The Haute Route Trek is one of the world’s great multi-day treks. The route links two renowned alpine mountaineering centres, Chamonix in France, home to Mount Blanc and Zermatt in Switzerland, home to the Matterhorn.
While we try and stick to the tried and tested itinerary below, the mountain and the weather sometimes has other ideas. We will always remain as flexible as possible, which is why we only work with experienced and knowledgable guides, to make sure we can change any plans if required.
Arrival in Chamonix
Your trip starts in the historic French mountain town of Chamonix. Our guide will give a briefing about the days to come, and can check out clothing and gear if need be. If you need more equipment, Chamonix has a huge number of outdoor shops with a large choice of kit, so it’s a great place to top up your supplies. Dinner and overnight in Chamonix.
Chamonix to Trient
We set off and leave Chamonix behind on the Mont Blanc Express train that drops us at the head of the valley. We begin our hike by ascending to the Aiguillette des Posettes which provides stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley. We’ll stop for lunch and enjoy the incredible views over Le Tour glacier and behind to the jagged peaks of the high Alps. After this we traverse along the Le Tour ski area and head over the Col de Balme and down to Trient, having officially crossed over into Switzerland.
13.5km / 1200m up / 1100m down / 6-7 hours trekking
Col de la Forclaz to Lac de Louvie
The family-run ‘Alpage de Bovine’ gives the first part of our day its name as we steadily climb the ‘Bovine Trail’ to the traditional summer retreat of the ‘Alpage’. Next up is a descent through the gorge to a rustic cafe at Plan de L’Au and a short transfer to the remote village of Fionnay. There is now a journey into the hills along the truly stunning trail leading to the beautiful Cabane de Louvie. The spectacularly located cabane is perched some 750m above you and the challenging trail leading to it offers increasingly breathtaking panoramas across many of the 4000m peaks of the Alps. Thankfully we can get our breath back with a welcome drink at the top!
18km / 1250m up / 550m down / 7-9 hours trekking
Cabane de Louvie to the Cabane de Prafleuri
Traversing two cols from one high mountain hut to the next, this day is possibly the most dramatic of the trek. First thing in the morning we follow the shoreline of a glassy lake, where if we are blessed with still weather, the surrounding mountains can be perfectly reflected on the surface. The trail then leads us steeply up to a high path which meanders beneath the cliffs. We now head for the Col de Louvie passing at 2921m before descending onto the edge of the Grand Desert Glacier. The Col de Prafleuri is our next goal, taking you even higher to 2987m. Not too far away is the Cabane de Prafleuri (2624m), where we spend another peaceful evening in the mountains. Staying up at high altitude provides us the best chance to see families of ibex (‘bouquetins’ in French) grazing.
18km / 820m up / 550m down / 7-9 hours trekking
Lac de Dix to La Sage
Now that we are accustomed and acclimatised to the rigors of the mountains we start out with a climb to gain the Col de Roux. Early morning on this col with views to the glacier and the milky waters of Lac de Dix is a great start to the day. Rewarded by views of the Pigne D’Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, we descend gently to follow the lake to its end, usually passing a few whistling marmots on our way. An exciting part of the trek is up next, with a steep ascent to the Col de Riedmatten or the ‘Pas de Chevre’ (translating to Goats’ Path) and its brand new ladders, which having been replaced in 2015, make for a much easier crossing than in previous years. The rest of the day is all downhill to the alpine village of Arolla, nestled in its very own forest of Arolla pines. Here you can have a drink and a rest before taking a transfer to La Sage where we rendez-vous with our kit bags!
22km / 1100m up / 1360m down / 8-9 hours trekking
La Sage to Zinal
This day involves crossing two high cols so we start early and ascend to the Col de Torrent at 2912m. The subsequent descent takes us to the green waters of the Lac de Moiry, where there is a café at the dam (hurrah!). Now we can see some of the giant peaks of the Pennine Alps, including the magnificent Dent Blanche (aptly named white-tooth). The demanding Col de Sorebois is up next – slightly shorter than the Col de Torrent it shouldn’t present any difficulties. From our high point we are rewarded with fabulous vistas across to the Weisshorn, the Dent Blanche and the Zinalrothorn.
24km / 2000m up / 1850m down / 8-9 hours trekking
Zinal to Gruben
With just one col on the itinerary today we can relax on the gentle ascent this morning and look out for nutcracker birds which are found in these woods. Upon gaining the summer alpine meadow we traverse the mountainside on a nice undulating trail until we reach the junction of the path for two Cols; the Col de la Forcletta (2874m) and the Meidpass (2790m). Normally, we take the Forcletta as it offers great views of the glaciers and peaks of the Turtmann valley; however the decision lies with the guide and depends on conditions on the day. We usually arrive at the col around lunchtime for a welcome break. On the descent there is often an opportunity to see the increasingly rare edelweiss flower.
19km / 1315m up / 1165m down / 7-8 hours trekking
Gruben to Zermatt
The last day of trekking does not disappoint as we start out through open woodland before heading into high pastures. Our final pass is the Augstbordpass at 2894m. Behind the pass is a descent into a bowl where we follow a rocky trail which clings to the mountainside. We stop at the Twära viewpoint for a magnificent view into the Mattertal (although the Matterhorn mountain remains elusive until reaching Zermatt!). We then begin our descent to the pretty hamlet of Jungu, followed by a final steep section to the town of St. Niklaus. There is an option to save your knees and take the “characterful” cable car down from Jungu (not included) which eliminates the final 1000 metres of descent. From St Niklaus we take a short train or taxi ride into the iconic town of Zermatt and see its pride – the Matterhorn. We enjoy a final meal together here contemplating the highs of the week before falling into bed.
16km / 1070m up / 1765m down / 7 hours trekking
Departure after breakfast.