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Chamonix hiking/hut recommendations...


Original Post
Zirkel · · Bishop, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 200

My gf and I are planning a hiking/trail running trip to the Chamonix area early Sept 2019.  This will be my first, and possibly only time in the Alps.  

We'd like to get your recommendations of best hikes/trams, things to see considering our limited time.  Will be taking the train from Geneva.  Will NOT be equipped for glacier travel.  We have one week.

Some considerations:

1. Hiking hut overnights:  Chalet du Lac Blanc, Refuge de Lognan
2. Hotel stay:  Terminal Neige - Refuge du Montenvers
3. Considering renting a car for a day to explore adjacent areas:  Annecy?  Aosta?

We have a pile of maps and trail guides.  Your experience and suggestions are welcome.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Zirkel wrote: easy 3rd class/trail access peaks. 

No idea why you would choose Chamonix for this. Almost anywhere in the Alps is better for that.

For trail running . . . suggest you do a search on
Ultra Tour Mont Blanc
since it's happening near your dates.
Arguably the most famous + prestigious trail run event in the world.
. . . (but it does not go to peaks).
Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 55

I second the questioning of chamonix. Check out the Tour des Ecrins, beautiful area. Anncey is a cool town, worth a day to visit for sure.

Gorge du verdon is far but really cool, and you can also visit moustiers st marie! I know you didn't ask, but it is still one of my favorite places in france. 

Zirkel · · Bishop, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 200
kenr wrote:

No idea why you would choose Chamonix for this. Almost anywhere in the Alps is better for that.

For trail running . . . suggest you do a search on
Ultra Tour Mont Blanc
since it's happening near your dates.
Arguably the most famous + prestigious trail run event in the world.
. . . (but it does not go to peaks).

We'll be there a week after this event occurs.  We are hiking, not climbing on this trip -- I should have stated that more clearly.  Edited for clarity.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Zirkel wrote:

We are hiking, not climbing on this trip.

So if you are not climbing . . .
Why Chamonix?

And if you saty it's likely your only trip ever to the European Alps, I note that Chamonix is very unrepresentative of hiking in the Alps - (tho it does have _some_ nice hiking).
Zirkel · · Bishop, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 200
kenr wrote:


I note that Chamonix is very unrepresentative of hiking in the Alps - (tho it does have _some_ nice hiking).

Go with this, man!

Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 55

Seriously, check out the Parc National de la Vanoise and Barre des Ecrins, beautiful areas, great hiking, less tourists. Make sure to eat some tartiflette, yum!

Zirkel · · Bishop, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 200
Ashort wrote: Seriously, check out the Parc National de la Vanoise...

This place looks VERY COOL.  I need an entire Summer and not just a week!  

Let's say you had 48 hours here -- best bang (TWO hikes, food, lodging) for the buck?

Ashort · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 55

Yes you do!

Not to mention that I found some of the best alp hiking in austria and slovenia. May need an entire lifetime!

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Zirkel wrote:

Let's say you had 48 hours here -- best bang (TWO hikes, food, lodging) for the buck?

"best" as in what characteristics?

"for the buck" ought to eliminate Chamonix, since it's one of the more expensive places in the Alps.

If you keep insisting on Chamonix, then I guess "best" for you includes "crowded with tourists" as well as "expensive"?
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
kenr wrote:

"best" as in what characteristics?

"for the buck" ought to eliminate Chamonix, since it's one of the more expensive places in the Alps.

If you keep insisting on Chamonix, then I guess "best" for you includes "crowded with tourists" as well as "expensive"?

He may already have reservations in Cham, so how about offering something helpful. Chamonix is beautiful and worth seeing.

Zirkel · · Bishop, CA · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 200
kenr wrote:

"best" as in what characteristics?

"for the buck" ought to eliminate Chamonix, since it's one of the more expensive places in the Alps.

If you keep insisting on Chamonix, then I guess "best" for you includes "crowded with tourists" as well as "expensive"?

Dude, you're kind of embarrassing yourself here.

Nick Votto · · CO, CT, IT · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 320

I don't have much beta on Chamonix, but can highly recommend Valle Antrona a little east of there.....Cham may be busy but considering it's the week after the UTMB and in September, it certainly won't be at it's worst.   Try and get over to Aosta if you can! 

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Zirkel wrote:

Dude ...

Hanging in the French Alps for the past few days, so far nobody has called me that.

Currently feeling happy and energized.
Spent two of my past four days on the peaks and glaciers above Chamonix. Interesting variety of snow + rock terrain with transitions to different equipment modes, exciting explorations of new places, close and far from the most spectacular ice + rock structures in the world, exercising some of my key alpine skills at my highest levels.

I was going to suggest a way for someone new to the European Alps to get a small starting taste of that.
ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,283
Zirkel wrote: Will NOT be equipped for glacier travel.  We have one week.

You can rent said equipment in town if desired.  Boots, crampons and an axe would be sufficient to hike the Mer de Glace as far as the Envers hut, as it is generally bare ice and there is a beaten path that avoids the crevasses.  If you have any crampon experience this is easy safe terrain.  This is a way worthwhile outing just from a scenic perspective, great views of the Grandes Jorasses and Dent du Geant for example.  You take the little funicular train from town to the restaurant overlooking the glacier, hike for just a couple hours up to the hut.  You don't have to have reservations if you think you want to stay over but it could easily be full and overflow is the attic.  You should be able to find out in town if there is space or at least call the hut, but it would be a great day hike.

Nick Wilder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2005 · Points: 3,567

Wow, people sure are down on Chamonix... but I spent a couple weeks there and was blown away with the hiking.  This was after spending a few weeks in Switzerland, so it seemed cheap to me, but your mileage may vary.  I was there in early June and it didn't seem crowded.  Walked right on to trams and sat right down at restaurants with no waiting.  This was my overall favorite hike:

https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7020073/grand-balcon-sud

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356

Count me as an enthusiastic proponent of Chamonix Mont Blanc as a stand-out place for American visitors for alpine rock / ice / mixed climbing and serious ski-mountaineering (and glacier hiking for those competent).
June as a rather good time to visit (except usually too late for ski-mountaineering).

For non-glacial hiking / scrambling I think it's just one of many worthy choices in the European Alps.

Well I am embarrassed to having called Chamonix "most expensive". I've gotten so accustomed to flying into Geneva airport then immediately gladly exiting from notoriously expensive Switzerland to spend lots of fun interesting days in France + Italy (so I just forgot that Switz is an option).
. . Until last September a very experienced Euro trail runner told me a route I must try in Switz (see below).

But taking the obvious approach to the best hiking around Chamonix by purchasing _lift_tickets_ does get into Switz-level prices (versus lower prices or zero to access great hiking/scrambling in other non-Switz places).

A few years ago Sharon + I tried a couple of the recommended hikes by Chamonix. They were nice enough, but it never crossed our minds to want to repeat -- unlike lots of other outings in other places around Europe (and Bishop) which I have gladly repeated multiple times.

? 48 hours non-glacier Trail running / scrambling ?
. . . three ideas . . .
1) Brienzergrat ridge in central Switz. First day do something short from the tourist railways up toward Kleine Scheidegg or Murren (e.g. visit to Gimmelwald village). Confirm logistics for the big ridge run/scramble. Then get up to sleep in hut at east end to make an early start for big second day.
(? Why travel on a side-slope or across some pass below the real action around Chamonix . . . when you could be sky-walking-running up on the crest of a ridge overlooking a big lake with the famous snowy north faces of the Berner Oberland in constant view ?)

2) Calanques seaside by Marseille : purchase the English-language "pink select" climbing guidebook. Choose two of the "rando pedestre" routes (and check web to see which are not closed due to fire hazard: wider selection available if go later in Sept). Or substitute one day of sea-kayaking from Cassis. Or walk around the old port Marseille, or the university town Aix-en-Provence, or couple hilltop villages in the Luberon, or taste some special local wine in Gigondas.
. . . running / hiking . . .
(a) Col Gardiole -> Belvedere d'En Vau -> Calanque d'En Vau -> borders of each peninsula working back to -> Cassis (then hang out on one of best non-island sand beaches)
(a2) Longer route by start in Luminy (or if setting up a bike shuttle, likely in reverse)
(b) Callelongue to Luminy (with bike shuttle? or city buses). Esp at the West end try scrambling closer to the Sea (but careful not to get "picked off" by a rogue wave).
(c) Morgiou -> Calanque Sugiton -> Luminy.

I would gladly repeat any of those Calanques routes before non-glacial hiking around Chamonix.
. (for a bit spicier hiking / scrambling, see the other current thread).

3) Dolomites: early Sept is good time there because the rock style of the mountains _looks_ so amazing without snow remaining. And lots of the lifts are still operating. Sometimes I just start crying my first day there just driving on the roads. Might want to come prepared for Via Ferrata.
Sharon + I are just now making reservations for NW Dolomites for then.

Ken

Nick Wilder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2005 · Points: 3,567

Ken, you and I are getting off-topic, but this is kind of funny: I'm in the Calanques right now (this morning was Morgiou to Sugiton, with a bunch of climbing along the way), and I'd agree, the hiking here is stupendous, though completely different of course, being seaside cliffs instead of the alps!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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