Combining their fondness for international travel, a love of the outdoors and a passion for hiking, Enumclaw’s Chilman family this summer tackled the popular Tour du Mont Blanc.
The 110-mile trek is generally regarded as one of the most popular hikes in all of Europe. Various routes pass through Switzerland, Italy and France.
The Chilmans – Tyler, Cheryl and 11-year-old daughter Mette – made an extended stay. They were gone 35 days, with 11 days spent on the TMB hike and the rest on a 2,500-mile road trip through France. An integral part of the trip was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.
The Tour du Mont Blanc hike was a special part of the visit to France, but it had long been in the planning stages. Tyler and Cheryl had first attempted the hike in 2000 but high winds and whiteout conditions forced them off the mountain.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Chilmans were ready to see more of France, with their daughter old enough to enjoy the experience.
“We wanted an activity thrown in,” Tyler wrote in notes about the trip, and that desire evolved into the TMB hike. They began training in January of this year, climbing local Mount Peak and expanding their efforts to Mount Si and Mailbox Peak in the North Bend area. Ramping up their training regimen, they began carrying backpacks, something they would do throughout the TMB experience.
The family departed SeaTac airport on June 24 and spent a night in Iceland (celebrating Tyler and Cheryl’s 25th anniversary), then flew to Geneva, Switzerland, and then made their way to Les Houches, France, celebrating Tyler’s 50th birthday. Les Houches serves as a starting point for the counter-clockwise trek through the Alps that makes up the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Most TMB hikers stay in refuges that are conveniently located along the way, but the Chilmans instead stuck primarily to their plan and slept in a tent. There was an exception in the mountain village of Courmayer, where they stayed in a hotel and explored the town.
Hiking through Italy was the most scenic part of the experience, both Tyler and Mette agreed, and a challenging element was tossed in on Day 10: taking the Via Ferrate Route, hikers climb ladders periodically due to the sheer rock face of the mountain (“It was a lot of fun,” Tyler noted).
With the climb successfully completed, the Chilmans spent 20 days touring France, with World War II a major theme. Highlights include visits to Omaha Beach and the Overlord Museum, along with lunch at the Café Gondrée (the first building recaptured by Allied forces on French soil).
That was followed by visits to the Loire Valley, Limoges and the walled city of Carcassone. The trip included historic ruins, ancient cave paintings, a bullfight (where the bull returns home after being “tagged” by the matador) and ancient Roman theaters.