We’ve enjoyed hosting groups in the European Alps this summer, including many repeat travelers that have embarked on numerous WWTrek adventures. Matterhorn to Mont Blanc was Yu-Ming Wang’s 4th trip with WWTrek, and the 2nd with his kids as a family. The Wang family is based in San Francisco, and getting away to explore trails of the world is a great way for them to connect (and disconnect). Our Alps trip offers a variety of activities like lift-assisted hikes, which allowed Yu-Ming’s parents to partake throughout as well.
It’s always an honor sharing such amazing and memorable experiences with the Wang family. We’re thrilled to share Yu-Ming’s account of their European Alps experience – please enjoy!
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of the most popular long-distance walks in Europe. It circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering a distance of roughly 110 mi and passes through Switzerland, Italy and France.
We joined a customized 7-day hike designed by World Wide Trekking which started in Zermatt on Saturday. Zermatt is a beautiful car-free village at the foot of the Matterhorn. On the first day (Sunday), the group took a funicular and a gondola to begin a 7mi hike passing by five pristine lakes fed from glacier ice. The walk was rewarded with panoramic views of wildflower meadows and always in direct sight of the imposing Matterhorn peak.
Monday we left Zermatt and drove up to Col de la Forclaz (5,010 ft), a mountain pass on the Swiss Alps to begin a 9mi trek on the TMB circuit to finish at Champex Lac. We spent the night at Verbier to launch the next day’s 5 mi hike up to Mont Fort which gave us a panoramic view of the Verbier valley. Then we drove across the border into Italy over the storied Saint Bernard Pass. This is the site of the oldest hospice from which monks used to rescue people assisted with dogs which came to be known as the St Bernards. The night was spent at the Italian town of Aosta, which was known as Augusta Praetoria dating back to 25 B.C. and still has Roman relics preserved to date.
We began Wednesday at another village in the Aosta Valley called Cogne, to begin a 2mi scenic hike up to the Grand Paradiso national park, followed with a nice stroll through the village stopping at an 8-century old church. In the afternoon, we drove a short distance to the village of Lillaz for a short hike to the waterfall and ended the day with reward of Italian gelato. The lodging for the next two nights was at the cute hotel of Lo Scoiattolo (“the squirrel”) in the town of Courmayeur. This would be the most memorable lodging of the entire trip because our room had a view that looked like a perfect oil painting of the majestic Alps.
Courmayeur is a beautiful Alpine ski resort town in northwest Italy, at the foot of Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc in Italian), the highest mountain in Western Europe which straddles between Italy and France. We would spend Thursday hiking up 8 miles to Rifugio Elisabetta, another mountain lodging for hikers on the TMB circuit.
Friday we departed from Courmayeur and crossed the 7mi tunnel dug underneath the Mont Blanc to go into France. We spent the next two days at Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, which is a renowned ski resort that also hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Situated on the north base of the Mont Blanc, Chamonix can also claim to be the capital of modern mountaineering.
Friday morning we hopped on a gondola then switched to a chairlift to ride up to the Col de Balme, where we began hiking along a ridge line to reach the Croix de Fer (Iron Cross) from where we had a commanding view of the entire Mont Blanc mountain range, and all the valleys we had crisscrossed the last few days.
The last day of hiking on Saturday would begin very early with a gondola ride at 7am to ascend to the top of the Aiguille du Midi (3842m or 12,605 ft) where the temperature dropped down to low single digit (Celsius) and oxygen was noticeably thinner. From the observatory, we saw the Mont Blanc up close and were able to spot mountaineers scaling the peak that looked like “little dots” on the icy slope. We then came down to the mid station to begin a 5 mi hike traversing to Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in the French Alps. We then rode the cog railroad back down into town.
This was our fourth amazing hiking trip with World Wide Trekking, but this time, all three generations of the Wang Family were able to join in this amazing experience in the prettiest place on earth.