Day 1: Chamonix
Travel to the hotel in Chamonix, France. Spend time exploring this charming, internationally famous town set in a spectacular setting. Stroll around town, visit the Alpine Museum, take a warm-up hike, or simply relax in one of the many sidewalk cafes. We will provide information on a number of fabulous warm-up hikes. We are also happy to help you plan a pre-trip extension in Chamonix if you wish, and to provide written information on Chamonix area hikes. We’ll get to know each other over welcome drinks, a trip orientation, and our first dinner together this evening. Overnight in hotel.
Day 2: Col De Balme – Col de la Forclaz (Switzerland)
12 km; 6 -7 hours; 1041 m gain; 925 m loss
As the saying goes, let the games begin! After a short transfer to the hamlet of Le Tour we begin our Haute Route trek with a pleasant ascent to our first pass crossing, the Col de Balme (2204 m). The views back to Chamonix Valley and Mont Blanc are a treat. Mother Nature permitting, you’ll be able to look back through the length of the Chamonix Valley, dominated by Mont Blanc and its “aiguilles” (needles). At the Col you will cross the border into Switzerland, where you’ll remain for the rest of the trek. You’ll spend the night above the village of Trient, which is very French in architecture and atmosphere, despite its Swiss location, at the historic Forclaz Pass. Overnight in a convivial hotel, possibly with shared facilities.
Day 3: Col de la Forclaz – Alp Bovine – Champex
16 km; 4.75 hours; 596 m gain; 657 m loss
Today’s hike is a stunning route past farms with great views. You’ll walk along high mountain pastures with views down to the old Roman city of Martigny in the Rhone Valley and across to the Bernese Alps. The path curves, dips and rises over contours and in and out of indents in the hillside. You’ll descend through the woods to the village of Champex with its charming lake, where you’ll spend the night in a nice lakeside hotel with excellent food. Overnight in hotel.
Day 4: Cabane de Louvie
14 km; 6 hours; 1143 m gain, 433 m loss or 9 km; 1157 m gain; 441 m loss
Today you'll transfer from Champex to the lovely Val de Bagnes.This stage has lots of variety and constantly changing views. At first there are vast panoramas but as you approach the Col Termin the Combin Massif dominates. You are now on what is known as the Sentier des Chamois or Chamois Path. This is in fact wildlife sanctuary and if you are quiet you have a good chance of seeing chamois (a small antelope) as well as ibex. You’ll have a steep descent to the beautiful Lac de Louvie (Louvie Lake) where we’ll spend the night in the Cabane de Louvie (2215 m). Note: the Sentier des Chamois was previously "temporarily" closed. The trail will likely still be closed this summer in which case you’ll take a lovely alternate route in the Val de Bagnes. From Champex you’ll transfer to the village Fionnay, at the head of the Val de Bagnes. You’ll climb two and a half hours to Louvie Hut (Cabane de Louvie). After lunch you’ll leave your packs at the hut and do an optional three hour walk above the Lake Louvie to enjoy beautiful views of the Petit and Grand Combin. Overnight in hut. No baggage shuttle today.
Day 5: Cabane de Louvie – Lac des Dix
15 km; 8 hours hiking; 1047 m gain; 1000 m loss.
Today is a big day with two pass crossings. Our first pass is Col de Louvie (2921 m) after which we’ll cross the Grand Desert of “big desert,” where we are faced with a landscape of dying glaciers and chaotic moraines. Here we may need to cross a snowfield. We then ascend to the Prafleuri Pass (2965 m). As we descend from the pass to our hotel next to the dam at five kilometer long Lac des Dix (2364 m) we’ll enjoy the view of the lovely Val des Dix. Overnight in hotel.
Day 6: Lac des Dix - Arolla
16 km; 7 hours; 735 m gain; 1353 loss
Today’s hike is challenging and beautiful. After breakfast we’ll walk up to the top of the dam and around the lake, savoring the views of the lake, green pastures and the impressive peaks. You’ll hike toward these peaks, cross Col de Riedmatten/Pas de Chevres (2919 m), and then descend to Arolla. The Col de Riedmatten, a rocky cleft in the mountain, may reward you with your first view of the distant Matterhorn. There are two choices to cross Pas de Chevre, a steep almost 100 meter descent or two sets of vertical ladders. Our last stretch is a pretty walk through a pine forest to the traditional Swiss village of Arolla. Overnight in hotel.
Day 7: La Sage - Zinal
Col de Sorebois: 14 km; 8 hours; 1690 m gain; 1080 m loss; Moiry Dam: 9 km; 5 ½ hours; 1100 m gain; 670 m loss
After a transfer to La Sage you start the ascent to the Col de Torrent (2914 m), with pastureland rising almost all the way to the pass, and beautiful views. You’ll leave the Val d’Herens behind, climbing to the Col de Sorebois above Lake Moiry after which you’ll take the cable car down to the small ski town of Zinal (1657 m) for the night. Alternatively, it is possible to get a public bus to Zinal from Moiry Dam. Overnight in hotel.
Day 8: Zinal - Gruben
14 km; 6 hours; 1199 m gain; 1052 m loss
Today’s hike will take place in the little known valley Turtmanntal. The Turtmann Valley is uniquely remote (even access by the legendary Swiss Post Bus is limited), and completely pastoral with farms and small hamlets. Our hike starts with a steep ascent in a lush larch forest. We’ll enjoy a long ridge walk with Matterhorn views before our ascent up to the Forcletta crossing (2874 m), which provides yet more wonderful views. The village of Gruben, which is also known as Meiden, is your stopping point for tonight. We cross a linquistic border today, transitioning from the French speaking part of the Canton Valais to the German speaking part. Overnight in hotel with shared facilities.
Day 9: Gruben – St. Niklaus – Zermatt
16 km; 7 ½ hours; 1072 m gain; 1767 loss
Today’s walk combines one of the finest hikes of the Haute Route with fascinating history. The Augstbordpass (2894 m), which links the Turtmanntal with the Mattertal (Matter Valley), was used in the Middle Ages onward as an important trading route between the Rhone valley and Italy. Experiencing the final pass of the Haute Route is a highlight of the trek. The Matterhorn is hiding at this point but a number of other peaks, all over 4,000 meters high, such as the Dom, the Weisshorn and the Breithorn, are in view. The Mattertal itself appears as a deep, green cleft and on your descent, which has fairly steep exposure, you’ll enjoy views of the hills and wood houses with the classic slate roofs of the Valais (or Wallis as it is known in German). We’ll pass through Jungen, one of the loveliest alp hamlets between Chamonix and Zermatt, at which point we’ll have the option to ride the cable car down or hike down to the village of St. Niklaus. From St. Niklaus we'll transfer to Zermatt, of Matterhorn fame, and will explore the village. Overnight in hotel.
Day 10: Depart
After breakfast, your grand trek is over, and you’ll transfer back to the airport or on to other destinations. Your Zermatt adventure can continue if you wish. You might choose to stay here for summer glacier skiing or for other wonderful local hikes. We would be happy to assist you in making plans for a post-trip Zermatt extension.
Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual walks and sites may vary due to season, special events or weather. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. We are always on the look-out for fun surprises to add to the itinerary.
For those with additional time available, we heartily recommend a pre-trip extension in Chamonix (also great for warm-up hikes and acclimatization) or a post-trip extension in Zermatt.