I am an Australian living/working in the Netherlands and am planning on driving to Chamonix for 5-7 days (17-23rd July). Hopefully, the current situation relaxes, and travel is allowed.
Two things I am seeking to find more information:
- Advice and ideas for routes that fit my skill and desires. So that is 2-3 day long hikes around Chamonix. I would love to head into the mountains and stay at a hut, but my novice mountaineering ability means I would rather stay away from glaciers (if it requires hiring a guide for a day that's also a possibility). Easy to moderate scrambling would be fun and within my ability range.
- Camping: Where is the best place you recommend to set up our tents and use as a base camp for our trip.
Fitness is no issue, and I have plenty of experience outdoors with camping, hiking, scrambling and have done several via ferratas but no experience with mountaineering as such.
Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.
Have a look at the Aiguilles Rouges on the opposite side of the Cham Valley to the main mountains. There's good glacier free walking with superb views and huts for multi day loops.
There's also lots of alternative places to walk in the Alps and other areas which are at least as good as walking around Chamonix. Many less crowded and even prettier.
Agree, much as I like Chamonix, for walking rather than climbing, there are other areas which are probably better, most of which are less crowded & many of which have better weather. Look at places such as the Vanoise, the Ecrins or the Maritime Alps.
If you are staying at a campsite you get free local bus / train travel which is really useful. Many campsites available, I would suggest the one in Argentiere might fit the bill nicely. Lots of walking accessible from the campsite.
So many day walks and ways of linking, you almost need to identify what you want to see and then choose your routes around those. This site may help: Hiking trails - Chamonix Mont Blanc tourist office, France
Two of the classic, spectacular walks would be the Balcon Nord and the Balcon Sud. These are high level traverses each side of the Chamonix valley. You can walk up, along and down one in a day ( or take uphill and / or downhill transport if you prefer ). A lovely walk could go from the campsite up towards Lac Blanc, along to the Brevent and walk down to Chamonix for free bus back to campsite. Alternatively take the bus to Cham first then walk ( or lift ) up to Brevent and walk along to Lac Blanc and stay the night in beautiful hut right by the lake. Bonus being the walks are much quieter as soon as the lifts stop operating and plenty of wildlife to see; Ibex, Marmots, Eagles. Next day you could descend to campsite.
You can get really close and personal to glaciers and the big cliffs on the Balcon Nord. Walk ( or train ) up to Montenvers. Visit the Mer de Glace if you wish and are happy with steep ladders. Then walk along to the mid station of the Aiguille de Midi. You can walk down to Chamonix, take the lift down or even stay the night in the excellent Plan Aiguille refuge.
You could link these routes together from your campsite by walking or bus to Chamonix, get up to Balcon Nord and stay at the Plan Aiguille hut. Descend to Chamonix and go back up the opposite side of the valley to Brevent ( lift or walk ) and walk along to Lac Blanc to stay the night. Descend back to campsite.
There are so many walks accessible from the campsite such as the Berard Valley including visiting the summit of Le Buet at just over 3,000 metres ( no glacier but sometimes snow patches ), walking up to the Argentiere glacier snout and onto the glacier ( no ropes needed ), walking up to the Albert Premier Refuge with spectacular views of the glacier.
I do suggest checking in on line or by visiting the Office d'Haute Montagne ( OHM ) to check up to date trail conditions and ensuring huts are open. Sometimes there can be snow on the trails which ( if in the shade or early morning ) can be quite icy before the sun softens them.
High Mountain Office - Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Health, emergencies Chamonix-Mont-Blanc
What Mark Haward said!
My only addition is to go as soon as LD is lifted, it may be quieter and you may actually be able to get into some huts. Book huts (they all have phones and many have an internet booking service. English is widely spoken, though they tend to assume you're German for some reason - or is that just me?) many only take cash.
The Aiguile Rouge are not only great in themselves, but you get magnificent views of the glaciated mess opposite - somebody dropped the wedding cake!
Many years ago, I did a hut to hut tour in the Aiguilles Rouges with my wife.
One of the best hiking trips I've done.
Some information here:
This Alpine Conditions page gives a summary of what is being climbed at the moment, what is 'in' nick and what the prospects are...