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Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc

Excerpt:
Sample Route Guide


Contents List | Introduction | Mountain Safety and Weather | Sample Route Guide


Refuge des Mottets to Col Ch�croui
[Maps 11-16, Map 14 shown]

From the refuge it is 750m of ascent to the 2516m Col de la Seigne on the France�Italy border. This may sound arduous but the gradient is never too steep – and just wait till you see the view on the far side of the col!

The hardest part of the climb is the first section, following a steep zigzag track behind the refuge. Once this is over, a narrower trail contours the grassy mountainside, negotiates a couple of streams and then follows a line of cairns across a sparsely vegetated slope of false summits to the col.

If the view back down the Vall�e des Glaciers is breathtaking the view in the opposite direction into Italy may leave you on a respirator. Immediately below is the Vallon de la L�e Blanche which leads in turn to the Val Veni and the Val Ferret.

In the far distance is a later objective of ours: the Grand Col Ferret on the Swiss border. On the south side of the Val Veni is the relatively gentle, grassy mountainside that carries the trail, and on the north side the spectacular shattered peaks of the massif.

Most eye-catching of all is the savage spire of Aiguille Noire de Peuterey and above everything the crystalline summit of Mont Blanc.

The dips and hollows on the north side of the col hold snow for longer, creating a beautiful pattern reminiscent of an Icelandic mountainside. In places it can be hard to follow the exact route of the trail as it negotiates some of these semi-permanent snow patches but there should be plenty of bootprints to suggest the way.

The trail descends to a clearer track on the floor of the Vallon de la L�e Blanche. Marmots and marigolds abound in the loose grassy moraine and pastures of the valley bottom. Soon, Rifugio Elisabetta appears above, to your left. The ruins of Alpe Inferieur de la L�e Blanche below are a former army post from the days when crossing European borders was less straightforward.

it's a short sharp climb to Rifugio Elisabetta (tel 01-65 84 40 80; mid Jun to mid Sep; 73 beds; dortoir €17pp, chambre €20, demi-pension €41) perched spectacularly below the crevassed surface of Glacier de la L�e Blanche and the craggy sides of Aiguille de Tré la Tête beyond.

The dinners here are excellent and, as with the French refuges, you are welcome to book a place at the dinner table even if you are camping outside: camping is free.

Beyond the rifugio the track takes a wide zigzag to negotiate the steep drop into the Val Veni. Strong-kneed folk can bypass this zigzag by taking the steep shortcut path. Another zigzag takes you down to a long flat alluvial plain.

Cross the plain via a dead-straight track to the minty-blue Lac de Combal, naturally dammed by a massive moraine wall spilling across the width of the main valley.

Do not go as far as the car park and bridge at the roadhead; instead look for the cairn 50 metres beforehand on the right and follow the narrow trail through the pine trees.

The trail climbs past some ruins and continues to climb for a further 300 metres to a second set of ruins on the open hillside. One of these buildings still has a roof and a stove inside and could be used as an emergency shelter.

The wonderful views of the Massif du Mont Blanc across the valley will convince you to take a rest here.

Whoever was responsible for designing the route here deserves a big pat on the back: for the next hour it contours the mountainside with minimal effort allowing trekkers time to admire the grandstand views.

Nowhere on the Tour are the views so delightfully uninterrupted as on this section. Things go downhill in every sense at the chairlifts and ski-run scars of Col Ch�croui (1956m). The rifugio, Maison Vieille (tel 03-37 23 09 79; mid Jun to Sep; 60 beds; dortoir €18pp, demi-pension €38pp), has a restaurant that does barbecue lunches of meatballs, burgers and sausages.

Tour du Mont Blanc

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