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The Independent Travel
IT'S NOT normally a problem with the Internet but travellers with a penchant for Mont Blanc - at 15,536ft the highest mountain in Western Europe - had better brush up on their French.

For obvious reasons, a vast proportion of the websites on the subject are in French. However, for those of us whose pidgin French falls below the standard required for any practical use, there are still alternatives.

Of the English-speaking sites, Above the Clouds offers what it calls "one of the truly classic walks on the planet" giving hikers a chance,

not to climb the mountain, but to circumnavigate it.

The cuisine en route, it suggests (rather hedging its bets), is "world class by chalet standards", although the trip is not cheap by the standards of walking holidays, with prices at around pounds 1,000.

The site has a rather fetching picture of some trendy Euro-travellers surrounded by some pleasantly rustic-looking donkeys, managing to give that all-important get-away-from-it-all impression. It promises that "most of your time is spent between 4,000ft and 7,000ft, with the highest point reached being Tete des Nord Fours at 9,045ft. There are splendid views and fascinating cultural contrasts and similarities throughout this multinational alpine region. Nights will be spent in mountain chalets or refuges, where we meet fellow-trekkers from all over Europe."

Another organisation offering similar trips is Sherpa Treks, although it's worth bearing in mind that the organisation classifies walks as being "strenuous" with daily height gains of up to 1,000m, which, it seems to me, is fairly heavy going. Hiking at that rate would take you to the top of Everest in about a week.

Above the Clouds

www.gorp.com/abvclds/montblan.htm

Sherpa Treks

www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk

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