Despite having walked round Mont Blanc using the TMB route three times in the last 15 years or so. I never really completed the circuit. I had always left out some of the bits along the Chamonix valley mainly because it was such familiar territory. On different occasions, therefore, I have made a point to walk along different parts of the TMB in the valley, for completeness sake. Most of these I completed long ago but a single stretch from Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere has eluded me despite dozens of walking visits to the area. Until now.
I took the train to Montroc (1360m) arriving at 09.20, then joined the TMB path by walking towards and over the railway tunnel. After about 5 minutes I ignored a sign to Tre-le-Champ and turned uphill right. After another 5 minutes or so I reached the road going over the Col des Montets, crossed it and immediately found a footpath sign stating, among other things, “Flegere 3hr 15mins”. The sun was shining strongly and it was already getting quite hot so the trees provided welcome shade on a pretty unremitting climb of about 1 hour. The trees were sparse so views quickly became impressive towards Aiguille Verte and Grands Montets ski area and back towards Le Tour.
For me, the highlight of the walk was the ladder section that is encountered after about 500m of climbing, just after the Aiguillette d’Argentiere.
There are more sets of ladders than I imagined and they provide impressive views, including this one back down the first run of steps looking at the aforesaid Aiguillette (the rock pinnacle in the centre of the picture).
There is another roughly 150m of ascent to go until the high point of the walk is reached at la Tete aux Vents with its impressive cairn at 2130m. I was grateful for a little breeze at this point, for the sun was still shining though dark cloud was accumulating ahead over Brevent. On my way down to Cheserys the cloud obscured the sun and it stayed this way for the rest of the walk, no bad thing as far as I was concerned.
I was back on a very familiar path now, passing avalanche protection walls and seeing the spectacular water fall from the outfall water of Lac Blanc. The flowers and butterflies were remarkable as were the two cuckoos I heard on the way to Flegere. It took me just under 2 and a half hours. I did not rush and stopped for photos, water breaks and to admire plants and the odd snow patch and I was surprised that I was so much quicker than the 3h 15m on the sign post, normally I take longer than the signs.
At Flegere nothing was open, the lifts were due to re-open the following week. I chatted briefly to an Australian couple from Melbourne who had just climbed up from Le Praz. Then started my descent. Flegere is at 1877m so the descent is about 800m. It is not an inspiring walk, the paths are stony, steep and mostly in trees. The two high spots for me were spotting a number of St Bruno’s Lilies on the way down and taking a detour to visit Chalet de la Floria, a buvette and restaurant that was previously a dairy. It was not only pleasant to re-visit it but I was amazingly fortunate in that it started raining just a few minutes before I reached it and I was able to shelter and have a drink while the shower passed. I then completed my descent in the dry and arrived at the car park of the lift station at 2pm just before the rain started again, later turning into a substantial thunder storm.