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France, Switzerland

Activity
Trek
Duration
n/a days
Grade
Grade 3

About the challenge

The Mont Blanc region boasts one of the world’s most renowned trekking circuits, with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery imaginable – all within a short hop from the UK! Our six-day trip takes us to France and Switzerland, and right up to the Italian border, as we circle the highest peak in Western Europe and finish at the famed St Bernard’s Monastery.Our challenge is physically demanding and will test your stamina and determination, but the rewards are some of the most spectacular views Europe has to offer – an array of towering cliffs, waterfalls spilling from glaciers, forested tracks, open meadows and crystal clear lakes. Mont Blanc is our constant companion for most of the week.

The itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Geneva
Drive approx. 2 hours

Meet your transfer at Geneva airport and drive through the Chamonix Valley to the lovely ski town of Chamonix. Night hotel. (Dinner not included)

Day 2: Chamonix – Tete de Balme 2321m – Chamonix
Trek approx. 5 – 6 hours

After a good breakfast we walk to the small railway station and transfer (½ hour) to the Swiss town of Vallorcine (1260m). We start walking on forest tracks that are well-graded but steep in places. We trek up above the tree line where we can enjoy the view out over the Vallorcine Valley, before the final push to our high point: the Tete de Balme, at 2321m, on the Swiss / French border. A 360-degree panorama awaits us with views along the spectacular Chamonix Valley to Mont Blanc, westward across to Lake Emosson and eastwards a beautiful vista of Swiss peaks. We descend along the same track to the Col des Posettes (1997m) and climb again to Aiguillette des Posettes, our second-highest point at 2201m. From this peak we descend along a spectacular ridge line with great views all around us. The ridge is steep in places and gradually descends into the tree-line and back down to Chamonix, where we can enjoy a much-deserved dinner! Night hotel.

Day 3: Chamonix - Col des Montets 1461m – Planpraz - Chamonix
Trek approx. 6 – 7 hours

A tough day awaits us, starting with a steep walk to the Col des Montets (1461m). From there we continue up a steep and tough zigzag path to approximately 1800m, where the path levels onto the Balcony Route: a mid-level contouring path running along the length of the Chamonix valley. This is one of the most spectacular walks in the entire Alps region. The summit of Mont Blanc is our constant companion with its needle-sharp spires, sheer cliffs, huge crevasse-fractured glaciers and hanging valleys with spilling, gushing waterfalls all facing us on the opposite valley wall. The views are constantly changing as our perspective moves and numerous narrower tributary valleys and more distant mountain peaks come in and out of view. On our side of the valley the path is well-graded and surrounded by greenery, with isolated lakes. The chances of seeing mountain ibex, marmots and chamois are high. In the afternoon we pass the mountain hut at Flegere and continue through dense forest along a good track, eventually climbing out of the tree line up to Planpraz (2000m), where we take the cable car down into the Chamonix Valley and return to our base. Night hotel.

Day 4: Chamonix – Le Brevent 2525m – Chamonix
Trek approx. 5 – 6 hours

This morning we make our way back to the cable car and return to Planpraz. We then follow a steep track leading to a zigzag path up to the Col du Brevent. This is a beautiful but tough trek with amazing views to the north and west. We continue high up on the ridge and climb to the highest point of our entire trek: the summit of Brevent at 2525m. From the peak we have tremendous, uninterrupted views of all of the surrounding peaks, including magnificent views of Mont Blanc in all its glory. Any closer and we wouldn’t be able to appreciate its full scale, but we can see the glaciers, crevasses and sheer cliffs in perfect detail. Our route takes us across open mountain landscape before we descend steeply on well-graded paths that snake down through the trees. This is a tough descent with some very steep sections, and we’ll be glad to be back down in the valley! We return to Chamonix and celebrate our achievements in style! Night hotel. Celebration meal.

Day 5: Chamonix – Bourg St Pierre – Hospice du Grand St Bernard
Trek approx. 5 – 6 hours

We leave Chamonix behind us and drive over the Swiss border to the picturesque village of Bourg St Pierre, which lies on the ancient Roman Road over the Grand St Bernard Pass. From here we embark on our last mountain ascent, tackling the steep, historic path up to the Col. This route has been trodden by pilgrims, traders and travellers – including Napoleon – for centuries. The hospice at the top of the pass (2473m) has provided comfort and help to travellers since it was founded in 1049, and is famous for its St Bernard dogs. We spend the night here, a wonderfully atmospheric place to end our alpine adventure. Night hospice.

Day 6: Depart Geneva
Drive approx. 2 hours

Drive to Geneva airport for your flight home. (Lunch not included)

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.

Detailed information

What's Included?

The cost includes all accommodation as well as a transfer from/to Geneva airport at the start and end of the trek, and meals other than dinner on Day 1 and lunch on Day 6. Any entry fees to sites or regions visited as part of the itinerary are included. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders are also included, along with local support of guides and drivers.

What's Excluded?

It does not include flights, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, personal travel insurance, meals as specified, any personal expenses or any optional sites or activities. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. There is plenty of opportunity to buy souvenirs. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Flight Information

We do not arrange group flights for this challenge, enabling you to take advantage of the many competitive fares between Geneva and different UK cities. We recommend you book flights that arrive and depart in the morning. You should allow plenty of time as a buffer on your outbound leg in case your flight is delayed. The best deals are usually open to those who book early, but bear in mind that these contracts usually allow little flexibility if you need to change them, or cancel for any reason. We will arrange a transfer between the airport and hotel. Exact time(s) may be determined by the times of the majority of the group and will be communicated nearer to trip departure. This also applies for the end of the trip.

Accommodation

We stay in a hotel in Chamonix for 4 nights; rooms are usually twin-share and are clean and comfortable with en-suite facilities.  We spend our last night in the hospice on St Bernard’s Pass; rooms are rooms are simple and dorm-style.

Food

All food is included whilst trekking. Generous packed lunches are provided when trekking and given to you each morning. At the hospice we eat dinner in the communal dining area – a real experience!

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.
The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but at Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Luggage

Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not recommended, so we suggest your kit is packed in a soft rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Trekking Information

Terrain

Walking terrain is varied, with valley paths and high ridge-climbs. The trek is very hilly, with some steep rocky areas and rivers to cross. The highest altitude reached is 2525m. The trekking days are particularly demanding, and you will need to have trained hard or be a regular, fit walker of long distances and tough terrain to complete this challenge.Because of the twisting, undulating terrain, it’s impossible to give accurate daily distances. It’s also much more useful when training to think about the hours you need to walk for, and the type of terrain you will be trekking over! We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.

Clothing & Equipment

We are travelling through remote mountains where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures. Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.

Weather

Temperatures can vary widely, though generally it should be warm and sunny; rain is always a possibility and it may be blustery. Cold winds are common when high up on the mountains.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential for travel in France, Italy and Switzerland and must be valid for at least 6 months from entry. Your passport must be carried with you at all times in the mountains. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens or other EU members. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.

Vaccinations

We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. 

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s project in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them.  Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conversation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org.uk or call 01302 388883.

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