‘The mountain’s power sends volts through the soul’: hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

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An eight-day trek high in the Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland proves a stern test amid bad weather, snoring hikers and hangovers. But the views …

It was the penultimate day of my Tour du Mont Blanc and, as I scrambled up the side of the Aiguilles de l’Argentière, I was feeling smug. I’d ticked off more than 90 of the 105 miles, almost all in dazzling spring sunshine. Such luck with the weather was encouraging complacency. But up high, any hubris is ripe for a humbling. And the mountain gods were beginning to conspire.

The first hint of trouble came when I recognised the two fellow hikers coming the other way. In Tré-le-Champ, way below, we had drunk coffee at neighbouring tables and, realising we were on the same route, resolved to move on to beer when we saw each other again at the next refuge, La Flégère. So when I saw them marching back to the village, I stopped, assumed a quizzical face and asked: Est-ce la bonne direction?

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