What is the TMB?
The Tour du Mont Blanc or 'TMB' as it is commonly known is the world's most famous trek. It is an epic journey of 174km (108 miles) around the mighty Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. On the way, three countries are visited: France, Italy and Switzerland. Up to 14 magnificent mountain passes are crossed, depending upon the exact route you take. If this trek is not on your bucket list then you may need to question your sanity!
What kind of scenery can I expect?
The TMB has some of the finest mountain scenery in the world. Unspoilt and remote high mountain terrain: snow frosted summits, beautiful valleys and pastures, sparkling azure lakes, carpets of wild flowers, the soothing sound of cow bells and easy to follow paths. Like we said, if this trek is not on your bucket list....
How long does it take?
Normally it is walked in 10-12 days. However, fitter walkers can do it in 7 days or less. Our guidebook sets out 6 different itineraries: 12, 11, 10, 9 , 8 and 7 days. It really is up to you and your fitness level.
Well now that we have brought up fitness levels....Am I fit enough to do it?
Most reasonably fit people can complete the TMB but 174km is no cakewalk. And there is a total of 9700m (31,800 feet) of altitude gain and loss: more than climbing Everest from sea level! But do not let that put you off. Yes it is a challenge but, with the right planning and preparation, it is one that is within the capabilities of most. Get as fit as you can before you go, plan a sensible itinerary to match your level and travel light.
What are the trails like?
Mostly clear paths and tracks. There are some more difficult rocky sections but these are the exception rather than the rule. There is no glacier walking. There are waymarks and signs to guide you. In mid-summer and autumn, paths are usually dry and firm. In June, snow can lie on the mountain passes.
Should I go on an guided trip or walk independently?
Well that depends on you. A self-guided trip can be a life-changing experience opening the door for future adventures. And the satisfaction of planning, booking and completing the TMB on your own is something to savour. Thousands of people guide themselves each year and many of them have never undertaken a trek before. Most people can do it if they put their minds to it. But it is not for everyone: some prefer to have a guide to make all important decisions for them. And booking with a guiding company has other benefits too: they can organise food and accommodation and pack transfer so you don't need to carry it. Independent trekkers have to do all that for themselves.
When to go?
Mid-June to mid-September is the normal period for walking the TMB. Before and after these dates, some accommodation closes. You can walk in late September but check that you can find places to stay before you set out.
Where do you stay?
In some of the most fabulous settings you can imagine! Some of the overnight stops will be a highlight of your trip. There are remote mountain huts, lovely gites and hotels to choose from. Our guidebook has complete listings of the places to stay on the TMB.
Do I need to book in advance?
Absolutely. As the TMB is the world's most famous trek, the accommodation can be busy. In July and August the mountain huts will likely be full. In June and September there are fewer walkers but numbers are increasing every year.
How much does it cost to trek the TMB?
No permits are required to hike. So if you walk independently, your only costs should be food and accommodation. In French and Italian mountain huts and gites, bed, breakfast and dinner will cost around €50. In Switzerland things are probably about 20% more expensive. Campers can get by on much less.
What do you mean by 'travelling light'?
The lighter your pack is the more you will enjoy the trek. Every oz counts. Standard advice is to bring 'only what is absolutely necessary' but what does that actually mean? We prefer the 'Will I die, or endure pain, without it?' test. For example, that hair dryer. Yes we know it is a light travel one but you will have to carry it up more than a Mount Everest. Will you die without it? No. You may have to endure rubbish hair for a few days though. Believe us that halfway up the first mountain pass, you will be considering jettisoning it. Do you really need that make-up? That full 500ml bottle of shampoo? That laptop? It is fair to say that the more treks you do, the lighter your pack becomes. Experience helps you sift out the things that you do not really need. Be ruthless about what you take.
Is camping permitted on the TMB?
This is complicated and there is no short answer. It can be done, and many do so, but it is harder than it used to be. There are some campsites but these are often spaced further apart than the mountain huts so your daily walking distance (carrying a heavier pack) tends to be longer. The TMB's three countries each have different rules on wild camping which must be followed. But there are still places where it is allowed. Our guidebook has a full section on camping including listings of all the places where camping is permitted.