Tour du Mont Blanc - Getting Ready / by Dario Branco

August 9 it was the beginning of the Tour du Mont Blanc adventure, TMB for short. As i mention before it was something i wanted to do for a while but i didn’t know what i was getting in to when i first read about it. So get ready because this is going to be a long post.

The only thing i knew before i started getting ready for the TMB is that there are a a lot of guide companies doing it. All i had to do to find one was to do a search on Google. I don’t remember the cost but i remember being a bit expensive for me.

After some more research i found out that it was possible to do it on my own.
Pros: Doing it at my own pace, cheaper, being free to wander a little bit.
Cons: Have to carry all the gear, maybe not learning as much.

Once it was decided to do it, i started researching even more. The first thing to have in mind was accommodations. Hotels, Camping and Refuges. I will go into more detail about this topic once i start writing about each stage but know that camping is the cheapest, Refuges the more reliable and hotels the most expensive. My friends and i mixed camping and refuges.

The best way i found to look for accommodation was at Autourdumontblanc Website.

What i will say for now about camping vs staying in refuges, is that if you don’t want to carry a lot of gear and don’t mind paying a little bit more, go for the Refuges.

One of the most important things for me was to be sure we were following the right trail and not get lost. I been using Wikiloc for a few years now and i found one a good accurate full trail from Caminhates which i was using on my phone and also my Garmin Fenix 5X to check whenever we were in doubt about which way to go. This was just a precaution because the trail is very well marked. However there were a a couple of times we were not on the trail and we found our selfs turning back. Mostly because we were distracted and one time the trail was not clear at all.

We also learned that there are a few TMB alternatives routes that you can do so it is a matter of research and find which one is the best for you. Also something i will talk about on the individual days.

One more option to research about the trail is to get a book and a map that my friend Alex had with all the information.

Now that we knew where to go and where to stay, it was time to figure out what gear to take. This was the most challenging part for me and i was obsessing over it.

I will always have in my mind a trip to Scotland where i decided to camp in a few places and carry everything on my back with another friend. It went terrible wrong. Since than i try to have everything i need and be as comfortable as possible no matter the situation. Which brings me back to the TMB. I tried several times to organize my backpack and train how to be efficient with the gear, some of it i ended up replacing. What became obvious the first couple of tries was that i would need to get proper clothes for hiking, specially hiking boots, a proper sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a proper tent and a good backpack. If you have to spend most of your money on anything, these are the things i thing you should focus on.

Weight is also a thing to keep in mind. While i was searching for the trail online i found out that we would be climbing for a few hours almost every day. With that in mind i started to rip apart my backpack and figure out things I wouldn’t need. I tried to keep the weight below 15kg with a full 2L water bottle.

If i did not take my Canon 5D with the 24/70mm i would be around the 15Kg mark. In the end i was around the 17Kg. I didn’t feel that the weight was slowing me down or getting me tired but if i could shave off those 2 extra kilos i would. For a while i was considering buying a new camera for hiking, the Sony RX100 Mark VII (newest model) was the main option but i decided it would not be worth the investment. However, something to consider if you do want to carry much less weight.

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You may be wondering: Where did you shave the weight? Answering that question is tricky because the main thing i bought having the weight in mind was the sleeping bag. My old, and first sleeping bag was around 1Kg and it would take some space in the backpack. To solve that i ended up getting the Sea to Summit Spark SP0, which is extremely compact and weights 250G. The down side was that it got colder than what i expected and i had some condensation inside the bag. I was able to solve it some how by letting the bag dry and covering only the legs while having as many layers as i could on my torso during the night. I do like the sleeping bag, for hot weather, but i would consider buying a warmer one for this kind of trip.

Another thing i bought having the trail in mind was the backpack. Again, my older one was uncomfortable and while trying to fit everything inside it was a little to small to be eficient. Again, a quick research on the internet and voila, i found the Osprey Atmos 65 the perfect backpack. Comfortable is the word that comes to mind when i think about this backpack. Lots of compartments, big enough for everything i needed plus some extra stuff. I had to leave the top part at home because i had no use for it. If there is a downside to this backpack is the huge straps on the waistline. There are lighter ones for sure but for my level of expertise this one is amazing.

Finally the tent. I was thinking up front with the tent. I wanted something sturdy and robust to handle high winds. Finding one was not easy mostly because of the cost until i found the North Face Storm Breaker. Trust me, is not the lightest tent and it takes some time to setup. However once i was inside i felt it could rain the world, i would be ok inside. Regarding the less good things about it, i loved it as much as the backpack.

There are a few more gadgets and accessories i took with me which helped, and some that could do better. After all this was my first long distance trail. Meanwhile i leave you with the full gear list and a resource to help you check how much weight you are carrying.

Hopefully it won’t take me two more months to write more about this trip.

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