Fastpacking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Fastpacking, a combination between backpacking with full camping gear and running, has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. My first Mountain Marathon had left me amazed about my ability to run with a tent, stove and food on my back. So, my friend Anna and I decided  we could try out our newfound skills by running the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, self-supported and with camping gear. In preparation for this adventure we ran the Stockport to Sheffield route to test out our kit and food.

What is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a long-distance walk of 170 – 200 km around Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain. Walkers often start and finish in the sporty mountain town Chamonix. The route goes across three countries (France, Italy and Switzerland), all the way climbing and descending alpine mountains.

Why fastpack it?

Along the TMB’s route there are plenty of huts to sleep in. However, in high season these huts can fill up quickly and they can be pricey. Camping around the TMB gave us the freedom to see how we felt each day and what distance we wanted to run. As an added bonus, we found ourselves one night at the bottom of a glacier under the most perfect starry sky. However, the added weight of the camping gear and food should not be underestimated, and I would recommend a shorter run-camp trip beforehand to see how you cope.

Wild camp on Day 2

Wild camp on Day 2 – Camping feels like a great adventure, but adds significant weight to your pack.

How many days do I need?

This is very much up to yourself! We booked our flights in such a way that we could take up to a week to do the whole circuit. If you are going light and fast, 3 – 4 days on the route is possible. We took 5 days with camping gear, but taking 6 – 7 days would have meant more time for relaxing and afternoon drinks in the sunshine!

Ascending one of many mountains

Prepare for long days with multiple alpine mountain ascents if you are planning to do the circuit in less than a week.

What to pack

We carried a very similar selection of kit during our fastpacking trip as during our mountain marathons. See our kit list here.

Majestic views

Our pack was larger than your usual running backpack, but smaller than is typical for walkers on long-distance routes.

For cooking, we carried a Jetboil cooking system and our homemade, lightweight dehydrated dinners. During the day, we bought food along the way and / or ate our running snacks.

Typical breakfast scenes

Typical breakfast scenes

Supplies along the way

With plenty of walking huts scattered along the route, you will not easily find yourself completely depleted of food. Their menus are usually a bit limited, and there were not many vegetarian and vegan options. There are a small number of towns along the way, where you can pick up bread, muesli bars and some fresh vegetables. We found it easier not to rely on these shops but only use them to top up our prepared dinners with some luxury items.

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Coffee and cake stops at the mountain huts gave us that little extra energy to tackle the last big ascent of the day!

Route finding

The trails for the TMB are marked, with signposts and paint on rocks. However, you will still need a map because we did not always find the markers clear enough. It also helps you plan your distance for each day and to know where campsites, huts and food supplies will be.

Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment if you plan on doing your own fastpacking or TMB adventure! Despite being very tired, we also had great fun 🙂

On our last day, just entering France once again

Smiling on our last day,  when we just entered France once again

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