Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

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Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by sad2 » Sun Apr 02, 2017 6:49 pm


I'll be hiking the Mont Blanc circuit in September and have a few questions. For those of you with knowledge, any beta is appreciated.
Note I will not be attempting the summit itself. This is simply a circuit hike around Mont Blanc. If you have links to your trip reports, that would be great.

1. What type of cold weather gear do you recommend bringing? (850 down parka, expedition gloves/mitts, etc.) Or can I leave those at home and just bring a fleece/hat/and lightweight gloves?)
2. Do the huts and refuges accept Credit Cards? I'm getting conflicting information on this. If they do not, how would Bogleheads recommend getting Euros and Swiss Francs? I do have a Capital One Venture Card with no foreign transaction fees, but it does not help if the lodging places do not accept CC. (I'll be flying into Geneva and taking a bus to Chamonix/Les Houches). Should I get euros at the airport in Geneva? Or in Chamonix?
3. I am a vegetarian and mostly stay away from dairy. I had trouble with food during the Torres del Paine trek in Chile this past December. Can anyone comment on the quality of the food in the towns/huts along the way? French food is big on dairy, correct?
4. All lodging is booked except the last two nights. My co-worker recommended Annecy, France. Anyone been there? Is it worth it for 36 hours after the trek? I would plan to take the bus from Annecy to Geneva and then fly from Geneva back to the States on 09/18. Any experience with the bus system (Chamonix to Annecy and Annecy to Geneva)?

Sorry if the formatting is problematic.

Friday 9/1 DEN to RFV (Iceland) to GVA (GVA)
Saturday 9/2 Bus from Geneva to Les Houches
Sunday 9/3 Les Houches
Monday 9/4 Les Contamines
Tuesday 9/5 Les Chapieux
Wednesday 9/6 Rifugio Elisabetta
Thursday 9/7 Courmayeur
Friday 9/8 Rifugio Bonatti
Saturday 9/9 La Fouly
Sunday 9/10 Champex
Monday 9/11 Trient
Tuesday 9/12 Tre le Champ
Wednesday 9/13 Lac Blanc
Thursday 9/14 Chamonix
Friday 9/15 Chamonix
Saturday 9/16 Annecy, France
Sunday 9/17 Annecy, France
Monday 9/18 Fly to DENVER

Thank you in advance.
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by JimR » Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:36 pm

I haven't done the hike, but I can comment on a couple of other questions:
Regarding the food, it's probably a matter of taste, but the food in French towns (or cities, or countryside, or pretty much anywhere else in France) can be expected to be (very) good; they care about eating. But, the food will also be heavy on dairy--cheese, cream sauces, etc.
As for Annecy, I've been there a couple times, and it's very nice. Picturesque, a nice downtown area, an interesting old town, nice lake front, etc.
Have fun.
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Yet somehow I usually make it back to the car safely; and oftentimes, so do the people that I'm with.
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by pmeadco » Sun Apr 02, 2017 10:13 pm

I haven't done the whole TMB but I have done the Haute Route (shared route with TMB from Chamonix to Champex). We did it in early September and enjoyed glorious sunny days with no need for extra layers and other days when it was snowing on the high ridges. I suggest layering up and be sure to have wet weather gear, knit hat, light gloves. The day it snowed we stayed in town and waited for the weather to improve -- we didn't feel the need to work across the icy ridges in a storm when a warm hotel room was available.

In the towns you will have no problem using credit cards. In the refugios it depends on the proprietor. It seems like more often than not cash is required, but I didn't keep score. Some Swiss refuges will accept Euros or Swiss francs, but you might not end up spending any time in a Swiss refuge since you will be in towns most of the time you are in Switzerland. You should be able to check the descriptions for the refuges to find out, or, send them an email to ask. As far as currency goes, both of your Swiss towns, Champex and Trient, are big enough to accept credit cards, or have ATMs if you need Swiss francs. Otherwise, Euros will be fine.

You will encounter lots of different food. Again, it depends on where you are. In the towns you can get a lot of choices. In the refuges you can expect to get carbs in the form of bread, pasta, rice or crepes. Salads are pretty common. Breads, cured meats, cheese and yogurt are pretty standard breakfast fare. You will be in town every couple days so stock up on foods you can tolerate and if the fare at the refuge doesn't appeal to you then dig into your stash.

There are a few options for buses from Geneva to Chamonix. The pain is most bus companies want to be paid in Euros but you are in Switzerland. That means getting Swiss francs from the ATM, going to the cash exchange (highway robbery), exchanging francs to Euros, and then paying the bus company. Not a big deal really, but it is good to have your jet-lagged brain prepared for those contortions. The local info desk at the airport can point you to the bus companies, ATM, and cash exchange.
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by AndyJB444 » Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:23 am

Did the TMB a few summers ago over 6 days. Plan for fall-type weather in the worst case, and bring a rain shell. A down jacket would be overkill, in my opinion - a fleece jacket would be fine. I would also plan to bring euros, and not worry about if a place takes CC or not. You can find ATMs/banks in Courmayer and Champex-Lac at a minumum. Have fun - its a great time!
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by meyer68 » Mon Apr 03, 2017 1:16 pm

I did the TMB last summer with my dad and 2 sons. Barring something really extraordinary I think cold weather gear would be overkill. You should be fine with standard rain gear and light weight gloves. My son is a vegetarian and did not have any problems. Most hotels and restaurants will accept credit cards but its always good to have Euro's or Francs (when in Switzerland). Most places in Switzerland will take Euro's. The easiest and cheapest way to get Euro's is simply go to the ATM machine which can be found in larger towns along the route. We didn't go to Annecy but if I could do it all over again I would spend more time in Chamonix. Hope this helps.
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by Rich H » Mon Apr 03, 2017 1:18 pm

I ran the UTMB a few years back in August so the weather was warm enough we didn't really need anything other than a shell. I recall the bus from Geneva to Chamonix is easy both coming and going - I don't remember there being a big issue with currency. The one problem I had was many of the small towns along the way didn't speak English so I had trouble with distances and times from aid station to aid station. The great thing about the race was the variety of food and support that was given and yes it was lots of cheese and wine. Beautiful trail and should be great in September!
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by justiner » Mon Apr 03, 2017 1:22 pm

Still be careful with the exchange rate for Swiss Francs, it can be ridiculous. On border towns in touristy areas, it's worth asking if they accept euros - it may be on your check, but still double-check the exchange rate is a better/far worse deal.
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Re: Tour du Mont Blanc Sept. 2017

Post by sad2 » Mon Apr 03, 2017 7:01 pm

Thank you all for the feedback.
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