Chamonix Tour of the Aiguilles
One for the lovers of mountain terrain; steep, slow, rocky, and a huge landscape
If you wake up feeling like you need a big mountain run, where it’s not possible to do that much running, then this is the run for you. Not only will it let you do a lot of walking, it'll get you up close to the Aiguilles towering above Chamonix. It also makes a great training day for those who like it steep.
Starting on the same trail as the Gare des Glaciers Run, you climb to Plan de L'Aiguille and the Aiguille de Midi mid-station. There, you might consider topping off the tank at the small restaurant before you continue on to Lac Bleu, a tiny lake just minutes past the station. At Lac Bleu you'll need to start paying attention to the track and the terrain to be sure you stay on route. From here, you'll be leaving behind the normal, mapped trails, and start following climber paths. It's an on again off again trail until you merge back onto the Grand Balcon Nord before the climb to Le Signal.
Until then, it's talus navigation to a moraine that leads up to Aiguille de Blaitière (GPX track subject to change). As you ascend the moraine, the walls begin to surround you and their scale becomes even more apparent - you are tiny! Before the final steep section of moraine, a faint path leads off left that'll get you through the next talus field to another trail zig zagging up the next moraine further to the north. Once on the next moraine, a thin, and at times crumbly, trail stays right on top allowing you to descend the small ridge down to about the 2300 meter line. There, leave the moraine and again traverse northward through a talus field to yet another moraine. A steep trail stays on the left side heading up to the Aiguille de l'M / Petit Chamoz.
Here, you'll really be questioning just what we were thinking by calling this a "Run." Up down up down up down. Remember this is a training day, a day to be out cruising in the mountains with tons of vert in your legs. You'll be stronger for it and feel proud when you stare up at these walls from town. Hopefully you thought about all that during this section. This part truthfully isn't so much fun, but it does get you to the base of the classic Aiguille de l'M route. If climbers can do it with all that gear, you can do it with your running vest.
Once at the base of the M, if you have the energy, you can sneak around the corner through some giant boulders and take a peek at the Mer de Glace, Dru and Aiguille du Moine. Or, you can start down what is a fairly unpleasant steep, loose trail. Hang in there, you're almost down. This climber's trail leads all the way back to the standard Grand Balcon Nord where you'll hang a right (north) and again start climbing. This time very briefly and on trail to Le Signal. Congrats, you're done with the climbing and can take some time to look around from this great viewpoint peering deep into the big alpine terrain. Or, you can beeline it to the Montenvers station for a visit to the snack bar.
From Le Signal, it's 1200 meters of down on a whole lot of rocky, rooty, singletrack back to the Chamonix train station.
For the following day, consider a run on the Grand Balcon Sud side so you can enjoy looking across at all the terrain you moved through on this great tour.
Start: 45.917848, 6.870950
Read the Gare des Glaciers tips, all the same apply.
After the Plan de L'Aiguille, there is no water. Carry what you'll need.
- Consider poles for the steep descents. Know what you're getting into - this is a true mountain route and not always on trails.