Creating Your TMB Itinerary

Rifugio Maison Vieille, just above Courmayeur

Rifugio Maison Vieille, just above Courmayeur

As mentioned in my earlier post, I spent a lot of time planning our trip and developing our itinerary.  It was a daunting process.  Having never before been to the Alps or hiking for such an extended period, it was hard to know just how long each leg would take us and how the cumulative impact of the hike would affect us from day to day.  So, you learn what you can and, at some point, you just make a plan and hope for the best.

For starters, you need to determine from which point you will start, which direction you will go and how many days you have.  We chose to begin in Les Houches (the traditional starting point) and approach the hike counter-clockwise (the traditional direction).  Most hikers we met who were walking counter-clockwise also began in Les Houches, though some started in Chamonix.  Beginning in Champex is typical for those going clockwise, and we met several people doing that route, as well.

We allotted 10 days for the hike, including one rest day in Courmayeur.  Given those time constraints, as I planned our itinerary, it became evident that we would not be able to complete the Tour – that is, begin and end in Les Houches.  Instead, we began in Les Houches and ended in Le Tour.  (Le Tour is the highest village in the Chamonix Valley and just before Tre-Le-Champ, the typical end point for the day’s leg, though some hike on to Lac Blanc.)

While I believe we would have ended the hike somewhere above Chamonix regardless of the time we had (the descent from Chamonix to Les Houches is known to be arduous), I do wish we had one more day, as the views along the last stretch are said to be some of the most spectacular.  In that case, we would have stayed a night at Lac Blanc and thereafter found the best spot to catch a cablecar or bus back.  Of course, depending on the time of year you go, this part can be tricky, as most of the cablecars were already closed when we were there in mid-September.

One last point before sharing our itinerary:  In addition to the above mentioned items, your trip will also be greatly shaped by the time of year you select for the hike.  For example, we did the hike in mid-September and none of the refuges were full.  This allows for those wanting more flexibility to avoid booking in advance and instead determine each day how far they will hike.  There are other perks, as well, such as sharing the bathroom/showers with fewer people.  It’s my understanding that most lodges are at or past capacity in the high season and those without reservations can be left out in the cold – literally!  For our preferences, I couldn’t imagine a better time than mid-September when the season is coming to an end.

With that, our TMB itinerary was as follows:

Of course, creating an itinerary and implementing it are two different things.  We strayed from our plans one day with disastrous results (though great potential).  In subsequent posts, I’ll discuss in detail the demands of each day’s hike, the state of accommodations and how/where we would have done things differently.  For a real-time summary of each day’s highlights and lowlights, watch our daily video recaps here.


13 thoughts on “Creating Your TMB Itinerary

  1. Hello-I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and watching the video recaps of your TMB trip! My family is planning to do the hike at the end of June/beginning of July. We’re an active family with two parents and two daughters (ages 13 and 16) who all love to hike. I’m curious whether you came across many similar families on your trip and whether they talked about the amount of time they allotted for the hike with teenagers in tow. I’m working on the assumption of 11 days. (btw we also live in the DC area!) Thanks! (As I write this, I’m realizing that given when you did your hike this is probably not the case – but still worth asking 🙂

    • Hi, Vicki – Thanks for visiting the blog and for your kind words. While we met people of all ages, I don’t recall seeing anyone hiking with kids. As you mentioned, this was likely due to our hiking in the early fall when school is back in session. For what it’s worth, our itinerary was fairly standard in terms of how far we went each day. There are several refuges scattered along the route outside the typical starting/stopping points that would allow for shortening/lengthening days if you want to break some of them up. Good luck with your planning, and sorry I can’t be of more assistance on this issue.

      • Thanks 🙂 One more question, actually, since you live in the same area I do. Are there any particular hikes in the MD/DC/VA area that really stand out in your mind as being really good training hikes for the TMB?

      • It’s funny that you ask because I almost mentioned it in my original response. The only hike I have done or am familiar with in the area that I would say could provide a comparable experience would be Old Rag. Old Rag does require a bit of scrambling, which is not required along the TMB.

  2. Hi! Great blog! I would like to ask how you made travel arrangements from Geneva (assuming) to Les Houches or Chamonix? My flights ETA is at 11pm. Thanks!

  3. Hello Hello: What a great blog! I am planning to do TMB but only for 7 days — are there specific bits you would leave out? We were thinking to do Day 1-5 Les Houches to Rifugio Bonatti and then the rest of the trip Day 6-7 Tre Le Champ to Les Houches — what do you think? Are we missing something truly scenic?

    • Thank you! In my opinion, the stretch between Rifugio Elisabetta and Bonatti is the most scenic along the walk. We concluded just before Tre-Le-Champ and did not do that last leg, though it is a section I would cover if I did the hike again. It’s said to be beautiful, and the stay at Lac Blanc serene. So I think you have chosen the best sections! Have a fantastic time!

      • One additional question: how soon do we need to book? I don’t intend to go till August 2018. Should I book in October or later? When did you book? It looks like a lot of times you just called ahead as well but I guess you went in September which is low season. Thanks for your response! Great blog by the way!

  4. We did the hike in September, and I booked our lodging in early May, so approximately four months in advance. Since you’re going at a busier time, you may wish to book farther in advance, though I wouldn’t think before the beginning of the year would be necessary. We were at the end of the season and none of the refuges we stayed in were full. While we pre-booked our stays for the entire trip, we did meet several people along the way who hiked as far as they wished each day and then walked into the closest refuge.

  5. Thank you so much for the great info and tips! We will be leaving for the TMB in exactly a month, so anticipating that the trail will be quite populated. Do you see a need to carry a GPS satellite tracker/messenger service on the trip? How is the cell signal throughout the trail? I’d expect it to fade in and out depending on proximity to a town.. thanks for any input!


    • Hi, Vivian!
      I don’t see any need for a GPS-type device. The trail is very well-marked, and as you mentioned, will be populated with many other hikers. I didn’t take my phone with me and I don’t remember how my husband’s cell service was, but most every refuge has WiFi.

      Have a wonderful trip!

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