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The Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt

Yesterday I waxed lyrical about an extreme vacation in southern Peru, and today I’m going to suggest another one – this time in Europe: the Haute Route between France and Switzerland.

The High Level Route was the name given to a route (with several variations) undertaken on foot or by ski touring between Chamonix, France and Zermatt in Switzerland.

First charted as a summer mountaineering route by members of the Alpine Club (UK) in the mid 19th century – 1861 to be exact, the route takes around 12+ days walking (or 6+ days skiing) running the 180 km from the Chamonix valley, home of Mont Blanc to Zermatt, the home of the Matterhorn.

The route was successfully skied for the first time in 1911 and became known by the French translation of its name: the Haute Route.

In this picture you can see two alpinists following the trail in the snow.

The Haute Route ski tour is probably the most famous and coveted ski tour in the world. It is certainly extreme. Using high mountain huts to allow skiers to stay overnight and cover substantial distances, it winds through the highest, most dramatic peaks of the Alps. It requires good weather, favourable snow conditions and strong effort to complete the route. Because of this, only 50% of the skiers who begin the tour complete it.

This famous ski tour justifies its popular reputation on account of the fabulous mountain scenery, the tough climbs, the exhilarating descents and the enormous sense of achievement when arriving in Zermatt.

For an advanced skier it really is a “must do” trip, one that you’ll never forget.

Skiers must be able to ski in variable snow conditions. You should be able to ski “off piste” in all types of ungroomed snow. Also, for the climbs, skiers should be able to execute uphill kick-turns without difficulty. This is a challenging tour which requires skiers to be in excellent shape not just for the downhill skiing but also for the uphill sections. A basic knowledge of general mountaineering techniques is helpful but not necessary.

Thanks to chamonixguiding for posting this video:

There is occasionally a danger of collapsing glaciers which can render the path virtually impassable. However, if there is a problem, a lower level variation exists that crosses no glaciers.

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