In July I solo hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, camping along the way. It was physically the hardest thing I’ve done so far, involving 9 days of sustained effort to carry all my camping gear through three countries, over 170km, and up and down 10,000m of accumulated ascent/descent.
It was also one of the most rewarding experiences, with incredible views, physical and mental obstacles overcome, and many lessons learned. Here are a few of the highlights of my trip:
I quickly realised that I had packed more clothes, food, and water than I needed, and struggled over the first couple of days with my heavy rucksack. At the end of day two I was ready to give in, I was utterly exhausted and believed that this walk was physically beyond me.
After a shower and food I was ready for a re-think. I would reduce the weight in my bag by using water sources along the way and carrying less water. I also needed to be mentally tougher, of course it wasn’t going to easy, but escaping back to Chamonix was not an option no matter how tempting it felt.
I realised how important it was to break up a long day with rests, and although it was still hard work I got into the rhythm and the days began to flow. I carried less food, and the highlight of each day was usually lunch in a mountain hut once the majority of uphill was covered.
Apart from the food, one of my favourite moments was when a butterfly passenger landed on my arm in Val Veny, Italy, and stayed there for about 5km!
The most spectacular moment was literally the high point of the hike, the Fenetre d’Arpette in Switzerland. The day involved hiking up a steep boulder field to a notch which marked the join of two valleys. I was lucky to be speedy on my ascent, so I got to spend time alone enjoying the spectacular views. Shortly after, about 15 more people arrived, all blown away by the view and proud to have reached this point, so an excitable international lunch party formed.
But my favourite part of the trip had to be Chamonix and the surrounding area. I started and ended my hike near the Brevent. There are incredible views of glaciers on the opposite side of the valley, the air is full of peacefully drifting paragliders, and the rocky trails are perfect for running or hiking.
On my final day the last lunch stop was at Lac Blanc, and it has to be one of the most beautiful places I have seen.
It was hard to absorb that over the past nine days I had walked around an entire mountain range! I didn’t want to go back down into the valley, and sat for a long time looking at the view and feeling proud and grateful for such an amazing experience.
I’ll be back in August to run part of the TMB trail as an ultramarathon. I’m hoping this trip will translate into good training, it was hard work anyway!