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Peak Transfer | Hiking Essentials in the Mountains – Chamonix Hiking
4th June 2015

Hiking Essentials in the Mountains – Chamonix Hiking

Mont Blanc and Chamonix are often associated with the Super Endurance Enthusiasts of the UTMB trail runners or Extreme Sport Thrill seekers of the back country/ free skiers and Alpinists. But you don’t have to be super fit or a daredevil to appreciate the mountains and its beauty in the Chamonix valley. You dont have to be a serious hiker either, with over 350km of well maintained trails and at least 160 different routes in the Chamonix Valley alone there is a hike for everyone. However, the mountains and mother nature are not to be taken lightly and for this reason we have written about the Hiking Essentials you should have in your pack when exploring the Mountains in particular in and around the Chamonix Valley.

The 10 Essentials

What are the ‘10 Essentials’ I hear you ask. The 10 Essentials of hiking originally came about from American based organisation ‘The Mountaineers’ in the 1930’s to help budding young climbers and adventures be prepared for all the mountains could throw at them. Simply its a list of the very minimum equipment anyone should take with them to be adequately prepared for the mountains. However after a few revisions (8 to be exact) they are extremely applicable to day hiking and trekking in the mountains to date. Although, some perhaps more experience walkers and hikers may tell you some items are a bit ‘overkill’ for a simplistic routine hike, the mountains are very unpredictable and these items are perhaps never fully appreciated until you are in desperate need of them!
So here they are the 10 Essentials are Safety, Survival and Basic Comfort in the Mountains:

1. Navigation

Maps

Trails are mostly signposted in the Chamonix Valley but even so a map is an absolute must. Many of the technological amongst you might feel that a GPS is sufficient but these can and do fail occasionally. You can’t go wrong with a map. If your hiking in and around Chamonix we recommend the 3630 OT (obviously this is route dependant). This is the French equivalent of the OS maps you can obtain in the UK. Its very easy to pick up a map in Chamonix, most of the book/ souvenir shops on the high street and around town stock them. I would recommend keeping your map in a waterproof case or container to preserve the lifespan and incase you get caught of in the rain. There are also a lot of great guide books out there! One of my favourites is Cicerone’s ‘Mont Blanc Walks’ by Hilary Sharp a local International Mountain Leader containing 50 walks and 4 short treks in the region.Mont Blanc Walks Guide Book used by Peak Transfer

Compass / GPS

A compass weighs next to nothing and is a vital tool if you become disoriented (a.k.a. lost!). However, its pretty redundant unless you know how to use it. Brush up on your map reading and barings skills before you head out (in will only take 10 minutes or so). Nowadays there are quite a few GPS devices available but do bare in mind that these are reliant on the right maps uploaded, batteries and therefore can fail. the compass is the ultimate backup and usually has a few other optional extras attached (like a mirror for emergency signalling etc).Peak Transfer use a Garmin Fenix in addition to a map and compass when hiking in Chamonix

2. Sun protection

Suncream

Yes, we know this is just plain common sense but you will be surprised how many red faces / shoulders/ arms & legs can be seen in the bars of Chamonix of a night time (and No the classic nose/cheek shades/goggle tan line is not in fashion or a badge of honour!) Its not enough just to smother yourself before you go out for the day. Make sure you take it with you and reapply as much as necessary. This will be a lot more at altitude!

Sunglasses, Lip Block & Hat

Don’t forget your ‘Sunnies’ to protect your eyes especially if travelling on snow or ice. and spf lip block. I never go without my buff and a sunhat to keep myself protected from the sun as well as cold & wet!Peak Transfer Chamonix Hiking with Sun Protection is essential

3. Insulation

As mentioned before a hat and/ or buff can protect from the hot and cold elements. In the mountains and at high altitude it is surprising how chilly it  gets even without poor weather. If your going high make sure to pack gloves, waterproof jacket, and extra clothing appropriate to the season. Just an extra pair of clean socks on its own can be great morale if feet get wet or sweaty let alone hypothermia protection.

4. Illumination

You may not be planning a night descent down from the mountains but you never know. That scenic route might have taken you a little longer than expected or that ‘one last beer’ in the refuge was just to good to resist. Or unfortunately, due to health or injury your having to go much slower than planned. Either way you should always take a small Headlamp or flashlight (and possibly spare batteries). There are some brilliant cheap small and lightweight LED bulb head torches on the market. Make sure you pick one up!
AlpKit head lamp Chamonix Hiking Essentials by Peak Transfer

5. First-aid supplies

No one expects to obtain or come down with an injury! But it happens to the best of us! Suddenly those blissfully comfy walking boots have given you outrageous blistering hot spots, or a quick slip has caused a deep cut  or a rolled ankle. Thats why its so important to carry a first aid kit with you. We are not talking about a full paramedic set up as big as your pack! In just a 12cm x 12cm x 3.5cm  LokTop waterproof bag & less than 100g I can fit the following which i take with me everywhere whether i am hiking, biking or running the trails (Compeed blister plasters, Pack of Assorted Plasters, Elasticated Cohesive bandage/support, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, Sterile Low Adherent Dressing, Safety Pins, emergency Sun cream Sachet, Sterile Non-Woven Swabs (Gauze swabs), Zinc Oxide Tape, and small insect repellent, paracetamol, ibuprofen). Lifesystems provide a great range of prepared, waterproof first aid kits such an the Light & Dry Nano First Aid Kit I use below on their website.Peak Transfer use Lifesystems First Aid Kit when hiking in Chamonix
This list is not exhaustive you can find a more comprehensive check list from the Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) here.

6.Fire

Yes it seems a little extreme for a day hike but what’s the harm in carrying a Butane lighter, fire starter or matches in waterproof container just in case things get serious!Light My Fire Tool for Chamonix Hiking Essentials

7. Repair kit and tools

We are not talking about your whole DIY tool box collection here! Being so near the swiss border it would be rude not to include the trusty swiss army knife (aka multi tool). Those of you that have had the experience of a boot lace snapping, pole breaking, DIY first aiding or ripping your pack or garment on that jagged aided section near the summit. Know the brilliant qualities of a swiss army knife, duct tape and possibly a cable tie.Peak Trasnfer use Victorinox Climber tool for hiking

8. Nutrition

Even if your planning just a short hike to a popular refuge/ hut for a spot of lunch always take some extra/ emergency food with you. Dry food is nice and light and keep well even in the scorching summer sun. Plus its added morale on that quick rest stop. For those that are planning longer more rural hikes make sure you include foods or electrolytes with a bit of salt to replace any salt lost through sweating. I always take at least a handful of pretzels with me but there are plenty of other salt sources!

9. Hydration

When planning your walk make sure you know whether there are any refuges or fresh water fountains to refill. Otherwise you will need to take all the required water (plus emergency extra) with you. Its always a good idea to start a hike already hydrated this means drinking (water not beer) the night before and in the morning before you head off! I tend to carry 2 liters of water on a typical hike and where i know i can refill on longer hikes. You really should be drinking at least half a litre an hour at the very minimum although this is dependent on weather conditions and what your body is used to! In the mountains there are a lot of fresh water streams or glacier melt but it’s always best to take a filtration system if you plan to do this! Also dont forget to rehydrate after your hike (again ideally a bit of water than than just beer).

10. Emergency shelter

Even on my day hikes or trail runs I always carry a foil blanket. Not only is it useful from a survival prospective for first aid or keeping in warmth but also as (a pretty basic) emergency shelter. On longer more exposed hikes it’s a good idea to take a Bivvy bag (bivouac sack) or black bin liners which can be used for emergency shelters or just to sit on while having a spot of lunch when it’s a bit muddy/ dusty out there! Again I have Lifesystems Foil Blanket or Alpkits Hunka Bivvy with me always!Emergency shelter is a major part of Chamonix hiking essentials
I supplement the 10 essentials with an Emergency Whistle, Hiking Poles, Hand Sanitiser and mobile phone with the relevant emergency and mountain rescue contact numbers listed below. Last but not least a camera if (like me) your mobile equivalent just doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the mountains!

Emergency contacts

Secours en Montagne / Mountain Rescue
+33 (0)4 50 53 16 89
Ambulances / Emergency Medical Assistance
+33 (0)4 50 53 46 20

Im sure you will not have any trouble enjoying the mountains in and around the Mont Blanc Region but remember that ol’ cliche… SAFTY FIRST!

Happy Hiking!

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