We woke to a sunny, blue skied Les Houches.
I bolted out of bed as the alarm went off after a wonderful night sleep. Luke wasn't as lucky with his sleep, waking multiple times throughout the night likely due to jet lag but he brushed it off saying he felt well rested. Denial and positivity were two strategies we both used repeatedly throughout our ten days hike.
With most of the packing and organizing done the night before, we headed right down to the hotel dining room for breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel was a giant spread of bread, jam, more bread, more jam, croissants, chocolate croissants and again more bread... mmm. There were also apricots and peaches, sliced cheese and meat and lots and lots of coffee. European breakfast buffets make North American hotel breakfasts look like child's play. There was a large tour group staying at our hotel the night before so when we got down to breakfast at 7:30am on the dot, the dining room was already bustling with middle aged French walkers. The dining room was packed so we headed out to the terrace, speckled with rain from the night before. Giving the table and chairs a quick wipe, we settled in for a deliciously glutinous breakfast with a view. The tour group quickly dispersed so we were left to enjoy the rest of our breakfast in silence, surrounded by the mountains. The cool morning air combined with the towering Mont Blanc sent shivers downs my spine. I wanted to bottle us this feeling and hold on to it forever.
We arrived to a grey and rainy Geneva. The past 24 hours seemed like a dream of wakeness and sleep and it was hard to keep straight what day it was. Most of this post was written by a jet-lagged, sleepless Hannah, who I’m pretty sure got tipsy off one glass of red wine.
We picked up our bags rather quickly and located the bus we would be taking to Les Houches, the small town outside of Chamonix where our hike would begin. We used a company called Alpy Bus which provides transports from Geneva airport all over the Alps. With a few minutes to spare before our bus departed, we had a rushed and very expensive coffee at the airport (our first hint as to the toll the Swiss portion of the hike would have to our wallets) and then settled into our seats for the 90 minute ride to Les Houches.
Driving to Les Houches we got our first glimpse of the mountains in the distance. Although desperately tired, I couldn't help but keep my eyes pealed on the landscape around us. As we drove closer and closer the mountains grew larger until they completely engulfed us. Taking pictures from the back of a van doesn’t do justice to their beauty and majestic size. Luckily, we'd get many more mountain shots over the next week and a half.
The initial idea to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc came in a rather round-about way. Luke and I wanted to plan a trip, something big and exciting - a real adventure before we started a family! Our initial idea was to venture to South America, however with the threat of Zika looming over so many places down south, we decided we would play this one safe and try to find a non-Zika infested location.
Our criteria for the trip was that we wanted it to be an active holiday, something we might not be able to do as easily with kids with a good dose of both nature and culture. One night we were at dinner at my parents house discussing our dilemma of where to go. My mom was the first to ask us if we had considered hiking in the Alps. We both immediately liked the sound of the idea. We were already planning a trip to London at the end of May to surprise Luke's parents for his Dad's 70th birthday so it was perfect! We would combine these trips together requiring only one transatlantic flight - it was perfect!
From there, I suggested we look into doing the Tour du Mont Blanc. I first became aware of the Tour du Mont Blanc when I became interested in trail running. Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is an ultra marathon in which participants cover the ENTIRE 170km course in one race, with the fastest racers finishing in under 20 hours. Absolutely INSANE. But after seeing pictures and videos of the course I knew I wanted to do the hike one day. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.
On July 27th, 2018, my husband Luke and I set off on our biggest adventure to date: To hike the Tour du Mont Blanc.
My initial intention was to pack a notebook and pen, and journal our trip so future Hannah could re-read and re-relive the trip. Maybe it was the thin mountain air, the quiet evenings or the simplicity of life on the trail, but writing and documenting our journey became an integral part of the whole experience. Wherever we were, I was inspired to write. Whether perched at the top of Col de la Seigne looking out over Italy after a massive day’s climb, or curled up in the evening at our mountain refuge, clean and warm, sharing a beer with Luke. It became a way for me to process what I was feeling and crystallize some of the fleeting thoughts that passed through my mind while in motion.
Upon arriving back home, I've been surprised by how many people have actually contacted me asking questions about the hike and our experience. Although not my initial intention, I'm drawn to share my experience with anyone who is interested in listening, to give you a little taste into what it was like spending 10 days on the trail.
I’ll start by saying the Tour du Mont Blanc is not for everyone.
I’ll be completely honest, there were days that were hard. Our bodies hurt and there were times I wanted to curl up on the side of the trail and cry (and there were times Luke did... but that’s a story for day 5 you’ll have to wait for). It was also an electrifying experience and one that brought out a side of myself I loved. It made me dig deep, and brought back a confidence I felt had vanished over the past year. It was a reminder to re-prioritize my life and truly changed me on a deeper level.
In my recount I might swear, I will most definitely talk about poop, and I will hopefully illuminate my experience and the beauty of the mountains.
Written mostly as a story, if specifics are what you are after I am happy to share more of the details from the trip with whoever is interested. Where exactly we stayed, what sorts of costs we incured (hint: a lot!) or any other inquiries don't hesitate to contact me, I love to talk TMB!
One day, I hope to return to the TMB trail and run the route from start to finish… I’m just waiting for that lucky lottery ticket. For now, I’ll have to rely on these memories and daydream myself back to the trail.