*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. **
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 2-3 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.
Alpine Mountaineering is an endurance sport – ie to get to the summit involves climbing uphill for several hours. Therefore, your fitness and power to weight ratio are very important factors for success. Another important factor is altitude, which people react to in different ways and finally, you need the appropriate technical climbing ability for the trip – please check that you have the correct fitness and tech levels for your trip using the Tech Level and Fitness Level descriptions below.
This is a key factor – you must be at the minimum Fitness Level quoted for your course (see descriptions below). However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly between climbs during the week.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Your personal acclimatization rate
All of our alpine trips involve an acclimatization climb at the start of the week, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on a previous alpine trip, Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training advice page.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
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.
Tech level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+ or WI5 / alpine routes at grade D and above. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
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.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
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 the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. 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.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.