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Tour du Mont-Blanc: A Geological Joy Box

Gary Daines
Guided by Gary Daines
The trail running season is getting close to an end in the Alps, and we squeezed in a fantastic final Tour du Mont-Blanc trip until we start up again next summer.

This was the last Run the Alps Tour du Mont-Blanc for the 2023 season, and you could see why. Around mid-September, many of the huts were closed or closing, most of the hotels we stayed in were closing the morning we left them, and autumn was in the air. Our group included seven guests who were super friendly. The weather was excellent, except the day we crossed into Italy over the Col de Seigne to drop into Courmayeur. That day it rained a lot, making the steep descent from Col du Checrouit like a mudslide. When we arrived at our hotel, a few of us looked like bog monsters thanks to sliding on the muddy trails.


Highlight on the trail

The day we were leaving Courmayeur, the views opened up and we got to see the summit of Mont Blanc from the Italian side. The best single track of the trip was just ahead of us. With the whole trail pretty much to ourselves, our running flowed and the views got better and better along the way.


Most memorable non-trail moment 

A geologist by trade, and one that studied movement in mountain ranges across the world, Alisan was jumping out of her shoes with excitement. I thought I knew a fair bit about the Mont Blanc massif, but she blew me away with her knowledge and info of the geology of the mountains we were running around. She taught us a great new phrase: “pebble flow conglomerate,” and you can find this geological flow in Val Veny, Italy. One day she told me “Gary, my geological joy box is overflowing with happiness, every day this place is just getting better and I don’t think I can take much more.” Then we turned another corner to hear Alisan exclaim, “Oh my God, can you see that!”


Funniest moment

We had non-stop laughter that could be heard rolling through the valleys as we ran the trails. The mudslide down into Courmayeur also caused a lot of giggling especially when Doug and I both fell repeatedly and ended up covered in slop.


Best meal of the tour

Lunch at Chalet Miage. The food there is always amazing. The omelets and salads are huge. Everyone was shocked by the size of the plates and certain, “I can’t eat all of that,” but within ten minutes every plate was empty.


 Unexpected moment

All the Patou (guard dogs for the animal flocks) that we came across were shockingly friendly. They all wanted to be rubbed and petted. Normally you should not approach these dogs as they are working and can be aggressive, but they came to us insisting we give them cuddles and take selfies with them.


Low point

There were cases of norovirus going around, and apart from the free day in Courmayeur where everyone was able to go to the thermal baths together, someone was missing from the group each run. It proved an extra challenge in addition to running through three countries, but we all got around even if it meant now and again someone was in a taxi to the next hotel.


Favorite overnight stop

This was the first time of the season I stayed at Refuge Mottets, which sits below the start of the zig zags up to Col de Seigne and the crossing into Italy from France. The refuge is situated at the end of the Vallée des Glaciers with the Glacier des Glacier hanging above it. The food is rustic but plentiful, marmots race about the hills, and we enjoyed the evening sitting in deck chairs watching the last of the sun’s rays disappear. The Mottets is famous for their crank-turned hurdy gurdy music during dinner service every night of the season. Warm, cozy, and full of laughter, Refuge Mottets is a special place to stay.


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. We offer privately guided tours too!


Enjoying the mix of fall weather on the trails. (Photos: Gary Daines)

Hints of big mountains through the clearing clouds. (Photo: Gary Daines)

Smiles through any weather. (Photo: Gary Daines)

Normally you should not approach the working dogs as they can be aggressive, but these Patou insisted on being rubbed and petted. (Photos: Gary Daines)

Catching Mont Blanc as we approach the French border and our return to Chamonix. (Photo: Gary Daines)