Tete de la Tronche seen from Chapy
Tete de la Tronche is the high point on the Mont de la Saxe ridge between Val Ferret and Val Sapin. The mountain connects to the high alp region east of Courmayeur via the Col Sapin pass. The mountain can hardly be called dominating, with Mont Blanc and Grandes Jorasses as the neighbours in the north and Aig. de Chambave and Grande Rochere in the east. However, the mountain gives you some spectacular views, and especially towards Mt. Blanc. The entire Glacier de la Brenva from Mt. Blanc is visible on the hike to the summit. You also have a clear view towards the Helbronner Telepherique that takes you from Courmayeur and high onto the Mt. Blanc massif.
You can reach Tete de la Tronche via the Tour du Mont Blanc trail (TMB). The hike fits well for families with children and passes Refuge Bertone halfway between the trailhead and the summit. From the summit, you can reach the trailhead via Col Sapin and get a long, nice round-trip.
Tete de la Tronche has a primary factor of 149m towards the higher Aig. de Chambave (3067m). The saddle is Col Sapin and has a denoted height of 2435m on the 1:50 000 map.
Please refer to guide books for proper trail descriptions to the Tour du Mont Blanc trail (TMB). Use this trip report only to supplement information you have already obtained. The information on this web site is published in good faith, and I accept no liability for the information published.
Aug 7 was "rest day" after our successful Mt. Blanc hike the day before. Aug 8, my friend Bjørn and I decided to drive from Chamonix to Courmayeur and hike Tete de la Tronche. We drove through the 11Km Mt. Blanc tunnel, which was shut down between 1999 and 2002 due to a fire causing 39 people to lose their lives. I have driven through many tunnels, but never seen security measures like in this tunnel.
Shortly after the tunnel, we entered Italy and the city of Courmayeur. We only had a 1:50 000 map, but it was pretty clear where the mountain was. From Courmayeur, it was just a matter of steering towards the Val Sapin valley and signs towards Villair. We followed the road until road end where adequate parking was found.
The gravel road continued beyond the parking (at approx. 1340m altitude), but further driving was not accessible to the public. Shortly after leaving the trailhead, we followed signs towards Refuge Bertone that provided a shortcut back onto the gravel road higher up. Immediately after rejoining the gravel road, the trail begun on the left hand side of the road. The trail switchbacked gently all the way to the Refuge at 1989m. The view upwards was blocked by the forest, which was quite OK. It was an insane hot day, and our muscles still remembered the Mt. Blanc ascent. Not seeing how far away the Refuge was, suited us well.
We arrived the Refuge before noon, and the restaurant didn't open until 12:30PM. I had been looking forward to replacing the water bottles, as the water I had bought in the store tasted awful. It might have been the minerals that tasted so bad, but when you'd rather go thirsty, new water becomes high priority. The water from the spring didn't taste any better, so I just wanted to move on. The hillside was filled with people coming from all directions. There is a trail junction just above the Refuge with some of the most spectacular views I have seen - the south face of the Mt. Blanc massif.
After the steep hills above Refuge Bertone, we continued over a long ridge towards Tete Bernada [2534m], a hill located just before Tete de la Tronche. Just before climbing onto Tete Bernada, we got a great view towards Val Ferret. The trail along the hillside up to Tete de la Tronche is unproblematic in summer, but with a crust of ice, I would not have walked without crampons and axe here. A couple was sitting below the summit, and I quickly realized why. The summit was crowded with flying ants, and just taking a round of pictures was an annoying experience. I get a little stressed when insects crawl all over my body. We escaped the summit quickly and had lunch on a narrow spot high above Col Sapin. I admired the sharp towers of Grande Rochere and Aig. de Chambave. I wished I could go scrambling in those mountains, but couldn't spot even one possible unroped ascent route from my angle.
After lunch, we followed the trail from Col Sapin towards Chapy. This stretch is not a part of the TMB trail, but just as nice. The trail stayed high in the hillside for a long distance until it climbed sudden down to the tiny, partly desolated village of Chapy. From Chapy, Tete de la Tronche had a more prominent appearance than from the ridge above Refuge Bertone. From Chapy, we followed the road back to the trailhead. The entire hike took 4 hours, 45 minutes, but you should perhaps plan for up to 6 hours for this round-trip.
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