Arrive at the Geneva, Switzerland airport by 11:00 a.m. to rendezvous with the trip leader at 12:00 p.m. and transfer to our first night's hotel in Chamonix. There is time this afternoon to settle in, relax and explore delightful Chamonix, a world-famous resort town nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc and the site of the first Winter Olympics held in 1924. Tonight we share a welcome dinner and get acquainted with our traveling companions and guides. Dinner included.
Driving time: 1.5 hours.
Today we begin our spectacular journey on a trail beneath the Aiguilles Rouges (Red Peaks), a crystalline mountain massif opposite the Mont Blanc range. We hike to La Flégère (6150') where we come to an amazing high path known as the Grand Balcon. Along this trail we enjoy magnificent views of the rocky spires and glaciers draping the Mont Blanc massif across the valley before descending back to Chamonix. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 8 miles; Elevation gain: 2,729'; Elevation loss: 2,729'. Terrain: Steep uphill sections on hard-packed dirt and rocky trails with some short sections of exposure.
The day begins with a cable car ascent from Les Houches to Bellevue where we start our hike beneath the tumbling Bionnassay Glacier to the Col du Tricot (6955'). Along the way we'll watch for bounding chamois, a goat-like antelope, on the hillsides. After a steep descent to Chalets de Miage we stop for lunch amongst picturesque alpine meadows. From here we continue up to Chalet du Truc (5642') and then on to Les Contamines (3828'), a charming town proud of its gastronomical heritage. We stay in a local auberge tonight. All meals included.
Driving time: 15 minutes; Hiking: 7 miles; Elevation gain: 1,906', Elevation loss: 4,104'. Terrain: Hard-packed dirt and rocky trails with some exposure; steep downhill section.
This morning we follow in the footsteps of the ancients as we hike on an old Roman road, making our way steadily uphill and passing a very early chapel with Renaissance frescoes on its interior. We'll be reminded of why this area is such a magnet for hikers and climbers as we follow varied terrain through forests, gentle glens and the treeless gorge of the Nant Borrant on our way to Col du Bonhomme (7640'), our lunch spot. In the afternoon we descend a relatively steep grassy trail leading to the remote hamlet of Les Chapieux (3785'). We overnight in an auberge in Les Chapieux or a small hotel in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. All meals included.
Hiking: 11 miles; Elevation gain: 4,163', Elevation loss: 3,050'. Terrain: Gradual uphill climb with some steep, rocky, and exposed sections; steep downhill section.
Our path today leads us out of France and into Italy (from "bonjour" to "buon giorno!"). We initially transfer from Les Chapieux to the trailhead at the Vallée des Glaciers, climb east over the Col de la Seigne (8252') and finally descend into Italy to reflective Lac Combal. If the weather cooperates the views along our route will take your breath away! The dramatic southern face of the Mont Blanc range is fully exposed above us as we hike down to La Visaille from where we transfer to the lovely Italian resort town of Courmayeur (4014'). You'll have time to enjoy the town with a dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Driving time: 30 minutes; Hiking: 10 miles. Elevation gain: 2,380', Elevation loss: 2,811'. Terrain: Long uphill climb on hard-packed dirt and rocky trails followed by a gradual descent.
Today we start hiking right from our hotel and on to La Montagne de la Saxe (6970'). The ascent rewards us with magnificent views of the Grandes Jorasses, Brenva Glacier and the Italian side of Mont Blanc soaring into the air. A balcony trail leads us to the Rifugio Bonatti (6745'), named after the famous Italian alpinist and adventurer Walter Bonatti. This is one of the best-kept huts in the Alps, and the walls inside are decorated with pictures showcasing Walter Bonatti's impressive life story. The dramatic scenery is best appreciated while enjoying a drink in the sunset light. The hot chocolate here is decadent! For those who want to relax and enjoy Courmayeur, it is possible to join the group at the hut in the afternoon (~ 1 hour hike). Overnight at the hut. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles; Elevation gain: 3,218’; Elevation loss: 577’. Terrain: Steep uphill climb followed by moderate hillside traverse; dirt and rocky trails. Note: There is no vehicle access to Rifugio Bonatti. You must carry what you need for one night in your daypack.
We will experience hiking at its finest with alpine meadows, rushing streams and stunning views of the Val Veny as a backdrop en route to the Grand Col Ferret (8320'), the border between Italy and Switzerland. Mont Dolent towers above and its summit is the meeting point of the borders with France, Italy, and Switzerland. You'll continue to be amazed by fabulous close-up views of rocky spires and sparkling glaciers. Our grassy path ultimately leads us to our evening's auberge in the quiet but scenic village of La Fouly (5280'). All meals included.
Hiking: 10.5 miles. Elevation gain: 2,746', Elevation loss: 4,167'. Terrain: Hillside traverse followed by steep descents and ascents on dirt trails; some short sections of exposure.
Today is a day for soaking up the pure pleasures of being in the truly great outdoors as we proceed at a leisurely pace, trekking through forests, fields of wildflowers and quaint Swiss villages. After lunch our hiking gets steeper as we climb through woodlands to the lovely alpine town of Champex (4808'), offering a perfect resting spot for the night - a small resort beside a pretty blue lake with several restaurant choices for dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 8.5 miles; Elevation gain: 1,414'; Elevation loss: 1,765'. Terrain: Wide pasture roads; one steep section.
We continue to enjoy this picturesque area beginning with an hour and a half of easy hiking along the "Bovine Route" that herders once used to guide their stock across the mountains. You might even catch the sound of cowbells tinkling in the breeze as we walk. Continuing across the rolling terrain, we enjoy views of the rocky Dents du Midi and ascend through the forest to lookouts high over the lovely Rhone Valley and the town of Martigny. Views of the Bernese Alps are impressive before beginning an easy descent to the Col de Forclaz (3,900'). All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles. Elevation gain: 2,477', Elevation loss: 2,346. Terrain: Flat section on dirt road followed by steep and rocky trails.
Our path follows an old smuggler's route back into France. We hike to Col de Balme (7,186'), the border between Switzerland and France, and eat our picnic lunch while gazing down at the Swiss countryside behind us and the Chamonix Valley ahead. The views to Mont Blanc are absolutely phenomenal! We descend to our hotel in Argentière, just north of Chamonix. All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles; elevation gain: 2,900'; elevation loss: 2,350'. Terrain: Steep trails with some rocky sections; short sections of exposure.
We take a short drive to the Col des Montets where we begin our hike along the Grand Balcon to the spectacularly situated Lac des Cheserys with the many glaciers and peaks of the entire range in view. We finally close the loop of our tour at La Flégère (6150') where our unforgettable journey began 10 days ago. The cable car at La Flégère carries us down into the valley over alpine pastures to Les Praz where we meet with our driver and return to Chamonix. Dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 5.5 miles; elevation gain: 2,470', elevation loss: 1,100'.
Note: The La Flégère cable car may cease operations if high winds are present. In such conditions, the group will hike down to Les Praz, adding an additional 2.5 miles and 2,700' of descent. Terrain: Steep trails with some rocky sections.
This morning we take a historic 100-year-old cog-wheel train up to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), one of the largest glaciers in the Alps. Montenvers (6299'), the upper station, boasts an imposing panorama of the Mer de Glace, the Aiguille Drus and the Grand Jorasses. From Montenvers, we traverse on the Northern Grand Balcon to the Plan de l'Aiguille (7518'). On this high path we have lovely views over the Chamonix Valley. After lunch the afternoon is free for you to explore on your own. You may ride a cable car back down to Chamonix for sightseeing, or up to the Aiguille du Midi (optional; cost not included). From the top of the Aiguille du Midi (~12,680') there are spectacular views over the entire Mont Blanc range. On a clear day it is possible to see the Matterhorn, Monta Rosa and the Grand Combin. We gather together in the evening to enjoy a farewell dinner and raise a toast to an excellent adventure. All meals included.
Hiking: 4.5 miles. Elevation gain: 1,719, Elevation loss: 417'. Terrain: Steep trails and a hillside traverse with some rocky sections.
After breakfast, we transfer back to Geneva and connect with homeward-bound flights, ending our exciting walk around Mont Blanc. You are welcome to schedule your homeward flight or train for any time after 11 a.m. Breakfast included.
Driving time: 1.5 hours