I'd been skiing in the Alps a number of times but never visited in the summer, I can't believe...
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The Best of Mont Blanc
Transport - Minibus, cabin lift, chair lift, on foot, (tram), (train).
Accommodation - Chalet (7nts)
Meals - 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches & 6 dinners (with wine).
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Fly to Geneva
Your arrive in Geneva and drive approximately one hour to La Vieille Ferme, a beautifully converted farmhouse which will be your base for the week where your hosts will ensure you feel right at home. This authentic Savoyard farmhouse, originally built in 1860 and beautifully restored and modernised to add comfort to its’ natural charm and warmth, is situated overlooking the spa village of St. Gervais and boasts stunning views of Mont Blanc. There is a large garden perfect for relaxing or just admiring the view. After settling in, your group leader will conduct a welcome meeting and then you will be able to relax and enjoy a delicious three course evening meal including wine. Your host does the cooking, serving a rich variety of cuisine from the best of the renowned Savoie specialities, to dishes that have their origins all over the world. Chalet – 7 nights (D)
Le Col de la Fenêtre
Today is your first trek in the Mont Blanc region. After driving up the valley (13km) to Le Pontet, you will take two cabin lifts to the Signal (1875m), the starting point for today’s walk. From here you walk up to the ridge line past the Lac de Roselette, where it is possible to see a stunning mirror image of Mont Blanc in the lake, before turning east along the ridge to reach the foot of the Roselette Mountain. The path then traverses the scree slope under the Roselette peak with the man-made Lac de la Girotte away to your right. Climbing up into a combe, it is a short, but quite steep hike up to the Col de Fenêtre (2245m).
The arrival at the Col is stunning, as Mont Blanc suddenly appears through the narrow pass and the scenery on the other side changes dramatically. This is an excellent place to stop and eat your picnic lunch. From here the path descends through the boulder fields of the Plan de la Fenêtre, an area where marmots are often seen, until you arrive at La Balme Refuge (1708m).
For those who feel like a little bit more of a challenge, an optional extra for today would be to take the path from just above the refuge eastwards up to the Lacs Jovets (2174m). There is magnificent scenery to enjoy all along this path arriving at the magical setting of the Lacs Jovets where you can view beautiful reflections of the mountains in the water. This walk would add about one and a half hours to the day.
Joining the old Roman road, which is also part of the famous Tour de Mont Blanc footpath, you head north back towards Les Contamines. Open pastures give way to pine woodland as you cross a Roman bridge; just below here, with a very slight detour, is a natural arch formed in the torrent bed by the action of the water. Continuing on, you walk to the Nant Borrant Chalet Refuge; this is an excellent place to stop for refreshments before arriving back at the point of departure at Le Pontet, from where you drive back to the chalet. (BLD)
Col du Tricot
After enjoying a continental breakfast at La Vieille Ferme, you take a short drive through St. Gervais to the hamlet of Le Champel (1200m) on the eastern side of the Montjoie valley. Walking up through this charming, typical Haute Savoie outlying settlement, you follow the track up the south side of the Bionnassey valley. After an hour, the path starts to climb up through pine forests, passing the foot of a waterfall that is magnificent in June and early July when the snow is still melting above, emerging by the foot of the Bionnassey glacier (1760m).
It is worth a slight detour to the left to admire and stand on a Himalayan style footbridge that spans the rushing torrent below the tongue of the glacier. Although the glacier here is mostly hidden under rock debris, it is still an impressive sight. Retracing your steps a short way, you start to climb through the Combe du Tricot. The views above of the Bionnassey glacier and the Aiguille du Gouter on the Mont Blanc massif are breathtaking. An hour of steady walking will bring you to the Col du Tricot (2120m), where ibex can sometimes be spotted in the rocks above.
For those with the energy, there is an option to take a short, steep climb up to the West side of the Col to reach the summit of the Mont Vorrassey (2299m). Although you must descend the same way that you came up, this detour gives you an absolutely stunning 360 degree panorama, with the peaks of the Mont Blanc, the Aravis and the Grand Massif all around. If you look very carefully you can even see La Vieille Ferme far below you!
After a break for lunch, you start down the winding path that leads to the lovely Miage valley, dominated by the Domes de Miage peaks. The Chalet de Miage Refuge (1559m) can provide welcome refreshments. At this point you will leave the Tour de Mont Blanc footpath keeping to the path that flanks the foot of the Vorrassey, heading for the mountain hamlet of Le Champel, (1200m) where your transport will be waiting to take you back to the chalet. (BLD)
Lac de Pormenaz
Although today’s start point is in sight from the chalet, it is a thirty minute drive across the Arve valley to get to Plain Joux (1429m). You start by following the track up to Chalets du Souay, before branching off northeast across the Souay torrent. From here, there is a steep path, with chains and handrails in places that let you gain altitude rapidly up the Chorde gully. After approximately thirty minutes of climbing the gully flattens out and widens to make it an easy walk up to the Pormenaz lake (1945m). The Rochers des Fiz, which tower above you all day in cathedral-like splendour, give a simply magnificent reflection in the clear waters of the lake.
From here you work your way up to the highest point of the day, the Pointe Noire de Pormenaz (2307m). The summit offers more surprising panoramic views. After eating, you re-trace your steps back to the lake, but then turn north towards the Refuge Moëde Anterne (2002m) before heading south to follow the track that takes one through the limestone boulder fields under the grandiose Fiz.
The return to the start point is via the oddly named settlement of mountain huts, Ayères de Rocs. The return journey to the chalet takes us past the Plain Joux paragliders take-off platform, one of the busiest paragliding sites in the region. It is always worth a stop here to watch some take-offs and to admire the stupendous view of the Mont Blanc and the Arve valley. (BLD)
Free day - Optional activities
Today, you have a break from guided walks and it is up to you what you want to do and you can therefore choose to be as active or as relaxed as you wish. All optionals are at your own costs. See later in these trip notes for all options available with their prices. One option is to catch the mountain train from St. Gervais/Le Fayet Station in the morning and spend the day in the vibrant alpine town of Chamonix, perhaps enjoying a leisurely lunch in one of the town’s many restaurants, browsing the attractive boutiques or visiting the excellent alpine museum.
Alternatively, you can stay in St Gervais, perhaps cooling off in the outdoor swimming pool or renting a mountain bike to explore the surrounding area. You could also spend a few hours at the Thermes de St. Gervais spa centre indulging in thermal water treatments or a massage to soothe any aching muscles. However, if you are up for more walking, you can choose to take the Mont Blanc Tramway up the ‘Eagle's Nest’ and walk to see close up views of the tremendous Bionnassey Glacier that you first sighted on day 2.
In the evening you will enjoy a group meal (not included in the price) in a restaurant in St. Gervais where it will be possible to sample some of the local cuisine. (B)
Aiguillette des Houches
From St. Gervais, you drive approximately half an hour to Merlet (1480m). You will follow the Tour de Mont Blanc path up beside the mountain animal wildlife park, winding through the pine trees towards the small Refuge of Bel Lachat (2136m). Taking the time for a drink here, you will have time to admire the unbelievable views of the Mont Blanc massif on the opposite side of the valley, with the Bosson glacier seeming to cascade its ice almost to the valley floor.
Behind the refuge, it is a short hike up to the Col du Bel Lachat, from where you head across the open plain to the Aiguillette des Houches (2285m), the highest point of the day. Once again, there is an awe-inspiring 360° panorama from the Aiguillette, which makes it an excellent place to stop for lunch. In the afternoon, you descend the Plan de Benoï down towards the Chalets de Chailloux and its pastures, before following the path back through the woods to Merlet. (BLD)
Refuge Albert 1St, beside Le Tour glacier
This final walk is the furthest one from the chalet and it is about a 45 minute drive to reach the start point at Le Tour, (1462m) at the head of the Chamonix valley. You will take the cabin lift up to Charamillon and then the chair lift to Balme (2180m). From the top of the chairlift, the Refuge du Col de Balme and the Swiss frontier is just a few hundred yards away to the north west, but the path turns south east and follows the path that flanks the mountain.
Climbing gently upwards, we pass the small Lac de Charamillon while the Emosson dam in Switzerland becomes visible behind us. This part of the walk is a favourite site to spot marmots. The path rounds the shoulder of the mountain, and suddenly the view changes totally as the Tour Glacier comes into sight. Several short, sharp sections of uphill path greet you as you quickly gain altitude in the approach to the glacier and the view gets more and more stunning. The path then traverses across a boulder field before reaching the lateral moraine beside the glacier itself.
Here you slowly follow the ridge of the moraine up to the Refuge Albert 1st (2702m), perched on a plateau beside the glacier. You will pass by the refuge and find a place in the rocks above to eat lunch and take time to admire the sumptuous views of the open ice fields of the glacier. The Aiguille du Tour stands above you, and the snow capped Aiguille du Chardonnet dominates the southern horizon, with the Aiguille Verte beyond.
Descending by the same path that you came up, the views of the Chamonix valley, the Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges are now no longer behind you. Branching off, above the Vormaine valley, you take a path that leads you back to the top of the Charamillon cabin lift, which you descend back to your transport. That evening, you will enjoy your last group meal at La Vieille Ferme and can celebrate an enjoyable week of walking! (BLD)
After breakfast, you will say goodbye to your hosts and transfer to Geneva for your flight home. (B)
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