History of the Walkers Haute Route
The original Haute Route or High Level Route was developed as a summer mountaineering route by the Alpine Club over a 150 years ago following a route from Chamonix to Zermatt via glacial passes through the Pennine Alps. Scottish scientist, glaciologist and mountaineer James David Forbes completed an important section when crossing the Col d'Herens, Col de Fenetre and Col du Mont Collon above Arolla.
Other mountaineers such as Alfred Wills, William Mathews and Francis Fox-Tucket established the Haute Route in 1861. In 1911, the route was successfully completed as a winter ski touring route by Roget, Kurz and Murisier. Since then, Walker’s Haute Route or the Green Haute Route has been adapted following a lower level, making the route more accessible for long-distance summer trekking.
Walkers Haute Route in Europe
The Walker’s Haute Route, which starts in Chamonix, is conveniently located on the boarder of France, Italy and Switzerland France. The route from Chamonix to Zermatt is situated in the Western Pennine Alps and within the Haute Savoie region of France and the Swiss canton of Valais. The Walker’s Haute Route start point can be easily accessed from Geneva and via other major airports in Lyon, Turin and Milan with slightly longer transfer times. The rail and road networks make travelling to Chamonix fairly straight forward and hassle free.
Walkers Haute Route Statistics
The Walker’s Haute Route is fast becoming a very popular long-distance trek in Europe that covers a total distance of approximately 180km depending on which route is taken (some variants can be sorter or longer than the original section). The daily height gain on the Haute Route walk is substantial and the overall accumulation over 12 days is in the region of 12,000m.
The trek takes you over 11 mountain cols and through 2 Alpine regions within France and Switzerland on a linear traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt. The stunning scenery amazes and surprises throughout, from the idyllic Alpine villages to the broken rocky lunarscape of the Grand Desert. Every day has something different. The Walker’s Haute Route is most definitely a tougher trek than the Tour Du Mont Blanc for may reasons, height gained and descended, type of terrain, duration of sustained trekking to mention but a few. All in all, the Walker’s Haute Route it is truly a great challenge not to be taken lightly.
Haute Route in Brief
If you look at a map of the region, it looks unclear how you would possibly get from Chamonix to Zermatt easily. The Walker’s Haute Route works its way through a complex mass of mountains passable only via high mountain cols and connecting valleys. Traditionally, the trek starts in the Chamonix Valley and moves south eastwards via Argentiere and then over the French-Swiss border to Trient, and follows the same route as the Tour du Mont Blanc as far as Champex-Lac.
Here, the route splits and the Haute Route heads away from the Mont Blanc massif towards Chable and once up and above Verbier, the route stays high for two days passing numerous cols before descending to Arolla. From thereon, the route moves from valley to col to valley on a daily basis, passing through the Valasian villages of Les Hauderes, Zinal and Gruben before finally arriving in the Matterhorn Valley.
There are a number of variants passing over different cols on some days, including the adaptation of the Europaweg (a high level route into Zermatt) rather than staying in the valley bottom. The Walker’s Haute Route is often undertaken in reverse and can seem very different when done in the opposite direction.
Towns, villages & hamlets on the Haute Route
Chamonix, France: Steeped in history Chamonix is the mountaineering & off-piste skiing capital of the world. It is truly a stunning place tucked in under the shadow of Western Europe’s highest peak. For century’s explorers, scientists & mountaineers have travelled here to get up close to this impressive environment.
Trient, Switzerland: A small little Swiss village with limited facilities. The village enjoys fabulous views of the Trient Glacier.
Champex-Lac, Switzerland: Situated at the easterly end of the TMB this is a typical picture postcard Swiss village with beautiful lake. A lovely relaxing enclave with range of bars, restaurants and shops.
Arolla, Switzerland: A tiny village situated at the end of the Val d'Hérens south of Sion at 1998m altitude in the Pennine Alps. It is situated at the foot of Mont Collon and is a popular start point for mountain expeditions. Restaurants, bars, supermarket and shop. Great views of the Mont Colon & Pigne Arolla.
Les Hauderes, Switzerland: A charming little village on the with fantastic Valaisian old buildings. The facilities include: restaurants, bars, supermarkets and shops.
Zinal, Switzerland: A small village & winter ski resort in the Val d’Anniviers valley. The facilities include: restaurants, bars, supermarkets and shops.
Gruben, Switzerland: Charming little remote hamlet, which is totally cut off in winter. Gruben offers 1 hotel with a little shop inside. No real facilities apart from in the hotel.
St Nicklaus & Gasenreid, Switzerland: You will pass through St Nicklaus before ascending to Gasenreid. This village has a café, supermarket & bars. Gasenreid is a small hamlet situated above St Nicklaus with great views over the Matterhorn valley. The facilities are limited, I shop, 1 hotel & a little church
Zermatt, Switzerland: Zermatt is famed as a mountaineering and ski resort of the Swiss Alps. Until the mid-19th century, it was predominantly an agricultural community. Situated below the famous Matterhorn, Zermatt is a beautiful traditional alpine village. It has a good range of restaurants, bars and shops. Traffic free as no vehicles are allowed in the village. Accessed by train or taxi from Tasch.