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Tour du Mont-Blanc: Extra Buzz for the 20th Anniversary UTMB Mont-Blanc®

Gary Daines
Guided by Gary Daines
Sam Hill
Guided by Sam Hill
Our own Tour du Mont-Blanc happened during UTMB Mont-Blanc® week and the atmosphere in Chamonix and on the trails was electric.

This year had extra buzz – not only was it UTMB but it was the race’s 20th anniversary. The size of our group was a little larger than usual because of this, and so we took two guides, Sam Hill and myself. For the days ahead of our tour and the UTMB, the weather was terrible with lots of rain and even snow falling on the higher trails. The weather gods were looking down on us with favor though. By the time our trip started and the UTMB kicked off, the sun was shining again. It was only the TDS & PTL races that got to really experience the worst of some bad weather.


Highlight on the trail

Climbing up to the Col de la Seigne (2517m) at the border between France and Italy, and the second highest point of our trip, was a highlight. Often the weather can be foul up there, but those weather gods continued to smile down on us, and the views as we crested the col were jaw dropping. There was much laughter and whooping along the trail, and it would be hard not to understand our group was there to run and play.


Most memorable non-trail moment

We ran into Courmayeur the same afternoon that the UTMB Mont-Blanc 170km race was starting in Chamonix. After dinner, we grabbed a couple hours of sleep before a group of us got up and wandered into the center of Courmayeur to watch the front runners speed through town. We were not disappointed. Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller, Mathieu Blanchard, Pau Capell, Courtney Dauwalter, and some of our buddies as well, all came charging through, past the church and up the hill in the early morning hours. Sam and I were the last ones still awake, and we waited for Anna McKenna, the Australian runner who not only is one of my dearest friends but was The Hub Chamonix manager this year too.


Funniest moment

Every morning Gordon turned up to run with a coffee cup and cake in hand. At Hotel Bouton d’Or, Patricia, one of the owners, scolded him like a little boy for doing exactly that in the foyer. The group fell apart laughing.


Best meal of the tour

Rösti at Alp Bovine above Champex, Switzerland. We told the group how good they were, and boy do those rösti made by Natalie live up to their reputation.


Favorite overnight stop

I really like the Hotel Base Camp in Bourg St Maurice. It’s modern, fresh, has a great bar, the rooms are big and clean. And it’s impossible to complete another TMB without mentioning David and Valerie at the Gai Soleil in Les Contamines, France – their warmth and kindness is infectious.


The Tour du Mont-Blanc is one of the most famous routes in the Alps, and one of our most popular tours. Join us for a trip through France, Italy, and Switzerland next summer. Go Guided with a group or Self-Guided on your own schedule.

Headed above Courmayeur, Italy. (Photo: Sam Hill)

On the Italian stretch. Some of the nicest single track of the TMB. (Photo: Sam Hill)

How about those views? (Photo: Sam Hill)

(Photos: Sam Hill)

Plenty of climbing each day. (Photo: Sam Hill)

And always fun downs. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Wow. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Val Ferret. (Photo: Sam Hill)

(Photos: Sam Hill)

No shortage of fun on the trails with this group. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Emosson Dam in the distance and we’re close to closing the loop. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Signs of fall. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Yahoo! (Photo: Sam Hill)

Col de Balme is a welcome sight. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Finish photo on the steps the the church in Chamonix with Big Mountain brews. (Photo: Sam Hill)