Hiking the Haute Route traverse between Chamonix and Zermatt

Are you looking for the perfect holiday where you can combine your love of extreme sport with adventure? Well then, the Haute Route is for you. Although not exactly an ‘extreme sport’ being a hike rather than a mountain climb, the fact that it takes 12+ days and is a combination of difficult to very difficult trails, we think makes it fit neatly into our catagory.

You might remember that I did an article on the Haute Route several months ago – right in the middle of our winter and therefore a possible area of interest to any skier or snowboarder.

But now with summer upon us, this route is also available to hikers and climbers. It was, after all, first charted as a summer mountaineering route in the mid-19th century by the Alpine Club (UK). It was first successfully traversed on skies in 1911.

Since the ‘Haute Route’ has become a bit of a generic expression for high level, multi-day, hut-to-hut tours, this route is now known as the “Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route”.

If you are thinking of walking the Haute Route this summer, you will need to know that it is a 180 km (108 mi) hike and is normally done in 15 stages, or 12+ days – this is very flexible.

This is not just a route that you can stroll along admiring the magnificent scenery (although of course you will be doing plenty of that). It is a serious mountain hike involving 3 different standards of hiking:

  • gradual ascents or descents along well defined paths or tracks. Suitable for novice walkers.
  • considerable ascents and descents over moderate fell type terrain
  • and strenuous sometimes exposed routes requiring map reading and navigational skills

You start your hike at Chamonix at 1037m, at the lowest level you will descend to 717m and the highest ascent will be to 2965m – with many days of ups and downs inbetween!

The Haute Route has what is thought to be the greatest collection of four thousand metre peaks in the Alps, it culminates at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Mont Blanc will remain in view for much of the hike, but you will also become familiar with other equally impressive peaks such as the Grand Combin, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d’Arolla, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn.

It is a spectacular walk, but strenuous – crossing eleven passes, many over 2,700 m (9000 feet). While some days will be extremely hard work, there will also be leisurely days where you can bathe in and enjoy the beauty surrounding you. However, you must be very fit and well-prepared for this walk as there are a few very long days over difficult rugged, open terrain.

The hiking trails are generally well graded and well defined which makes for great hiking. There are, however, sections that include mud, snow, loose rock, and scree. There may be a section that includes a 70 foot ladder.

Good luck and enjoy. It will be worth it.