The penultimate day and the Tour du Mont Blanc is determined to leave you with a lasting memory! Today’s views are enchanting as you climb from Tré-le-Champ over ladders and then traverse the famous Balcon Sud to finish in Planpraz, from where a gondola will drop you into Chamonix.
After the spectacle of the last 1-2 weeks you may find it impossible to believe that the Tour du Mont Blanc has saved its best for last but today you embark on the walk’s wonderful finale along the Grand Balcon Sud. The way the path clings precipitously to the upper slopes of the valley with, in places, fixed metal ladders and handrails enabling you to traverse the most featureless and vertical rock slabs is exhilarating while also providing an unobstructed view down into the Chamonix Valley and across to the peaks of the massif. Throughout the whole Tour du Mont Blanc never have the glaciers, rocky spires and snowy peaks felt as vivid and near as they do today.
As mentioned above, this route involves ladders and sections with narrow ledges and steep slopes that may be unsuitable for those who suffer from vertigo. You can avoid this by taking the variant via Col des Montets, but take a look at the photos for an idea of what the ladders involve and to put any fears at rest.
You will have stayed in Argentiere or Chamonix the night before. To return to Tré-le-Champ, you might need to take a bus to Montruc as this route runs more regularly, and then walk to Tré-le-Champ which takes 10-15 minutes. Full bus schedule available here; https://chamonix.montblancbus.com/en/bus-lines
From Planpraz it is recommended to take the Planpraz gondola (payable locally) down into Chamonix. Buy a return ticket to allow you to head up the following day and continue hiking towards Les Houches. Be aware that the final gondola descent is generally around 16:30; if you miss this it is a long walk down. Full information available here: https://www.chamonix.com/lifts,88,en.html
Enjoy a hearty lunch at the Refuge du Lac Blanc, enjoying the reflections of the mountain peaks in the still glacial waters.
If you would like to avoid the ladder section we would recommend this variation of the walk - http://your.macsadventure.com/s/Cgonr
his route involves ladders and sections with narrow ledges and steep slopes that may be unsuitable for those who suffer from vertigo if you would like to avoid these here is an alternative: http://your.macsadventure.com/s/Cgonr
There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.
In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.
This route is above 2,200 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
Points of Interest
The walk to Lac Blanc is one of the Chamonix classics and so you might find these footpaths a little more trafficked than other sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc. It is however deserving of this attention; just wait until you stand on the shores of this glacial lake at 2,352 metres, spot the craggy peaks reflected in its blue waters, and gaze at the dramatic panorama of the Mont Blanc massif.
The Aiguilles Rouge translates as the ‘Red Peaks’ due to its presence of iron-rich rocks, and is a separate massif on the opposite side of the valley to Mont Blanc. Due to the significant biodiversity in this area, the Aiguilles Rouge National Nature Reserve was formed to protect it in 1974. Ibex, chamois and golden eagle all call this region ‘home’ and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might get a lucky sighting.
Bus from Chamonix to Tré-le-Champ: A regular shuttle bus operates from Argentière to Col des Montets. Take this and alight at Tré-le-Champ. Enquire at the tourist office or your hotel for timetables.
Le Flégère – Les Praz de Chamonix Telepherique: Check the up to date information here - http://www.chamonix.com/flegere-index,83,en.html
Approx €15:00 for a single ticket (then take the shuttle bus to central Chamonix)
Plan Praz – Chamonix Telepherique - Check the up to date information here - http://www.chamonix.com/planpraz-brevent,82,en.html
Approx €15.00 single ticket from Plan Praz.
Food and Drink
Between Tré-le-Champ and Planpraz there are few opportunities to buy food or drink so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
You will reach Refuge du Lac Blanc after 4.8 kilometres, and Refuge La Flégère after 8.2 kilometres, both of which serve food and drink. In terms of the surrounding atmosphere, the Refuge du Lac Blanc cannot be beaten as a place to stop.
Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.