At 66, I felt a bit like the father of the hiking community when I hiked around Mont Blanc earlier this fall. But the Tour du Mont Blanc is doable for any reasonably fit hiker, and there were plenty of people on the trail who were older than me.
For total novices like Shelley and me, it’s wise to be proactive about health and safety. Here are some tips I learned along the way:
Good boots, liner socks, slippery powder, and moleskin for tender skin are essential. We kind of became gear geeks — investing in good day bags (Osprey), woolen clothes (socks, underwear, shirts), and great hiking shoes. I was never so thankful for a wool cap in Europe.
I was skeptical about a lot of “good ideas,” but two things I eventually appreciated were a daily baggie of trail mix and my metal water bottle. (I complained about its steep $40 price tag…but soon came to recognize it was a great value).
I must say, if the weather turned bad and it rained hard, I think much of the trail would become no fun at all. In fact, it would be dangerous. Hiking poles are essential, and even in perfect weather, I would have been worried about a stumble without my own trusty set.
Eat a solid breakfast. The one day we had breakfast with no protein, climbing was tougher.
Put on sunscreen, even if the weather’s bad.
After learning my lesson on other long hikes, I decided to be religious about stretching on the Tour du Mont Blanc from the start. I had a routine of six stretches and spent time throughout the day making sure I didn’t tighten up. Very important!
Don’t be a hero. If skin is getting hot, wrap it up. I did the entire TMB hike without a blister — and then just got one on purpose in the last two hours.
Good gear, smart and proactive ways to stay healthy, stretching, and taking it easy… it all worked just great.
I’ll be sharing more photos, stories, and tips from Mont Blanc on the Nov. 29 edition of Monday Night Travel. Want to come along? Register now for this fun — and free! — event.