All Thru-hikes in Europe and the USA.
My second day on the Haute Route was a full day of ascending, with exciting views of the Massif du Mont Blanc and the snowy peak of Le Grand Combin. Gaining more than 1.600 meter in elevation, I reached Cabane du Mont Fort early in the afternoon.
The Haute Route, also known as the Chamonix-Zermatt Trail, shares the first 3 sections with the Tour du Mont Blanc, but then continues east into the high mountains. I started my thru-hike in a lovely quiet and green valley as a prologue to another 10 days of desolate fields of glacial rock, almost 3000 meter high alpine passes and stunning views.
When I first started backpacking, I had a heavy Fjalräven backpack and a total weight of about 25 kg on my back. Especially since my first major thru-hike in 2018 in the High Sierra, I have been lowering my pack weight significantly. For my last thru-hike on the Swiss Haute Route I brought my base weight down with another 700 grams, to just about 6,8 kg (15 pounds).
Before I started my eight-day SEKI Loop trail, I spent two days in Kings Canyon National Park to acclimatize to the elevation and do some preliminary hiking. I combined the Sunset Trail with the General Grant Loop Trail, the North Grove Trail and the Dead Giant Loop to a beautiful half day hike.
On the last day of the Tour du Mont Blanc I climbed all the way out of the valley, to the panoramic views of Le Grand Balcon and Le Brévent. It was a long way down again to reach the TMB finish line in Les Houches.
Day 8 of the Tour du Mont Blanc was wet, cold …and short. I hiked up to the Refuge du Col de Balme, where I warmed up and made plans for the rest of this rainy day. Then I hiked down to the valley to the first hotel that had a room available. The day ended nicely though, with 4 fellow TMB hikers in an Argentière bar.
Day 7 of my Tour du Mont Blanc was the most impressive day of the tour, and one of the most spectaculair hikes I have done. More than a 2.000 meters up and down a very steep and rough trail, with an hour of scrambling boulders… and sometimes no trail at all.
My sixth day on the Tour du Mont Blanc turned out to be the easiest part of the entire thru-hike so far. The Swiss Val Ferret has a very moderate elevation change, sweet green pastures and a nice cold lake at the end in Champex.
Day 5 of the Tour the Mont Blanc was beautiful and not too hard. I hiked up the Italian Val Ferret to connect with the official TMB again, climbed up the mountains and crossed the Grand Col de Ferret into Switzerland.
Day 4 of the Tour the Mont Blanc would be the longest day of all. Along majestic glaciers, mountain tops and refreshing lakes, I hiked all the way down to Courmayeur. And up again in search of a legal campsite. I reached camp after 12 hours of hiking and a distance of 32 km.
On day 3 of the Tour du Mont Blanc I climbed up and down the amazing number of 4 mountain passes within 23 km / 12 miles. And when I finally reached Italy, I concluded the day at a tiny museum with 5 other hikers.
My second day on the TMB was the only part of the trail with no descent at all (apart from a few steps down now and then). It was one long climb from the village of Contamines all the way up to the stunning Lacs Jovet.
The first half day of the Tour du Mont Blanc I spent in an airplane and busses, until I finally got the the trailhead. Heavy fog made me change my plans already within 2 hours on the trail.
With a length of 172 kilometer / 107 miles the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) seems very similar to the SEKI Loop I hiked in California last summer (104.7 miles / 168,5 km). But the altitude is much lower, the climate different and I also expect to see a lot more people on the trail this summer.
Like most hikers, I want to be able to charge my smartphone, wether on a thru-hike or a multi day section hike. I have compared different options and finally chose the Flybox Solar power bank to carry on my SEKI Loop thru hike in the summer of 2018.
After my eight-day SEKI Loop trail, I headed north to Yosemite National Park for one last day hike. I chose the Cathedral Lakes trail – part of the John Muir Trail – because it combines alpine lakes, a magnificent peak and relative solitude.
In the late summer of 2018 I hiked the SEKI loop (in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park), a combination of the John Muir Trail, the High Sierra Trail and some other connecting trails. Here are five things I learned hiking the SEKI loop.
Day 8 – the final day of my SEKI Loop: back to Road’s End. A fairly easy climb up Avalanche Pass, back into the Kings River Canyon. But before I got there, I encountered a very steep surprise just before the cool waters of good old Bubbs Creek.
SEKI Loop day 7: going up Elizabeth pass I conquered the steepest stretch of trail so far. With the spectacular views soon obscured by clouds, I hurried down Deadman Canyon. Then I hiked in the rain for a few hours until I found shelter at the Roaring River rangers station
Day 6 of my SEKI Loop had a bad weather forecast for the afternoon. I decided to split the Elizabeth Trail Pass in two parts. So I enjoyed a relaxed morning at Hamilton Lake and then hiked up as high as possible towards the pass.
Day five of my SEKI Loop was the most impressive part of the trail so far. From the tranquil Moraine Lake through the valley of the Big Arroyo, and crossing the Kaweah Gap at more than 10.000 feet to the stunning Precipice Lake. Then descending all the way down to Hamilton Lake with a view of the vertical wall of Valhalla.
Day four of my SEKI Loop trail took me to the amazing Moraine Lake, one of the true highlights of the High Sierra Trail. Just a half day climb from the Kern Hotspring, I decided to stay there and enjoy the silence, the cool water and the shady trees.
After two days of steady climbing, the third day of my SEKI Loop led me from the Bighorn Plateau to the lower elevations of Kern Canyon. During the high temperatures in the canyon, the lure of the hot springs at the end kept me going during the 17.5 miles of trail.
The second day of my SEKI Loop took me to the really High Sierra. Despite four days of acclimatization, the altitude still slowed me down to half my normal hiking speed. But I did climb Forester Pass: the highest point on the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail and the border of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park.
The Sequoia Kings / SEKI Loop is a less crowded alternative for the John Muir Trail, without the difficulty to get a permit. I had been planning my SEKI-Loop trail thoroughly last year. But of course, everything went completely different. Because not a million spreadsheets, vlogs or gearlists can prepare you for the devastating beauty and power of the High Sierra.