Most Inspirational Moment
In terms of hiking, probably ascending the 2,500 m cols which took us across the frontiers into each of Switzerland, Italy & France, plus the steep (600 m) ascent of the Col du Trichot on walking day 9, and the sumptuous views of Mt Blanc as we ascended 1,600m to Brevet on the final morning - celebrated with champagne at the top. Aside from the hiking were two "Must Do"s. One was on the first rest day - taking the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car from Cormayeaur up to Punta Herbronner and then the frankly fantastic 5km panorama trip over to the Aiguille du Midi. Absolutely superb views over the glacier and of Mt Blanc itself. Kim suggested we get there for 06:30 when it opened which proved great advice as we had the viewing platform to ourselves & avoided the later crowds and queues. The other was the tramway from St Gervais up to Nid D'Aigle. Impressive engineering, great views and a chance to hike to the Bionnassay glacier. Do both. Take layers.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Kim was an experienced IML (International Mountain Leader) and clearly knew the area like the back of her hand - she didn't consult a map once across the whole trip. Her briefings each evening were comprehensive - almost too much so. She was up early each morning to set out food so we could select content of our lunches before we went into breakfast, and her timetabling meant we had plenty of time at every point despite the scale of the hiking each day. She set a steady sensible pace on the ascents and was a demon on the descents - we had fun trying to keep up with her, despite her being older than all the trip participants.
Advice for Potential Travellers
The trip notes liken the walking to ascending Ben Nevis or Scarfell Pike. This is not an exaggeration as we coincidentally did both three weeks before the trip. You need to be hiking fit to cope with repeated 10+ mile / 1,000+m hikes. Take layers - the weather can change quickly. Carrying gloves, woolly hat, down jacket, rain top, & over-trousers seemed OTT until the sudden thunderstorm on the Col du Bonhomme. Good boots, walking poles plenty of sun screen are also recommended. Finally, those with water bladders proved more adept with keeping hydrated than those us with water bottles. I picked one up in Decathlon (£10) on our return to Chamonix.
We would certainly recommend this trip to anyone who enjoys hiking. The route well chosen, food plentiful, accommodation sound and guide knowledgeable. The scenery is simply glorious.