GOOD READS – Tour du Mont Blanc

Book Review - Tour du Mont Blanc

This is a guidebook that should ideally be reviewed after using it in the field. However, since Covid-19 has severely curtailed travel to, and within Europe for the time being, I have gone ahead now. So, what’s the relevance of this book for BC hikers? Simply that many FMCBC members have hiked, or plan to hike what the book’s subtitle describes as “the most iconic long-distance circular trail in the Alps.

The route covers 169 kilometres, looping through France, Italy and Switzerland. The book’s publisher Book Review Tour du Mont Blancclaims that it is “the most definitive guidebook for one of the most famous long-distance trails in the world.” Whether or not this is a fair comparison, the book does stand out for its conciseness, detailed information and 1:40,000 colour topo maps (2.5 centimetre to 1 kilometre grid squares) of the entire route. It differs from most North American guidebooks given the highly developed supporting infrastructure available to hikers in the European Alps.

There are 165 waypoints that identify key intersections and points of interest (plus nine route variations), and 34 timing points for pacing and accommodation planning. There are more than 130 accommodations and campsites listed with names, addresses, websites, phone numbers, email addresses, numbers of beds, and dates open. Also included are local tourist offices, emergency
services, mountain rescue, and transportation websites for trains, buses and taxi transfers.

Kingsley Jones appears to have excellent experience and knowledge of the Tour du Mont Blanc according to the ‘About the Author’ section, having guided trekking and running groups there more than 50 times. His colour-coded time and distance scales cover four classes of trail users: ‘walkers,’ ‘trekkers,’ ‘fast packers’ and ‘trail runners.’ As well, there is plenty of information on various aspects of hiking or running the trail, including seasonal weather, safety, mountain rescue, equipment, training, skill requirements and more.

All this is packed into a small, palm-sized book weighing a mere 155 grams. A downside of this compactness is that you might need a magnifying glass to read some of the print, especially the list of accommodations and campsites; but a compass baseplate magnifier should suffice for this purpose.

The companion folding waterproof map of the Tour Du Mont Blanc is well-suited for use on the trail, and is sold separately. It has the identical topo sheets as the guidebook, but combined into five larger maps. It also has a downloadable GPX file, a complete elevation profile, references and other essential information that tie to the guidebook. Although the book alone could suffice, it would definitely be worthwhile getting both for the ease of use and bigger picture situational awareness afforded by the weather-proof folding map on the trail, and the in-depth information in the guidebook for planning the next day’s activities from the comfort of the evening shelter.

Tour du Mont Blanc: The Most Iconic Long-distance, Circular Trail in the Alps with Customised Itinerary Planning for Walkers, Trekkers, Fastpackers and Trail Runners’ by Kingsley Jones; Vertebrate Publishing, April 2020; 140 pages; Paperback; Retail price £16.95; ISBN 978-1-912560-72-1

Tour du Mont Blanc Guidemap: Easy-to-use Folding Map and Essential Information, with Custom Itinerary Planning for Walkers, Trekkers, Fast Packers and Trail Runners’ Vertebrate Publishing, April 2020; Waterproof Map; Retail price £14.95; ISBN 978-1-912560-97-4

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