The Haute Route is the celebrated high-level hiking traverse across craggy mountain passes from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland. This route is where the sport of mountaineering was born in the 19th century and just a glance at the 360-degree panorama explains why: 10 of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc and the crooked spire of the Matterhorn, rise along this magnificent “high route.” Our spectacular hike crosses 11 glacier systems and 10 alpine passes, yet we never climb above 10,000 feet as we follow this famous trail below some of the most spectacular peaks in the Alps. Overnights are in small hotels, with two nights in hike-in lodges to feast our eyes on sunset panoramas of alpenglow on the high peaks.
What the Trip is Like:
The trip is rated Level 5+, Strenuous. Good hiking experience is essential. Most hiking is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, and the maximum elevation reached is 9,700 feet. There is a good bit of up-and-down during the 6-8 hours of daily hiking, with 3,000- to 4,000-foot elevation gain and loss per day. These are challenging hikes, so all participants must be in top physical condition. Of course, trip members are always free to skip a day's hike and travel to the next destination in the support vehicle.
Accommodations are in comfortable small hotels and inns, some with shared bath. A support vehicle will transport the group's luggage from day to day. We use many forms of transportation as we travel during the trip, so we ask that you restrict your luggage to one piece, plus your daypack/rucksack.
You’ll carry just a daypack on most days, but on one three-day, two-night stretch, it is impossible for our support vehicle to reach our mountain refuges at night. For this period, you must carry in a daypack/rucksack the clothing and toiletries you need for those three days. There is no “group” gear to carry, and most medium-sized daypacks have enough room for extra belongings (a toothbrush, soap, and a fresh t-shirt will suffice for most people).
We strongly urge you to “train up” for your trip. The best training for hiking is hiking, especially over hills or rough terrain. Next best are running, swimming, bicycling or other sports exercise (stair-climbing machines are excellent preparation for hiking uphill). It’s important to take time to build up muscle and endurance prior to your trip. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule at least a couple of months before departure. Your feet should also be well prepared—make sure your hiking boots are sturdy and thoroughly broken-in.
Altitude is not usually a problem for people on these trips. The itineraries are worked out to take you gently to higher altitude, giving you plenty of time to acclimatize. However, some people still find they get a few problems when they first reach high altitude. Slight headache and sleeplessness in the huts are the most common problems.
The hotels we stay in are rustic, well located for hikers, and continuously busy in the summer hiking season. Please note that these are hikers’ hotels, not five-star resorts. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but are not always of uniform size or amenities. Our Trip Leaders try their best to assign rooms in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage throughout the trip as a whole. In a few of the hotels, there are shared bathrooms (no private baths). Single rooms are offered when possible, but those who pay the Single Supplement may have to share a room for up to four nights during the trip.