The Haute Route is without doubt the most famous ski tour in the Alps. It links the famous mountain towns of Chamonix and Zermatt and was first done on foot, in summer, by members of the Alpine Club over 100 years ago. There are numerous variations on the route, with a summary for each as follows:
The Verbier Variation - This is the most popular, and uses the most lifts. The route is Chamonix to Refuge Argentiere to Cabane du Trient to Champex - taxi - Verbier to Cabane Prafleuri to Cabane des Dix to Cabane des Vignettes to Zermatt. Allow 6 days, plus a spare day, plus a warm up day. Physically this is the easiest of the variants, but it's still a tough trip.
The Historic Route - This route is the original route taken over 100 years ago. The route is Chamonix to Refuge Argentiere to Cabane du Trient to Cabane du Valsorey (using a taxi for part of the journey) to Cabane du Chanrion to Cabane des Vignettes to Zermatt. Allow 6 days, plus a spare day and a warm up day.
The Grand Lui - The Purist's Haute Route - This route goes all the way to Zermatt without using any road transport. It only uses a lift on the first day and is physically, and technically, the toughest of all the variants. This route is reserved for very experienced ski tourers who I would expect to have not less than 30 days touring experience, and to be in excellent physical condition. The route is Chamonix to Refuge Argentiere to La Fouly to Hospice du Grand St Bernard to Cabane du Valsorey to Cabane du Chanrion to Cabane des Vignettes to Zermatt. Allow 7 days for the ski tour + 2 spare days + a warm up day. NB: The chances of completing this tour are slim due to some parts needing good weather and low avalanche risk. If you're not prepared to allow at least 10 days for the trip, don't bother. Due to the technical nature of some parts of this tour it is guided on a max ratio of 1:3. Technical Sections include the Col du Chardonnet (abseils), and the Grand Lui passage (steep terrain). The beauty of this route is that is so quiet compared to the Verbier Variation. There are some very tough days, but for much of the route there will be few, if any, other teams.
Please note - the Haute Route should be a once in a lifetime experience that you savour. You should enjoy it, not endure it. Too many people sign up for the Haute Route with insufficient experience or fitness. If you're unsure whether you're ready, just ask for a chat on the 'phone. There are lots of other tours that offer more options in case of tricky conditions or weather.
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