May 09

Will Hike for Cheese: The Better Way to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Wall Street Journal published a funny story about one couple’s experience while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. The couple had a great time, but they also had some experiences that could have been avoided if they’d hired Ryder-Walker to plan their hiking tour. Case in point: If you sign up for our guided Tour du Mont Blanc, you won’t have to ditch your pack and take off running in the dark, and you certainly won’t have to hire strangers to run across the Alps retrieving your gear. Make no mistake, our guides will show you adventure, but there are better ways to enjoy yourself then skipping dinner because you arrived late, cold, dripping wet and exhausted.

The same applies if you sign up for our self guided Tour du Mont Blanc. We’ll take care of you. The couple in this article chose to go it alone, but as the author put it, “I spent the afternoon silently berating myself: What were you thinking? Why didn’t you train? Why didn’t you hire a guide?”

We’ve spent three decades fine tuning our self guided hike descriptions so that you’ll know what time to leave in the morning and when you can expect to check into your hotel during the late afternoon. Granted, some people are slower hikers than others, and the Tour du Mont Blanc is a strenuous tour, but we’ve accounted for this. We’ve sent literally thousands of people around the TMB, and we know the average time that it takes a weekend warrior to connect the dots on the map. Things do happen, but that said, it’s pretty rare that one of our guests misses dinner. When they do, it’s usually by their own design. They either slept late, or they got sucked into a French café.

In the author’s defense, we realize that she wrote most of this article with her tongue-in-cheek. I enjoyed her piece. It made me laugh. I especially enjoyed the paragraph describing the madame at the Refuge du Col de Balme. The author nailed it. The cantankerous French woman that runs the old hotel on the French/Swiss border is an interesting person indeed. We don’t stay overnight at her hut, but we typically stop there for lunch and/or refreshment during the Tour du Mont Blanc and Hiker’s Haute Route. We, too, have some pretty funny stories to share.

One day, I warned Geb, one of our repeat guests, in advance about the hut warden’s surly ways. “If you want to use the bathroom,” I said, “then you need to get the clé. Clé means key in French, and in order to get the key, you have to buy something.”

I felt a bit like Johnny Depp explaining how to find the Island That Can’t Be Found in Pirates of the Caribbean.

“Always,” I added. “Always return the clé the second that you’re finished using the bathroom.” The clé went missing a few years ago, and everyone, (on both sides of the border), heard about it.

Geb, who is a Ryder-Walker regular, is a very fun, outgoing, and gregarious fellow. He prides himself on a natural ability to make people smile, even grumpy people. So, of course, he took my warning as a challenge and he made it his duty to win the heart of this French drill instructor at the top of the mountain. Long story short; when we walked out of there he turned to me and said, “Man! She’s one tough woman.”

It must be acknowledged that Geb came closer than anyone to getting her to crack a smile. She almost went there. Almost.

Getting back to the article, the couple in this article didn’t really experience anything that a tall glass of schnapps and a large pot of fondue couldn’t cure. That said, we have known people that simply grabbed a guidebook and went for it. In the end, they shared the author’s sentiment, a “growing hatred of the guidebook.”

We love the Alps. That’s our thing, and we want you to love them too. So please, let us do the leg work so that you don’t have to. Let us plan your trip so that you’ll arrive in time for dinner and you won’t have to nibble on a lint-covered piece of pocket cheese in lieu of a home-cooked French meal.

Bonne journée!

Image: Crossing the Col du Sapin (7,992 feet), a scenic variant of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Outskirts of Courmayeur, Italy | Porter Teegarden

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Kendra Norris

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