Ever been tempted to trek around Mont Blanc? Sitting majestically in the Western Alps, the mighty Mont Blanc is a mountain I have wanted to climb for a long while. So when I came across ‘A Tour of Mont Blanc’ by David Le Vay, which tells the story of Le Vay and a friend trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) a couple of years ago, I couldn’t wait to read it and learn more about trekking in this beautiful region.
The book takes you on a detailed tour of the TMB route, incorporating parts of France, Italy and Switzerland along the 170km trek. It also seamlessly incorporates legends, myths and the stories of many mountaineers throughout the history of Mont Blanc. From alpine explorer Horace-Bénédict de Saussure to the first woman to summit Mont Blanc, Maria Paradis; this book contains a wealth of information and inspiration.
Le Vay highlights each separate stage of the trek and describes how he and his hiking companions found the experience. Personally, what attracts me to mountain trekking is the idea of the journey, in particular the friends made and experiences gained along the way, rather than the destination. As Le Vay recognises, ‘It is interesting how these walks inevitably throw you together with other people, all on our respective journeys both literal and metaphorical’ (p.119).
From a small dormitory sleeping 40 hikers to a luxury gîte with ensuite rooms and a 3-course meal, Le Vay documents the vastly different camping experiences that lie along the TMB route. And not forgetting the many hilariously entertaining moments had by the newly formed group along the way, making the experience enjoyable and truly memorable. Cue the runaway floral trilby hat!
A underlying theme in ‘A Tour of Mont Blanc’ is the benefits of enjoying the simple pleasures along the way, rather than incessantly worrying about the things that seem so important in our usual day-to-day lives. For Le Vay, ‘One of the most pleasurable things about long distance walking is the absence of everything online’ (p.137). I could really relate to this because, on each of the adventure treks I have done, I have also found that the pressure of everyday life simply falls away, being replaced with great camaraderie and stunning scenery.
Notably, Le Vay talks of Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi’s research into happiness, creativity and the notion of ‘flow’, the latter’s view being that ‘people are happiest and most content when in a state of flow: a complete, joyful absorption within a particular activity to the point that nothing else seems to matter’ (p.165). Trekking is a path (no pun intended) to creativity, a great way to be mindful and content with your own thoughts. I’m sure the running community will relate to this with the freedom of putting one foot in front of the other and simply running forwards.
After 10 days of walking, the TMB culminates in the bustling town of Chamonix, described as ‘the home of mountaineering and the major tourist centre of the Alps’ (p.254). There, Le Vay reunites with those whom he met along the way, a lovely group of outdoor enthusiasts of various nationalities.
This book provides first-hand knowledge of trekking the TMB, much interesting information and a lot of laughs! Le Vay’s writing style and sense of humour are uplifting, with many entertaining stories interspersed throughout the tour. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to find out what it is really like to trek the TMB.
‘Walking is good. Mountains are good. Walking in the mountains is perfect. Get out there and do it’ (p.169).