Advance booking refuges - TMB

Discussion in 'Places & Planning' started by Shewie, May 14, 2019.

  1. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Mrs Shewie thinks we should do the TMB next year for my 45th, as she’s a teacher it’s going to be peak period (mid July) when we get over there, I know the French have pretty much the whole of August off but when would be a good time to think about advance booking refuges and refugios?

    (I’ll be picking your brains when your back Ed if you don’t mind)
    Chiseller likes this.
  2. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    Early next year. Mostly they have a site where you can see how early you can book.

    If you have questions, feel free to pick my brain as well. :)
    Shewie likes this.
  3. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Arne

    I just starting to look into it so I’m sure they’ll be a few things.

    I’ve walked most of it already day hiking from Chamonix area and a drive round to La Fouly/Champex a few times, it would be nice to tie it all into one loop though.

    Did you camp much of it?
  4. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    We hiked the TMB at end July early August 2015 and only booked the first night at starting point les Houches (but carried a tent as backup). The only hut that needs booking is Elisabeta, a hut you want to avoid anyway (people book there 1 year in advance we were told). Its terribly cramped and not very friendly. There is a great new hut at Lac du Miage (1 hour from Elisabeta) we found by accident looking for a place to pitch. It had just opened and we were the only guests - nice and super friendly place. The other great find was a guesthouse (tip from locals) inside the little botanical garden at Champex. Beautiful, cheep and you get the whole little botanical garden to yourselves in the evening. Just go to the ticket office and ask for the guesthouse. Le Fouly has a good camp site and crap guesthouses. Everywhere else plenty of choices and spaces...

    Footfall was mainly day walkers, people hiking 2 or 3 days on the TMB and the odd guided group doing a few days. Very few thru-hikers ....
    Shewie likes this.
  5. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    I made a ‘campsite’ variant of the TMB.

    My GF doesn’t like wild camping; prefers other people around her, decent food & a shower.

    I can give you the details but you miss out on a few sections (I had to alter 3 sections basically).

    So we camped every night but Champex; there’s a campsite there but the weather was horrible so we took a hotel.

    We did it early August 2017 & found it beautiful. Relatively crowded on the uphills but ok.

    In contrast to Tom we did meet quite a lot of truhikers; most stayed on the same campsites as us.

    There were 2 quite big groups when we did it, occupying most of the rooms in the refuges.

    I’d do it again in a heart beat but would take the higher alternative cols if solo; as they look far more quiet & interesting.
    Shewie likes this.
  6. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Good info thanks Tom
  7. Munro277

    Munro277 Thru Hiker

    No help at all I did it in 95 or 96 camped used a few sites or wild camped late
    Shewie likes this.
  8. tom

    tom Thru Hiker

    The TMB high route alternative variants:

    Of the 3 high variants, 2 are not particularly "high" but pretty much all weather trails. The only section that qualifies for an "alpine" description is the Fenetre d'Arpette pass which is easily the best day of the TMB but best treated with good caution in crap weather (no real exposure or technical difficulties in good weather).


    The Arpette route can be combined with another great high section (non-alpine) variant: crossing the bridge on the left just after Chalet du Glacier, there's a trail leading up to the tiny cabana "Les Grands". Its hut managed by volunteers from a small alpine association who staff this cabana on rota. Very basic facilities and no catering (but a big wood stove for heating and cooking on) and super friendly. Good pitches nearby. The high traverse trail continues directly to Col de Balme and rejoins the main TMB there. Very few people seem to find this variant.

    Glaciers du Bron and des Grands from near the cabana:

    Fenetre d'Arpette in the centre from Les Grands

    We did spend most nights indoors to cater for J's bad back. But some of our TMB mates we met of and on on the trail wild camped mostly. They were accosted by Italian rangers and told to move on - twice I think. No fines through ...

    @Arne L. most hikers who introduced themselves as hiking the TMB turned out hiking only 2 to 4 days it emerged during further conversation. Interesting phenomena - not seen this on other named trails before... But generally, all multiday hikers were real nice people as one'd expect ...
    Mox, Chiseller, Arne L. and 1 other person like this.
  9. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Tom, I’ll look into those

    Carol’s not great with exposed sections but I’ll do some digging, we had a bit of a drama up at Les Bossons a few years ago, nothing too technical but she was a little bit cragfast and we had a minor falling out over it, nothing a few genepis didn’t sort out later though :)
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
    Arne L. likes this.
  10. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    Having done the Fenetre d’Arpette from Trient (as part of the Haute Route) I can say it’s a great route. Looks steeper on the pictures then I remembered.

    I’ll keep that other path in mind. I think it was mentioned in the Haute Route guide.

    My GF wouldn’t like it though :whistling:
    Shewie likes this.
  11. allsquare

    allsquare Trekker

    We overlapped a couple of stages while doing the GR5 last year. Was the end of June and those stages were very busy. Several slow moving parties with individuals obviously not used to such terrain. No mountain etiquette either, wouldn't move over to let us past - a good nudge was employed on more than one occasion!
    Shewie likes this.
  12. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Sounds like our decent in Italy lol

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