Difficulty / tips

Tour du Mont Blanc difficulty – can you manage the ladders?

ladders on the tmb

If you’re worrying about the Tour du Mont Blanc difficulty, it could be down to fitness or it could be down to the notorious metal ladders on Stage 10 of the Tour du Mont Blanc between Tré-le-Champ and La Flégère.

Don’t worry, many potential trekkers worry about these series of ladders and so this post is solely dedicated to giving you more information and photos on them so you can decide whether they are for you or not.

Those with an aversion to heights may wish to take the alternative route which avoids them completely. This alternative route sets off from the Aiguille Rouges National Park Information Centre, further up the Col du Montets, and is described in detail in both the Cicerone guide Trekking The Tour of Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds and the Trailblazer Tour du Mont Blanc by Jim Manthorpe

(most trekkers seem to have the Cicerone guide but we also found Trailblazer very good with excellent maps. If you’re trekking in a group I would suggest getting both guide books to share)

There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.


So, where exactly are the notorious Tour du Mont Blanc ladders? 

The famous Tour du Mont Blanc ladders are reached around an hour and a half from setting off from the start point at Col du Montets.

The ladders are immediately after the Aiguillette d’Argentiere, a huge pinnacle of rock popular with climbers under the Aiguille Rouge range. It’s an iconic landmark and it’s fun to watch the climbers if there’s a queue for the ladders.

This famous pinnacle (left in the photo below) looks insignificant on the approach as the trail winds under the crag, but becomes much more pronounced the nearer you get. As you draw nearer, it’s clear why it’s an iconic climbing spot.

Can you spot two hikers in the photo below to the right of the pinnacle, on the ridge line? They’ve climbed the first set of ladders.

The pinnacle marks the beginning of the notorious series of metal ladders. 

There’s plenty of talk of the TMB forums about these ladders, however many Tour du Mont Blanc trekkers also seem to have no idea about them. We’ve seen plenty of hikers re-tracing their steps after checking out the ladders and deciding they couldn’t face them.

You can avoid the ladders completely by taking an alternative route 10 minutes further up the Col du Montets, by the National Park Information Centre, but it’s much better to decide beforehand than on the day otherwise you add at least another 2.5-3 hours to your day.

The TMB Ladders

There are 9 sets of metal ladders set into the rock. At no time did I feel my 10 year old was unsafe, and she was very excited to climb them. 

Most of the series of ladders are quite short. There’s only one half way through, that is around double the length of the others. I would imagine most trekkers are capable of climbing them and only those with real vertigo issues would struggle.

All the ladders and metal ware are sturdy and well built so don’t worry about the safety aspect of them. They are not going to come off in your hand.

The first ladders are the ones above. It’s a series of two medium ladders and a tiny short one. The ladders are not sheer vertical – the gradient slopes inwards towards the rock face so it’s not so scary, and the rungs are nicely spaced out.

The photo above is looking down on the first set of two ladders.

Sometimes there can be a little bit of a queue as people wait for trekkers coming the other way to descend. If you’re nervous about the ladders and don’t want any pressure or people watching you, just sit it out and wait for the crowd to go ahead so you can concentrate without an audience and climb in your own time. 

If you’re not so confident, make sure you clip your trekking poles to your backpack so you have two hands free.

The trail is then a little exposed as it tapers over the top of some rocks for 15 metres to the next short ladder (see photo above).

The photo below shows the most exposed ledge on scaling this crag. It’s pretty narrow but there are metal bannisters to help you and it didn’t worry us too much.

The ladder below is the longest ladder on the series. As long as you keep looking up and not down, it doesn’t feel too scary. 

My ten year old still talks about these ladders as being one of her most memorable and exciting parts of her Tour du Mont Blanc.

Obviously in bad weather these ladders are going to be more problematic. In rainy conditions, they will be slippery and in foggy, cloudy conditions it may be difficult on the exposed ridge areas. In this case, I would suggest taking the alternative route.

As well as ladders there are various metal bannisters and foot holds such as in the photo below. All of these are to scale a rocky crag to just under the Tête aux Vents (2132m), a cairn where the path divides into many different directions, and where the alternative route comes up to.

Nearly there! 

This ladder bridge in the photo below is one of the last ladders on the series. They become more gradual and less scary as you get to the top.

Have you climbed the TMB ladders? Let us know how you got on! Did you love them or did you hate them? Let us know in the comments section below so that other potential TMB trekkers can assess if they can manage them.

Related TMB content

Read day 1 (stage 10) Tré-le-Champ to La Flégère

Read day 2 (stage 11)  La Flégère to Les Houches

Read day 3 (stage 1) Les Houches to Les Contamines (& onto Nant Borrant refuge)

Read day 4 (stage 2) Nant Borrant Refuge to Les Chapieux

Read day 5 (stage 3) Les Chapieux to Refugio Elisabetta

Read day 6 – Tour du Mont Blanc – Stage 4 – Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List

Ultimate guide to your self guided Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc Refuges – the good, the bad & the ugly

Tour du Mont Blanc Difficulty? Transport options on the TMB

6 Day Tour du Mont Blanc Itinerary (half circuit)

Other Adventures


  • Peggy Stych
    April 15, 2022 at 1:53 am

    Hi Mags,
    I’m a 60yo female and have booked a TMB trip for this summer. We have a company mapping our route, securing or refuges/hotels and moving our luggage daily. I’m not a height lover. I’m working up my nerve for the gondolas but I need to know what the bridges are like and are there alt routes? I physically can not do a suspension bridge.

    • tourdumontblanchike
      April 19, 2022 at 7:09 am

      Hi Peggy the only suspension bridge is on the stage 1 variant (Col du Tricot) so speak to the company you have booked with to make sure they will take you on the traditional stage 1 route which avoids the bridge. Happy hiking! Best wishes Mags

  • Maria Petersen
    August 24, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    My husband and I are planning to do the full tour next August 2023 but we are not in a hurry to complete the tour in 11 days. Can we stay more than one night at each of the huts/hotels.

  • vida
    November 23, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Mags, Which is the best 5 day part of the MBT in scenery? Is it too late to book for June 2023? We will be four adults. Also, what kind of costs are involved regarding the trek and portage ?

    • tourdumontblanchike
      November 27, 2022 at 11:13 am

      Hi Vida I think the best 5 day route would be between Chamonix and Courmayeur. It is not too late to book for June 2023 however since covid the demand for refuges has gone crazy. Most of July is now fully booked. I have emailed you with details regarding trek and portage. Thanks

  • Daniele
    February 22, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Hi,first of all,thanks for your time!I would like to start in Les Houches and split the first day 1 in half. Where could I sleep? we plan to go from september 15th

    • tourdumontblanchike
      March 3, 2023 at 10:28 pm

      I would recommend taking the stage 1 variant – it’s much more spectacular and really most people take this route now. There are two places to stay – either Refuge Miage or Auberge du Truc. Miage you will have to email direct. Truc – you can see their availability online on the official TMB site and book on there. I would also recommend taking the Bellevue cable car up from Les Houches – it cuts 2 hours off unspectacular UP off your day. From the top of the cable car it takes me 3 hours to get to Refuge Miage or 3 hours 45 to get to Truc. You may think you might not need to cut the day in half now if you take the cable car up? Happy planning.

  • Christine
    June 14, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    Hi there,

    First, thank you so much for all of this valuable information! I am hiking the TMB in July with my 3 adult sons. I’m a bit nervous because I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up with them. I am planning on taking the Bellevue cable car on the first day. We are staying at Auberge de Bionnassay that first night. Do you know how far it is from where the cable car will be dropping me?

    Thank you again!

    • tourdumontblanchike
      June 19, 2023 at 10:08 am

      Hi Christine. It’s easy so don’t worry. When you get to the top of the Bellevue cable car you will follow the signs to Col du Voza. It will only take a couple of hours to get there from the top of the Bellevue cable car. Have a great trek with your sons.

  • siebe
    June 16, 2023 at 9:53 am

    hi, my name is Siebe I got a question about only doing the French part. where do start? do we start at Swiss border or at Italian border? thankyou

    • tourdumontblanchike
      June 19, 2023 at 9:07 am

      You can start at either way. You can walk clockwise by getting the bus from Chamonix through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur and then setting off walking stage 4, 3, 2, 1 then 11 and 10 in Chamonix however I always like to walk counter clockwise as the views are better so I would set off from Chamonix and walk counter clockwise through stages 1 (always the variant unless in bad weather) 2, 3, 4 then get the bus back to Chamonix from Courmayeur and if you have time get the bus or train to Montroc from Chamonix and then do stages 10 and 11. These are all magnificent views and in my opinion the best stages on the TMB. Happy hiking!

  • Poul-Erik
    July 17, 2023 at 11:50 am

    Hey Mags. Thank you for doing this. You are great. Im thinking about wildcamping at Lac du Mya. So my day 3 is from Lac du Mya to courmayeur. I cannot find out how long that route is and i would love to take the down from “cablecar” Rifugio Maison Vieille. so that i would be walking from Lac du Mya to Rifugio Maison Vieille. What app should i use to get the correct route and distance? and om told that the “cablecar” is closed from the 4th of september. Is that correct? THANK YOU

    • tourdumontblanchike
      August 9, 2023 at 8:21 am

      Hey Poul-Erik good to hear from you. Thanks for your nice words 🙂
      Yes indeed the chair lift from Maison Vielle and then the connecting Dolonne cable car will close on 4th Sept. The last chairlift will go just after 5pm. If you miss this it’s another 2 hours descent into Courmayeur. I don’t know of any apps that will be able to tell you that distance. I’m trekking in Switzerland now so I can’t look it up from you unfortunately but if you set off early by 7am then it’s achievable if you are a fast hiker – remember its all about the elevation rather than the distance anyhow on the TMB.


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