Hiking in France
The French Alps are fantastic. Read about my hikes on the Tour du Mont Blanc and the GR5.
The second stage of the GR5 shares about 40 km of trail with the Tour du Mont Blanc. After two days I was happy to leave this more than slightly crowded trail, turning South into the Beaufortin. There I crossed the Col du Bresson, another highlight of the GR5.
The first 5 days of the GR5 involved a long and steep initial ascent into the Alps and unexpected and extraordinary scenery. I also met a number of other solo hikers. Within a few days a we formed a more or less loose group, hiking and camping together most of the time. Getting to know these wonderful people has enriched my experience on the GR5 tremendously.
In the summer of 2023 I hiked 14 days on the GR5 (Grande Randonnée 5). While the complete GR5 starts in my home country (the Netherlands), I hiked the part that crosses the French Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea. As two weeks are not enough to hike the complete route to the sea, I hiked halfway to the city of Briançon.
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.
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.