Tag Archives: Mont Blanc

My favourite hiking photos

These are some amazing trips we had in the past and it didn’t feel fair that they weren’t getting a shout out. So here are some of the best (and worst!) pictures from the last few years… Continue reading

Save Money on Hiking

These are some ways of saving money that we have learned in the past. Most apply to hiking in the Alps but you can use the same principles worldwide!

  1. Camp! Accommodation can cost up to 50euro pp per night in Switzerland, and that’s only for staying in a refuge, in dormitory-style beds. If you’re looking for a place to stay in a less-hiked area your only option might be a hotel. So bring a tent with you! Just be sure to check the local laws, sometimes it’s illegal to “wild” camp below 2,500m. Maybe just check with the landowner whether they’re ok with it! And remember to leave no trace! Camping is also a lot more convenient as you can set up your tent wherever you choose, meaning you won’t have to deviate off your route. (Sometimes it can be worthwhile to splash out on a campsite, especially if you haven’t showered in a few days- hot water, running toilets… Sometimes you can even use their plugs)
  2. Bring food with you! Eating out is way overpriced, especially in touristy areas. Although sometimes it is definitely worthwhile to invest in a warm meal of mountain food after a long days hike. Bring a stove, food that you actually might like, make sure there’s water nearby, and hope it doesn’t rain! You’ll get such satisfaction from cooking for yourself.
  3. Hike in a group! This has many benefits, but for the point of view of this post, you can save on buying food (e.g. buy carton of milk for breakfast between 5 people in the mornings, as opposed to carton of milk for 1), and also on costs such as petrol. You can even split the costs of some of the overheads, e.g. camping stove, first aid kit.
  4. Fill up bottles as you go! Don’t buy bottled water, what an effort to carry it… However, I managed to get an odd infection after drinking glacier water for 2 weeks (some kind of infection of the lymph nodes, very strange altogether). So maybe consider investing in a purifier or whatever. Personally it won’t stop me from doing it again! Just keep an eye out for some clear streams, or fill up near the source of a river. (Platypuses are great for this!)
  5. Don’t get a guide! For us this was one of the most obvious ones. We were all pretty comfortable using maps and compasses, but for trails like the TMB, navigation is barely used. This does not mean that you should set off alone if you don’t know what you’re doing. Visibility can get bad very quickly, and in an emergency a knowledge of navigation is ESSENTIAL. But if you’re a confident hiker, going without a guide cuts a huge amount off your cost- same goes for bus services/luggage transport. Unnecessary!
  6. Shop smart! Gear does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Ask around your friends, family, neighbours, friend’s family’s neighbours etc… It’s worth investing in a decent pair of proper waterproof hiking boots that fit perfectly, but otherwise second hand gear does the job! Just check for tears or rips before you set off. If you need to invest in new gear, don’t be afraid to shop in the sales. Who cares if it’s last season, once it’s waterproof! Also there’s no need to over-indulge. One of everything is enough! For your own sake it might be wise to bring a couple of pairs of socks, undies, maybe 2 tshirts (wash one and wear one) but otherwise you should be good! Your backpack will also thank you. As will your back. And your knees.
  7. Get there cheaply! So far we have always flown Ryanair, to take advantage of the low fares. For those wanting to come to the Alps from further away, try to book your flights well in advance. Use a handy tool like this to find out when is best to book.
  8. Avoid Switzerland! (I’m only kinda being facetious). Switzerland is crazy expensive. I had never been there before, and I was shocked. Groceries were a rip-off, shops were not very well-stocked, and internet on my phone cost 7euro/mb! Just take precautions, try to stock up in Italy/France before you cross the border (and the food will taste better too!)
  9. Go to Decathlon! I swear I’m not being paid to say this (I wish!) but this is my favourite shop for gear. Everything is so reasonably priced, and they will have things you didn’t even realise you needed! Hello biodegradable toilet paper! Find your nearest store here. Also you can’t bring gas canisters on an airplane so buy them here once you’ve landed.
  10. Have common sense! Don’t get lured in by the fancy equipment they have in outdoors shops. You don’t need freeze-dried astronaut pasta! Or super-technological antibacterial antiviral antifungal sun-protecting shampoo. Bring a bar of soap! Don’t buy the pre-made first aid kits, they are designed to rip you off. Invest in a decent dry-bag instead (which will last forever) and buy all the items individually in a pharmacy. Have a google to see what you’ll need to bring. Don’t buy waterproof matches/notebooks, just put the things you’ll need into a ziplock sandwich bag. Voila!
  11. Make sure you’re insured! All EU citizens should bring their E1H1 cards to prove that they have medical insurance. Any non-EU hikers should check their insurance policies before they travel, you don’t want to end up with a hefty bill if you need medical treatment!

The last post…

This will be the last update to our blog!

Tour de Mont Blanc is officially completed! We got back to Milan last night and had showers and a delicious dinner of pasta and ragu, spinach/courgette frittata, and cotolette. Then we went out for icecream (which was much cheaper than the alps!)

We all slept extremely well, and woke up this morning to a breakfast of fresh coffee and croissants. Then we headed to the market where we bought fruit as well as presents for our families! Alan left for his bus to Zurich so there are only four of us left… We’re playing mariokart and heading to the local swimming pool for a bit before Carl and Aisling fly to Dublin tonight.

Thanks to everyone who read the blog and thanks for all your comments and messages of support! The TMB is something we would recommend to anyone and we hope to do a trip like this again next year. We have already arranged a reunion hike up Croagh Patrick in the autumn!

Happy Hiking!

The famous 5

We’ve made it!

We just completed the Tour de Mont Blanc!!!

We’re just in the car back to Milan now feeling pretty chuffed! We’re also hugely looking forward to showering as we’re very smelly….

We have a few days to post about as we had no signal for a few days! So here goes…

Our last update was just before our massive ascent, which we survived! It was just as tough as we expected, and every time we thought it was over we’d find we had more to climb. Anyway, we finally made it to the top and had a cooked lunch- such luxury! We had gnocchi with tomato sauce and sausages, and spent far too long lying on the grass, exhausted…

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Here’s the view from lunch

It turned out that spending too long at lunch was a bad idea, a very bad idea… As we washed our plates and pans with snow, a thunderstorm started! We were really exposed and had to run down the side of the mountain. Alan wasn’t feeling well so this was a bit of a disaster. Suddenly it started pouring down and we had to leg it down to a bridge for some shelter. There was a river flowing under the bridge but we thought we’d be alright for a while, until it started to leak! Muddy brown water was pouring on top of us and our bags as we tried to pull our waterproofs on. This got so bad that we decided our best option was to continue our hike in the rain, rather than wait it out.

Finally we made it to our camping site for the night (which was free!). After the challenging day we had just had, we decided to eat at the local auberge for dinner (the thunderstorm was coming in waves). They would only take us for dinner at 7:30 so that meant we had to sit at a table playing card games for 2 hours while starving! Remember, we had been up since 5am… Finally we had a dinner of Beaufort tart, rabbit with mustard and tiramisu! Nice way to end a long day! We had the chats with some other hikers, guides, and even other Irish people!

That night was luckily uneventful and we woke up well-rested the following morning…

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Ready for a day of hiking

We stopped by a local goat’s cheese shop in the morning and stocked up on fresh baguettes, cheese and nectarines. Great way to start a day!

Off we went towards Col de la Seigne, which is the border between Italy and France. It was a really warm day so we had a lot of ‘suncream stops’…

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Cooling down in the shade

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Beautiful Valley

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Checking the road signs

The Italians got very excited at the border (the anthem was sung more than once) and we stopped for lunch soon afterwards.

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The border

We hiked down to Rifugio Elisabetta, where we set up camp (Well, the boys set up camp).

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Francy watching the boys sort out the tents

We ate a wonderful meal of pizza and risotto and pork and potatoes and cake!

Unfortunately we didn’t sleep too well due to ANOTHER thunderstorm and also the fact that we were on a slope near the top of a very windy valley!

We woke up this morning and quickly packed everything before heading up to the refuge for breakfast. Then we began our final day! As we were so wrecked we elected to take the cable car down (Carl’s first time!!) and cooked our lunch on the stove in a car park… Cringe…

Final update this evening!

The last morning!

We arrive back to Courmayeur tonight, and then Luca will drive us to Milan. We have a longer post ready to be published when we get a bit of Internet, but for now, check out this sunrise!!

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Coffee update

Quick update from our cappuccino stop at Chalet de Nant Borrant (1459m) : the ascent is going well, but still 1000m climb to go 😦
Coffee was much needed after our quick early cereal!

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Carl checking the guidebook

Back when we get to the top at Col de La Croix du Bonhomme!

P.S. we made a new friend this morning!

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A curious baby snail on our tent 🙂

Made it through the night!

We made it!

Thunderstorm calmed as the night grew darker…and as planned, we are up before sunrise to tackle the hardest of our treks!

Just having breakfast at the moment, but we will soon be setting off from Les Contamines!

Mondays are always harder…

Au revoir!

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Under a raging thunderstorm…

After the difficult experiences of yesterday, this morning we woke up with the right spirit to take on a nice and easier day…….at 10 o’clock! :S Since it was a Sunday, we decided it was well deserved! We took a long relaxed breakfast with fresh croissants and sat at actual chairs. We also had partially hot showers! (They were partially freezing too, but anyway…)

We departed from Les Houches and set off to Col du Voza, which is along one of the access routes for climbing Mont Blanc!

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View of Mont Blanc from Col du Voza

We had a picnic up there after a very sweaty hike up, and took it nice and slow on the way down.

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Action shot

It was extremely warm today, but we managed to cool down at a nice waterfall!

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Feeling refreshed

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Alan making the most of a trough of water

We struggled to find a nice campsite, and eventually chose one beside a river, 15 minutes from our destination of Les Contamines. There were some grey clouds forming overhead, so 3 of us rushed off to the supermarket and stumbled upon a fête with music and market stalls! Unfortunately we had agreed to eat in tonight so had to head back to the tents to cook on our stove (along with food for the next 2 days as we won’t be passing any shops).

All of a sudden,
BANG!
A huge bolt of lightning came down right beside us! And the rain started pouring down…
We went hiding into our tents and it is from within the rage of rain, lightning and the torrential river right next to us that we are now in contact with you! We hope to survive the night! (joking, storm is easing away)

Anyway, off to bed now, up at 5 am tomorrow morning as we will be facing the most tremendous hike of the tour – 7.5 hours (5.5 of ascent!) towards our destination, Les Chapieux.
Hopefully we will get enough sleep (river and storm very loud!) and we will be in touch in the morning.

Until then,
Bonne Nuit!

The fantastic 5

Collection of photos

We have arrived at Les Houches!

Here’s a picture of our view from last night:

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Wow

We ended up having a very dramatic day- had a long hike through intense heat, realised that there was no access to water (so had to last the day on a few litres between us), watched a family of marmots, Francy got bitten/stung by insects/plants, we had crêpes at 2520m, played some of the nerdiest games of all time (multilingual buzz and Fibonacci series) and sang Disney songs to keep ourselves alert…..
Aisling’s knee ‘snapped’ so she could no longer walk downhill (certainly not fast enough to get to the supermarket before it closed) and Luca decided to have her hitch-hiked down the mountain. Luckily a lovely Dutch family drove her down.

We got to a Carrefour in the town and did a huge shop for 38euro- woohoo! We’ve had dinner and Normandy cider and are now ready for bed…

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Goodnight!

Setting off to Les Houches!

We took a gentle start this morning to make the most of the amazing view of Mont Blanc, then bought a litre of milk for breakfast. We said goodbye to our Scottish friends who had been doing the stages alongside us, today is their last day!
The hike today will be 700m uphill and then 1500m downhill- ouch…
Forecast is extreme sun so we’ve loads of suncream on!