The popular trekking route connecting Chamonix and Zermatt is known as Walker’s Haute Route. It is one of the most trekked multi-day adventures in the world. The 200 km walk through the French and Swiss Alps is simply breathtaking. In short, Trekkers generally take around 14-15 days to complete the trek.
In this detailed guide, we’ll tell you everything about Walker’s Haute Route. Keep reading to know more.
First things first – Why is the trek called Walker’s Haute Route?
This trek was named as Walker’s Haute Route to distinguish it from the original mountaineering trek from Chamonix to Zermatt known as the Classic Haute Route.
The Classic Haute Route is the mountaineering or ski route spread across glaciers. This trek is directed towards the south of Walker’s Haute Route. And, in case you are wondering, “haute route” is the French term for “high route.” Well, Walker’s Haute Route is indeed a high route trek.
An overview of Walker’s Haute Route
During the lower sections of the Walker’s Haute Route from France to Switzerland, you’ll be taken through the lush green alpine valleys, stunning mountain hamlets, and beautiful meadows decked-up with flowers.
On the higher parts of the trek, you’ll be taken through alpine passes at high altitudes, with stunning views of more than 10 out of the 12 highest glaciers and mountain peaks in the Alps. During the spring and summer months, the meadows and valleys look bright and colorful as the alpine flowers begin to bloom. The pristine mountain lakes appear green and blue.
Throughout the 200 km Walker’s Haute Route, you’ll follow interesting tracks and paths, walking through scenic valleys, and crossing some of the highest passes in the Alps. The trek ends in Zermatt, below the Matterhorn, one of the most iconic elevations in the world.
This is just an overview of the trek; we’ll be covering other interesting aspects of Walker’s Haute Route in the upcoming section. Read further to know more.
A joyful experience
The Walker’s Haute Route is a comfortable and joyous trek. Even though you may face extreme climatic conditions during some stages of the trek or the climb may appear very difficult, the surroundings are such that you’ll not feel like giving up in the end.
There’s something really powerful about the Alps that makes you forget all the difficulties and keeps you going.
During Walker’s Haute Route, you’ll also come across days where you’ll be just walking through beautiful trails, feeling energetic and lively. So, if you are planning to take part in the trek, don’t worry; Walker’s Haute Route is one of the most enjoyable and comfortable treks in the world.
How to know if I can take part in the trek?
Firstly, it should be stated that you don’t need to be a professional mountaineer to take part in Walker’s Haute Route. All you’re expected to be is a fit mountain walker who can easily manage mountain walking for 6 to 8 hours along different terrains. If you’re fit, you’ll be able to enjoy the trek to the fullest.
Some of the tough stages of Walker’s Haute Route are:
- The 17 km trek from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla. This section involves a total climb of approximately 3018 feet (920 m) to cross Pas de Chevres at 9366 feet (2855 m).
- The walk along Europaweg, from Gasenried to the Europahutte.
If you feel that’s it almost impossible for you to cover the Walker’s Haute Route in a single shot, you can break the journey and stay at various accommodation that fall on the route. While the normal trek does not include a journey-break or rest days, based on your requirement, the trek organizers can help you.
What kinds of terrains will I encounter throughout Walker’s Haute Route?
You’ll come across a plethora of trails and tracks during the trek. Generally, the mountainous area usually contains single track paths with steps, rocks, and bare earth in some places. You’ll also come across a certain area where you’ll only find country lanes.
If you talk about the mountain passes, they’re usually rocky, steep, and loose. So, you’ll need lots of steady balance here. You may also come across a very limited section of the glacier where you’ll have to walk on snow.
Weather and visibility
Some sections of Walker’s Haute Route are especially challenging to navigate if the visibility happens to be poor on that day. Other parts of the trek are generally clear and easy to navigate.
Please note – there’s nothing such as a “fixed Walker’s Haute Route.” During the trek, you make use of the existing trails and paths to find your way. At some places, you may also find painted directions to guide you. So, during the entire trek, you’ll need to be careful about three things – map ready skills, sense of direction, and compass-reading skills.
During the summer season, you’ll witness snowfall on 2-3 occasions. Snowfall is limited and gets cleared quickly. However, during the snowfall, you may find it challenging to navigate. The characteristic summer days are marked by scorching heat and occasional spells of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon.
The best time to go
Most of the Walker’s Haute Route treks run from the mid of July to the mid of September. The reason behind the short season is the extreme weather. The late-Spring snowfall during the first few weeks of July makes the trek really difficult.
Also, there are high chances of the weather worsening towards the last week of September. Since Walker’s Haute Route is a high-altitude trek, it is important to plan the trek in such a way that people don’t get stuck on high-altitudes because of the harsh weather conditions such as heavy snowfall or rain.
Where to stay?
During different stages of Walker’s Haute Route, you may require accommodations to rest. And, the good news it that throughout the trek, you’ll find cozy mountain huts, luxurious hotels, camps, dormitories, motels, and auberges with a combination of rooms.
Most of the accommodations are run by families.
How difficult is the trek?
As already mentioned above, Walker’s Haute Route is an absolutely non-technical Alpine trek. If you’re a regular mountain walker, you’ll easily be able to complete the trek. However, it is recommended that you complete at least one trek (Tour du Mont Blanc) before you hop onto this one.
The trek may come across as difficult as some parts, especially at the higher altitudes, but if you’re fit, it won’t be much of a problem for you.
Some interesting highlights of Walker’s Haute Ruute
Now that you know quite a bit about Walker’s Haute Route, let’s look at some highpoints of the trek to get you more excited:
An affair with the mountains
Walker’s Haute Route is an endless affair with the mountains. Throughout the trek, you’ll see different mountains such as Mount Collon, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn. Once you reach Zermatt, you’ll be stunned to see the spectacular views of Taschhorn, Breithorn, Monte Rosa, Liskamm, and the Matterhorn.
Arolla – A pretty little village
Arolla is a silent and gorgeous little mountain village from where most of the treks below Mount Collon begin. However, you’ll only find a few shops and traditional hotels in the village. Not to forget, you’ll find lots of hummingbird moths here!
Lac Moiry and Lac Bleu
Lac Moiry is a remarkable barraged lake while Lac Bleu is a small yet splendid lake with clear greenish blue waters with the reflection of the massive mountains surrounding the lake. You can also find suspended wreckages of the Moiry glacier in Lac Moiry which is faint blue in color.
Grimentz is a small town in the Alps. It is famous for busy streets with lovely wooden cottages, geranium balconies, and beautifully flowing fountains.
Food and drink
Swiss food is a hero during Walker’s Haute Route. Different meats, vegetables, and potatoes cooked with fennels in the end will be your saviors. Along the Haute Route, you’ll come across a lot of cheese, especially the “Alpen Kase.”
There are several grocery shops, restaurants, and food huts that’ll feed you along the way. Alternately, you can also carry your food and drink to be on the safer side. In addition, please note that in the end the grocery shops are mostly shut in Switzerland on Sundays.
More over, don’t worry about water; there’s plenty of water throughout the trek in the end. Each town has a fountain that provides clean, potable water.
Make sure you carry the following gear:
- Waterproof pants
- Boots are waterproof
- Waterproof jackets
- External phone battery (you need your phone for using Google maps)
- Pullover fleece
- Extra pair of climbing shoes
Villages and hamlets that you’ll encounter during the trek
Here’s a quick table summary of some of the villages and hamlets you’ll come across during Walker’s Haute Route:
|Chamonix||France||Chamonix is the skiing and mountaineering capital of the world. It is a captivating place protected by the shadow of the highest peak in Western Europe.|
|Trient||Switzerland||Trient is a beautiful little village in Switzerland with limited supplies and facilities. From this village, you can capture spectacular views of the Trient glacier.|
|Champex-Lac||Switzerland||This Swiss village is home to a stunning lake. In this village, you’ll find numerous shops, restaurants, and bars for entertainment.|
|Arolla||Switzerland||From Arolla, a gorgeous little Swiss village, you can get incredible views of the Pigne Arolla and Mont Collon.|
|Les Hauderes||Switzerland||In this pretty village, you’ll find various Valaisian buildings.|
|Zinal||Switzerland||A small winter ski resort and village in the Val d’Anniviers valley.|
|Gruben||Switzerland||This gorgeous little hamlet is inaccessible in the winters. The hamlet has only 1 hotel with a small shop inside; no other facilities available.|
|St. Nicklaus and Gasenreid||Switzerland||A small village and hamlet combo with great views of the Matterhorn valley.|
|Zermatt||Switzerland||Famous as the ski and mountaineering resort of the Swiss Alps. It is located below the Matterhorn and is a beautiful alpine village. You’ll be delighted to know that there are no vehicles in this village; it is traffic free.|
Can I do a shorter or modified version of Walker’s Haute Route?
Yes, you can. These days for example, there are several adventure agencies that can help you customize your Walker’s Haute Route itinerary based on your requirements. Whether you want to skip stopovers or stay in accommodations of your choice, you can absolutely alter your Walker’s Haute Route plan according to your priorities.
Remember, the Walker’s Haute Route trek is a combination of different trails and terrains, so you can mix and match and come up with a plan that suits you the best.
Should I choose a self-guided or guided trek?
Well, the choice is completely yours. If you’re a pro at reading maps, predicting directions, reading the compass, etc., you can plan a self-guided tour. However, a guided tour is always safe and best. A guide can help you make the most of your time and pick the best route based on their experience and knowledge of the Haute Route. They also arrange vehicles, food, drinks, accommodations, etc. for you.
Final thoughts on Walker’s Haute Route
Now that you know almost everything about Walker’s Haute Route, do you plan to try the Haute Route? It is a great trek if you want to experience the stunning Alps. While it may appear difficult from the outside, it’s truly an amazing experience. If you’re a fit mountain walker, you’ll easily be able to complete the trek without much hassle.
In conclusion, the Walker’s Haute Route is one of the most scenic treks in Europe, seriously. Each day of the trek will be a collection of moments through challenging passes, spectacular lakes, lush green valleys, massive glaciers, beautiful meadows and a lot more; it’s truly a memorable experience. If you have any questions about Walker’s Haute Route, please write to us. We’ll be happy to help you with whatever information you need.