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.JEAN-LUC PICARD
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.
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.
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Peggy StychApril 15, 2022 at 1:53 am
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.
tourdumontblanchikeApril 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 PetersenAugust 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.
tourdumontblanchikeSeptember 1, 2022 at 7:19 am
Hi Maria. Good question. Yes should be the answer as I cannot see why not. It’s unusual as most hikers are only there for one night and keep moving along the trail. Often trekkers have two nights in Courmayeur so they can have a full day off. There is a fantastic spa at Pre-St-Didier near Courmayeur that is a highlight https://www.qcterme.com/en/pre-saint-didier/qc-terme-pre-saint-didier
vidaNovember 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 ?
tourdumontblanchikeNovember 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
DanieleFebruary 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
tourdumontblanchikeMarch 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.