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" It has an amazing presence.

A life of its own. "



My friend and I work A LOT. We love our work and can get lost in it for days at a time.

We also love to play. A LOT.


The week off from work had been booked in the diary for a while. We hadn't decided where we were going to go... and we were leaving tomorrow. Nothing like the last minute to get something done!


All we had were 3 criteria. The trip had to:

 1. Include a feat of endurance / strength / skill

 2. Be remote and far enough away from the city – any city

 3.Require no more than a 10kg backpack


Racking our brains, we considered kite-surfing in Western Sahara. Walking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain? Racing around the island of Sardinia in a 40ft sailboat? We finally landed on it... The Tour de Mont Blanc! Or as those in the know refer to it, the TMB!


It is a 110 mile hike. Encircling the Mont Blanc massif, taking those who decide to embark on it into Switzerland, France and Italy. Normally a 12-day adventure. We were keen to do it in 7.5 days (our holiday didn't allow for any more time!). Ready Already. It would be a stretch. It was going to be tough. But the challenge of doing it in less time spurred us on even more! Decided. We booked our flights and that was that.


Arriving into the village of Les Houches, you start to understand the scale of this impressive mountain range. Mont Blanc itself is 4,809m high. However no less than eleven neighbouring mountains also reach above 4,000m. It is phenomenal! To see them rise out of the ground, and tower above you. They are truly majestic. With the sun shone, the mountains sparkled and glistened, against a backdrop of blue. Stunning.











" The ache in my legs makes me


feel alive (amongst other things).


The fresh air grabs your heart.


It’s a wonderful feeling. " 




Pinching ourselves back to reality, we started the hike. The first hill almost defeated us. It was steeper than it appeared. We had of course set off at midday - our timing impeccable - the sun was relentless. I was immensely glad we hadn't packed very much (although even the 10 kg was weighing me down). We hadn't eaten any lunch - deciding to eat our packed lunch at the top of the ascent, saving ourselves "for the view". We clearly had not hydrated appropriately for the journey ahead (whose idea was this?).


What fools we were on that first day! 


After some adjustments, we quickly got into the swing of it all. A world of such beauty just opened up before us. The first couple of days of the hike takes you through rivers. Into green valleys. Into dense forest and through rock pools. Then it all opens up. Before your eyes. You approach Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. It is how you imagine the surface of the moon. Dusty powdery grit with enormous boulders dropped into it at random. The ice fields reach down from their mountainous heights, like fingers reaching out to you. Their whiteness outlined by the black dusty grit. We have to reach the source of these ice fields and cross the Col. 


Hungry and a bit weary we plough on. One foot in front of the other the backdrop to each step becoming a little less black. And then it becomes just white. The view from the top allows you to see for miles and we can trace our lines back some of the way through the valleys.


Trudging through the snow and the ice. Careful not to slip. We now traverse into a different valley. We have got another 4 hours ahead of us before we can rest our legs - if we are to complete the hike before we go home. 


Our days are like this! An early start. Huge breakfasts. Four-hour morning hike. Some lunch. Four-hour afternoon hike. All before the sun comes down. The pattern and simplicity of it all is comforting. The ache in my legs makes me feel alive (amongst other things). The fresh air grabs your heart. It’s a wonderful feeling.


We arrive at the refuge. Tired and hungry. As night falls, a rain storm seeps in. Droplets accumulate into larger droplets. Then buckets. Then sheets. Until the rain completely takes over the village. We wrap ourselves in blankets and listen to the rain battle with the wooden shutters. The cacophony of sounds reminds you of nature's force. And our small force in comparison. Not everyone has been as lucky as us - a father and his injured child knock on the door 40 minutes into the storm. An injured knee and the unexpected storm had curtailed their plans to make it to the next village. Their drenched, cold frames were a reminder of how things can go wrong in the mountains. Lucky for them, not seriously wrong.


Over the next day the hike takes us deeper into this beautiful land. And over into Italy. Wide expanses of lakes, open up before you. Cosy huts greet you with bowls of warming soup and pasta. If your eyes follow the side of the mountain and up the other side you are greeted with more of these grandiose mountains dusted with cloud and snow. The blue sky and sunshine misleads the beholder, to feelings of romance and joy.











But the path is treacherous. Your senses must always be alert. There are ice paths over rivers that melt and break away under your step. Freak snow storms that come out of nowhere and quite literally take away your sight. Paths that fall away beside you, becoming steep cliffs tumbling endlessly into the valley. It is completely worth it. Including the ache in your legs. The new but old companion accompanying you on your journey.


I will never forget the view as we came into the last valley. And saw Mont Blanc for the first time. Its curved smooth top is somewhat unexpected against its jagged neighbours. It is impressive as it stands before you, majestically white against the cloudless sky. It has an amazing presence. A life of its own.


Ice fields mark their territory on all sides. I trace my eyes over the routes that climbers take to stand atop the tallest mountain in the world, and imagine the treachery and peril of such a journey. A tingle runs through my body (next year’s adventure?).  As the sun sets, it casts a red hue over the snowy peaks.












It is a glorious sight.


A befitting close to our adventure.


Until we meet again.


By Tanya, the great escapist.

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