Tour du Mont Blanc Hiking Guides Celebration October 10th, 2009 • by Beth Poulin A Time to Celebrate the Celebrated: The Festival du Guides in Chamonix Although pretty much everything about our adventures here at Boundless Journeys excite us, nothing inspires more pride than the local guides we work with in each of our destinations. Some of the world’s most famous guides hail from the small alpine sports haven of Chamonix in the French Alps, where the “Compagnie des Guides” has been set in place for almost 200 years. It is here that those who spend their days concentrating on the needs of others get a special day to concentrate on themselves; no work, just play (although to some of these dedicated Guides, there work is just as fun as play anyway!). On the 15th of August, each year without fail since the Compagnie’s inception, the Festival begins at 8 am sharp in the center of Chamonix with a pilgrimage of hundreds of leaders across the town cemetery in remembrance of those who have lost their lives while guiding. Traffic is shut down as they return en masse to the “Statue de Balmat”, erected to honor the famous Guide who was the first person to ever summit the massif of Mont Blanc. The men and woman who make this mountain town so special are dressed in traditional garb reminiscent of Guiding uniforms over 150 years ago – complete with climbing ropes and ice axes, the Guides don leather shoes, black and white patterned socks, a white collared shirt, and a matching grey jacket with knickers or skirt. They spend the morning awarding medals (called “Choucas”), congratulating those who have passed recent Guiding Exams, and celebrating the bonds between Guide and Guide, Guide and Mountain, and Guide and Traveler. It is in the late afternoon that the party really gets going. Local residents and shopkeepers, or “Chamoniards”, break out an impromptu open-air market showcasing local cheeses and meats. There is music, shows, and a huge fireworks display, all of which are usually drowned out by the laughter of the celebratory town. It is an honor to not only be a part of the festival, but also a privilege to be a spectator, as you catch a glimpse into the true spirit of a town who’s residents are truly dedicated to living, sharing, and respecting the essence of adventure. Any and all profits from the Festival go directly to guides who are injured while on the trail, or to the families of those who have lost their lives. If you would like to be a part of this special event, check out the August 16th-24th date in 2010 for our France, Italy, & Switzerland: Tour du Mont Blanc hiking itinerary to help commemorate some of the most celebrated leaders in the world. About Boundless Journeys: Boundless Journeys is an award-winning small group adventure tour operator, selected as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic ADVENTURE, February 2009; and a “World’s Best” tour operator by Travel + Leisure, August 2009. With a diverse collection of locally guided, small group itineraries around the world, Boundless Journeys offers “The World’s Great Adventures.” The adventure trips for 2-16 guests are active, ranging from leisurely cultural explorations and wildlife safaris to challenging trekking in remote regions ? with plenty of easy to moderate walking and sea kayaking in between. For more information, please call 1-800-941-8010 or visit https://www.boundlessjourneys.com.