Highlights of the Summer Haute Route Trek
The summer 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. The path passes through breathtaking alpine scenery and you will enjoy stunning mountain panoramas every step of the journey.
Spectacular views are standard on this trek and it is a great stepping stone for the trekker to experience the High Alps and its glaciers. The summer haute route trek is for hill walkers and trekkers keen to get higher in the mountains and experience some higher altitude.
The hiking route follows a network of well-marked and signposted trails that stays below 3000m and takes advantage of the popular mountain huts and small inns and hotels in the charming villages along the way. In the spring, summer and fall, the route is safe, entirely non-technical and while challenging because of its daily elevation gains and distances, is achievable by any hiker in reasonably good physical condition.
Clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button opposite, will open a new tab/window in your browser and direct you to our online tour booking system. Here you can check the course dates and availability.
- All accommodation (from the first night in Chamonix, to the last night in Zermatt)
- IML Guides fee and expenses
- Luggage transfers (apart from 2 nights in huts)
- Any transfers on itinerary
- All breakfasts and evening meals
What's not included
- Airport transfers to Chamonix & from Zermatt
- Packed Lunches
- Travel insurance
- Snacks, Bottled water, beers, drinks in huts
Who is this for?
The summer haute route trek is for hill walkers and trekkers keen to get higher in the mountains and experience some higher altitude and trekking. You should be capable of carrying a rucksack (~10kg) for 6-8 hours a day for 9 days in a row. We will be crossing high cols/saddles and traversing valleys with tricky hiking terrain such boulders and morrain. You do not need any experience of glacier crossing/using crampons as our guides will teach you all the necessary skills at the start of the course.
Accommodation and huts
During this trip the group will spend 6 nights in good quality, comfortable hotels, chalets, auberges or gîtes, and 2 nights in mountain huts with blankets or duvets provided. If you are booking as a couple you can expect to be in a twin or double room, usually with en-suite facilities. Single travellers will be accommodated in same-sex twin rooms, which are also usually en-suite. (Some of the auberges don’t have en-suite facilities but we book them where possible). In the mountain huts the accommodation will be in non-segregated dormitories. They are simple and basic but in fantastic locations. Due to the nature of the accommodation on this trip, with small hotels in remote villages, we can’t always book single rooms, so places with a single supplement are limited. Drinking water is not available in all of the huts (currently the water is not drinkable at the Prafleuri hut) in which case you may need to purchase bottled water.
Day 1 – Arrival in Chamonix
Your trip starts in the historic French mountain town of Chamonix. Our guide will give an informal 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!
Day 2 – Chamonix to Col de la Forclaz
The first morning is broken gently with a ride on the Mont Blanc Express train that drops us in the pretty hamlet of Montroc, towards the head of the Chamonix valley. From here we head up through larch woods before gaining the balcony trail which leads to the Aiguillette des Posettes. At your first mountain col there are incredible views over Le Tour glacier and behind to the jagged peaks of the high Alps. Many folk then head for the Col de Balme, but we go our own way around to Les Tseppes, which gives a remarkable first impression of the Swiss Alps, and the glacier of Trient. The day comes to an end with a climb to the Col de la Forclaz where we stay for the night (we sometimes stay in Trient and have this climb the next morning).
Approx. walking time 6-7 hours
Distance: 13.5km. Total Ascent: 1200m. Total Descent: 1100m.
Day 3 – 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’. As well as looking after the herd of prize cows this friendly Alpage provides refreshments and wonderful home-made cakes. 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!
Approx. walking time 7-9 hours (No access to kit bag)
Distance: 18 km. Total Ascent: 1250m . Total Descent: 550m .
Day 4 – 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 is 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 wanders 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 grazing.
Approx. walking time 7-9 hours. (No access to kit bag)
Distance: 18 km . Total Ascent: 820m. Total Descent: 550m .
Day 5 – 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 noisy 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!
Approx. walking time 8-9 hours
Distance: 22km. Total Ascent: 1100m. Total Descent: 1360m .
Day 6 – La Sage to Zinal
This day too involves crossing two high cols so we start early and ascend to the Col de Torrent at 2912m. The following 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 Zinal Rothorn.
Approx. walking time 8- 9 hours.
Distance: 24.5km . Total Ascent: 2000m. Total Descent: 1850m.
Day 7 – 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.
Approx. walking time 7-8 hours
(If the Meidpass is taken then the ascent, descent and distance is slightly more)
Distance 19 km. Total Ascent 1315m . Total Descent 1165m .
Day 8 – 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 remains elusive until reaching Zermatt!). Then we 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.
Approx walking time 7 hours
Distance 16 km . Total Ascent 1070m. Total Descent 1765m.
Day 9 – Depart Zermatt
Our package ends after breakfast.
There are a number of alternatives to this itinerary, we can be flexible according to the groups desires.
To maximise your chance of success and enjoyment during this trip it is important to get as fit as you possibly can. So we have partnered with Uphill Athlete, specialists in strength and conditioning for peak mountain performance.
Mountaineering is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 12 hours) and your training should reflect this. Balance is important too as you will spend many hours walking in crampons. For this a good chore strength is important.
Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury.
We highly recommend this 12 Week Basic Trekking Plan to get you in shape for the trip.
• Rucksack – approx. 30-40L
• Hiking boots – it is possible to do a lot of the SHR in walking trainers, but you should make sure they are trekkingspecific trainers (or trail-running trainers). For the June trips, hiking boots are definitely recommended as there is usually a lot of snow on the passes. Sandals are not appropriate for mountain walking so please do not bring these for trekking.
• Waterproof jacket and trousers – both essential items, should be as light as possible (not insulated: your other layers should provide the insulation).
• Trekking trousers – bring something lightweight.
• T-shirts – wicking t-shirts are better than cotton as they are lighter and dry faster.
• Mid layer – fleece jacket is good
• Warm jacket – We recommend brining a really lightweight synthetic belay jacket (eg. Rab Photon / Arcteryx Atom / Patagonia Nano) – just in case it gets cold. Remember, you are carrying this in your rucksack so it should be as light as possible. You don’t normally need to bring a down jacket because it won’t be much use if it gets wet.
• Warm hat (lightweight woolly hat is fine)
• Gloves (a light pair of gloves is fine)
• Sun Hat
• Sunglasses (essential as we will spend some time walking on snow)
• Suncream (small bottle to save weight) • Lip protection (with sun protection)
• Water bottles / camelback – you should have the capacity to carry at least 2 litres of water, but on very hot days you could need 3L.
• Walking poles – These often go in the “optional” section, but for June trips they are essential for the snowy sections.
• Sheet sleeping bag – only needed for the mountain refuge. All of the accommodation is high standard with freshly made beds, so no sleeping bags are needed. There is just one night where we stay in the Bonatti hut where the sheet sleeping bag will be needed. Silk is best, it’s lighter than cotton.
• Travel towel – again, only needed for the mountain refuge – everywhere else provides towels.
• Wash kit – Bring whatever you like for wash kit – but for the 1 night in the refuge where you have to carry it, you would normally just take a toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, mini contact lens solution if applicable, a couple of wet wipes and a tiny travel soap (although they provide ecologically sound shower gel in the showers).
• Head torch – just a lightweight torch, such as a Petzl Tikka / Zipka is fine for this trip.
• Plastic bags / dry sacks to keep essentials dry.
• Passport – to be carried whilst trekking. Make sure you keep it dry.
• Cash – for packed lunches and any drinks whilst on the trip (we have 3 nights in Switzerland, where you can spend euros if you prefer but will get a slightly better deal if paying in CHF. There is a cashpoint in La Fouly or Champex if you need CHF. You can normally spend euros if it’s just for the sake of a few drinks. There are also cashpoints in Chamonix, Les Contamines, Courmayeur and Argentière for euros).
• Basic first aid kit – your leader will carry a large first aid kit, but you should bring a small first aid kit containing plasters, blister treatment, painkillers and diarrhoea treatment (rehydration sachets and immodium)
• Thermal base layer
• Long johns / thermal leggings
• Buff – can be useful for extra warmth if it’s cold, or sun protection for your neck on a hot day
• Lightweight sandals / flip flops – whilst these are provided at the mountain refuges, they aren’t provided in the nicer hotels, so it’s really nice to have footwear to change into in the evening, especially if you want to have a wander round Courmayeur or Champex.
• Trainers – it can be nice to give your feet a break from your walking boots on some days. Your leader can advise on which days this might be suitable, and if you are thinking of doing this, your shoes must be suitable for trekking in!
• Mobile phone – there is phone reception for the majority of the trip. It is a good idea to have a phone in case of emergency or if you need to leave the group for any reason.
• Snacks – not essential as we do go past shops most days so you can top up your supply of snacks fairly regularly
• Antibacterial handwash
• Insect repellant
You can bring a small 40-50L bag that can carry your change of clothes, and anything that is not essential on the day trips. Our vehicle support will bring the bags to the hotels on most evenings other than the night at the Cabane de Mont Fort and the Prafleurie..
To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, please get in touch through the website or by phone on +33 (0)845 527 58 12.
We take a 20% deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.
We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue.
Make sure that it covers glaciated mountaineering and climbing. We recommend the Dogtag (www.dogtag.co.uk)or Travel Guard for US redicents – they have comprehensive policies and a good reputation.
Getting to Chamonix
It is best to book flights and airport transfers well in advance of your departure.
Easyjet have many cheap flights to Geneva from all over the UK. Swiss Air have cheap and convenient flights from London to Geneva.
Booking a place on a minibus airport transfer service is by far the best way to get from Geneva airport to Chamonix (it takes about an hour or so, is cost effective and is a door to door service). We can book your airport transfers at a competitive rate – just email us with your flight details…
Returning from Zermatt
This trek ends in Zermatt after breakfast on the last day. The most convenient way of returning from Zermatt to Geneva (or Zurich) is by train. Tickets can be booked in advance at www.sbb.ch – and if you are doing so, note that the Swiss Rail website defaults to the concessionary fare which is half-price (for which you need a half-price card). If you are doing any additional travelling in Switzerland at the beginning or end of this trip, then it can often be worth purchasing the half-price card, as you will have most cable cars, trains, buses and boats at half- price. For example, it’s worth having on its own if you intend to go up the Jungfraujoch in Grindelwald! There are railway stations at both Geneva and Zurich airports, and trains run regularly throughout the day. When booking flights, do make sure that you can get to the airport in time – the first train out of Zermatt is normally around 06:00, and it takes approximately 3.5 hours to reach either airport. The journey costs approximately 95 CHF. If you intend to return to Chamonix at the end of the trip, please contact our office, as if several of you want to do it, it could be better value to share a taxi, and we can help organise this.
All breakfasts and evening meals are included in the holiday price from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 9. For lunches your leader will advise on the best place to buy them each day. There will be the opportunity on some days to purchase them in local shops as buying them in the accommodation can be expensive. Drinks are not included with the dinner, but you can normally order beer, wine and soft drinks at all hotels including the mountain huts. Breakfasts in the mountain huts tend to be more basic and usually consist of tea, coffee, bread, jam and cereal. Mountain huts are becoming more used to dealing with vegetarians and more specific dietary requirements, although gluten-free can be tricky for the packed lunches as most places provide sandwiches, so it would definitely be worth bringing your own gluten-free bread if this is required. Vegans are still a mystery to the Swiss and we would recommend contacting us to discuss before booking. Feel free to ask us if you are concerned, and please do let us know in advance if you have dietary requirements.
We deliver your main luggage each day that we have vehicle access, which, on this trip, is every day apart from the 2 nights in mountain huts (Days 3 and 4). For these days the only extra things you need to carry will be a sheet sleeping bag liner, a travel towel and a basic wash kit, with perhaps a change of clothes. We ask you to keep your main luggage to one kit bag of less than 15kg, plus a small day pack (around 30L, which you will carry). Your kit bag will be collected each morning around 08:30, and is normally delivered by 16:00. Please note that you cannot usually travel with the luggage as there are no passenger seats. If you wish to have more than one kit bag, please let us know in advance as there will be a supplement to pay.
There are cash machines at Geneva airport, Chamonix, Zinal & Zermatt. Note that Geneva is in Switzerland, so you should get Swiss Francs there, as the trek start in Chamonix in France, and you can only get euros here. Mountain huts do not normally accept cards, but most of the hotels do. A coffee or soft drink costs around 4 CHF, and a beer around 5- 7 CHF. Bottled water can be expensive but we can usually fill up with tap water. The first night of this trip is in France, but all of the other nights are in Switzerland, so it could be useful to have some euros in addition to your Swiss Francs. Around 150-200 CHF plus 50 euros per person should be enough to cover your personal expenses but it does depend how many coffees, beers and wines you consume!
We need a minimum of four trekkers to run this course. Your booking will remain pending if you are the first to book onto a course and we will send you a confirmation as soon as a the course is confirmed. We recommend not booking flights till the course is confirmed. We will confirm the course at the latest 6 weeks before the start date. In order to increase the chance of confirming trips as soon as possible we team up with another couple of small suppliers, so you may be on the trip with trekkers who booked from a similar company.