Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn
Trek the classic ‘Haute Route’ from France to Switzerland
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Small Group
The Haute Route is one of Europe’s best known long distance ski-touring routes; running roughly parallel is a spectacular summer trek from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. Covering approximately 100km, it links the valleys of the Haute Savoie in France to the Swiss Valais. Following our guide (IML), our tour passes beneath ten of the twelve highest mountains in the Alps. Walking through a landscape scattered with glistening glacial lakes and lush, undulating valleys by day whilst sleeping in remote alpine huts and under canvas by night.
* All breakfasts, 10 picnic lunches, 12 dinners
* 11 nights camping, mostly in good campsites with hot showers; occasional wild camps; 2 mountain huts; 1 village inn (dormitory style)
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout with vehicle support
- Single Accommodation (available on request, tent nights only)
Spectacular mountain scenery and some of the best walking in the Alps
Challenging walking amongst the highest concentration of 4000m peaks in the Alps
Exciting high alpine towns of Chamonix and Zermatt
Start at Les Bossons, near Chamonix
Start at the campsite in Les Bossons. Wonderful views from the campsite of Mont Blanc and the Bossons glacier, especially at sunset. In theafternoon there is an introductory briefing by the trek crew.*Campsite*: Camping Les Marmottes, Les Bossons
Free day in the Chamonix Valley
This is a limbering up day and there are several good walks nearby. Alternatively, take the cable car (optional) to the Aiguille du Midi for outstanding close-up views of Mont Blanc, the Chamonix Valley and the surrounding peaks. *Campsite*: Camping Les Marmottes, Les Bossons
The trail contours high in the valley before descending to Les Frasserands
From Les Bossons (1012m – 3320ft) we have a short bus journey to Chamonix from where we take a gondola to Plan Praz (2000m – 6560ft). The trail today is named the ’Grand Balcon Sud’ and is a must do trek for anyone visiting the area. The trail contours on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc and has excellent views of the whole massif lying to the south. We walk from Plan Praz to Flegere (1,900m – 6230ft) and onwards to Les Frasserands (1371m – 4500ft) where we finish our day. If timings allow we will climb to the picturesque lac des Cheserys (2200m 7220ft). This walk has been amended from our previously advertised walk that brought us up the cablecar to Flegere from where we then walked to Lac Blanc. The Flegere cablecar is being renovated during summer 2019. This amended trek is a little longer than the original and is equally beautiful.8.5 hours walking time including breaks and lunch etc. 380m – 1250ft up, 1050m – 3450ft down*Campsite*: Pierre Semard, Les Frasserands
Cross Col de Balme to Switzerland.
We begin by climbing steeply to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2201m/7200ft), descend a little and then ascend towards the Col de Balme (2,191m/7190ft) where we walk across the border from France to Switzerland. Excellent views all morning of Aiguille d’Argentière and Aiguille du Tour and its glacier. After lunch we descend to the small hamlet of Trient (1,296m/4250ft). Good views of the Trient Glacier. 7.5 hours walking, 1120m/3670ft up, 710m/2330ft down*Campsite*: Camping Triet, Trient
Over Fenetre d'Arpette to Champex
In good weather we take the trail adjacent to the Trient Glacier to cross a high, rocky pass known as Fenetre d’Arpette (2,665m/8740ft) before descending steeply into the Arpette Valley (1,627m/5340ft) and down to our campsite in Champex (1,486m/4880ft). In poor weather we would take the lower trail, which climbs first to the Col de Forclaz (1527m/5010ft) from where we can look down into the Rhone valley. The Swiss town of Martigny is in sight far below, as we follow the ’Bovine route’ to Champex-Lac.9 hours walking, 1360m/4460ft up, 1260m/4130ft*Campsite*: Camping Les Rocailles, Champex Lac
From Champex the trail leads to Verbier and on to Cabane Mont Fort
From Champex we walk down to Sembrancher (717m/2350ft) then travel by train and cable car to the ski resort of Verbier (1,490m/4880ft) and then onwards to Ruinettes. (2200m/7260ft). Our afternoon walks starts on a broad easy trail with views of the Grand Combin and of the Mont Blanc Massif in the distance. The trail than narrows and steepens and we traverse around the southern flank of the Bec des Rosses to Col Termin (2652m 8750ft) before descending to Lac du Louvie and our overnight stay at the Cabane de Louvie (2214m/7300ft)The path today is quite committing and if the weather is poor, or there are problems with the cables cars, or snow on the path we may need to take an alternative route from Sembrancher. We travel by train and bus up valley to Fionnay (1,495m/4880ft). From the here we ascend steeply through dramatic open hillside to reach our first mountain hut, the Cabane de Louvie (2,242m /7400ft) on the shores of the Lac de Louvie (a very scenic spot!) from where we have great views of the Grand Combin .Mountain huts have shared dormitory style accommodation with basic toilet and washing facilities only. The support vehicle is unable to reach this hut so we need to do some light backpacking until we re-join it in two days’ time. 8 hours walking, 550m/1800ft up, 1180m/3900ft down*Mountain hut:* Cabane de Louvie
Cross the highest pass of the route, Col Prafleuri (2965m). Views of Rhone Valley, Mont Blanc, the Grand Combin and the Matterhorn
A dramatic day with two passes to cross. We start with scenic traverse around the shores of lac de Louvie before a reasonably steep accent to our first col, Col de Louvie (2921m/9580ft) and onwards towards the Grand Désert, a rocky section of glacial moraine. If we’re lucky we may spot herds of Ibex. We pass by small tarns fed by the outflows of the glacier and ascend for our second pass the Col Prafleuri (2987m – 9800ft) – the highest col on the route – with views of the Rosablanche and Mont Blanc de Cheilon. It is then only a short descent to the Cabane Prafleuri (2624m – 8600ft). Again the support vehicle will be unable to reach us so we will be doing light backpacking to this remote mountain hut.8 hours walking, 1000m/3300ft up, 550m/1800ft down*Mountain hut*: Cabane Prafleuri, nr Lac Dix
Long walking day with two passes to cross; overnight at Les Hauderes.
Our route today starts with a short climb to cross the Col de Roux (2,804m/9200ft). We descend across large boulders to Lac Dix (2,364m/7750ft) and walk around its shoreline before climbing again above the glacier Dix, through meadows, which during the summer are quite often filled with edelweiss, to make a steep ascent on loose scree to the Col du Reidmatten (2,919m/9570ft), or more likely the ladders of Pas des Chèvre (2855m/2920ft). The ladders have been recently renovated and now provide an easier route over the ridge and consist of four sturdy near vertical ladders divided by solid metal gantry’s. Technically it is not hard but it is certainly airy and not suitable for vertigo suffers. Excellent views of the Pigne d’Arolla, Mont Collon and possibly the Matterhorn in the distance. Finally, a long descent brings us to the small and charming village of Arolla (1,998m/6550ft), from where we catch a bus to Les Haudères (1,436m/4710ft). Here we are met by the support vehicle. 9 hours walking, 675m/2215ft up, 1330m/4360ft down*Campsite:* Camping Molignon, Les Haudres
A free day to relax. The twin villages of Les Haudères and Evolene lie in the most picturesque part of the Val de Hérens and there are many day walks in the area if you feel the need for a little more exercise!*Campsite*: Camping Molignon, Les Hauders
Past Lac Moiry to the picture-postcard village of Grimentz
Today we have a big climb to reach our col where we’ll be rewarded with stunning views. We climb first to Villa (1,730m/5675ft) then on to cross the Col Torrent (2,919m/9575ft) and enjoy vast mountain views; the Pigne d’Arolla, the Grand Combin, the Weisshorn, and make a long descent past Lac de Moiry (2,249m/7380ft) to the woods above the picture postcard village of Grimentz (1,572m/5150ft).9 hours walking, 1510m/4950ft up, 1290m/4230ft down*Campsite*: Wild Camping, Grimentz
Longest walking day with excellent views of the Weisshorn
A long day that starts with a gentle walk through woods to reach the valley bottom at Mottec (1,556m/5100ft). From here there is a short but steep climb to join the main trail at a higher level with fine views of the Matterhorn and Ober Gabelhorn. The climb continues to today’s col, the Forcletta (2,874m/9426ft) where we enter German-speaking Switzerland. We have views back to Grand Combin and possibly Mont Blanc as well. Descend, with views of the Weisshorn to the southeast, to the Turtman Valley and Gruben (1,822m/5975ft). This is the longest walking day. As there is no campsite in the Gruben valley we stay in dormitories in a local auberge and our bags are brought up by the support vehicle.9 hours walking, 1345m/4420ft up, 1035m/3400ft down*Hotel: *Schwarzhorn (basic hotel), Gruben
Join Zermatt Valley; descend to Jungu and St Niklaus, short transfer to Randa.
We climb again to cross the Augstbord pass (2,894m/9490ft) with good views of the Weisshorn and the ’Dom’ and join the main Zermatt Valley high on its western side. We descend to cross the Emdbach and soon after get our first views of the Zermatt Valley plus the Weisshorn, Kleine Matterhorn and Taschorn. Descend to Jungu (1,955m/6410ft) and on to St. Niklaus (1,127m/3700ft) ) either by walking or by an optional cable car, from where we travel by train or taxi to our last camp at Randa (1,439m/4720ft).8 hours walking, 1070m – 3500ft up, 1790m – 5870ft down (less 830m – 2710ft descent if taking optional Jungu cable car)*Campsite*: Camping Attermenzen, Randa
Follow a high-level balcony path that contours along the valley towards Zermatt.
For our final day of trekking we take a short taxi transfer into Zermatt from where we can enjoy our first proper look at the Matterhorn. Zermatt is at the bottom of a steep sides valley and we start the day with a steady climb through the forest towards Tufteren (2215m/7230ft). The trail eases of for a spell the views of Matterhorn are fantastic. We are above the tree line now and the path steepens again before levelling off at the scenic lac Stellisee. A good place for lunch. Onwards to Fluhalp (2618m/8600ft) before doubling back and descending back towards Zermatt. (1608m/5275ft)8 hours walking, 1020m/3345ft up, 1020m/3345ft down*Campsite*: Camping Attermenzen, Randa
Optional trip to Zermatt
From our camp near Randa it is a short train or minibus trip (optional) to Zermatt. Zermatt is an ideal place for a free day: there are lots of opportunities for short or long walks in the locality, or one can simply relax in town. There are also lots of optional excursions: for example by mountain cog railway to Gornergrat for spectacular views of the Gorner Glacier and Monte Rosa. Perhaps the most spectacular however is the cable car ascent to Kleine Matterhorn. Using this optional cable car, those who wish may ascend to the peak at 3,883 m. The all-round views here are exceptional, including close-ups of the Matterhorn and Breithorn.*Campsite*: Camping Attermenzen, Randa
End at the Campsite near Randa. At the end of your holiday the group departure transfer will arrive at Geneva Airport at approx. 11.00. The earliest a train could arrive is approximately 10.00 (although timings can change) and this would also mean very early start and a short taxi ride to the train station. Taxis directly to Geneva airport are very expensive. Please ensure that your return flight is late enough in the day to allow yourself time to arrive at the airport.
Camping, Mountain Huts & Village Inn
There are 11 nights camping, 2 nights in mountain huts and 1 night in dormitory style rooms in a village inn. We use roomy, easy to erect, two person tents, staying wherever possible (which is almost everywhere) at comfortable campsites with modern facilities, hot showers, electricity to recharge batteries, mobile phones etc. To make the route sensible it is necessary to camp rough on two occasions. Facilities at these rough camps are minimal with public toilets and cold running water only. There are no showers at the rough camps. We also spend 1 night in a basic auberge and 2 nights in a refuge. Single supplement available is available on request (for nights in tents only). Please note that the campsites/hotels/huts listed in the trip notes can occasionally change from those stated.
All breakfasts, 10 picnic lunches and 12 dinners are included in this trip. On eight nights we take our evening meal in camp and on four nights we take our evening meal in a nearby local restaurant or it is prepared for us by the hut or inn. The restaurant and hut/inn meals, which are prepared for us, are usually arranged as a ‘menu’ for the whole group and as they are based on special negotiations made by us represent better value than eating independently. On free days 9 and 14 dinner is not included and needs to be bought locally. Please note that should the times of group airport transfers change to arrive earlier, or depart later, additional meals will not be included. Please also note that no refund will be given for meals not taken or taken other than where designated.
Breakfast: Will usually consist of coffee, tea, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, bread, jam when in camp or in mountain huts; and coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, bread and jam when in mountain inns.
Lunch: Will normally include bread, cold meat, cheese, sometimes boiled eggs or tinned fish, fresh salad vegetables and fresh fruit.
Evening meal: Generally consists of a first course of soup or salad or other savory dish, a main course of meat or fish with one or two vegetables or rice or pasta, a dessert course. Although tasty and nutritious the style of menu in restaurants in this part of Europe often lack in variety or quantity of accompanying fresh vegetables compared to menus we may be used to in North America. The meals are prepared as a set menu for the whole group. Unfortunately there is limited flexibility to change the menu for individuals.
Drinks are not included in the price of evening meals.
Vegetarians: We happily cater for vegetarians but please inform us at the time of booking.
If you have a vegan diet we recommend that you bring supplementary food and should expect that the variety of food may be limited while on this trip. As this kind of diet is relatively uncommon in this region it is difficult for our camping staff to get suitable produce, as well as being restricted to the number of different dietary requirements they can cater for.
This trip is graded Activity Level 5 – Challenging and some of the days are indeed challenging with up to 1600m of ascent and on other days similar descents. On some days when we cross glacial moraine the terrain is rough and loose underfoot. There are also some steep sections with chains and ladders that are technically simple but not suitable for anyone who suffers from vertigo. The cumulated fatigue of hard trekking for two weeks should not be underestimated. As this is a group holiday you need to be confident that your fitness will allow you to enjoyably walk at a consistent and steady pace that matches the group average, therefore allowing the group to finish the day at a reasonable time. You will also enjoy the trek a great deal more if your fitness allows you to walk the route in relative ease. We will be walking on mountain paths throughout and this trip is not advised for severe vertigo sufferers.
There is one qualified International Mountain Leader (IML) that accompanies the group throughout and it is their decision if you will be able to accompany the group on any particular day. For safety reasons the group leader may also change their walking style from one where everyone walks at their own pace to one where the group walks together at the speed of the slowest, depending on the conditions, weather and visibility. This scenery on this trip is stunning and may well be the best walking you have ever done, but it is important to be prepared and have a high level of walking fitness and stamina.
Whilst camping the support leader will erect your tent but in the morning you will be expected to pack away your own tent (these are modern pop up style tents that are very easy and quick to fold away and pack) and the whole group generally helps to load the support vehicle on the days when we move camp. After breakfast and on the nights when we eat in camp you should expect to help with the washing up.
If you are unable to walk during the itinerary and want to opt out of a day, please take note that this can sometimes be a little tricky dependent on where on the route you are. To reach the next point you will need to take a public bus or train (which run at limited times) or taxi (which can be expensive when in a more remote location). Our support vehicle is not suitable for taking passengers so please be aware of this when deciding to book this trip.
All ascents, descents and walking distances listed below are approximates. We have decided the most accurate method is to map the routes carefully using google earth. That said it is impossible to obtain a completely true figure of the distances walked. Regarding GPS – due to the inherent inaccuracies of defining an exact waypoint with a GPS and the cumulative overall inaccuracy this causes, you may find that our distances and GPS distances you obtain on trek with your personal GPS/phone, may differ by quite a margin. Timings stated include lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of your group.
If you have any concerns about your suitability for this trip or questions regarding the grading, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Please note: On this trip it is essential to have helicopter evacuation cover within your travel insurance.