What is the Haute Route?
Haute route hiking tours take place between Zermatt in Switzerland and Chamonix in France. This route was charted in the mid-19th century by members of the English Alpine Club. It was initially called the High-Level route but was translated into French after a successful undertaking of a ski tour in 1911. Haute route hike is common during the summer season while ski tours are popular during winter.
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Haute Route Ski Tour
The winter ski tour can be undertaken using four routes between Chamonix and Zermatt. The tour is scheduled to take seven days except for the Grand Lui tour which takes eight days.
The Classic Route
The classic route starts in Argentiere village and goes through Fenêtre du Saleine, Val d’Arpette, up to the Valsorey Hut, over the Plateau du Couloir. Extending down the Glacier du Mont Durand, up the Otemma Glacier and the last stretch is to Zermatt through the Col de L’Eveque, Col de Valpine, down the Matterhorn and d’Herens.
The Verbier Route
The most frequently used ski route is the Verbier route which goes through Champex-Lac through Val d’Arpette, over Rosablanche, around Dixence, over Pigne d’Arolla and has a final stretch similar to the classic route. You may choose to extend your ski tour to Saas- Fee over the Alder Pass.
The Grand Lui Route
The Grand Lui variation is a longer and harder route that is more popular among trained athletes. The first stretch has two alternative routes where skiers may choose to ski from; that is, Argentiere village over the Col du Chardonnet and the Fenêtre du Saleina to the Trient Hut or they can ski down to the Bivouac Dores. The second stretch involves skiing through the Grand Lui past the Col du Saleina or around it through the Swiss Three Cols. The move to Vignettes Hut involves going up the Val Ferret, down to the Great St Bernard Pass, up the Grand Combin and further up the Otemma Glacier. The final stretch to Zermatt uses the same route as the classic and Verbier tours.
The Backward Route
There’s also the backward route which involves skiing from Zermatt to Chamonix. This course involves going up the Matterhorn, through the Col de Valpelline, over the Col Collon and Pigne d’Argolla, across the Otemma Gorge and over the Aosta Valley. The final stretch involves descending to Montenvers through Vallee Blanche and then skiing to Chamonix.
Haute route ski tour is often recommended for groups of 5 or 6, especially for beginners. Since the trip takes up to eight days, there are various accommodation options that one can use. These include mountain Haute route huts and village hotels. The place to spend a night mostly depends on your itinerary. You can easily find a hut or hotel that is closest to where you’ve reached along the journey.
Walkers Haute Route Itinerary
Despite skiing being the predominant activity, an Haute route walking trail was developed for hikers that would not require any climbing of over 3,000 meters or using mountaineering equipment. The walkers Haute route itinerary covers a 180-Kilometer trail and takes between 9 and 12 days to complete. The Haute route walking trail is favorable in summer between mid-June and mid-September. The most common Haute route walking trail passes through Col de Balme, crossing the Fenêtre d’Arpette, Arolla, and the Europaweg to get to Zermatt. In the final stage from Europaweg to Zemmit, hikers may opt to use the Charles Kuonen suspension bridge across the Mattertal valley.
As the hike takes several days, there are various Haute route accommodation options including camping sites and mountain huts. Walkers Haute route camping en route can take place in one of the campsites at Chamonix, Argentiere, Le Peuty, Col de Forclaz, Arola, Zinal, Randa or Zermatt. There are small hotels and dorms in Trient, Cabane de Louvie and Cabane de Prafleuri, Cabane de Moiry, Gruben and Europa huts where hikers can find accommodation. These locations also help hikers with assistance from their guide, to plan the distances that they can cover per day better.
Haute Route Pyrenees
The Haute route Pyrenees is an 800-kilometer traverse of mountain ranges. This trail stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and takes about 45 days to complete. The time it takes, however, varies with one’s speed and fitness. The Pyrenean Haute route hike starts from Hendaye and ends in Banyuls-Sur-Mer.
Centers and Stages
The main centers along the route are Hendaye, Lescun, Gavarnie, Benasque, Vielha e Mijaran, Tavascan, l’Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre, and Banyuls-Sur-Mer. There are a total of 44 stages between these centers, with most of them being graded at level 2 in terms of ease of ascent and descent. A few of the stages are demanding while three have exceptionally steep and exposed sections.
There are 10 summits along the route including the Mont Roig, Pic Perdiguere, Vignemale, Pico de Aneto, Le Taillon, Pic de Certascan, Pimene, Pic des Bastiments, Grande Fache, and Montardo d’Aran. All these summits are less than 3500 meters high. The Pyrenean Haute Route stands out from other trekking routes between Hendaye and Banyuls-Sur-Mer because it ensures that the hiker stays on the range’s crest. This is challenging for any hiker, especially if they opt for an Haute route hike self-guided tour. Highlights of the tour include the Ossoue glacier, Lac de Mar, and the Cirque de Gavarnie.
There is a wide variety of Haute route accommodation for hikers, including Haute route huts on the mountains and hotels in the villages. Some hikers opt for wild camping whereby they carry their personal tents and tarps. This act gives them an intimate encounter with nature.
Weather conditions also determine the ease of the hike. Those who start mid to late June encounter ice on some sections of the hike. They, therefore, have to carry traction devices, micro spikes, and an ice ax. On the other hand, considering the melting of ice during the summer season, it is advisable for the inexperienced to start their Haute route ski tour in mid-July.
To sum it all up, the Haute Route is definitely a great vacation getaway for outdoor sports lovers or anyone seeking a challenging experience. Overcoming challenges along the routes is a life-changing experience that certainly builds character. To organize your next Haute Route trip, you can contact Saint Gervais Mont- Blanc for as low as 1295 euros per person. They can help by linking you up with a tour guide, organize your skiing or hiking trip and ensure that you get an accommodation en route. Their next ski trip starts in June. You are however required to carry your ski equipment and attire. Don’t forget to bring something warm!