful - they picked us up from the end of the trek and dropped us there the next morning, so that we could save time (and our energy) for the rest of the trek. It charges €50 per person which covers the dinner, breakfast and the dorm bed - very good value for money.
Refuge Mottets and Elisabetta are also located on the trail, in case someone is interested in trekking a smaller part of the trail, but as luck would have it, they had all closed down in September!
Don’t rent a car from Europcar in France - we had a very very bad experience with them. Our flight landed at 1040 and we were at their booth by 11:10. The attendant had left the Europcar booth at 11 without waiting for passengers (us) who were on the last flight. And so we had to get a last minute expensive rental from the neighbouring booth at Avis.
However, the shocking part of the story is when we reached back and talked to the manager, she refused to accept that her attendant had left at 11! She stuck to her guns that she had left only at 11:30 after waiting for us (even though we had a booking at their neighbouring Avis booth at 11:20!). And on top of that, the manager also blamed us for not having called to confirm that we were on the flight and will be picking up the car we had booked!
I am still very shocked with this whole experience, that in today’s day of great customer service, Europcar can get away with something like this. And I am guessing the relaxed labour laws in France surely have something to do with it...
This trip was originally published on TRAVELFREAK.