Destinations Magazine

Tour Du Mont Blanc: Why I’m Doing It

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

It’s no secret that I LOVE hiking.  But here’s a secret:  I’ve never done a long distance hike.

I’ve done really long 12 hour day hikes with lots of elevation and two-day hikes, but never a long distance hike.

That’s about to change in two days when J.P. (my German husband) and I do the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), a whopping 160km circuit around the highest peak in Western Europe (4810m). Up and down mountain passes, averaging 20km a day, 1000 m elevation – both up and down for 8 days. It’s recommended to do it in 8-12 days.  I know that 8 days is aggressive for us, but when we booked the tour, I was scheduled to have surgery the day we came back, so it was either do it quickly or not at all.  We choose do it quickly, even though we’re moderately paced hikers, but certainly not super speedy.

I choose the Tour du Mont Blanc for several reasons:

  • It’s on almost every “World’s Best Hikes” list that I found in a Google search
  • It’s considered one of the finest, if not the finest long distance hike in all of Europe (depending on your source)
  • The route goes through France, Italy and Switzerland, so you know there will be great food along the way
  • I knew that it would be a challenge

And that last point is the crux of it all.  Why do a long distance hike now?  After years of hiking, why have I suddenly become fixated on completing a long distance trek?

The Tour du Mont Blanc route

The Tour du Mont Blanc route

I’m not usually overly revealing on this blog (although J.P. who is much more private than I am would disagree), but here’s another secret:  I’m not in a great place at the moment.  I have some medical and personal challenges going on that have been extremely frustrating.   I don’t want to reveal more than that for the moment, but lets just say that I’m a take charge kind of gal, the type of person who makes lemonade when life gives you lemons, except for lately, I haven’t been turning the lemons into lemonade. They’ve just stayed lemons.

This is where the long distance hike comes in. Hiking is my solution for pretty much everything in life.  If I have a problem to solve, I go to the mountains. If I feel frustrated, I return from the mountains feeling less frustrated. If I’m happy and want to celebrate, I can think of no better place to do so from the mountains. On almost every hard hike I’ve done, there will come a point, where I’m taking two steps back for every step forward on a seemingly endless pile of scree.  I want to give up.  I question whether I can really make it. I want to quit. But I don’t. And the reward for not quitting, besides the mountain top views  is the feeling of empowerment.  That you can anything. The feeling of knowing you did something you didn’t think you could do. That feeling doesn’t just last on the mountain top, it carries over into other parts of your life.  Insolvable problem at work? Remember what you did on the mountain – kept moving forward, no matter how slowly.

So this is why I have the sudden urge to do the Tour du Mont Blanc:  I’m in need of  more EMPOWERMENT.   To make some of the frustrations I’m experiencing, a little less frustrating. I am seeking that empowerment that will come from day after day of wanting to give up, from not wanting to continue because I know it will come and it will flow into other areas of my life and give me strength to achieve my goals.

J.P. was less excited when I originally proposed the idea.  His initial bewildered response was How is getting up earlier than I normally do and hiking 8 hours a day a holiday?  I overcome his objection with Why don’t we buy a GPS honey?  You’ve always wanted one. Seriously, boys and their toys! Problem solved, with the additional promise that for three days after the trip I will let him sleep as late as he wants and be as lazy as wants. I’ve also been gaining inspiration from Leigh’s posts on the TMB, like The Best of the Tour du Mont Blanc, one and from Heather’s Day 1 on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Check them out.  They will inspire you!

Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc photo courtesy of JR Guillaumin on Flickr.

Due to the uncertainty of when I would be having surgery, we ended up booking late, meaning that most of the private rooms in the refuges (mountain huts) were already booked. As a result, we’re spending most nights in shared dormitories. I’m not surprised, the trekking season is a short one, but I’m not at all excited about the prospect either.  I compare staying in communal hut rooms to staying in a hostel and my hostel days are long over. But it is a small price to pay for having the opportunity to do the TMB.  I’m beyond grateful that we’re staying at the Hôtel Les Aiglons, Resort & Spa in Chamonix the day before we depart.  It’s a four star harmonious mountain resort at the foot of Midi Summit.   It will be the perfect way to set the scene and get in some last-minute relaxation at their renowned mountain spa, before our 160km trek begins. We finish our trek in Chamonix and will be staying at the contemporary Boutique Hôtel Le Morgane. We  plan to work out all our aches and pains there in the Deep Nature Spa. Knowing this is waiting for me will get me through the tough parts of our hike.

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