*New Itinerary for 2020!* The Summer Haute Route Trek is justifiably world famous and makes for an amazing high mountain journey, traversing peaks, passes and glaciers between the famous Alpine centres of Chamonix and Zermatt. The trip is ideal for hikers and hill walkers who dream of venturing beyond the valley trails and up into high mountain terrain, but without undue technical difficulty. You need to be a fit and active Uk hill walker, but no prior alpine experience is necessary, as skills training in glacier travel and ice axe/crampon techniques are provided at the start of the trip. Free technical equipment rental is also included on this trip. ** A £100 discount is offered for the first 3 bookings on each trip. **
Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
The Haute Route
This is an eight day high level glacier trek, linking the famous Alpine centres of Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. The route traverses passes, glaciers and easier summits along the way, offering stunning views and scenery. Each night we stay at a mountain hut or valley hotel. This is a very accessible week, suitable for fit hill walkers as well as mountaineers wanting to enjoy a classic high mountain journey.
This is an introductory level alpine trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2+ and Tech Level 1 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below) – ie you need good general fitness and experience in UK mountains (summer or winter). There is no technical mountaineering involved, but on 3-4 days we will be crossing glaciers and climbing easier alpine summits wearing crampons – on all snow covered glaciers and any steeper ground we will be roped up for safety. No previous ice axe/crampon experience is necessary, as full training will be given at the start of the trip.
The pace is quite relaxed, with plenty of time for photos and enjoying the scenery each day, but you need to be fit and prepared for back to back 4-9 hour days of walking on high mountain trails. Regular sport and exercise in the run up to your trip, plus getting away for a few weekends hill walking (ideally in Wales, the Lake District or Scotland) would be ideal preparation for this trip!
One IFMGA guide trekking with 6 hikers.
Included in price
- 8 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals
- 7 nights accommodation in mountain huts and valley hotels, including breakfast and evening meals
- Equipment hire: ice axe, crampons, helmet, harness and belay kit
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Cable cars and valley transfers
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
Our meeting point and Chamonix valley base is Chalet Tissieres in Les Bossons, just 5 mins by car/bus from Chamonix centre. The chalet stands in its own 2000m2 alpine garden with stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the entire Chamonix valley. It offers simple but comfortable shared rooms, a large lounge/dining area, honesty bar, and a huge balcony for al fresco dining on warm summer evenings: a great place to relax after a big day in the mountains. The chalet serves a buffet breakfast and varied 3 course evening meal**, with special diets catered for upon request. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. During the trip we also stay at the 2* Hotel des Glaciers in Arolla. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains, we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
During summer 2020 the Chanrion Hut is closed for renovation, so we are following a new itinerary along the middle section of Haute Route Trek this summer, via Verbier – staying at the Mont Fort, Prafleuri and Dix Huts. Our Guides are already very familiar with this route and we have the logistics well dialled in, as this is the standard winter Haute Route Ski Tour route that we guide skiers along each spring. The huts and scenery are great and we think you’ll like it!
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment for the week, before we go on to discuss the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our planning. We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you. If you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the valley.
Le Tour to the Albert Premier Hut
After final morning preparations, we catch the bus/train up to the village of Le Tour and take the Autannes chairlift up to 2200m, where our trek begins with a steady 2.5hr walk to the Albert Premier Hut at an altitude of 2700m.
At first the path traverses through Alpine meadows, before crossing a steeper section of mountainside to reach a glacial moraine which we follow up to the hut, arriving there at lunch time. The hut is newly re built, with a friendly young team in charge, who make everyone feel welcome.
In the afternoon, we head out to the glacier for a skills and training session – learning how to use ice axe and crampons on snow, as well as rope work skills for glacier travel. In the evening we enjoy a communal meal in the hut, before turning in for the night, in order to be ready for an early start the next day.
550m ascent ~2-3hrs walking time to the hut, plus 2-3hrs skills training in the afternoon.
Albert Premier Hut to Champex
Our first Alpine start! After a 5-6am breakfast we head up onto the Le Tour Glacier, enjoying a spectacular dawn across the surrounding peaks and in a couple of hours, reach the Cols du Tour where we cross the border into Switzerland. Depending on snow and glacier conditions, there are at least 3 different routes across the border here, so we’ll choose whichever one is currently in the best condition – most involve a short scramble up onto the ridge, then an easy walk off the back.
On the Swiss side, we then traverse across the broad Trient Glacier Plateau, passing close to the Cabane du Trient before starting a long and beautiful descent to Champex. Leaving the glacier, we follow a rocky trail down past the Cabane D’Orny (which makes for a good coffee break!) before continuing down a very scenic trail for a further two hours to the Breya chairlift. Here we can take the chairlift down to the valley, thus saving our knees the final 700m descent to Champex.
From the bottom station of the chairlift, a short walk along the lakeside leads to our hotel, where we can eat, drink, shower and enjoy a comfortable night in the valley.
700m ascent, 1300m descent ~7-8hrs.
Champex to Prafleuri Hut
After breakfast, we make a short transfer across the valley to Le Chable, where we use the Verbier summer uplift system to reach the Col des Gentians at 2900m.
From here, the trail to the Prafleuri Hut follows an intricate route, traversing three different cols – first comes the Col de la Chaux, followed by the Col de Louvie and finally the Col de Prafleuri, which finally leads down to the hut, set in a high Alpine valley.
700m ascent, 1000m descent ~5-6hrs.
Prafleuri Hut to Dix Hut
The day starts with a 40 minute climb above the Prafleuri Hut to the Col des Roux.
Bresting the col, the Lac des Dix dominates the valley beyond and we then a make a long traverse above the lake to it’s southern end at the Pas du Chat.
For the final part of the day we climb up a long moraine overlooking the Cheilon Glacier, which eventually leads to the Dix Hut via a short climb around a rock outcrop and a short descent to the hut.
850m ascent, 550m descent ~5-6hrs.
Dix Hut – Pigne D’Arolla – Arolla
Our plan for the day is to make a big traverse of the Pigne D’Arolla (3790m) and then descend to the village of Arolla for a night at the Hotel du Glacier.
This is another Alpine Start day… the ascent of the Pigne takes around 4 hours from the Dix Hut and we’ll be on glaciers all the way. Conditions on a short, steeper section known as the Serpentine are key to the route, so we’ll get up to date conditions info from the hut guardian before setting off.
The summit views from the Pigne D’Arolla are some of the best in the region, so it’s well worth the effort! The descent passes by the Vignettes Hut, before dropping down glaciers, moraines and finally through pine forests to Arolla.
If conditions prevent us from climbing the Pigne D’Arolla, we’ll traverse the Pas de Chevres col in order to reach Arolla via a different route.
1000m ascent, 1800m descent ~9hrs.
Arolla to Bertol Hut
After breakfast at the hotel, we set off from Arolla for our ascent to the Bertol Hut. This is a much shorter day than the previous one, but it’s mostly uphill!
Leaving the village, we head up the valley and follow the hut approach path zig zagging up to the grassy Plans de Bertol, which makes for an ideal mid way rest spot.
Above, the path passes first through meadows, then up onto moraines and finally a section of snow to reach the Col de Bertol.
The hut itself is perched in an incredible location on a rock outcrop overlooking the col and is accessed by ladders. The evening views from here are spectacular, looking across at the mighty Dent Blanche and other 4000ers around Zermatt.
1350m ascent ~5hrs.
Bertol Hut to Schönbiel Hut
Another Alpine Start for our final big day! Although the distance looks short on the map, this is a long mountain day. After breakfast, we head back down the ladders and onto the glacier, for an early morning trek across to the summit of the Tete Blanche (3707m).
This is a brilliant viewpoint, offering a superb vista of the nearby Matterhorn and Dent D’Herens, as well as several other 4000ers.
On the descent of the Stockji Glacier below, we have to negotiate numerous crevasses and other route finding challenges, before finally climbing up the moraines on the north side of the Zmutt Glacier to the Schönbiel Hut for our final night in the high mountains.
The huge North Faces of the Matterhorn and Dent D’Herens lie just across the glacier and dominate views from the hut.
850m ascent, 1450m descent ~8-9hrs.
Schönbiel Hut to Zermatt
Our final day to Zermatt is much easier than previous days, making for a mellow finish to the trip.
From the hut, we walk down a good path overlooking the glacier opposite the North Face of the Matterhorn past the old village of Zmutt, which was once used as summer settlement.
From here, the path drops down to Zermatt where we’ll have time for lunch and sightseeing, before taking the train down to Tasch where a transfer minibus will pick us up for the return journey to Chamonix.
100m ascent, 800m descent ~3-4hrs.
Overnight in Chamonix valley.
NB If you would like an additional hotel night in Zermatt, this can be arranged on request – return travel to Chamonix can be made by train the following morning.
Return travel should be arranged on Monday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
We base ourselves for the week in the famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Chamonix is one of the most famous Alpine centres in the world, with an unparalleled range of quality climbing across all grades and styles, and much of it with convenient cablecar access. The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley – transfers will drop off at the destination of your choice, but must be booked in advance.
Flight and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Tech Level 1 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Wicking thermal tops – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock boots – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for climbing and mountaineering activities as outlined in the course itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.