Tour Du Mont Blanc – Mountain Running
This 6-day mountain run circumnavigates the highest peak in the European Alps over 100 miles and 30,000 feet of elevation gain. Move on single track while taking in the breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and traveling on foot through three countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland.
2015 Dates: August 3-8
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps and is the most historic mountaineering venue on Earth. The massif that incorporates Mont Blanc is like a compact mountain range in itself featuring over 400 distinct summits and 40 glaciers. The mountain is shared by three countries: France, Italy, and Switzerland. In 1767, Horace Bénédict de Saussure and his entourage explored the range with guides, mules, and porters, on an expeditionary circumnavigation of the massif. Ever since, the adventure has captured the imaginations of countless alpine wanderers. The Tour du Mont Blanc has been a classic walking trip for over a century and now takes most hikers around 10-12 days to complete the loop. Mountain trails and refuges have been developed along the route to allow for carrying very little pack weight considering the terrain involved and the length of the trip.
Thanks to the relatively recent advent and popularity of ultra-endurance sports, a 100 mile ultra-trail running race was developed, known as the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), that has gained tremendous popularity and follows close to the classic hiking route. This is the approximate route we follow, in the same counter-clockwise direction, so it is a great way to familiarize yourself with the terrain if you aspire to race someday. While the winners complete the race in an unbelievably fast sub-24 hour “suffer-fest,” we plan to enjoy the pleasures of trail running in a much more civilized 6-day style.
The beauty of this trip is that it is fully supported. This means that not only are you accompanied by expert running guides who are elite mountain athletes, but all of the complicated international logistics are lined out for you. It also means we have a support shuttle that can carry some of your personal items along the way. This allows you to minimize the amount you need to carry, which reduces pack size and increases comfort and efficiency of movement. Along the trail, you have a guide that wil not only show you the way, but will also be there to support you as a coach, a logistical liaison, and a risk manager. Each day there are easier and more difficult options to choose from and most days you will have the flexibility to shorten the journey by hopping on a shuttle, bus, or train, catching up with the rest of the group later.
For avid trail runners interested in active mountain vacations: This is the best run you will ever do!
TRIP ITINERARY: Tour du Mont Blanc - Mountain Running DAY 0 Arrive in Chamonix. Stay in the scenic Hotel L’Arve in downtown Chamonix. Meet in the hotel lobby at 5pm to go over the upcoming trip. Included: Hotel. Not Included: Dinner DAY 1 Les Contamines: Total Distance: 28km (17 miles). Ascent: 300m (1000 ft.) - Descent: 1000m (3280 ft.). From Chamonix, run along the L’Arve river down the Chamonix Valley to the quaint hamlet of Les Houches. The route climbs up to the Col de Voza. We take a lift from Les Houches to Bellevue and run to Col de Voza. Purists can opt out of the lift for the 600m ascent. From the col, the trail descends to city of Saint Gervais. At this point, the route turns south up the valley to Les Contamines. An optional train is available. In Les Contamines we will stay at the La Chemenaz hotel. Included: Hotel, Breakfast, Dinner. Not Included: Lunch, Trail Snacks, Drinks, Train (Optional) DAY 2 Elizabetta Hut: Total Distance: 27km (16.5 miles). Ascent: 2100m (6900 ft.) – Descent: 900m (2950 ft.). Run to the end of the road to Notre Dame de la Gorge or take the optional shuttle to shave of 4km of today’s run. Pick up the trail in Notre Dame de la Gorge and ascend 8km with 1100m elevation gain to Col du Bonhomme, up another 150m towards Croix du Bonhomme, up another 200m to Col des Fours - - whew! A 900m descent takes us to La Villes des Glaciers. Pass the Refuge des Mottets and up a 650m climb to the Col de la Seigne where we cross into Italy. We run down the spectacular Val Veni to the Elizabetta Hut a beautiful mountain refuge at the foot of stunning alpine glaciers. Included: Hut, Breakfast, Dinner, Shuttle. Not Included: Lunch, Trail Snacks, Drinks. DAY 3 Courmayeur: Total Distance: 14.5km. (9 miles) Ascent: 470m (1540 ft.) – Descent: 1400m (4600 ft.). Run down the gentle glaciated valley before the steep climb up the Arête du Mont-Favre. Here we embark on an incredibly scenic high traverse with views of Mont Blanc and the famous Peuterey Ridge. We traverse to the Col Checrouit and down a long descent to Courmayeur. Use this short day to relax in the alpine town of Courmayeur with a great spa nearby. We meet up with the support vehicle carrying our fresh clothes and relax in the Hotel Bouton d’Or. Today is includes time to explore Courmayeur and dine in one of the many fine Italian restaurants. Included: Hotel, Breakfast. Not Included: Lunch, Dinner, Trail Snacks, Drinks. DAY 4 Rifugio Elena: Total Distance: 20km (12.5 miles) Ascent: 1800m (5900 ft.) – Descent: 950m (3110 ft.). Run 4km from Courmayeur up a steep trail 770m to the Refuge Bertone, where we can enjoy a cappuccino. Continue to the Tete de la Tronche, a 600m climb. The is one of the most striking places on the entire route with views of Mont Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses. Descend 600m into the Italian Val Ferret. Climb up a short distance 100 m to the Bonatti Hut, name after the famous Italian climber Water Bonatti. Traverse along a hillside and descend 300m into the town of Arnuva. Ascend 300m up to Rifugio Elena. Included: Hut, Breakfast, Dinner. Not Included: Lunch, Trail Snacks, Drinks. DAY 5 Champex: Total Distance: 26.5km (16.5 miles) Ascent: 500m (1640 ft.) – Descent 1650m (5400 ft.) Run 2.5km to the Grand Col Ferret a steep 500m ascent. A 1050m descent, the biggest of the trip takes us into Swizterland down the Swiss Val Ferret to La Fouly, a distance of 9km. At this point, there is a knee saving optional shuttle. Continue down the valley 600m to Praz de Fort, for 10km. Continue the final ascent to Champex 470m. Champex is a charming mountain village and we will spend the night in the Hotel Du Glacier. Included: Hotel, Breakfast, Dinner. Not Included: Lunch, Trail Snacks, Drinks DAY 6 Chamonix: Total Distance 43km (26.5 miles). Ascent: 2400m (7870 ft.) - Descent 2827 (9270 ft). This day is designed as a part run, part shuttle, however, the total ascent and descent are calculated for the ambitious runners who want travel the entire distance on foot. From Champex, begin gentle descent to a steep technical 750m trail climb to the Bovine before making a 750m descent to the town of Trient via the Col de la Forclaz. Climb back up a huge ascent 750m to Catogne before descending to Les Esserts the border of France and Switzerland. Continue a 400m descent to Vallorcine. Here you can shorten the day by taking the train or go over the Col des Montet into the Chamonix Valley. Climb steeply along the Aiguilles Rouges, with spectacular views of Mont Blanc. At La Flegere, you have the option of skipping the final 800m descent to the valley bottom or run the steep trail to the finish in Chamonix. In Chamonix we will stay in the Hotel L’Arve. Included: Hotel, Breakfast, Shuttle. Not Included: Lunch, Trail Snacks, Dinner, Drinks.
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