Over the past few days we have been doing a recce of the essential sections of the Walkers Haute Route. This multi day trek has a very different feel to the Tour du Mont Blanc and as the name suggests takes a much higher and more remote passage from Chamonix to Zermatt. The Haute Route isn’t normally doable before mid July due to the amount of snow on the route especially on the section between Cabane du Mont Fort & Arolla. This section forms part of the classic winter ski touring route, which is skiable into May.
The heat wave has helped the situation tremendously however there is still snow on certain areas of the route & care still needs to be taken.
The situation is improving on a daily basis however the snow above 2400m especially on shaded & north facing slopes will take some weeks to disappear.
The challenging areas to note are:
- Champex to Trient via the Fenetre d’Arpette
- Cabane du Mont Fort to Arolla (2 days)
- Cabane Prafleuri closure
- Europaweg Grachen to Europahutte or Randa
Haute Route in brief (if doing the westerly, easterly or ‘Best of’ refer to the relevant days)
Day 1:Chamonix to Trient: The route down from the Col du Balme is snow free, if taking the route via Catogne there is still a patch of snow on the top section car needs to be taken when traversing this section.
Day 2:Trient to Champex Lac: The Fenetre d’Arpette forms part of the Walkers Haute Route from Trient to Champex & this continues to be problematic & although the snow is receding the advise from the regional park is to go via the Bovine route as essential trail maintenance is required on the steep section on either side of the col & way-marking on the boulder section.
Day 3:Champex Lac to Cabane Mont Fort: No problems.
Day 4:Cabane Mont Fort to Cabane Prafleuri & Barrage de Dixence via the Sentier des Chamois:
NOTE: The Cabane du Plafeuri is closed until the 5thAugust due to an infestation of bed bugs which has now been treated. The alternative is to stay at the Hotel at the Barrage de Dixance, you will need to allow additional time for this & refer to the new route card for directions.
The path from the Cabane du Mont Fort clings to the mountainside & is very exposed in sections especially after the Col du Termin. The section from the Col du Termin to the Col du Louvie after the winter has deteriorated massively & in some sections the path has fallen away from the hillside. There are still snow patches in certain sections & traversing Great care needs to be taken if taking this route as a trip or slip could be fatal on the eroded sections. It might be more advisable to take the variant route over the Col de Choux although this will have a lot of snow, see the cicerone guidebook for details & ask the guardian at the Mont Fort refuge for advise, if in doubt descend to le Chable take transport to the Barrage de Dixance.
Day 5: Barrage de Dixence to Arolla: The ascent to the Col du Reidmatten & the Pas de Chevre is unstable but that is as it normally is, due to the possibility of stone fall it is safer to take the ladders to the Pas de Chevre. There isn’t any snow here to make the route more complicated. The descent to Arolla has some snow & care needs to be taken.
Day 6:Arolla to Les Hauderes or La Sage: No problems.
Day 7:Les Hauderes or La Sage to Zinal: Still some snow patches but passable with care.
Day 8:Zinal to Gruben: Still some snow patches but passable with care.
Day 9:Gruben to St Nicklaus & Grachen : Still some snow patches but passable with care.
Day 10:Grachen to Randa or Europahutte: The section of the Europaweg is closedfrom Grachen to the Europahutte therefore you will need to take the lower route & descend to the valley at Mattsand & walk in the valley to Randa. If staying at the Europahutte you will need to ascend from Randa.
Day 11:Randa or the Europahutte to Zermatt: Europaweg via Taschalp no problems & is fully open.
- Allkit outlined on our kit list not forgetting good waterproof boots (not trainers or trail shoes), gloves, warm hat, warm layers, waterproof outer layers, sun cream & sunglasses to protect against snow glare.
- Light weight crampons or MICROspikes & walking poles x 2 per person to aid balance, Snell sports is a good shop on the main street opposite the Maison de la Presse. Micro spikes (see picture) can be purchased from many of the shops in Chamonix.
- Gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots when walking through snow.
Important to remember
Walking on snow can be very tiring and time consuming, you will need a good level of fitness in order to be able to cope with this additional challenge. You will also need to allow more time each day to get to your destination.
Snow and bad weather can make navigation difficult as you cannot see the designated path and route markets and signage will be covered with snow although you will find tracks in the snow. Good navigational skills are essential, the ability to read a map, use a compass and altimeter are a pre-requisite of this self-guided trek. You need good mountain sense and the ability to make your own decisions, it is your responsibility to select alternative routes from the information you have at hand (map, guidebook & route & safety cards etc).
If in doubt regarding the route and your ability in these conditions take pubic transport and skip the section.