Haute Route starts in Argentiere--six-kilometres up the valley from Chamonix--and
finishes in Zermatt, thus connecting the two spiritual homes of mountaineering
& the two most famous Alpine peaks: Mont Blanc & the Matterhorn. It is
the most famous and sought after ski-touring route in the world (see title image
at top of page).
following itinerary is aimed at people who are good, strong and fit off-piste
skiers but who may have limited experience of mountaineering. The optimal group size is 4 skiers, plus the guide.
In order that everyone
is thoroughly confident in their equipment and has had a chance to find their
skiing legs, our first day together is spent training, being well briefed about
what to expect, and gaining valuable acclimatisation.
Part of the magic
of the legendary Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route is the multitude of variations possible.
The following itinerary is the purest ski-touring line & the most frequently
done. Many other options are available but most require basic mountaineering skills:
that is, mandatory use of ice ax & crampons for some ascents. If you are interested
in an alternate, more difficult variation but lack basic mountaineering skills,
you should plan on another day or two for mountaineering training.
Day 1: Training in the use of ski touring equipment
and the use of avalanche transceivers, plus all the other skills necessary to
complete the trip safely.
Day 2: Set off on the Haute Route from Chamonix. From the top
of Grands Montets, we firstly ski down the Glacier des Rognons before tackling
the long ascent to the Col du Chardonnet or the Col du Passon, depending on which has the best conditions. The first night is spent in the
beautiful setting of the Trient Hut.
Day 3: Ski down the stunning Val d`Arpette
to Champex and take a taxi to Verbier. Catch the cable car up to the Mont Fort
Day 4: Mont Fort Hut to the Prafleuri Hut, via an ascent of the Rosablanche
Day 5: Prafleuri Hut to the Dix Hut via Lac du Dix.
6: Dix Hut to the Vignettes Hut, making an ascent of the Pigne d'Arolla. This
is a major alpine peak with breathtaking views across the Alps. It is the highest
point on the trip. (3800 metres)
Day 7: Vignettes Hut to Zermatt, staying
in Zermatt. This is a long hard day. We will pass through some of the most dramatic
alpine scenery to found anywhere in the world.
Day 8: Spare day in case
of bad weather. If unused we will make an ascent of the Breithorn on skis. The
Breithorn is one of the Alps coveted 4000-meter peaks; we then transfer from Zermatt
to Chamonix by taxi.
Maps, Mountaineering & Guidebooks .
If you like to do arm-chair research, good guidebooks in English to the Haute Route & other Chamonix or Zermatt area ski tours include:
Alpine Ski Mountaineering: Western Alps, Bill O'Connor. This, the most recent guidebook, contains many other Alpine tours in addition to the Haute Route. O'Conner appears to be a good researcher, though some of his suggested tours are perversely inhuman.
Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges a Ski, Anselm Baud. Baud was one of the originators of extreme skiing in the 1970's, so even many of the easier routes in this guidebook are pretty serious undertakings. The hard ones are strictlly for the bleeding edge: extremely fit, risk-tolerant & skilled ski-mountaineers who are willing to wait decades for the right conditions. Nevertheless, it's interesting to see what has been done & learn a bit about the history of these routes. You can also buy it anywhere in Chamonix.
Chamonix Off-Piste, Burnier & Potard. A good guide to lift-served backcountry skiing in the Chamonix area.
Swiss topo maps are gorgeous & make excellent souvenirs or references for planning your next year's outing. You can order them here. The 1:25,000 series are beautifully detailed, but too bulky to use as field maps for long tours. The Haute Route & its variations rest mainly on the following 1:50,000 maps:
282 S Martigny 1:50,000
283 S Arolla 1:50,000
284 S Mischabel 1:50,000 [includes Saas Fee extension & Zermatt day-tours]