Trip Number: 13660A
Price: $2,575 (11-14)
$3,095 (or fewer)
Staff: Lynne Simpson & Gene Goldberg
- Hike the high mountains of the French Alps
- Watch for unique wildlife and flowers along the way
- Enjoy tasty specialties of Savoie and a warm bed at the end of the day
- Explore/appreciate/visit local reserves
- All lodging in a comfortable local hotel
- All transportation; hearty meals and all gratuities
- Local naturalist guides
Photo: Gene Goldberg
Come explore and hike sunny Chamonix, which sits in the heart of the Haute
Savoie, the mountainous alpine region of France, south of Lac Leman. It includes
the Mont Blanc massif and its glaciers, which feed the headwaters of the Rhone.
Mont Blanc rises to 15,000’ and is set in a mountainous upland dissected
by deep river valleys. The mountain rises above the town of Chamonix in the
valley of the Arve and affords one of the finest mountain settings in the world.
This is a spectacular region with snow- and glacier-capped peaks overlooking
pastoral valleys and charming towns. There are vast flower-filled alpine meadows
with some woodland and wildlife observable. Man has inhabited this region for
centuries, creating a system of trails throughout the area. We will note environmental
concern and sustainable tourism practices as we enjoy the summer beauty of Chamonix.
Please note that the itinerary below is tentative. We are in the process of
developing a diverse itinerary that features mountain walks, sometimes using
lifts to gain elevation and visits to a nature reserve. The order may change
depending on the weather, group desires, trail conditions, and safety concerns.
Day 1: We meet this evening at our hotel in downtown Chamonix.
After introductions and a trip orientation we will have dinner together. Early
arrivals may enjoy exploring our local neighborhood and visiting the Tourist
Day 2: Walking from our hotel to the center of town, we take
a gentle uphill riverside trail for awhile, then return to town. For the afternoon,
we take a train ride up to the famous Grotte de Glace (Ice Cave) from which
we can descend back to our hotel on foot.
Day 3: Taking a lift up, we reach the Gran Balcon du Nord route.
This fairly level path has good views of the Chamonix Valley and the mountains
north of the city. After a picnic lunch, we have a long descent into the valley
and then a bus ride back to the hotel. 5 miles, -2,000'.
Photo: Gus Benner
Day 4: First, we take the local bus or train to La Fayet,
then board the Mt Blanc Tramway for an amazing ride up the side of the mountain
to Nid de Aigle. Short walks are possible there before returning.
Day 5: Taking the bus again, we head for Argentiere. From
there we walk up to a beautiful view of the Argentiere Glacier. 5 miles, +1,500'.
Day 6: Today we walk along the Gran Balcon du Sud with spectacular
views of Mt Blanc and the Aiguilles (peaks) across the Chamonix Valley. Lunch
is in a mountain refuge. Lifts at the begining and end will take out most of
the elevation for us. 7.5 miles, +1,000'.
Day 7: A rest day. You have many options, including a visit
to a nature reserve, walks in the area, or urban activities such as shopping
or visiting museums.
Day 8: Going up, right from the heart of town, we ride the
cable car to the top of Mt Blanc, then another across the mountain into Italy.
The traverse across the Mer du Glace is stunning. Another lift takes us down
to Courmayer, an old Italian town with narrow, winding streets. We'll return
to Chamonix by bus through the tunnel.
Day 9: For our last hike, we bus to La Tour and then take
lifts up to our trailhead. This most alpine of our walks brings us to a refuge
overlooking the La Tour Glacier for lunch. 5 miles, +1,700'.
Day 10: After our hearty breakfast, we will bid 'au revoir,'
pausing for some last moments to enjoy the mountainous beauty that surrounds
us before continuing our travels.
Photo: Gus Benner
The trip begins and ends in Chamonix, France. The nearest airport is in Geneva,
Switzerland, about 1 1/2 hours away by shuttle van. Geneva is a major airport
and can easily be reached by flights from the U.S. or hub airports in Europe.
Details for the shuttle or taxis between Geneva airport and Chamonix will be
sent to approved participants, but you are responsible for your own arrangements.
Please make sure that your passport has four empty pages for immigration stamps,
and is valid for at least six months past the end of the trip -- a requirement
of many countries. You are responsible for having your own passport and obtaining
any necessary visas or other travel papers. Evacuation and trip cancelation/interuption
insurance is strongly recommended. Sierra Club now includes some medical evacuation
insurance in the trip price, details will be sent to participants. The leader
will send out newsletters with additional travel information and ideas of things
to do in the area before and after the trip. You are encouraged to arrive at
least a day or two early to help overcome jetlag before we begin hiking. It
would also help should your luggage be delayed in arriving.
Accommodations and Food
We will be staying in a small family-run hotel in Chamonix. Our accommodations
will be double rooms with bath. Single supplements may be possible; ask the
leader if you are interested. Family rooms may also be possible. The leader
will arange roommates of the same gender for single travelers.
Photo: Gene Goldberg
Lodgings in France are often 'demi-pension,' which means we’ll be having
breakfasts and dinners at our lodging. Expect both hearty and tasty French food,
with specialties of the region (Savoe) featured. Breakfasts will include continental
fare, as well as selections of cheese, meat, and yogurt. For dinners, one menu
will be served to the group. If you prefer vegetarian meals or have other dietary
restrictions, please discuss this with the leader before signing up for this
When possible, we will stop at huts along the way for lunch. The huts serve
soups, sandwiches, and pastas. However on most days, we will carry our lunches
and have a group picnic, ideally on the top of a mountain ridge or some other
scenic spot. Sometimes the leaders will ask for volunteers who enjoy grocery
shopping in a new locale to help purchase our picnic supplies. Ah, the mustards,
the cheeses, the bread, the chocolate…
‘Hiking Above Chamonix’ is designed for those who enjoy the challenge
of new trails as well as spectacular scenery. We plan to walk 4-6 hours a day,
at a leisurely pace, with time for photos and general enjoyment of the area.
These are moderate hikes, mainly on rocky, well-defined trails. Elevation gain/loss
varies from about 500’ to 2,000’. Our longest walk will be about
7 miles. You will be carrying lunch items, water, raingear, an extra polar fleece
and your choice of cameras, binoculars or other equipment that helps you enjoy
Preparing for this trip is best done with a regular exercise schedule; including
day hikes in hilly terrain with altitude gain and loss, especially at elevation.
The Chamonix valley varies in elevation from 1,500’ to 4,500’; our
travel will be higher.
Photo: Gene Goldberg
It's likely that the temperature during the day will be in the 60s, however
it can get much warmer or colder. Rain is always a possibility; be sure your
raingear is in good condition. Snow may also be possible. There will be a noticeable
drop in temperature when the sun sets. If the weather is inclement, our plans
will change, as safety is always our highest priority.
Equipment and Clothing
Medium weight well broken in boots, a day pack (with room for community lunch
items), water bottle, hat, and sunscreen are essential. Rain gear and extra
warmth clothing have been mentioned. Hiking poles are definitely recommended.
A detailed list will be sent to participants.
- Institut Geographique National, 3531-ET and 3630-OT, 1:25,000 topo,
available in Chamonix or at http://www.omnimap.com/catalog/int/france1.htm#p12
- Didier Richard, Pays du Mont Blanc, 1:50,000 topo, available in
- Carles, Emile, A Life Of Her Own. Penguin Books. This autobiography
describes turn-of-century peasant life in the region, and the transformation
of a peasant woman born into the rigidly conservative patriarchal world of
the high Alps.
Photo: Gene Goldberg
Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation
and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished
by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement.
Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding
parallel concerns at home and abroad. On this outing, we will be using the efficient
public transportation available. We also hope to meet with a local conservation
organization to better understand how the Chamonix area has been preserved over
the years. Local naturalist guides will accompany us on some of our walks to
talk about the wildlife and local conservation efforts.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Lynne Simpson's college education included a year in France; during that time and since, she has enjoyed hiking, biking, and exploring various regions of France. Her connection with Sierra Club National outings began in 1968; she has led and cooked for many domestic and international trips. Hikes in France have furthered her appreciation of the country, the people, the mountains and the excellent cuisine. Lynne's other interests include art (she is a print maker), cooking, snorkeling, and French poodles.
Gene Goldberg has been leading Sierra Club trips since 1990. His Club trips have included backpacking in the Colorado Rockies as well as trips to Nepal, Spain, the Alps (French, Swiss, & Italian), New Zealand, and Bhutan. He now lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Gail, and dogs, Whisky and Bailey.
Visit his website at http://genesoutings.camprecipes.com/
for more information about the trips he leads, as well as some photos.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips