Earlier this fall, four of us, total long-distance travel novices, hiked Europe’s highest mountain. (On the first day, large birds of prey circled overhead. My take: They were vultures just waiting for one of us to swoop down.)
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 100-mile hike, but we cheated a little by walking 60 miles from hut to hut over six days, catching local buses on the less interesting sections and letting a “sherpa service” carry our bags every day in France, Italy and through Switzerland from Chamonix to Chamonix.
It was my first time enjoying a slice of Europe with my friend Shelly, and we were joined by Sue and David from Minnesota. (I worked with David Preston for 20 years at TPT – Twin Cities PBS. He is considered the “pledge guru” in the public television world.)
Each day we hiked what the trail signs said was a five-hour hike that took us six or seven. Our mantra: “Take our time. That’s why we’re here.” Generally, the day begins with a 3,000-foot climb to a pass (or “pillar”) 8,000 feet above sea level. Each pillar was a small triumph, with its jagged stack of rocks, dramatic weather that blew, breathtaking views and congratulatory selfies.
Part of our pre-trip training was steep hikes on the home approach. Since a typical day’s climb on the TMB is a thousand meters (or roughly 3,000 feet), I would recommend choosing a practice hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain so you can use that as a reference point. In Washington State, ours was the Mount Sea Trail. We even had a term for the 3,000-foot elevation, “Mount Si.”