COMPLETE TMB IN A WEEK - 7 DAYS

This Tour du Mont Blanc 7 day itinerary follows the complete TMB trail but does use occasional public transport. Completing the entire TMB trek in just 7 days is a challenge. For the average walker or trekker completing this 170km trail in 7 days is just not possible so please be frank about your level of fitness before even reading this itinerary. This itinerary is for super fit trekkers who will trail run descents.

col du bonhomme tmb
This 7 day complete TMB takes you over the highest point of the tour – the Col du Fenêtre (2245m) (photo in heading). Photo above: Col du Bonhomme

WARNING: This itinerary takes several variants routes. We’ve included these because the scenery is spectacular however variants Col du Tricot (day 1), Col des Fours (day 2), Col du Fenêtre (day 6) should NEVER be crossed in bad weather. You will need to hike the traditional route around if the weather forecast predicts a thunderstorm.

Complete TMB in a week
7 days


Start point: Chamonix, France           
End point:    Chamonix, France   
Length: 7 days
Difficulty: Very fit trekkers – expect to trail run descents to make itinerary timings

  • Day 1 Les Houches – Refuge Le Balme (15.4km 6-7hrs / 19.9km – 7-8hrs)
  • Day 2 Refuge Le Balme – Refuge Elisabetta (20.2km 8-9hrs / 24.8km 9-10.5hrs)
  • Day 3 Refuge Elisabetta Refuge Bertone (19.9km 6-7hrs)
  • Day 4 Refuge BertoneGite Alpage de la Peule (21.5km 7-8hrs)
  • Day 5 Gite Alpage de la Peule – Relais d’Arpette (23.8km 7-8hrs)
  • Day 6 Relais d’Arpette – Auberge La Bœrne (19km 8-9hrs)
  • Day 7 Auberge La Bœrne – Les Houches (21.5km 8.5-9.5hrs / 24.5km 10.5 – 11.5hrs)

Good to know: this itinerary takes various transport short cuts to enable this complete TMB trek to be done in only 7 days. These include the Bellevue cable car, free shuttle bus from Les Contamines – Notre Dame de la Gorge, Le Tour chairlift & gondola and Le Brevént gondola

Start point: Les Houches, a village at the beginning of the Chamonix Valley, France (1 hr from Geneva Airport)

If you’re arriving from Geneva Airport you can get a direct mini bus transfer to Les Houches which takes around an hour and fifteen minutes.

Approaching the Col du Bonhomme – day 1

Day 1 Les Houches (Bellevue cable car) via Col du Tricot – Les Contamines – Refuge de le Balme (15.5km 6-7km or 19.9km 7-8hrs)

Route overview:

This itinerary takes the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches to the Bellevue Plateau & picks up the path for the Col du Tricot. After the Himalayan suspension bridge the route begins to gently climb until the spectacular Bionnassay glacier comes into full view. From here you can see the top of the Col du Tricot and it’s a steady climb up to the grassy saddle. Spend some time here to admire the views over the Miage Valley and far off the Col du Bonhomme. Spot Refuge Miage in the distant cluster of farm buildings way down in the valley below (a great stop refreshment stop if you have time). If you look carefully to your left, you’ll see a stone archway on the ‘smugglers route’ to Refuge Plan Glacier (see our adventure itinerary). The descent down is STEEP! Take it easy and use your poles. Reaching the valley floor follow the signs to reach Refuge Miage in just 5 minutes. This cluster of farm buildings in set in an idyllic rural setting and is charmingly French. The view of the Dômes de Miage (3600m) from the refuge is outstanding.

After an initial short climb from the Miage Valley up and over to Auberge du Truc. From here it’s a long steady descent through the forest into Les Contamines. Have a leisurely lunch in this small French town before either choosing to walk along the river to Notre Dame de la Gorge or pick up the free shuttle bus (navette) outside the Tourist Office to Notre Dame de la Gorge where the trail heads out into the wild once more. Taking the free shuttle bus means the difference between the stated length & hike time above. Take a moment to visit the beautiful Notre Dame de la Gorge chapel next to the gushing water before setting out on the well marked path. Warning – the trail is VERY steep here along an ancient slabbed Roman road to Refuge Nant Borrant but pleasantly flanks the bubbling racing gorge for much of the ascent. Be sure to look out for the pont naturel sign leading to a natural arch on the river, just a minute from the trail. Cross the roman bridge to take in the rushing gorge below. After reaching Refuge Nant Borrant press for almost a further 3kms before reaching Refuge Le Balme.

Refuge Elisabetta
Refuge Elisabetta (2195m) is a hut mountain hut with exceptional views.

Day 2 – Refuge de la Balme – Refugio Elisabetta (20.2km 8-9hrs / 24.8km 9-10.5hrs)

Route overview:

Today you’ll make the climb over a whopping 3 mountain passes! Col du Bonhomme (2329m) and Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m) where early in the season (late June – end of July) you can expect to cross snow patches and finally Col de la Seigne the border between France and Italy.

If the weather is fine take the alternative route just before Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme via the Col des Fours. This spectacular variant leads you over a lunar like landscape before dropping into the Vallée des Glaciers picking up the trail at Ville des Glacier. Tip: take the 10 minute detour at the top of Col des Fours to the view point Tête des Fours – it is nothing short of spectacular and is the only point on the trek where you can see where you’ve come from and where you’re going to from a birds eye view – oh and the view of the Mont Blanc Massif is nothing short of spectacular as well! I advise stashing your rucksack behind one of the many boulders to simply float up to the view point! Note this route cuts out the hamlet of Les Chapieux. Never attempt this variant route if the weather is nothing short of perfect.

If you’re continuing along the normal TMB route the well marked trail will descend all the way to the valley of to Les Chapieux, where you can stop for a welcome refreshment at the friendly Auberge de la Nova and carry on a further hour up the trail to Refuge Les Mottets. Or as we would suggest catch the navette (shuttle bus) which ferries you in 30 minutes to the parking area of Refuge Les Mottets (you’ll then have to walk down the hillside to the refuge in the valley bottom). Our 4hr timing includes taking the navette to Refuge Les Mottets.

You’ll stay in the cavernous Refugio Elisabetta in Italy, a high mountain refuge with epic views from it’s incredible location perched at the base of two glaciers.

Val Veni TMB
The emerald lake of Lac Combal with Col de la Seigne in the distance – day 2/3

Day 3 Refugio Elisabetta – Refugio Bertone (19.9km 6-7hrs)

Route overview:

Today’s hike takes you up out of the Val Veni floor climbing steadily up to the highest point, a spur from Mont Favre. Looking back you can see the monstrous moraine of Glacier Miage dwarfing Cabane Combal and on a clear day all the way back to Col de la Seigne. From here you’ll trace the contours of the south flank of the Val Veni, following the rise and fall of the mountain side with jaw dropping views of sawtooth peaks and Monte Bianco opposite.

From Refugio Maison Vielle during peak season (Aug & Sept) you can opt to take the chair lift and connecting cable car down to Dolonne which is a 10 minute saunter into Courmayeur. The descent from Maison Vielle is brutal so if you’re weary or just want a longer lunch in the lovely Italian town of Courmayeur this is definitely a good option. We highly recommend Pizzeria Ristorante du Tunnel who serve the largest pizza we’ve ever seen!

After a leisurely lunch it’s 4km uphill to your bed for the night at Refugio Bertone.

If you want to cut this day down due to sheer exhaustion, injury or to perhaps include a rest day in Courmayeur there is an option to take the bus from Visaille to Courmayeur. Visaille can reached in just under 2 hours from Rifugio Elisabetta or just under an hour from Cabane Combal. Turn right after the bridge just before Cabane Combal – it’s a 30-40 minute walk to the village of Visaille where the bus departs on the hour.

trient glacier
The descent from the Col du Fenêtre boasts incredible views of the Trient Glacier – day 6

Day 4 Refugio Bertone – Gite Alpage de la Peule (21.5km 7-8hrs)

Route overview:

You’ll be hiking the gentle southern ridge of the Val Ferret valley today before the climb over the Grand Col Ferret (2537m), the border between Italy and Switzerland. Home will be at a working dairy farm, the Gite Alpage de la Peule nestled into the mountain side on the other side of the Col.

This itinerary follows the easier route along the contour balcony trail from Refugio Bertone as you’ll be tackling the Grand Col Ferret today as well. For those really wanting to push themselves there is an option to take the Mont de la Saxe high ridge route to Tête de la Tronche which offers insane views of the southern buttress of the Mont Blanc Massif. However, again this route should not be taken in bad weather.

trekking the TMB
Jaw dropping scenery continues on day 4 as you skirt along the balcony trail of the south side of Val Ferret

Day 5 Gite Alpage de la Peule – Relais d’Arpette (23.8km 7-8hrs)

Route overview:

You may be up early this morning. The Alpage de la Peule is an authentic working dairy farm and the cow bells clang at dawn. It’s mostly downhill today. The Swiss section of the TMB is altogether a more mellow landscape with rolling green pastures, pretty meadows and lush forest. You’ll descend into Ferret and then La Fouly.

La Fouly sits at the foot of two mighty mountains, Tour Noir (3, 836m) and Mont Dolent (3,823m) which incredibly is the tri-point where all three of the Tour du Mont Blanc countries, France, Switzerland and Italy’s borders meet!

The main villages and hamlets of this valley are Ferret, La Fouly, Prayon, Praz de Fort, Les Arlaches, Issert and Som la Proz. All of which you will pass through apart from the last when you will turn uphill for the last 90 minutes to Champex-Lac (pronounced Champay-Lac).

The route hugs the left side of the valley, following the west bank of the river La Drance de Ferret and parallel to the main valley road which can easily be heard as your hiking. In wilderness you are not!

The best part of today is that you’ll wander through a couple of charming Swiss hamlets. The tiny Les Arlaches with it’s interlaced wooden roofs are a real gem. Before long you’ll start the climb up to Champex-Lac – the only climb of the day. At the top you’ll be rewarded with the beauty of Champex-Lac. Nicknamed ‘Little Canada’ it’s not hard to imagine why – this beautiful lakeside town is surrounded by hills of pine and is genuinely a beautiful spot. You’ll press on though out of town for a further 5km up taking the beginning of the variant route up to the Relais d’Arpette where you can relax and bed down ready to tackle, weather permitting one of the most exciting sections of the TMB trail – the Col du Fenêtre.

col du fenêtre variant stage 8
Day 6 – the lofty heights of the Col du Fenêtre at 2665m is shared with the Col des Fours as being the highest points on the TMB trail. The Col du Fenêtre though is a much more challenging climb across rugged terrain

Day 6 Relais d’Arpette – Auberge la Bœrne (19km 8-9hrs)

Route overview:

Today is a long day combining two variant stages into one. We must again make you aware that you cannot hike the Col du Fenêtre is the weather is less than perfect. It’s the most technical terrain on the entire TMB and unlike the rest of the trek, the trail is not marked well and can be lost. The boulder field just before the Col requires a lot of attention and trekkers need to be mindful of loose screw and rocks that dislodge easily and can be fatal to trekkers below. Set off super early though and you’ll be in for a treat. When you finally summit the Col you will feel a real sense of achievement – it’s the only place on the trek I’ve experienced other trekkers congratulating each other a real sense of camaraderie.

The descent from the Col du Fenêtre is nothing short of astounding. Hairpin bends wind down the rocky descent with the incredible Trient Glacier trailing down beside the trail. This huge hunk of ice will mesmorise you during your descent and will surely be one of your unforgettable memories of this incredible trek.

stage 8 variant tmb
Day 6 – descending from the Col du Fenêtre the Trient Glacier tumbles down the mountain side

Once you reach the buvette you’ll cross the wooden bridge and start the uphill slog to Refuge Les Grands. The Tibetan style path carved out of the rock will leave you in awe. Stop at the refuge for a cold drink and press on high along hugging the mountain flank until eventually you’ll spot Trient far below and the Trient glacier disappears behind you. You’ll soon see Refuge Col du Balme with it’s iconic red shutters – a tiny dot on the Col du Balme saddle – another frontiere marking the boundary between Switzerland and France. The gentle balcony walk contours around until you pass the refuge. Re-bonjour! You’ve come in a complete circle and once again the Chamonix Valley is in sight. Look to the far end of the valley to spot Les Houches where you set off. Our itinerary descends now to the valley floor just past the refuge via the chairlift and gondola to Le Tour. It’s then a 30 minute saunter to Tré-Le-Champ where you’ll rest your weary limbs in the historic and charming Auberge la Bœrne.

alternative stage 9 tmb
Day 6 Skirting high on the variant stage 9 – day 6. Trient Glacier is in the background with the Col du Fenêtre clearly visible as the V in the ridge line

Day 7 Auberge la Bœrne – Chamonix or Les Houches (21.5km 8.5hrs or 21.5km 10.5+hrs)

Route overview:

Trekking the north flank of the Chamonix Valley, this itinerary divides stages 10 and 11 of the Tour du Mont Blanc with a detour up to the infamous Lac Blanc. Hiking through the Aiguille Rouge National Park, you’ll have a good chance of seeing marmots, chamois or bouquetin. If you want to complete the entire Les Houches to Les Houches circuit though you’ll need to set off uber early today – it’s a challenging day ending with a knee crunching descent into Les Houches. It may be too much for some and if this is the case there’s the option to take the Plan Praz cable car down to Chamonix centre rather than pressing onto Les Houches.

It’s a 2 hours climb up to Lac Blanc for trekkers of your speed. The route climbs steadily until you reach the infamous TMB ladders – a series of 13 ladders and metal ware built into the rock. It’s the most exciting physical aspect of the entire Tour du Mont Blanc. See notes at the top of this page for how to avoid these ladders if you suffer from vertigo. At the Tête aux Vents, a large cairn (2132m) which borders the national park you can choose to detour up to Lac Blanc or traverse along the trail to La Flégère. Lac Blanc (2,352m) has an almost mythical stature – however if you’re not staying overnight at the refuge you’ll most probably experience the hoard of day trippers who access the lake via the cable car and chair lift. It’s still worth a look but downgrade your expectations. The magic here happens when the day trippers leave late afternoon. If you have an extra day in your schedule it’s worth booking Refuge Lac Blanc and experiencing the incredible serene peace that descends each evening.

Follow the balcony trail past La Flégère and continue to Plan Praz. The entire route along this balcon walk has incredible views of Mont Blanc weather permitting. It truly is astounding. Often it seems like a painted landscape it truly is surreal. Descend via the Plan Praz cable car to Chamonix centre or if you’ve still got energy – you’ve set off early and want to complete the entire circuit from start to finish you’ll need to continue onwards. The best way to do this is to take the cable car UP from Plan Praz to Le Brévent which gives again, insane views of Mont Blanc. The long descent from Le Brévent is hard on the knees but is beautiful with wild red and pink azaleas popping with colour. This area again is known for common sightings of chamois. Expect to fall into Les Houches – this is a huge day but also completing the whole TMB in just 7 days is no easy feat. Well done!

tmb étapes
Day 7 – the descent after Le Brévent allows you to get up a wide screen view of the glorious icy dome of Mont Blanc – Western Europe’s highest mountain!