The lifts may be closed but autumn is one of my favourite times of the year for getting out and hitting the trails. The temperatures are dropping, the paths are a lot quieter and everything is just so beautiful - check out the amazing colours that we were dazzled by today!
We headed off this morning up the valley with the bold notion of bashing out the Marathon du Mont Blanc route - just because it's a Sunday and, well, why not? Because it's a flipping long way, that's why not. Starting the from tennis courts in Chamonix we trotted up the Petit Balcon Nord, through the idyllic meadows of Lavancher and in to Argentiere through the old part of the village. The section between Lavancher and Argentiere is one of my favourite running trails in the valley - a lively undulating pine forest track, bouncy underfoot with lots of gnarled old tree roots to skip over. So far, so good.
Pushing on up through Le Planet brought us to Montroc and the lovely little hamlet of Tre-le-Champ with its funny wooden sculptures. The stretch along the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve is just stunning at the moment, with the rich red and gold foliage contrasting against the dark green pine trees and the steely grey rocks.
By this point, the rest of the group were all looking very chipper but I just didn't have any mojo today - the uphills were knocking the wind out of me and the downhills were making me feel a bit nauseous, so the thought of beasting myself up on to Vallorcine and then straight up a mahoosive climb to the Aiguillette des Posettes was not tempting me.
Fortunately for me, by the time we got to Le Buet the rest of the girls were keen to vary the route a little as well, so we took the less brutal route up to the Col de Balme by following the forest trail up from the small bridge across the river at Le Buet. From here it was just under a couple of hours, uphill all the way, to the top of the Vallorcine gondola and over the top of the Col de Balme where the landscape opened out into a beautiful panorama of rolling meadows and picturesque little shepherds' huts. I took yet another photo of the view down into the Chamonix valley - I must take this photo at least half a dozen times every season, which means that I probably now have hundreds of different versions of it but it never fails to make me stop and gawp for a couple of minutes.
The terrain at Le Tour is amongst the gentlest in the valley, which is why you'll always find hikers up here even after the lifts have closed for the season. The hike up from the car park is the steepest part but is mercifully short and once you're up there is a lovely big network of trails that loop around to meet each other, giving you a number of possibilities. There were even a handful of mountain bikers who'd battled their way up the home run for the fun of whizzing back down again - fair play to them.
From here it was plain sailing down to Montroc to bask in the afternoon sun while we waited for our friend to come and pick us up and take us back down the valley to Chamonix in time for apres-run drinks at La Terrasse - the perfect Sunday!
The distance from Chamonix up to Le Tour and back down to the bottom of the trails clocked in at 24km with about 1300m of elevation - there are plenty of options to pick up trains and buses along the way if you want to chop it down into shorter hiking routes.
Location: Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley
Activities: Hiking / Walking | Running | Trails & Routes