The multi-day trekking from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn (Haute Route) has a rich history of half a century. It is one of the top 10 mountain routes in the world. Most of the route runs along the Pennine Alps through Switzerland, and only part of it, the first 3-4 hours of the route, starts in France. In the classic sense, the Haute Route is a winter ski-touring route. There is also a summer hiking route, which has several variations. The total length is 180 km. There are 11 passes along the way. The highest one is Col de Prafleuri (2987m).
Haute Route: from Chamonix to Zermatt
Chamonix is the place where the route originates. It is one of the extreme centers of Europe, an outdoor mecca, a town at the foot of Mont Blanc, a place steeped in the history of mountaineering and extreme sports. On the image is the majesty of Mont Blanc. Look at Aiguille du Midi. Many travelers are trying to find a line and understand how free riders go down from there.
The peak season in the Western Alps at these altitudes (1500-3000) is from mid-July to mid-September. Outside this period, the shelters stay closed. If one wants to avoid people on the trail, the best time to go is right after the refuges close in September and catch the golden fall. Or you can go in early June before they open and see the alpine meadows blooming with lush colors. With these options, you should have the appropriate equipment and be prepared for lightly cold temperatures at night.
Haute Route: yellow, blue, and red trails
Like everything else in the country, the Swiss Alps’ infrastructure is top-notch. A country covered by a huge prepared network of trails for all kinds of activities, from snow-shoeing to downhill trails. All hiking trails are divided into three types:
- Yellow – walking trails, usually through valleys and villages
- Blue – mountaineering trails, often through glaciers, requiring proper preparation and equipment (crampons, ice axes, etc.)
- Red – something between yellow and blue, trails requiring trekking shoes, often passing through kurums, sometimes through snowfields.
The Haute route is marked with all types of trails. You can choose the difficulty yourself. Whatever you choose, you will come to a key place on the route one way or another. There are information boards with directions, trail type, and walking time. The trails themselves are abundantly marked with information boards, in the high-mountainous part with paint on the rocks. Sometimes there may be potentially dangerous sections with rockfalls and accompanying recommendations on the information boards to pass them as quickly as possible, without stopping, preferably in good weather.
Highlights of the trail
Along the way, trekkers will have the chance to experience the unique culture and hospitality of the Alpine villages dotting the path:
- Mont Blanc and Aiguille du Midi. The hike kicks off with a view of the majestic Mont Blanc massif. A cable car ride to the Aiguille du Midi provides a breathtaking vantage point to admire the surrounding peaks and glaciers.
- Val Ferret and Grand Col Ferret. Crossing into Switzerland, hikers will journey through the picturesque Val Ferret before ascending to the Grand Col Ferret. This high mountain pass offers sweeping views of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
- The Trient Glacier and Col des Ecandies. This section provides an up-close encounter with the Trient Glacier before ascending the challenging Col des Ecandies, rewarding hikers with stunning vistas of the Mont Blanc range.
- Arolla and Lac des Dix. Passing through the idyllic village of Arolla, trekkers can enjoy a view of the stunning Lac des Dix reservoir surrounded by rugged peaks.
- Zinal and the Weisshorn. The trail takes hikers through the charming village of Zinal, from where the impressive pyramid-shaped Weisshorn peak dominates the skyline.
- The Augstbord Pass and the Matterhorn. The final leg of the journey involves crossing the Augstbord Pass, followed by a descent to the iconic Matterhorn village of Zermatt. Here Matterhorn’s distinctive silhouette serves as the ultimate reward.
Stretching approximately 180 kilometers (112 miles) between the charming French town of Chamonix and the picturesque Swiss village of Zermatt, Walkers Haute Route luxury tours are a bucket-list experience that promises breathtaking vistas, rugged landscapes, and an unparalleled sense of accomplishment.
Challenges and considerations
While the Chamonix to Zermatt route offers an unparalleled hiking experience, it has its challenges. The trail involves navigating rugged terrain, varying weather conditions, and potentially steep ascents and descents. Trekkers should be prepared for altitude-related concerns and changing weather patterns, impacting visibility and trail conditions.
Proper planning is essential, including obtaining relevant maps, checking weather forecasts, and ensuring you have appropriate hiking gear and provisions. It’s recommended to undertake this trek with a qualified guide or experienced group, particularly for those with limited alpine hiking experience.
The main accommodation involves overnight stays in refuges. This track is based on the principle of moving from hut to hut. This means that the absolute majority of people move in strictly defined segments. Spending the night in refuges saves you from carrying a tent, sleeping bags, mat, dishes, food, and gas, but binds hard on time. Most people choose this option and go on a 12-day trek with 35-40 liter backpacks.
There are always camping sites in the valleys where there are no shelters. There, you get a place for a tent, a toilet, and free Wi-Fi. For separate money, you can use a washing machine and a shower.
An alternative to this approach would be to travel with a tent. Officially, it is illegal to camp and pitch a tent in the Alps, except for campgrounds. In fact, if you pitch your tent closer to evening, away from prying eyes, and pack up early in the morning, there are no problems.
Embarking on the Chamonix to Zermatt route is a remarkable adventure that offers a profound connection with the natural beauty and grandeur of the Alps. The journey’s challenging terrain and awe-inspiring landscapes allow one to test one’s physical and mental limits while being rewarded with unforgettable moments and breathtaking views. The Chamonix to Zermatt route is the ultimate bucket-list endeavor for those seeking a true alpine hiking experience that combines exploration, culture, and personal achievement.
Stacey Wonder is a content marketer who enjoys sharing best practices for self-development and careers with others. In her free time, Stacey is fond of contemporary dance and classic French movies.