If you are not allergic to the south-west side of Mont Blanc this is a tour you can do in 3 – 4 days. Quite a lot of climbing at the start though. It is a glacial route which implies crevasse rescue kit and a GPS is not a luxury with all the refuge programmed as finding places in fog can be extremely tricky (I speak from experience).
Day 1: Cugnon to the Tré-la-Tête refuge. V+ 750m / 2h30.
Cugnon is a small hamlet just after les Contamines/Montjoie
From the Cugnon parking take the trail that climbs through the woods to les Plans via the climbing area to the refuge. Due to the south facing nature of the trail you often don’t find snow cover below 1300m, even in winter.
This is often done in the afternoon, avoid the higher Claudius Bernard trail as it is very exposed to avalanches. Watch out for purges under the Pointe de Chaborgne, some of these can be substantial. If there is any doubt about stability (temperatures > 0C, fresh snow, recent rain at altitude) take “Roman Road” from Notre Dame de la Gorge to the Roman Bridge cross over via the Nant Borrant and Pont de Laya. Cross the Combe Noire bridge then head for the Tete Noire and EDF cable car. Take care to avoid slipping if there is snow/ice cover.
Latitude: 45.793, Longitude: 6.737
Day 2: Tré-la-Tête refuge → Pain de Sucre du mont Tondu (3169m) → refuge Robert Blanc (2750m)
V+ 1200m, V- 400m
(you could combine D1 and D2)
Climb the wide ridge above the refuge to the Mauvais Pas (bad step) and traverse down to the glacier Tré-la-Tête, this is a exposed and a “no fall” section. The snow is often humid. Pass the seracs on the left close to the rock faces to reach the upper basin of the glacier to reach the base of Tondu glacier at 2550 m. Pass the col du Mont Tondu on your left to reach a small pass that leads to the north west ridge of the Pain de Sucre to climb to the summit (3196m).
Traverse the ridgeline to the col du Mont Tondu (2895m). Descend the steep south facing slopes, a cliff band is equipped with cables at 2800 which may be under the snow… you may need to fix a rope here. If the cable is visible secure youself and climb down. Traverse via the moraine de l’aiguille des Lanchettes to the Robert Blanc (The “Robert Blanc” of les Arcs fame) refuge.
Altitude: 2750m Latitude: 45.7655, Longitude: 6.7742
Day 3: Robert Blanc → epaule de l’aiguille des Glaciers (3700m) → col des Glaciers (3063m) → refuge des Conscrits (2600m)
V+ 1300m, V- 2000m
From the refuge descend to circumnavigate the south ridge of the pointe des Lanchettes, climb the glacier des Glaciers by the right bank (left side of glacier). Follow some steepish slopes to the Dome de Neige (3592m).
Depending on the snow cover you can follow the ridge to the col des Glaciers but this is exposed, better to descend the glacier and climb a small cliff to the col. The north side is steep at first (40 degrees). Rejoin the Tré-la-Tête glacier at around 2500m after skiing past a rock outcrop. Climb 100m+ to the refuge de Conscrits. This is an impressive, modern structure with nice dormitories but with rudimentary sanitation in the winter which belies its “boutique” looks.
Altitude: 2602m Latitude: 45.793, Longitude: 6.778
Day 4: Refuge des Conscrits (2600m) → Domes de Miage (3670m) → Cugnon
V+ 1050m, V- 2450m
From the refuge climb up the moderate slopes behind then traverse to rejoin the glacier around 2750 meters. You may want ski crampons if the snow is hard and icy. Head towards the col Infranchisable (site of illegal heliski drops), avoid a serac/crevasse zone at pt 3336 meters by keeping to the right as you climb to the col des Domes (3564m).
Descend via the glacier d’Armancette (after following the famous Miage ridge – crampons, iceaxe) to reach the high point of 3670m. Under the col de la Berangere there is about 150m of steepish skiing (40 degrees), keep to the right of the glacier than at 3100m avoid a serac band on the left. Continue on the right bank. At 2750 leave the glacier on the right for a short climb to a col (pt. 2722m). Descend a valley with rock wall on the right. At about 2500m take a short, exposed couloir which leads to a small plateau. Keep to the right and ski under the pt 2330m into the Covagnet valley, this narrows at the bottom to exit at the lac d’Armancette (1673m). Follow a forest trail to Cugnon.
Route finding is complex and should only be undertaken in good visibility. Otherwise return by the Tré-la-Tête glacier following a narrow gorge below the Mauvais Pas before climbing to the Tré-la-Tête refuge.