If you are a hiker and trekker, you know that the Tour du Mont Blanc is a must-do trek. However, before jumping into this adventure, it is necessary to take some precautions and to be well prepared.
The difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc, whether technical or physical, could scare you.
Here, learn in detail what makes the TMB so difficult (but also tasty) and how to prepare for it 🙂
Several itineraries: several levels of difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Difficulty of the full Tour du Mont Blanc in 10 days
The difficulty of the full Tour du Mont Blanc lies first of all in the physical effort required to complete it. Indeed, it is 10,000 meters of ascent and 160 kilometers that must be covered! However, there are no real technical difficulties on the programme.
This is the most popular itinerary for the Tour du Mont Blanc. And for good reason, it allows you to see everything and does not include any technical passage. Generally spread over 9 to 11 days, with a daily walking time of about 6 hours, you will cross France, Italy and Switzerland without missing a beat.
By choosing this itinerary, you will have the possibility of taking magnificent paths in balcony, along which you will have all the leisure to admire the most beautiful panoramic sights on the massif of the Mont Blanc and will appreciate particularly the diversity of the crossed landscapes: forests, meadows, crests, villages… This itinerary will also allow you to take your time to better discover these magnificent landscapes.
The Tour du Mont Blanc in 7 days
Easier, and especially shorter, you also have the possibility to do the Tour du Mont Blanc in 7 days. This route is ideal for those who fear the difficulty of the classic Tour du Mont Blanc or who do not have the time to do it in full.
This itinerary will allow you to cover the best stages without missing the most beautiful panoramas. The bus transfers and the lifts will allow you to surpass some of the difficulties of the Tour du Mont Blanc!
If it is the difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc linked to the duration of the trek that frightens you, this option is probably the most suitable for you.
The Haute Route of the Tour du Mont Blanc
The Haute Route of the TMB is the most difficult route of the Tour du Mont Blanc. Halfway between hiking and mountaineering, this trip is for people who are already experienced and looking for the unique sensations of the high mountains!
With a duration of 7 days, the route is not very long. It allows you to go higher in altitude. You will have the opportunity to cross real glaciers and to evolve in an alpine and wild environment.
The high road is a real physical challenge for experienced hikers.
Attention: do not confuse the Tour du Mont Blanc by the Haute Route and the Haute Route Chamonix-Zermatt.
What are the difficulties on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The difficulties linked to the weather of the Tour du Mont Blanc are perhaps those that can scare you the most. Indeed, in the mountains, the weather can be your best ally or your worst enemy! What are the risks and how to overcome them?
1 – The cold
When it comes to doing the Tour du Mont Blanc, you might be afraid of encountering snow at many points along the route. But if you take a look at our article When to do the Tour du Mont Blanc? you will learn that it really depends on when you decide to do it.
However, even if in summer the temperatures are generally milder on the Tour du Mont Blanc (and even warm in the valleys), the weather can change very quickly. In the mountains, it can be very cold, even in the middle of July and August! You will need to be prepared for all possibilities and equipped accordingly.
The best way to avoid the cold is to anticipate it.
The first solution is logically to plan your trip according to the season and the level of difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc you wish to do.
Our second piece of advice is to make sure you have the right equipment to fight the cold, but above all :
- A breathable first layer to let perspiration through
- A second insulating layer to keep you warm
- A windproof and waterproof third layer to protect you from rain and storms
2 – Storms
If the cold can be a problem in summer, you should also beware of thunderstorms. Very frequent in the mountains, the sky can sometimes change colour very quickly and storms can easily surprise you.
Thunderstorms present two main risks for hikers:
- Slips: after a storm, wet rocks can be more dangerous because they are more slippery. You should therefore walk more carefully than usual.
- Lightning: don’t panic, you have very little chance of being struck by lightning but there is no such thing as zero risk in the mountains!
The best solution to the risk of falling is to be vigilant. You can also reduce this risk by being equipped with good hiking boots and walking sticks adapted to mountainous terrain.
In the event of a storm, the best option is to wait it out, but there are a few things you should know:
- Do not take refuge under a tree
- Stay away from waterways and landforms
- Get rid of all metal elements
- Isolate yourself from the ground with a backpack, rope, or any non-conductive element
3 – The fog
Like thunderstorms, fog can be fast and stealthy. Fog in the mountains can be very thick and your visibility will be greatly reduced, increasing the risk of getting lost or falling.
To overcome the problem of fog in the mountains, we advise you once again to prepare your equipment well by always having it within reach:
- A compass and a topographic map of the region (and especially learn how to use it)
- An altimeter
- A whistle that will guide helpers to you in case of trouble.
It is also advisable to prepare your itinerary well and to map out the day’s route, so that you know the route you are going to take and are able to find your way around the mountains.
To avoid getting lost, you can also choose to do the Tour du Mont Blanc with a guide or an agency!
Difficulties related to the technical nature of the terrain
With the right physical preparation, anyone in good health can do this trek. However, one must be aware of the difficulties of the Tour du Mont Blanc due to the terrain.
1 – The difference in elevation
One of the biggest difficulties of the Tour du Mont-Blanc is its significant difference in altitude, both positive and negative. Spread out over 10 days, this challenge represents about sixty hours of walking, and above all more than 10,000 metres of positive altitude difference.
In addition to the equipment, which will help you in your progress, the best solution is to prepare yourself physically before your departure.
To do this, we advise you to train to walk regularly (several times a week is ideal) on routes where the positive difference in altitude is present.
You can also work on your cardio and your endurance in the plain thanks to running or cycling on more or less long distances. The most important thing for a good preparation is to be regular.
2 – Are technical passages a difficulty on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
If you have chosen to do the Tour du Mont Blanc by the classic route, then the technical passages will be rare or even non-existent. Some handrails are present but there are no passages requiring hands or climbing.
However, if you take on the challenge of doing the Tour du Mont Blanc via the Haute Route, you will come across some more technical sections:
- Exposed passages
- Crossing glaciers…
To prepare yourself for this type of difficulty in the Tour du Mont Blanc, the best solution is to find out before you leave about the passages that will require special attention. This will allow you not to be surprised when you are in the mountains and to pass them without too much difficulty.
For more peace of mind, you always have the possibility of being accompanied by a specialized guide who knows the TMB.
Difficulties on the Tour du Mont Blanc related to physical effort
As we have already mentioned, the Tour du Mont Blanc requires a good physical preparation. However, despite your efforts, and even if you are an athlete, it is possible that you may encounter some physical difficulties due to wear and tear, or muscular fatigue.
Doing the Tour du Mont Blanc can be an intense physical experience. It is worth remembering that the difficulty of the Tour du Mont Blanc depends mainly on the choice of your route and that depending on the itinerary, the duration, the altitude difference and the accommodation you choose, the physical wear and tear will not be the same.
We also remind you that the Tour du Mont Blanc is not a high mountain tour. It is therefore unlikely that you will suffer from altitude sickness. However, it is possible that during your tour you may feel the classic physical fatigue (aches, shortness of breath, sleep) due to the duration of the trip and the continuity of the physical effort.
Besides the physical preparation, if you are worried about the fatigue of the trek, we advise you to make your excursion easier by transferring your bags for example, and by choosing to sleep in refuges where you will find more comfort
ATTENTION: it is important to think about booking your refuges well in advance. You will find more information in our article dedicated to mountain huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc.
What training to do the Tour du Mont Blanc?
If hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is accessible to everyone and even to beginners, it is still necessary to be well prepared and in good physical condition. To do this, there is no choice: you have to do sports.
Swimming is a very complete sport that will certainly allow you to gain in endurance if practiced with this aim and in a regular way. In addition to working your joints (and doing them good) this sport allows you to work all the muscles in your body, which will be a great help when you have to face the difficulties of the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Cycling regularly is an asset. As an endurance sport, it will allow you to build up your back and legs, which will be put to great use during your trip, while protecting your joints and working on your cardio.
There’s nothing like a good run for your cardio. A little more violent for the joints but just as effective, the practice of this sport will certainly allow you to be better prepared for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Whether it is on flat ground, to work on your endurance, or via the practice of Trail Running which will guarantee you a physical preparation to any test, running is always a good idea.
CAUTION: running can be a violent effort for the body, if you notice something abnormal during your outings, think of asking for medical advice.
What could be better than hiking when preparing a hike? If we advise you to practice it all year long (because it is always good to walk), we also advise you to increase your efforts during the month before your departure for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Try to get used to the difference in altitude regularly, and do some day walks or walks over a few days, this will allow you to better understand the difficulties of the Tour du Mont Blanc.