Tour du Mont Blanc – The Refuge Dining Room

Posted on July 31, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Refuge Dining Rooms

An interesting dynamic can happen in the refuge dining rooms along the Tour du Mont Blanc.  Here we are in the Refuge Bonhomme after dinner.  You can see the terra cotta pichet of wine on the table readying everyone for a great chat!  Within a short time we had about 6 people all from different countries exploring world views well into the night.  It was like an impromptu united nations meeting!  There were some uncomfortable pointed questions at us as Americans, but we found the whole experience very interesting.  Keeping a respectful approach while explaining when we disagreed worked to allow conversation to flow and everyone ended with a clap on the back, a handshake and big smiles.  If this happens to you take the opportunity to learn about other peoples’ views, just remember to be pleasant. Just think about how incredible the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it brings people from all over the world together for one purpose, if just for a short time.

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Mountains, Flowers, Clouds

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB mountains/flowers/clouds



Clouds in the sky



Wind in the face



Peace in the heart

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Gearing Up for a Hiking Trip

Posted on July 22, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, Health, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Packing

Yesterday we did our first training hike for our next adventure.  Part of the training is getting the shoulders and back to strengthen for the weight of the pack.  Mine will be about 20 pounds which figures out at about 14% of my body weight.  This is a significant load for my spinal column, it’s associated musculature, my hips, knees, and ankles too.  With some training all of these structures can rise to the occasion by becoming strong enough to handle the load without injury.  The guys at the outfitting store amaze us when they tell us that often customers are in the store to buy their backpack for the trip they are leaving on tomorrow.  The folly of this boggles my mind.

Last year, when training for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we trained for the most part with rice-filled bags in our packs just for the weight.  This changes the way the load sits in the pack because each bag is so dense.  In reality, the items I carry all have different densities, sizes and shapes.  So this year I decided to mostly pack my bag the way I do for the trip and train that way.  In the photo you will see most of what I am packing.  There is a little bit art to this task.  Heavier items in the bottom and up against the back, lighter items fill in around.  That’s the general rule, but you also want easy access for items you want to retrieve often so those tend to go more outside or on top.  Clothing rolled and secured with a rubber band works well to keep it as small as possible.  Already yesterday I weighed two pair of rain pants.  The new ones save me 6 oz. so the pants from last year have lost their slot!  Every ounce is carefully considered as to necessity and if there is any way to make it lighter by changing the item in some way.

The first training hike went well but today I am a little sore in the low back.  This tells me it was a perfect first day.  I will continue to increase the time that the pack is on my body eventually wearing it even to walk the dogs around the neighborhood.  This will be time and effort very well spent.

See this post for a thorough description of what to consider when packing for a hiking trip:


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The Tour du Mont Blanc as a Gateway Hike

Posted on July 10, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB as a Gateway HikeWriting this blog about our experience on the TMB last September has been a great way to relive the memory.  It has also been a great way to let the effect of the trip saturate my whole year producing a longing to get out into mountains again.  Be warned:  If the TMB is the first long hike you are doing, you may very well get hooked on this type of vacation!

So, the tickets are bought and the planning has been done.  We are going back to do one day of the TMB we missed last year, the Fenetre d’Arpette in Switzerland.  That day we did the easier Bovine route which was wonderful.  The Fenetre d’Arpette, though,  is more difficult and gets you to the second highest point on the trail at 2,665 m (the other being the Col des Fours at the same altitude which we did.)  We’re going to go back and conquer it.  We will be fresh, though, without all the other days of hiking behind us so it should go well if the weather cooperates.

Then we will be off to the Italian Lakes and then the Dolomites.  I have lots to report after this next trip, but I do believe I’m thoroughly hooked on mountain hiking due to the TMB!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – The Middle of Nowhere

Posted on June 29, 2013. Filed under: France, Health, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Out in the Middle of Nowhere

One of the best parts of the Tour du Mont Blanc is getting out in the middle of nowhere.  This picture here shows you two really happy people because we have left our normal cares behind.  There is nothing like abandoning normal life to get out among giant mountains, fresh air and sunshine to get some perspective and a real break.  It was an arduous task we had set for ourselves, this 105 mile trek, but it was different work, environment, and people and just what we needed.  I loved the break myself and I was delighted to see my husband thoroughly enjoy himself as well.  If you are considering such an endeavor and you are under some stress in normal life, I would encourage you to do it.  The restoration a time like this provides to body and mind is priceless.

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Tour du Mont Blanc Snow Walking

Posted on June 26, 2013. Filed under: Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB snow trekking 2

We walked the Tour du Mont Blanc in September so there was less chance of snow on our trek, but we did find it in a few places.  We trudged through some white stuff at the top of the spectacular Tête Nord des Fours (2756m), but only right at the top.

Travel - TMB snow trekking 3

It was strange walking in snow with shorts on!









Travel - TMB snow trekking 1And then there was this short stretch where the trail went right through a big patch of snow.  I think we could only tell it was truly the trail by all the footprints of others before us!

We didn’t have snow on our trip, but there were remnants, and others told us that just the week before our trip there were a few days of snow.  Make sure to be prepared for snow at any time on this trip.  The mountains are beautiful and also unpredictable.

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What is Croûte au Fromage?

Posted on June 11, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Croute 1      Travel - TMB Croute 2

When you hike through Praz de Fort and Issert on the Tour du Mont Blanc you will be surprised that there are not more shops catering to hikers.  They say 10,000 people hike the TMB every year and yet, in these towns we found only 1 small bar/grille available for lunch.  We chose well based on a recommendation from fellow hikers to get Croûte au Fromage, a common Swiss dish.  (Later, others said they chose things that were awful with something like dog food in it!!)  Anyway, this delightful and hearty dish really hit the spot right before the mushroom hike.  We ordered one and split it.  Toasted bread under melted cheese with egg, pickled onions and cornichons.  Conveniently easy to split as you can see.  I think a whole order would have been too heavy on the stomach before that next portion of hiking, but splitting this felt perfect with a beer to wash it down.  It was a great day to sit out on the patio in front of the place and watch the quiet world go by.  If you follow the link above and try making this yummy dish let me know how it turns out!

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The Cave on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on June 9, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Cave 2

It’s surprising to find this cave on the Tour du Mont Blanc in Switzerland on the section between Issert and Champex-Lac.  It was fun to poke our heads inside and feel the cool, but we didn’t actually go in.  My claustrophobia would never allow it, but it was fun to find this natural wonder right along the trail!Travel - TMB Cave 3

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10 Enjoyment Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB pie stop1.  Pace and progress are important, but don’t let them rule so much that you miss local delicacies, great photography shots, or a dip in a mountain lake!

2.  Don’t let someone else push you faster than you want to go or hold  you back.  Be ok with hiking alone some of the time in order to have the pace that is comfortable for you.

3.  Take a day off.  Plan for it and enjoy it.  Courmayeur is my vote for this one.  We ran into people doing double days, practically running the whole thing to get it done in 5 days.  Ok, if that’s what you like, but that would not be for me.  Our day off in Courmayeur was one of my best vacation days of all time because it felt so good.

4.  Make it your trip.  Whatever makes you happy, do.  Is it artwork, photography, local food, meeting new people?  Make time for it, be you, and make it your own.

5.  Expect unpleasantness and roll with it.  Stuff will happen or not happen as you planned.  Ok, try to find an enjoyable way in spite of it.  On our rain day when we took the bus to Argentière we weren’t happy to miss the day’s hike, but the warm fire in the lobby with big cushy chairs, coffee and books about the history of the mountains made for a very enjoyable morning!

6.  Appreciate the expansive beauty every day.  After a few days, it is possible to forget how amazing the views are!  Make sure to stop and really look, breathe the fresh air, and appreciate.Travel - TMB Issert

7.  Personal hygiene – don’t neglect it.  You will have more friends if you wash out that hiking shirt rather than wear it to breakfast and actually stink up the whole room.  Really.  You may not smell it but others will.

8.  If you have fears – ladders, water crossings, etc. – don’t dwell on them.  Just agree with yourself to handle it when it happens.  You will find nothing on the TMB turns out to be as scary as you think it will so don’t waste any energy worrying.

9.  The most dangerous thing I saw were the bicyclists.  Get out of their way early and stay put so they can maneuver around you!

10.  Relax, you are on vacation!

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10 Safety & Health Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 26, 2013. Filed under: France, Health, Italy, Safety, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Safety

1.  Keep your valuables with you or your partner(s) at all times.  This would include passport (US or British passports are worth €1000-2000 each on the black market), cash, credit cards, camera, airline paperwork.  One would like to believe all the fellow hikers are just like you, but they may not be.  Acquaintances on our trip lost their British passports at a refuge when they left them in their packs to go to dinner.  They had discussed leaving them in the presence of a lot of other people too.  2 big mistakes.  This ended their trip because getting to an embassy and getting it all sorted out required a lot of time.  Take along some little bag that can hold your valuables when you don’t have your big pack and just keep everything in there so it’s easy to take with you at all times.

2.  Even non-valuables:  keep an eye on them.  At big stops along the trail with lots of hikers coming and going in both directions we assigned one of our group to stay with the packs/poles while others went for food/bathrooms, then we switched.  It’s just good common sense.

3.  Water.  Really, only get it from places that are clearly safe.  That hose hanging on the building right next to where the cows are standing, don’t fill your bottle.  3 days down with bacterial infection really takes a bite out of your trip.  I missed doing this by chance, but my friend paid for it.  Hind sight is 20-20, try to keep foresight in play and avoid problems.

4.  Think about daylight and how many hours you have left to get in.  You do not want to be out on the trail in the dark.  Get a move on if needed to get in before dusk.  The mountains become a lot colder, windier, and overall more dangerous in the dark.

5.  Pay attention to your pace.  You do need to do #4, but you don’t need to run the whole thing and miss the day just to get in super early!

6.  Address small health issues early.  A small irritation is felt in your foot?  Stop and inspect right away.  Treat and cover to avoid a blister or cover the blister to keep it from bursting and creating an open wound that is open for infection.  The sooner you address problems, the less likely you will experience a health emergency.

7.  Prepare for the unexpected.  Take extra cash, carry a first-aid kit and all-weather gear.  It will be fabulous if you don’t need any of it, and you will be congratulating yourself if you do.

8.  Be extra alert when you are tired.  Later in the day you are more apt to lose your footing, become forgetful, and less observant.  Know this and try to counteract it.  When stopping, look carefully around your pack before leaving to make sure you have everything.  Slow down a little to keep your footing sure.  Look carefully at signs to make sure of the way before you waste time down the wrong path.

9.  Watch your alcohol intake.  In the evening it can be tempting to celebrate too much.  Along with this is:  use a flashlight in the refuges.  Falling and hurting yourself isn’t worth wrecking your trip.

10.  Relax!  The TMB is fairly safe!

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