walkhighlands

Tour du Mont Blanc pt 2

Date walked: 26/08/2016

This report starts here.

Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti

From Courmayeur the TMB climbs steeply through the woods once again. As the route drops into so many valleys, this is inevitable!

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Eventually emerging from the trees at Rifugio Bertone. Stunning place to stop for your morning cappuccino. It looks across to Mont Chetif - a steep rock peak above Courmayeur - with the Refuge Maison Vielle from the previous stage visible behind.

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Here there is a choice once again. The main TMB takes a balcony path that contours the slopes on the left, but we departed from it to follow the old route - now a variant - that continues climbing, up onto the Mont de la Saxe ridge.

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Once gained, the views from this mostly grassy ridge are absolutely stunning. The ridgewalk continued before contouring the slopes just below the top of the Tete Bernada. View looking back:

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The ridge is rejoined and narrows for the ascent of the higher Tete de la Tronche (2584m). At this point there were some threatening clouds and rumbles of thunder - a worry on one of the few real ridge sections of the TMB - but luckily it amounted to nothing in the end. From the high point a steep path leads down to the Col Sapin.

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From the col the TMB descends slightly to cross the Vallon d'Amina, before ascending easily to cross a second coll, Pas Entre-Deux-Sauts (2524m).

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It then leads down the grassy Vallon de Malatra, with continued amazing views ahead.

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The descent is very gradual, passing old farm buildings.

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It leads to the Rifugio Walter Bonatti. We'd booked a room in this superbly appointed hut. It has an amazing position opposite the Grandes Jorasses, and is superbly appointed, with great food. If you visit, make sure you have a hot chocolate, which here is simply thick, melted chocolate with no water added - fantastic.

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Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly

The hut's superb position ensures that both sunset and sunrise should be memorable.

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The TMB continues as a balcony path before eventually descending to the floor of Val Ferret. From here it begins to climb once again, eventually reaching another lovely looking hut, Rifugio Elena, overlooking a glacier. Time for a last Italian coffee and cake.

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A long but well graded ascent now continues up to the Grand Col Ferret, which divides the Italian Val Ferret from the Swiss valley of the same name. Before crossing into Switzerland the view back down the Italian Val Ferret and Val Veny, walled in by the Grandes Jorases on the right, ranks amongst the best mountain views I've seen.

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The pass is a superb spot for lunch.

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The views ahead into Switzerland are impressive, but hardly compare with those back into Italy. Even on the way down, the great wall of the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif still rears impressively above the pass.

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We detoured to a viewpoint looking down the Swiss Val Ferret, then continued down to the yurts and cafe at La Peule. Here we left the official TMB to take a higher variant path above the upper Val Ferret. This was a very quiet section.

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The path then dropped down to rejoin the main TMB for the final section to La Fouly. Here we were booked into the hotel/refuge Edelweiss. Everything in Switzerland is much more expensive than in Italy and France, but we had a balcony overlooking the mountains in our room, and so enjoyed a beer on it whilst catching up with work.

La Fouly to Champex

This is a short and relatively low level stage of the TMB - the easiest of the walk. The scenery was still very attractive, with the path cutting across some steep slopes before rejoining the floor of the valley.

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It then led through several hamlets/small villages, all with beautiful Swiss chalet houses and barns, many of them looking very old. Woodpile porn for anyone who has a real fire or stove!

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After Issert the TMB leaves the valley and climbs through the woods, gaining over 400m to reach the Swiss resort of Champex. This is attractively set amidst the trees on a mountain lake, but most of the buildings are more modern. There seemed to be almost noone around, and the place felt deserted.

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The final part of the report is here

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Paul Webster

Site Admin
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Location: Nr Grantown-on-Spey
Occupation: Walkhighlands editor and guidebook author
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2016

Trips: 3

2014

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Distance: 2.3 km
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2012

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