Tour Du Mont Blanc (French Side) Part 1: Getting to Chamonix, France

Part 1 = Getting to the start of Tour Du Mont Blanc

I decided it was time for me to do some backpacking in Europe; However, I could NOT decide if I wanted to do the Camino de Santiago or Tour Du Mont Blanc… I decided to try and do sections of both in June/July of 2019 🙂

My plan was to do 3-4 days on the Tour Du Mont Blanc, visit Avignon to scratch my history itch, move across France to begin the Camino, Run with the bulls in Pamplona, and continue walking across northern Spain for as long as possible — easy enough right?

I chose the French side of the tour because most other hikers move counterclockwise and I wanted to start with the “herd.” The TMD crosses through the corners of Switzerland, France, and Italy. I thought one country at a time made the most sense for a partial trip on this amazing hike.

Map of Tour Du Mont Blanc route

I began my journey by flying into Geneva.

Funny Travel Note:

My planned flight left Columbus, stopped briefly in Toronto, landed in Montreal to refuel, and then off to Geneva, Switzerland.

My flight between Toronto and Montreal was slightly delayed, but from my understanding — I would be staying on the airplane which would continue onwards to Geneva. However, upon landing I was notified that the plan had changed and I would need to disembark the aircraft and go to a different gate to make my international flight.

I went to the desk after hustling off the airplane and asked which gate my next flight was leaving from. The women typed some details into her computer, looked up and said “The Geneva flight is going to be leaving from Gate 56 in 5 minutes, and we are currently at Gate 1.” I stared at her trying to grasp the small window I was being provided, and she looked back to say “I don’t need you to walk fast….I need you to run!”

This was my first time ever sprinting through an airport. And oh boy did I sprint. I would be damned if I would miss my flight to Europe and postpone my trip. I dodged, and shoved, and ducked between confused fellow airport travelers. The intercom spurred me faster — “THE GENEVA GATE WILL BE CLOSING IN 2 MINUTES — ALL PASSENGERS MUST BOARD IMMEDIATELY.”

During my stampede through the crowded airport, I thought that this was ironic that I would be running with the bulls in Pamplona within the next 2 weeks. For in this airport in Montreal, I was the bull. Parting the crowed and slamming through with no consideration other making my connecting flight.

I arrived at the Gate with a few other sweating and frazzled passengers. The shut and locked the gate behind me as we boarded and took our seats. I made it 🙂

Upon arriving in the Geneva airport, I had planned to explore the city and begin my European adventure with a day walking the streets of Switzerland. However, upon landing, I could feel the mountains pulling me and the hustle bustle of the city immediately disenchant me.

I had discovered the OMNI app before heading to Europe. This amazing little phone application will show you the time & costs for buses, trains, and flights between any two locations in Europe on any given day. Pretty nifty for getting last minute connections around the continent.

OMNI was nice enough to find me a bus from Geneva to Chamonix, France — leaving the airport within 2 hours. The bus pickup location is a little difficult to locate; it is directly across from the main terminal exit, but you need to cross the taxi/pickup lanes to get to the bus pickup area.

Phone Apps for Traversing Europe:

OMNI (Bus, Train, Ride Share, Plane) (Private Rooms and Some Hostels) *Free night every 10 nights booked

Hostel World (Hostel booking)

Hiking Project (Trail Maps and Topo maps with GPS location tracking)

After a couple hours on the bus, I finally arrived in Chamonix and was soooo happy to finally see mountains surrounding me. Mountains and raw nature always provide a calming effect on my soul.

Chamonix 1
The town of Chamonix, France

Using the App, I found an adorable little hotel with a private balcony in downtown Chamonix within a 10 minute walk from the bus stop. I decided against a hostel knowing that I would be staying in hostels for the foreseeable future and wanting some luxury for my first night in Europe.

After checking in and assembling my pack in preparation for beginning the hike the next day; I ventured out to explore this quaint mountain town. Chamonix France is an outdoor lovers paradise. A ski town in the winter and a mountain adventure in the summer. I passed many shops selling ski/snowboard equipment, hiking gear, and mountain bikes. The streets were a hodgepodge of unique French countryside architecture, small cafes with outdoor patios, and restaurants. I was reminded closely of another town in the United States that I like to visit — Chamonix is comparable to Steamboat Springs in Colorado.

Chamonix Luke
Having a beer in Chamonix — getting ready to begin hiking

Overall, I’m glad that I made it to Chamonix and spent a day exploring the town and preparing to begin this section of the Tour Du Mont blanc. The following morning I would need to find my way to the trail head.

Chamonix 2
Chamonix Fance 2019


Iceland: Hiking Glymur Falls

Before heading to Iceland, i did a lot of research on epic local hiking trails. My travel companions had very limited hiking experience but they were all athletic. I needed a trip that was strenuous but also safe for novice trekkers.

Glymur Falls continuously came up in my research and its location, within 1.5 hours of Reykjavik, made this a perfect day trip from our hostel. The Glymur Falls hike is a 3-4 miles loop. Taking hikers up one side of the falls, crossing over at the top, and bringing them down the opposite side.

The parking area provides ample spaces as well as good signage to direct you towards the trail. After a gentle stroll through the woods and passing inside a small cave, we came to a raging river crossing. The trail has a roughly 50 ft wire stretched from one side of the river to the other. This provides a handhold for hikers while stepping between slightly submerged rocks and a well placed log. There is some chance of getting wet during this crossing but a slow pace should see you to the other side safely.

Following the river crossing — the trail begins to ascend quickly, gaining elevation towards the waterfall that we began to see in the distance. There are several areas where anchored ropes have been installed to assist with steep/rocky uphill climbs and descents.

GlymurRope Climbing 2018

After continuing upwards we began to see the falls. The view is absolutely stunning as you continue. The trail itself was crowded, but not overly so. We never had problem getting around other hikers or having to stop for large crowds. Most of the other visitors were spread out evenly and moving at a good pace.

GlymurFallsView 2018
The view of the falls from a distance

There are several flat sections to offer spectacular views. Many of these locations would be good for a lunch break to regain some of the energy used during the climb. In the above picture you can see other hikers farther up the trail in the distance. It seems very far away, but in reality the hike goes very quickly.

The hike will track along the right rocky ridge and you will rarely lose sight of the magnificent waterfall. The valley’s scale is something of an epic experience in real life. It cuts through the stone and is covered with vegetation during summer months. Sea gulls constantly fly within the valley, and there swooping presence serves as a way for the eye to better understand the depth and scale of this place.

GlymurFalls Higher View 2018
Eventually you reach the top of the falls; It is a LONG way down when looking over the edge!

Take your time viewing the waterfall as you approach. You will not regret spending an extra few minutes here!

Upon reaching the “peak” you will see a vast field and winding river in front of you. This river eventually caps the stony rocks into the valley and forms Glymur Falls. Looking backwards over the top of the falls; there are some expansive views of the Icelandic countryside.

GlymurView topoffalls 2018
Looking backwards after reaching the top of Glymur Falls

Now, if you want to complete the loop and trek down the opposite side….you need to cross the river somewhere. I could not see a place to do this without getting a little bit of cold feet (literally). We walked about 500 yards from the cliff edge, stripped off our boots, rolled up our pants, and began inching across. I say inching because the water is FREEZING cold! Also, the rocky bottom does not feel like a foot massage on your exposed feet. The deepest section came up just below our knees and the current is a little deceiving, just be careful here

We met a family on the opposite side who brought flip flops for this purpose. I wish we would’ve been that well prepared 🙂 .

GlymurUpper River Cross 2018
Crossing the river above Glymur Falls

The next stage is an easy, but rocky pathway descending back to the car. The views become a little less dramatic, but I found it to be a very rewarding loop. We were lucky enough to snap a few pictures on the other side and see some close up Icelandic wildlife.

Glymur Sheet pic 2018
They let us get surprisingly close…

To summarize: This was an AMAZING hike to conquer during our trip to Iceland. It was challenging enough to make it enjoyable; but easy enough that my inexperienced companions did not fall to their deaths. I would highly recommend this as a must do while visiting this fantasy island.


Written By:

Luke Langhals