Start at the designated hotel in Chamonix, France. In the evening there is an introductory briefing by your leader.
Chamonix we walk to Les Praz and take the téléférique to La Flégère (1,900 m). The trail today is named the 'Grand Balcon' and is on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc, affording excellent views of the whole massif lying to our south. Initially we contour and then climb to reach the high point of the day, Lac Blanc (2,352m). The trail descends from the lake then contours high above the valley before dropping steeply to the Col Montets (1461m). There will be a very short section of ladders/steep steps with handrails on the descent. Return to Chamonix by bus.
We travel back to the Col Montets to begin our ascent to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2201m), descend to the Col des Posettes, and then ascend a little to the Col de Balme (2,191m) where we walk across the border from France to Switzerland. Excellent views all morning of Aiguille d'Argentiere and the Aiguille du Tour and its glacier. After lunch we descend to the small hamlet of Trient (1,296m) with good views of the Trient Glacier. Ascend from Trient to our hotel on the Col Forclaz (1,526m).
We leave the Col Forclaz from where we can look directly down into the Rhône valley and the Swiss town of Martigny and follow the 'Bovine route' (2,049m) through high alpine pastures to the charming town of Champex (1,468m) set beside a picturesque alpine lake.
Now on the east side of the main Mont Blanc Massif we walk south, descending through woods to the Val Ferret and on to Issert (1,055m) and other small, pretty, alpine farming villages. This is quite a good day for flowers, including orchids. We continue up the valley to La Fouly (1,593m). This is at the foot of Mt. Dolent, whose summit is at the meeting point of France, Switzerland and Italy.
Still following the same valley and the river 'La Drance', we climb to the 'Grand Col Ferret' (2,536m), the highest pass of the tour. Now in Italy, the valley is also called 'Val Ferret'. The mountain views from the Col are stunning with Grandes Jorasses dominating the scene. We walk down the valley to Arp Nouva (1,770m) then travel by bus to our hotel near La Palud near Courmayeur.
A static day. The nearby town of Courmayeur has picturesque older sections, which are worth a visit, especially for the keen photographer. There is a téléférique from Entrèves to Point Helbronner (3,461m) and on across the glacier to Aiguille du Midi (and in fact on down to Chamonix). This is a splendid (optional) excursion, which gives close-up views of all the big peaks.
From the hotel we cross the river and climb to a mid level contouring path which we follow around the mountain. We then climb steeply to Mont de la Saxe (2,346m). The views are excellent, especially Mont Blanc and the towering rocky peak 'Grandes Jorasses' and the glaciers, which crowd the northern flank of the Val Ferret. Look for reflections of the mountains in small ponds along the ridge. We make a longish, sometimes steep descent from Mont de la Saxe, via an old mule track, to Entrèves.
We travel by bus to La Vissaille (1660m) then climb gently along the Val Veny beneath the massive glacier de Miage and pass Lac Combal before the gradient becomes steeper as we follow the old Roman road and head for today's pass: the 'Col de la Seigne' (2,516m) which marks our re-entry into France. A fairly steep descent brings us through la Ville des Glaciers (1,789 m) and finally after quite a long walking day to Les Chapieux (1,553m), a small hamlet inhabited only during the summer months.
We have now reached the southwest corner of the circuit and turn north to climb once again. First we ascend to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2,478m), then contour across to the Col du Bonhomme (2,328m) and then descend again on a Roman road into the Val Montjoie and the town of Les Contamines (1,175m). Our hotel is located in the scenic spa town of St Gervais, 10 minutes further down the valley.
A well-earned rest day. There are many options to fill your day including taking the cog railway to The Nid d'aigle, a popular start point to climb Mont Blanc, or browsing around the local market of Les Contamines. There are short and long optional walks in the area or one can simply relax around the pleasant town of St Gervais or perhaps treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa.
From St Gervais we have a 10 min transfer to re-join the route before ascending to the Chalets de Miage (1,560m). From here we take a trail that climbs steeply to the Col de Tricot (2,119m) before descending very close to the snout of the Glacier de Bionnassay. Good views of the north of Mont Blanc Massif. Eventually we make another ascent to reach the Col de Voza (1652m) where we re-enter the Chamonix Valley, and then descend to the village of Les Houches (993m).
We cross to the north side of the Chamonix Valley and climb through pine forest to reach the high point of the day at Brevent (2,525m). This is a long walking day but will probably afford the best views of the French side of Mont Blanc and its neighbours that we shall have on the whole trek. We descend to Plan Praz and take the cable car to Chamonix (1,061m) for a well-deserved beer.
Free day in and around Chamonix. There are several good walks around Chamonix, and also spectacular (optional) excursions by téléférique or mountain railway. Other optional activities include tandem paragliding, canyoning and mountain biking.
End in Chamonix.