Doing the Tour du Mont Blanc in trail is a long term goal that many mountain lovers set themselves. On a large course and through grandiose landscapes, it is a challenge that we are proud and happy to take up!
When you think of the Tour du Mont Blanc and the trail, you quickly think of the famous Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. However, succeeding in doing this demanding race is a real obstacle course both in terms of registration and physical preparation. However, it is perfectly possible to do the Tour du Mont Blanc as a trail run over several days, as hundreds of mountain runners do every year.
How to prepare? What equipment to choose? How much time to take? In this article, we answer the questions you ask yourself when considering doing the Tour du Mont Blanc trail run! 🙂
What is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a world famous trek. Its route goes through three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland.
Although it does not include any major technical difficulties such as glacier crossings or climbing passages, for example, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a physical challenge, whether you do it as a trail or as a hike.
Indeed, it is 160 kilometers and 10,000 meters of positive altitude difference (and as much negative) that must be covered to complete it. The full Tour du Mont Blanc is traditionally divided into 10 stages when done as a tour.
How to prepare to run the Tour du Mont Blanc?
If you plan to do the Tour du Mont Blanc in trail running, you must be in good physical condition and have some experience in trail running.
In terms of performance, you must be able to cover 35 kilometres and 2000 metres of positive and negative altitude difference… and this for several days! Even without looking at the stopwatch, this is a great feat that cannot be achieved without experience and good preparation.
To prepare for running the Tour du Mont Blanc, you will need to do races with a similar profile in the months leading up to your Mont Blanc trip. In the months before your trail holiday in the Alps, do regular races of progressive difficulty. A specific muscular preparation can also be beneficial.
If you have the opportunity to go out in the mountains during your weekends, don’t deprive yourself! If you live far away from the summits, you can consider making preparation stays with day trips.
You can also cross-train by cycling between two races, for example.
Moreover, before doing the Tour du Mont Blanc trail, we strongly advise you to do a two or three day trail to discover what it is to roam in the mountains at the pace of a race. Don’t forget that unlike a day trip, you will spend your nights in a mountain refuge!
Also, if you decide to do the Tour du Mont Blanc without a guide, you will have to carry your gear during the day and your pack will be heavier than for day trips.
When you do the Tour du Mont Blanc trail with a Watse guide, our agency takes care of the transfer of your luggage between the different accommodations so that you can walk and run lightly while having all your belongings at your disposal in the evening and in the morning.
Finally, we advise you to have a check-up with your doctor or physiotherapist before doing the TMB.
What equipment to use for a multi-day trail?
Of course, you can’t do the Tour du Mont Blanc with the same equipment that a hiker would carry. For this kind of trip, priority should be given to the lightness of your trail bag.
If you don’t go with a luggage transfer agency, every gram will count.
First of all, it will be very difficult to do the trek in bivouac. Indeed, a tent and a sleeping bag, as light as they are, will weigh down your bag. And it would be a shame not to enjoy the atmosphere and the welcome of the refuges on the Tour du Mont Blanc!
For meals, the best option is to have breakfast and dinner in the huts. For lunch, you can buy picnic baskets or eat in the refuges or in the villages you cross.
Next, you will need to choose a bag that is compact enough and suitable for mountain running. We advise you to limit yourself to a bag of 30 litres, maximum.
Warning: do not choose a hiking bag as it will not be suitable for running. The ideal is a compact and light bag that fits well on your back and is close to your body.
When it comes to clothing and hiking gear, take only the bare essentials. Here is a checklist:
- A waterproof hiking jacket such as Gore-Tex
- Polar or micro-polar as a second insulating layer
- A breathable t-shirt
- Pants adapted to trail running
- Underwear that prevents friction
- A cap
- A necklace
- Lightweight gloves
- A first aid kit containing the necessary
- A survival blanket
- A Camelbak type water bag with a capacity of at least 1.5 litres
- A pair of trail poles
- Your personal belongings (phone, wallet, etc.)
How long does it take to do the Tour du Mont Blanc trail?
How long does it take to do the Tour du Mont Blanc trail? The answer depends on your physical condition and your desires. If the hikers do the full TMB in 10 days, the best runners in the world do the UTMB in less than 24 hours!
Generally, amateur runners who start the Tour du Mont Blanc spend 5 or 6 days at a rate of 6 to 8 hours of running and walking per day. This is a good time to complete long stages while having time to enjoy the scenery.
By doing the Tour du Mont Blanc trail over five days, you will have to do days of 3 to 40 kilometers and about 2000 meters of D+ and D-. You can choose to shorten or lengthen them. You can also dedicate a day to rest in the middle of your journey.
The best time to do the Tour du Mont Blanc is between mid-June and mid-September, with a peak between 15 July and 15 August. Outside of this season, the accommodation is almost all closed and the snow can seriously clog the trails.
Trail running the Tour du Mont Blanc with a guide or on your own
It is possible to do the Tour du Mont Blanc without a guide. If you have already done a trail trip of several days, if you are confident about your fitness and if you want to do this beautiful challenge alone, you have the possibility to do it.
However, if you have never run in the mountains for several days and/or you don’t want to deal with all the organisation and logistics before and during your stay, it is better to go with a guide.
Doing the Tour du Mont Blanc with a guide and a trekking agency has several advantages.
First of all, you will only have to carry your gear for the day, which will make your progress much easier and put less strain on your body than if you had to carry everything for the entire route. In addition, you will be able to carry more luggage than you could possibly carry, for more comfort in the refuge.
In addition, you won’t have to worry about booking huts which can be a hassle on the TMB. This is a very popular trek and as early as February, some nights are fully booked for July and August! The professionals have places reserved.
All in all, you just have to come, run, walk and enjoy!
Finally, running with a specialist guide of the Tour du Mont Blanc will be a source of serenity. You won’t get lost and in case of injury, a mountain professional will be there to assist you. He will also be able to motivate you, help you progress and share with you his knowledge of the Mont Blanc region.
Do you have a question about the Tour du Mont Blanc? Don’t hesitate to write to us, our guides will be happy to discuss with you 🙂