The (Gastronomic) Mont Blanc Circuit
You might think that two weeks of trekking in the Mont Blanc region would be great way to lose a little weight. Tour Leader Charlie Boscoe explains why this isn’t necessarily the case!
It is impossible to walk the meadows and passes below the towering peaks of Mont Blanc without feeling a stirring of the soul; a sudden comprehension of one’s insignificance in the vast chasms of time, but also an understanding that that blip of time can, and must, be enjoyed to the maximum. The incredible views, bright sunshine and good company all contribute to this nourishment of the spirit, but it is nourishment in its most literal form on which I will concentrate.
The Mont Blanc Circuit (TWB) has been described as the best walk in the world by many people and it is hard to argue otherwise. When it comes to the quality of the local food, argument is impossible. The mountain huts of the Alps are excellent places to prove the widely accepted theory that all walkers and mountaineers should be able to function solely on tea and cake. The TWB snack tour begins on the Col de Balme, where a final view of Chamonix (for the next 10 days anyway) can be enjoyed with a fine homemade biscuit, served by the frankly terrifying ‘Madame Balme’ (visitors remaining too scared to ask her real name). The Bovine refuge is next – a picturesque hut overlooking the Rhone valley – where the health conscious Swiss locals enjoy homemade soup whilst the Brits tuck in to the superb apple strudel.
The tour soon reaches Italy, surely the only country in the world where leaving a drink unattended for too long turns it into food. When Italians say hot chocolate, they literally mean chocolate…..but hot! A rest day in Italy provides further opportunity for gastronomic pleasure, most people opting for pizzas the size of a small country.
Back on the trail we stop for a fantastic fruit pastry at the Elisabetta refuge before heading back into France, where the chocolate cake at the Col du Bonhomme awaits. Extensive research has shown me that chocolate cake is a tough number to get right, but the two refuge owners at the Bonhomme have got it spot on. Their prune cake is also popular, but often causes ‘digestion’ issues half an hour further down the trail!
The ninth day is one of the tougher of the tour but it features the king of cakes, the prince of puddings: the Miage myrtille tart. Costing six Euros, this masterpiece consists of a thin, moist base topped with blueberries, sugar and whipped cream. The sight of the Col de Tricot (climbed straight from the refuge) is enough for even the most conscientious calorie counter to wheel out the 'I’ll soon burn it off' excuse. The final day sees us at the Bellachat refuge, which surely enjoys the finest view in the Alps. On a clear day it is possible to spot climbers on the summit of Mont Blanc with a pair of binoculars. Fortunately for the foodie, the Bellachat also offers a superb selection of local delicacies, all covered with lashings of local cheese.
So there we have it – 100 miles and 10,000 metres of ascent and descent spread over two perfect weeks; just don’t expect to lose any weight!
Charlie Boscoe – Exodus Tour Leader
Walking Grades: A – leisurely B – moderate C – challenging D – tough E – tough+