The Tour du Mont Blanc is an epic hiking adventure through three countries. It’s lofty elevation is daunting and when you find out the combined elevation of this world classic hiking route is higher than Everest, you’ll want to read our post on our top Tour du Mont Blanc tips before embarking.
Our Tour du Mont Blanc tips below will help you prepare physically and mentally for this challenge of a lifetime! If you have any questions, ask away in the comments section, and check out our other Tour du Mont Blanc posts for detailed information on the ladders, the refuges, the TMB itinerary and much more.
17 Tour du Mont Blanc tips every hiker should read before departing
tip 1 – do some training
I expect few people depart on the Tour du Mont Blanc without doing any training whatsoever however do make sure you’re putting in some long day hikes regularly a couple of months before.
As the weeks get nearer, one of our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tips is to start training with the backpack that you’ll be taking with you. Don’t buy a new backpack last minute. It’s good to get to know your backpack beforehand and try filling it on your training hikes with the kit you’re actually planning to take. Not only will this let you try kit in different pockets for access etc but you’ll get an accurate estimate of the weight you’ll be carting along with you. You’ll soon want to cull a few unnecessary items before the actual trek begins.
Try to do a couple of two day overnighter hikes before you leave so your body is used to walking long days back to back. If this isn’t possible, at least do some long hikes day after day to get your body ready for the duration of multi-day hiking.
tip 2 – book your refuges early
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a very popular route. The limited accommodation along the trail, particularly the more desirable refuges, get booked up quickly even before January or February.
Realise this – it will take quite a lot of time to research and plan your Tour du Mont Blanc route if you plan to trekking the trail self guided independently. You can book many of the refuges on the official TMB site which is easy to use, however some of the most epic refuges (Rifigio Bonatti, Rifigio Elena) aren’t on the site or some are but you need to book privately (eg Refuge Lac Blanc). In this case it becomes a bit of a jigsaw but some refuges or hotels needing to be booked separately. It can take some days to hear back from a refuge as to whether you have been allocated a place or if they are ‘complet‘ and you need to go onto the waiting list.
By booking early you will alleviate a lot of stress as all the refuges you wish to stay in will probably have availability.
Read more: TMB refuges – the good, the bad and the ugly
tip 3 – don’t book too early in the season
The trail generally opens from the last two weeks of June until the end of September or early October. Beware booking too early! Often the last two weeks of June will still see many parts of the trail still covered with snow. The snow level will of course depend on how much snow fell during the winter and how late in the season.
Chamonix guides do prepare the Tour du Mont Blanc route at the beginning of June, securing ropes in various sections & cutting out the path. However, if you’re considering hiking the trail in the first two weeks of the season from mid-end June, you must be prepared to take crampons, an ice axe and potentially a rope. And know how to use them.
Book from July if these items aren’t generally your thing.
tip 4: make sure you take enough cash
Another of our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tips is that most of the Tour du Mont Blanc refuges don’t accept credit cards, so make sure you take enough cash en route with you.
When you book online some refuges take a deposit and then you’ll pay the rest on arrival in cash. Other refuges don’t take a deposit at all and will expect you to pay cash on arrival.
As you will be hiking through three different countries, you’ll have to take both euros for France/Italy and Swiss francs for Switzerland. However check with your Swiss accommodation as many of the hotels do take cards so the only thing you might need Swiss francs for would be the bus, if you aim to use it, or any snacks along the way. It’s common practice in Switzerland to be able to pay in euros and get change in Swiss francs. Apart from the bus.
ATMS are readily available in Chamonix, Les Houches, Les Contamines, Courmayeur, La Fouly, Champex-Lac and Argentière.
tip 5: set off early each morning on the trail
This should be obvious, but setting out early on the trail will give you a good head start every morning.
The trail is long and arduous in places. Paired with the elevation gain, a supposedly ‘easy’ day can turn quickly into a more challenging one, depending on weather conditions or simply not giving yourself enough time.
Allow at least an extra two hours each day to complete each stage compared to Kev Reynold’ timeframes in the Cicerone Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc guidebook.
tip 6: bring medical supplies from home
If you’ve ever been to a pharmacy in France you’ll know how eye wateringly expensive every single item is. Make sure your medical pack is fully stocked with the basics before you arrive to avoid any last minute pharmacy rushes. This includes blister plasters such as compeed, vitamins or rehydration salts – bring them with you!
Read more: Our Tour du Mont Blanc packing list
tip 7: take lots of lightweight snacks
Stock up on snacks in your home country.
Lightweight snacks such as biltong or protein bars will be much less expensive outside of France. Chamonix is very expensive, even in the supermarkets.
tip 8: pack clever using packing cubes
I swear by packing cubes and trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different.
One, I’m convinced you can get more in a bag using packing cubes (although remember less is more for trekking the TMB!) but two, having your refuge gear separate from your day trekking gear is a lifesaver when you arrive weary and broken at the refuges each afternoon.
Not having to think about where to find my shower gear, change of clothes, ear plugs and head torch was heaven every day.
tip 9: Use luggage transfers to keep your pack light
Even if you’re planning to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided (which is easy to do Read our Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided) it’s easy to arrange luggage transfers so your kit is transported from hut to hut along the trail each day.
There are few exceptions on the trail where accessibility is an issue so you might have to do without your main bag for two days on some of the stretches (Les Mottets to Elisabetta and Courmayeur to Bonatti)
Did you know you can even book mules to trek alongside you if you are a group hiking self guided!
Read more: Our ultimate guide to trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc includes all luggage transfer options
tip 10: only carry 10kg in your day pack
The official advice for trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc is not to carry more than 10kg in your day pack. Having hiked the trail several times I completely concur.
My biggest advice or tip for the Tour du Mont Blanc is ONLY TAKE absolute essentials.
By this I mean take a look at the contents and TAKE OUT everything that is not absolutely necessary.
Limit your clothes to trekking clothes (2 changes – you can wash one pair out on the trail) and to refuge clothes. Instead of PJ’s I took thermals to sleep in which reduced weight & doubled up as ,well thermals, should the cloud and cold weather arrive on the trail.
Read more: Our Tour du Mont Blanc packing list
tip 11: take earplugs
Yep. Sleeping in refuges is not a very sleep inducing experience. Even though you’re convinced you’ll be passed out in two seconds given the extreme weariness your body is coping with – believe me, snorers in a dorm don’t get louder than hikers who have been marching the Tour du Mont Blanc all day.
Take ear plugs and take a spare pair!
tip 12: keep a hard copy of paperwork in a ziplock
Another top Tour du Mont Blanc tip is to take a wad of ziplocks with you to keep essentials dry. The most important of which are your printed confirmation of refuge bookings, travel insurance details and your passport.
Yes you are hiking through three different countries, and whilst there is no border inspections on the high mountain cols, you will need to keep your passport on you at all times.
tip 13: flying hand luggage only? Rent poles
If you’re looking to avoid checked baggage fees and are travelling light, know that trekking poles cannot be carried as hand luggage.
However, it’s easy to rent trekking poles in Chamonix. Go to Sport Technique near to the Aiguille du Midi for the most competitive rates in town (€3 a day per pair).
tip 14: start your day with the col climbs
If you book your Tour du Mont Blanc huts cleverly you can organise your stages to tackle the mountain cols first thing.
This way you’ll be full of energy to battle the elevation thrown at you.
Not all of the cols have a refuge at it’s base but some good options are below.
Refuge du Balme is at the base of Col du Bonhomme (although Nant Borrant an hour before would be a better experience), Refuge des Mottets is slap bang at the bottom of Col de la Seigne, whilst Cabane Combale is at the base of, not a col but a strenuous up on the stage into Courmayeur. Rifugio Elena is at the base of the Grand Col Ferret.
Read our post: TMB Refuges – the good, the bad and the ugly
tip 15: on a budget? Speed through Switzerland
Switzerland will make a hole in your wallet. If you’re planning to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc on a budget then aim to hike faster or smarter through Switzerland.
Most refuges in Switzerland charge around €80 a night half board. Many hikers miss the stage from La Fouly to Champex-Lac, by catching the bus and saving a night’s accommodation on the Swiss side.
tip 16: get the right insurance!
High altitude trekking is normally an extra on standard travel insurance so don’t assume you’re covered. You will need a policy that covers you to trekking up to an altitude of 2,665m – the highest point on the trail.
tip 17: put mountain rescue numbers in your phone
Please please please, if you take none of the advice above, please take this one. This is our biggest Tour du Mont Blanc tip that incredibly some TMB hikers are oblivious to.
What will you do if you’re trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc self guided if an emergency occurs? Imagine someone is seriously injured and needs medical attention immediately. MAKE SURE that each member of your group (not just the lead hiker) puts in the mountain rescue number for each country into their mobile phones. Call the local mountain rescue number first. Their response times will be MUCH faster than the general country emergency number. These are:-
FRANCE Chamonix Mountain Rescue 00 33 (0) 4 50 53 16 89 (or general number 112)
ITALY Aosta Mountain Rescue 00 39 (0) 0165 238 222 (or general number 112)
SWITZERLAND general number 144
Read through these guidelines here before leaving on your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure to make sure you know what to do in the event of an emergency and in what scenarios to call the emergency mountain rescue team.