Hiking Mont Blanc / Matterhorn - Haute route

Hiking Mont Blanc / Matterhorn - Haute route

Author
Discussion

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Monday 29th April
quotequote all
Has anyone any experience of this?

https://www.thehikinglife.com/2010/10/chamonix-zer...

A friend and I are looking to do something in August, I'm fairly inexperienced but my friend is more hardened.

cheers

Mortgage_tom

1,017 posts

171 months

Monday 29th April
quotequote all

That looks like a great trip.

The picture of the ladder on that website looks a bit scary though!

pitboard

242 posts

55 months

Monday 29th April
quotequote all
Looks grand compared to the manky old ladders i climbed up off the Mer de Glace near Chamonix 40 years ago!

GreatGranny

7,147 posts

171 months

Tuesday 30th April
quotequote all
No! Just. No.



Amateurish

6,025 posts

167 months

Tuesday 30th April
quotequote all
Davislove said:
Has anyone any experience of this?

https://www.thehikinglife.com/2010/10/chamonix-zer...

A friend and I are looking to do something in August, I'm fairly inexperienced but my friend is more hardened.

cheers
I love hiking in the Alps, so highly recommend it. However, I've done the French bit of that route in the summer and it was absolutely rammed, with traffic jams on the narrow bits.

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Tuesday 30th April
quotequote all
GreatGranny said:
No! Just. No.


imagine in the rain! eekeek

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Tuesday 30th April
quotequote all
Yes, several times both in a group and solo. It is epic.

One of the best hiking routes in Europe.

What would you like to know?

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Tuesday 30th April
quotequote all
Vaud said:
Yes, several times both in a group and solo. It is epic.

One of the best hiking routes in Europe.

What would you like to know?
wow! a few things to ask...

how did you go about navigating a route, could we plan it day by day as we go? any good map resources?

what kit did you find essential to have?

what medical / emergency insurance did you manage to get?

any highlights or dangerous parts we should / shouldn't include?!

we're thinking about 10 - 14 days in the area (possibly end of July / August) and not sure how much accommodation to pre-book, if any. we're budgeting about £100 a day at the moment for dorms. I've seen the organised group packages but usually prefer to go it alone.

cheers



Edited by Davislove on Tuesday 30th April 22:03

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
Davislove said:
how did you go about navigating a route, could we plan it day by day as we go? any good map resources?

what kit did you find essential to have?

what medical / emergency insurance did you manage to get?

any highlights or dangerous parts we should / shouldn't include?!

we're thinking about 10 - 14 days in the area (possibly end of July / August) and not sure how much accommodation to pre-book, if any. we're budgeting about £100 a day at the moment for dorms. I've seen the organised group packages but usually prefer to go it alone.
There is one book that you must own - will answer many of your questions on kit, route, maps, etc

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chamonix-Zermatt-Classic-...

The route gets some variants each year with rockfalls, etc but these are well signposted. In some sections there are variants to get to the next point. If you are knackered then some sections would allow you to descend to a town and then get up to the next hut by bus/cable car. Try to allow for a rest day mid way - somewhere with facilities. Grimentz or Zinal are good options and you can get down to Sierre for the day.

I joined the Austrian Alpine Club for insurance and discounts in SAC run huts (reciprocal rights)

Kit - you have to carry a fair amount as the weather can be very variable, even in August. Aside from the obvious hiking gear (Kevs book outlines) I found a good pair of walking poles invaluable to on ascents and descents.

10 days is towards the quicker end; I would allow 12+, plus at least a day in Zermatt at the end. You can even do your first 4000m mountain with a guide - an easy walk but hard on the lungs! https://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Attractions/Breith...

One key point on fitness is that you should be comfortable before you go in walking 10-12 miles with a 12-14kg (total) pack. You can travel lighter BUT you should allow for 3kg of water on most sections in the summer.

Also as it is impossible to train for altitude in this country, and while the opening sections aren't super high, even hiking at 2000 metres it is noticeable so the first few days are heard while you get "mountain legs". You can't do enough fitness prep.

August will be busy, especially the first few sections on the French side, so I would try to book those and then switch to booking 2 nights ahead for the rest. The first few days are also not too long.

July and August can often have thunderstorms (esp in the afternoon as the heat builds through the day) so for any high passes try to have cleared them by noon watch the forecasts very closely, take advice from the hut guardians). You do not want to be on an exposed section in a storm.

Danger levels - it's a generally well signposted and safe route. Some sections require walking across scree with rock falls, but these are well marked. Just keep moving. You don't need to carry rope, hemets, etc. By August the top passes will all be clear of snow and ice.

If you can, then consider the end of August / start of Sept when it is a bit quieter (but shorter days)

The huts are generally great, some even have hot showers. Budget sounds about right (and you get discount in some from the AAC/SAC membership BUT some are private huts and do not give discount.

Some sections have hotel options where sharing a twin room would probably maintain it. The exchange rate is rubbish in Switzerland.

There are plenty of web sites and blogs where people cover the route but do note that there are two routes - the Walkers Haute Route and the Haute Route for Skiers. Some people hike the ski route. The Walkers Route is the one you probably want.

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
Vaud said:
There is one book that you must own - will answer many of your questions on kit, route, maps, etc

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chamonix-Zermatt-Classic-...

The route gets some variants each year with rockfalls, etc but these are well signposted. In some sections there are variants to get to the next point. If you are knackered then some sections would allow you to descend to a town and then get up to the next hut by bus/cable car. Try to allow for a rest day mid way - somewhere with facilities. Grimentz or Zinal are good options and you can get down to Sierre for the day.

I joined the Austrian Alpine Club for insurance and discounts in SAC run huts (reciprocal rights)

Kit - you have to carry a fair amount as the weather can be very variable, even in August. Aside from the obvious hiking gear (Kevs book outlines) I found a good pair of walking poles invaluable to on ascents and descents.

10 days is towards the quicker end; I would allow 12+, plus at least a day in Zermatt at the end. You can even do your first 4000m mountain with a guide - an easy walk but hard on the lungs! https://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Attractions/Breith...

One key point on fitness is that you should be comfortable before you go in walking 10-12 miles with a 12-14kg (total) pack. You can travel lighter BUT you should allow for 3kg of water on most sections in the summer.

Also as it is impossible to train for altitude in this country, and while the opening sections aren't super high, even hiking at 2000 metres it is noticeable so the first few days are heard while you get "mountain legs". You can't do enough fitness prep.

August will be busy, especially the first few sections on the French side, so I would try to book those and then switch to booking 2 nights ahead for the rest. The first few days are also not too long.

July and August can often have thunderstorms (esp in the afternoon as the heat builds through the day) so for any high passes try to have cleared them by noon watch the forecasts very closely, take advice from the hut guardians). You do not want to be on an exposed section in a storm.

Danger levels - it's a generally well signposted and safe route. Some sections require walking across scree with rock falls, but these are well marked. Just keep moving. You don't need to carry rope, hemets, etc. By August the top passes will all be clear of snow and ice.

If you can, then consider the end of August / start of Sept when it is a bit quieter (but shorter days)

The huts are generally great, some even have hot showers. Budget sounds about right (and you get discount in some from the AAC/SAC membership BUT some are private huts and do not give discount.

Some sections have hotel options where sharing a twin room would probably maintain it. The exchange rate is rubbish in Switzerland.

There are plenty of web sites and blogs where people cover the route but do note that there are two routes - the Walkers Haute Route and the Haute Route for Skiers. Some people hike the ski route. The Walkers Route is the one you probably want.
that’s great stuff thank you!

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
Davislove said:
Vaud said:
There is one book that you must own - will answer many of your questions on kit, route, maps, etc

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chamonix-Zermatt-Classic-...

The route gets some variants each year with rockfalls, etc but these are well signposted. In some sections there are variants to get to the next point. If you are knackered then some sections would allow you to descend to a town and then get up to the next hut by bus/cable car. Try to allow for a rest day mid way - somewhere with facilities. Grimentz or Zinal are good options and you can get down to Sierre for the day.

I joined the Austrian Alpine Club for insurance and discounts in SAC run huts (reciprocal rights)

Kit - you have to carry a fair amount as the weather can be very variable, even in August. Aside from the obvious hiking gear (Kevs book outlines) I found a good pair of walking poles invaluable to on ascents and descents.

10 days is towards the quicker end; I would allow 12+, plus at least a day in Zermatt at the end. You can even do your first 4000m mountain with a guide - an easy walk but hard on the lungs! https://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Attractions/Breith...

One key point on fitness is that you should be comfortable before you go in walking 10-12 miles with a 12-14kg (total) pack. You can travel lighter BUT you should allow for 3kg of water on most sections in the summer.

Also as it is impossible to train for altitude in this country, and while the opening sections aren't super high, even hiking at 2000 metres it is noticeable so the first few days are heard while you get "mountain legs". You can't do enough fitness prep.

August will be busy, especially the first few sections on the French side, so I would try to book those and then switch to booking 2 nights ahead for the rest. The first few days are also not too long.

July and August can often have thunderstorms (esp in the afternoon as the heat builds through the day) so for any high passes try to have cleared them by noon watch the forecasts very closely, take advice from the hut guardians). You do not want to be on an exposed section in a storm.

Danger levels - it's a generally well signposted and safe route. Some sections require walking across scree with rock falls, but these are well marked. Just keep moving. You don't need to carry rope, hemets, etc. By August the top passes will all be clear of snow and ice.

If you can, then consider the end of August / start of Sept when it is a bit quieter (but shorter days)

The huts are generally great, some even have hot showers. Budget sounds about right (and you get discount in some from the AAC/SAC membership BUT some are private huts and do not give discount.

Some sections have hotel options where sharing a twin room would probably maintain it. The exchange rate is rubbish in Switzerland.

There are plenty of web sites and blogs where people cover the route but do note that there are two routes - the Walkers Haute Route and the Haute Route for Skiers. Some people hike the ski route. The Walkers Route is the one you probably want.
that’s great stuff thank you!

if we wanted to cut it down to 9 - 10 days I’m guessing it’s possible to bus or train between villages?

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
I made an omission.

"One key point on fitness is that you should be comfortable before you go in walking 10-12 miles with a 12-14kg (total) pack."

Do pay attention to the elevations and drops. Very little of it is technically hard hiking or climbing. BUT the amount of climb and drop each day is quite significant and again, hard to train for here. I'd consider using some long weekends of Snowdon, Peak District, 3 peaks in Yorkshire as training.


EddieSteadyGo

4,003 posts

148 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
Vaud said:
I made an omission.

"One key point on fitness is that you should be comfortable before you go in walking 10-12 miles with a 12-14kg (total) pack."

Do pay attention to the elevations and drops. Very little of it is technically hard hiking or climbing. BUT the amount of climb and drop each day is quite significant and again, hard to train for here. I'd consider using some long weekends of Snowdon, Peak District, 3 peaks in Yorkshire as training.
It looks like a superb trip. I would love to do something like that with my two boys when they get a bit older.

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
EddieSteadyGo said:
It looks like a superb trip. I would love to do something like that with my two boys when they get a bit older.
It is. I have done most of the Tour de Mont Blanc (gets too crowded in my view), much of the Tour de Matterhorn (more technical in places). Also bits of the John Muir trail, but that is another scale of challenge as you need to camp. I have friends who have done the Chamonix-Zermatt and the Corsica GR20 and the former is more civilised, the latter tougher but more "remote"

The Chamonix-Zermatt route is one of the very best hiking routes that I could recommend. If you want to give them a taster without committing to the trial, then I would suggest taking a week and doing some overnight hikes.

There are quite a few towns where you can park up, and then hike to a hut (still a substantial day), stay overnight and then descend either via another hut or via a different route, and then get the bus back to your car.

Cabane du Mont Fort and or Louvie from Verbier and/or over to Cabane de Prafleuri (very high pass, with rapidly retreating glacier)

Cabane de Moiry from Grimentz walks along side a glacier

Europahütte from Zermatt is a stunning 2 day hike.

You could build a week of 3/4 nights in cabanes + some hotels. In and out via Geneva with a hire car - or even use the train.

EddieSteadyGo

4,003 posts

148 months

Wednesday 1st May
quotequote all
Vaud said:
It is. I have done most of the Tour de Mont Blanc (gets too crowded in my view), much of the Tour de Matterhorn (more technical in places). Also bits of the John Muir trail, but that is another scale of challenge as you need to camp. I have friends who have done the Chamonix-Zermatt and the Corsica GR20 and the former is more civilised, the latter tougher but more "remote"

The Chamonix-Zermatt route is one of the very best hiking routes that I could recommend. If you want to give them a taster without committing to the trial, then I would suggest taking a week and doing some overnight hikes.

There are quite a few towns where you can park up, and then hike to a hut (still a substantial day), stay overnight and then descend either via another hut or via a different route, and then get the bus back to your car.

Cabane du Mont Fort and or Louvie from Verbier and/or over to Cabane de Prafleuri (very high pass, with rapidly retreating glacier)

Cabane de Moiry from Grimentz walks along side a glacier

Europahütte from Zermatt is a stunning 2 day hike.

You could build a week of 3/4 nights in cabanes + some hotels. In and out via Geneva with a hire car - or even use the train.
Brilliant info. Thanks.

Davislove

Original Poster:

2,174 posts

191 months

Friday 5th July
quotequote all
Hi Vaud, hope you’re around...

Planning going well for the trip so far, but I had a question, we have one or two rest days built in and I wondered which place you would recommend we use these? Or is Zermatt at the end a good place to hang out in?

Also, I’ve heard some bad reviews of the hut ‘Cabene de Prafleurie’, how was your experience?

Cheers

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Friday 5th July
quotequote all
Davislove said:
Hi Vaud, hope you’re around...

Planning going well for the trip so far, but I had a question, we have one or two rest days built in and I wondered which place you would recommend we use these? Or is Zermatt at the end a good place to hang out in?

Also, I’ve heard some bad reviews of the hut ‘Cabene de Prafleurie’, how was your experience?

Cheers
I am around... will respond later.

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Friday 5th July
quotequote all
Davislove said:
Hi Vaud, hope you’re around...

Planning going well for the trip so far, but I had a question, we have one or two rest days built in and I wondered which place you would recommend we use these? Or is Zermatt at the end a good place to hang out in?

Also, I’ve heard some bad reviews of the hut ‘Cabene de Prafleurie’, how was your experience?

Cheers
Rest days - good question. Depends on your route as there are variants.

Verbier would be 4 days in and has everything you need though is a bit sterile in the summer - though some bars, pizza, etc

Personally I like Grimentz - it has a laundrette (or did), supermarket, shops, restaurants, is a quite charming "chocolate box" village (though a little touristy). Otherwise Zinal (less touristy but quite nice).. but both are more like day 10. Both have regular buses down to Sierre if you need to restock on anything that has been broken, etc - though Grimentz has most things for hikers.

Prafleurie is ok in my dated experience though one of the more crowded and the service was a bit terse.

Cabane de Louvie, Mont Fort, Moiry and Europahut​​​​​​​​​​ are the nicest. (Louvie is a minor route variation in place of Mont Fort IIRC and is a private hut but very nice with hot showers)

Depends how many days you need, the weather may have forced a day. I tended to only book 2 nights in advance for accommodation and keep options open BUT in August the hut availability may force you to plan further. The good thing is that when they are busy, they don't tend to mind you cancelling.

S100HP

10,020 posts

112 months

Friday 5th July
quotequote all
Do you have to climb that ladder?

Vaud

33,211 posts

100 months

Friday 5th July
quotequote all
Davislove said:
Zermatt at the end a good place to hang out in?
Zermatt is nice if a little pricey. Plenty to do for a day or two and it's nice to be in a mountain town and think "I just walked here from France". Normally accommodation available.