After 6 months of non-stop excitement, planning, and preparation (but minimal physical preparation, because cheese), I am finally in Les Houches, France, not far from the popular ski-tropolous Chamonix, tucking myself into bed for one last comfy sleep before it’s all tents and sleeping bags on the epic Tour du Mont Blanc hike.
The TMB has been called one of the World’s Best Hikes by basically every mountain list and it’s been on my own bucket list since I first read about it 2 years ago, so I am practically weeping with joy at the prospect of finally realising this dream. I am even more excited that I will be doing this hike completely on my own― I’m pleased to have planned the route and the itinerary myself, to be carrying all my own gear and food, and also to be camping the whole way rather than staying in mountain huts.
The sad news is that my Seattle friend, Katy, who had planned to hike with me, had to pull out of the trek just days before we were scheduled to arrive in France. She’s been experiencing hip pain for a few weeks now and finally decided that it just isn’t advisable to push it on a long hike like this, especially when we have several weeks of travel afterwards that she really needs to be healthy in order to enjoy. Of course I’m sad to be losing my trail buddy, but it’s the smartest decision for her and I’m actually a bit excited to be tackling this hike solo! It seems only fitting, since it really is my obsession that brought us here.
Naturally, it’s a bit daunting, since this is by far the longest backpacking trip I’ve ever done (my second longest was only 4 days in Patagonia’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) and I’ve never backpacked alone before, but I’m already envisioning myself as Reece Witherspoon in Wild: just a strong, independent lady out in nature, going it alone, wrestling with her own personal demons (I’ll have to come up with some before tomorrow), physically struggling, but in a really powerful and cinematic sort of way. Granted, she thru-hikes the entire Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, which is 3+ months, and my own hike is safely under 2 weeks, but I think the same themes and motifs are still very present, and it makes me feel inspired, so just let me have this. There’s the very real possibility that these uninterrupted hours of quiet introspection will provide me with the long-awaited opportunity to realise my hidden genius and solve world hunger/ bring peace to the Middle East/ cure cancer. But, more likely, I’ll just be begging passing hikers to be my friend.
When I wake up, I’ll be setting out first thing for the trailhead at Les Houches, which is just a few kilometres from the hotel. For this first day, I’ll have Katy in tow, which should make for a nice day of reasonably paced walking to ease into the hike around Mont Blanc.
I’ve mapped out 10.5 days of hiking to cover the imposing 180km and 10,000m of elevation gain and loss that will take me through France, Italy, and Switzerland, and have also included 1 spare day in the itinerary just in case I am interrupted by inclement weather or injury (please no). With any luck, I will get to use that spare day as a fun day to take the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi with Katy so I can lock eyes with the mountain I’m sacrificing my feet to circumnavigate.
Despite doing only a shocking fraction of the physical preparation I had originally hoped to do and my pack weighing more than a small human, I am determined to finish this hike even if I have to crawl the last 20km on bloody knees. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but I’m just saying..
I’ll do it.
Follow along on my journey, I will be writing detailed blog posts with heaps of photos from each day on the trail (although, in all likelihood they won’t be posted until the hike is over, but still).