Author Topic: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017  (Read 9876 times)


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Hola amigos,
For my big walk for 2017, I’m planning to trek from Chamonix to Zermatt along the Walker’s Haute Route.
I would really appreciate any tips from anyone on here that’s done it.
Or are you thinking of going yourself?  O0
As usual I will be trekking with my dog, Zen, camping virtually all the way.  :)
We had a superb 3-week trek from Torla to Espot (GR11) in Spanish Pyrenees in 2014, so I’m hoping for more of the same.
Plan to start last week in June, and have about 17/18 days, to travel from Brighton (night ferry to Dieppe, train to Chamonix), 12-14 days trek, a couple of nights in Zermatt then train & night ferry back to Brighton.
Does anyone know where the best place to buy French and Swiss train tickets is?
Am I going too early?
I’d prefer to see snow on the mountains, plus later in July the weather will probably be uncomfortably hot for the dog. We made detours in the Pyrenees to avoid the stifling valley heat.
The level of snow in June/July is usually due to the amount that falls during the proceeding winter, though I’m aware fresh snow can fall as later as August.
Are there any website that monitor the snow fall in the area?
With regard to camping, how are the Swiss about camping near the mountain huts?
It would be great to camp nearby and shower & eat at the huts. Is this possible?
What’s the food like at the huts?
Are there any huts I should definitely visit/avoid?
Cabane du Mont Fort, Cabane de Moiry, Europahutte  ??
What walking snacks do you recommend from the local shops?
Having my dog with me is a good excuse for not taking the ladders at Pas de Chevres, and going over Col de Redmatten instead.
My dog is like a mountain goat, but does not like walking over grates, as I suspect he’s afraid of his paws falling into the gaps. :-[ [size=78%] I’m training him on these as there is at least one bridge like this on day two of the Europaweg section. I’m intrigued to see how he’ll cope on the huge swinging suspension bridge! [/size] :D
Are there any other ladders /tricky sections I should be aware of?
I speak excellent Spanish, which is not much use.  :( [size=78%]My French is pretty poor & German non-existent. Should I focus on learning a bit of both, or just one?[/size]
I am thinking on just taking the recent Cicerone guide book & old Trailblazers one for the sketch maps. Should I take any maps?[size=78%] [/size]
Ian & Zen
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Can't answer your questions but, wow, your trip sounds phenomenal. Very envious O0. Welcome to the forum and look forward to reading about your trip when you get back.

...beware of the bull!


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I hiked part of the Haute Route a couple of years ago in July. My intention was to hike to Zermatt but never made it. I got as far as a high Refuge (can't remember the name) beyond Verbier (took me 4 days, I was in no hurry) only to be told that there was deep fresh snow ahead and no one had got through for a week. Except for the site in Champex I wild camped. So I had big think and re-routed myself in the direction of Aosta, finally ending up in Courmayeur 10 days later. After a bumper meal I caught a bus through the tunnel to Chamonix and then flew home from Geneva.

The route from Chamonix to Champex was fairly easy, just a bit of a puff, up and over the Col du la Forclaz. From Champex to Le Chable it was just a pleasant stroll through farmland, all very attractive and neat. From Le Chable it was just up!


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For ladder climbing look on You Tube, there is one big one, that looks fun!


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I've skied in but not walked it, strictly speaking wild camping in Switzerland is not allowed so you need be prepared to be discrete. Camping by hut and using their facilities is often looked down on by hut wardens, they want you to pay for their beds and your night tax. The food is generally very good in the huts, all the ones on the Haute route are very popular and very busy.   


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 Hola amigos, I’m Zen, the four-legged cute one in the photos.

Taken at picnic area Le Hattey 1860m near Chamblin

After you liked my trip report on WHW last November ( I’ve grabbed the laptop again to tell you about my latest adventure with Ian, my best buddy. Walker’s Haute Route – Chamonix to Zermatt.[/font]
I hope you like it.  :)
As it’s a b*gg*r typing with these paws, I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking – I apologise in advance, as I’m no good at rotating the photos.
Same paw excuse (pun intended)  ;D

Day A & B – evening Thurs 22nd June & Fri 23rd June: Brighton to Les Contamines, France
Ian has set me ‘challenges’ on the trip – I’m always up for a challenge!] O0
Now I have been called a bit of escapologist – but this is definitely not my idea of a challenge –

I’m getting that déjà vu feeling

2014 on the way to Spanish Pyrenees

Mind you, this did get me reminiscing of our last adventure (Pyrenees 2014) which started in the cage -
Oh please more views like this …

Pyrenees, Spain

"Hey, you guys don’t have a monopoly on all the pre-walk excitement. I’ve been super excited since Ian told me we’ll be soon off on another long walk, but he can be a bit secretive about where, so I have to be a keen detective, listening, observing, eagerly picking up clues . .  .

You may think us, dogs always are living for the moment . .. but we do plan for the future, conserving energy (ie sleeping/dreaming) for when most needed . . Now I’ve learnt from experience . . 4 years ago I thought we were off on a 2 or 3 day long walk, so I had a ball running around like a springer spaniel on speed ..  little did I know we were walking the Pennine Way . . I was frankly ‘dog-tired’ before Pen y Ghent . . I also learnt Ian is a founder member of the Lucky B*st*rd Weather Club .  . so it’s nearly always sunny (PW – 17days sunny + 2days w/rain) & water can be scarce . . "

I’ve been keeping a beady eye on him. I’ve noted that he’s packaged up three large parcels of my favourite trekking food to mail on & pick up later.   O0  He normally does this – now ‘three’ is significant as each package lasts about 3 or 4 days … you’re doing the maths okay ..

Now, Ian loves walking but loves his free time more & he is very pragmatic – he doesn’t travel 4 hours for just a 4 hour walk . . so . . . after the cage on the night ferry, a couple of trains to Paris, a walk across Paris & another long train then another & a bus at the end. . (20 hours - home to camp site in Les Contamines). . . Now maths is not my strong point. . but I reckon a two weeks’ trip, minimum.   Fantastic.] :smitten:

"Ian, I know you told me ‘half the fun is getting there’, but . . ."

I’m just not feeling the fun at the moment – :-\
Zen not impressed with his Hannibal Lector impression on French train

A break in Annecy ….

Finally made it to campsite - Camping le Pontet - Les Contamines around 6pm (20 hours after leaving Brighton home)

We both slept like a dog – Worryingly, Ian’s becoming more like me every day …  :D
« Last Edit: 23:56:13, 23/07/17 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Day C Sat 24th June: Les Contamines to Les Houches, via Col de Tricot
Ascent 1320m / Descent 1480m
(1st day walking, 1st day of four on Tour du Mont Blanc
We’re off . .  :)
Ian familiarised himself with the signs . . fingers crossed he’s got it as his map reading is worse than his French . . oh la la !  :D

Me, places to rest . .

It’s brill to be back in the mountains . .  :)

Challenge 1 – cross a metal grated bridge, which I don’t like as you can get your round paws stuck in the square holes – now I know why Ian had forced me to walk across the huge grates in Paris – challenge passed – I like bridges & these challenges, so far . .

First real climb (600m) to Col de Tricot (2120m) – no worries, but it was 33°C

Ian chatted to a couple of Kiwis on their final day of Tour de Mont Blanc & everyday had been a scorcher – 30+°C. which I didn’t like the sound of – Ian had promised me snow !
Every guide book advised starting after mid-July, so we have come in June to get some snow & avoid everyone & their dog, ¡Qué horror! :(
It was v hot and already busy!
Just when you make it to the col, thinking you’ve achieved something to be proud of, reality brings you down - 50 school kids easily achieving the same – not to mention the noise.

views from Col de Tricot

Didn’t to deter Ian – we had a great long lunch break. Chance for me to get a power nap – hope he makes this a habit  :P 

Challenge 2 – Himalayan swinging suspension bridge -

What was I saying about bridges & challenges –

“Ian, not a dog’s chance in hell. Call it a bridge. It’s got gaps bigger than my legs, it’s old, it’s made of wood, it’s got a raging torrent below, it’s got no real sides & it swings, a lot – find another way, please”

Ian can be stubborn! I spread my paws as much as possible, crouched down as low as can be, closed my eyes, lent heavily on Ian & he dragged me across – we made it.  O0 O0 

I’ve changed my mind – I don’t like bridges & I don’t like these challenges ..  :-[ 

Ian explained that challenges are part of life, and not to worry as if we can avoid them we will do, so it’s “we’ll cross that next bridge when we come to it, or maybe not!”  ::)

Then he mentioned ‘ladders’ – I like ladders –

Coast to Coast path, Lake District June 2016

Err .  then again I said that about bridges . .  :-\

The Mont Blanc Tramway – highest rack & pinion railway in France.
You'll have to look closely to see the train -

with the line going up to Bionassay Glacier -

Views from Col de Voza, with Chamonix below -

We camped at Bellevue campsite in Les Houches  :)
« Last Edit: 00:46:17, 24/07/17 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Day C Sun 25th June: Les Houches to Lacs de Chéserys, via Le Brévent
Ascent 2020m / Descent 910m
(2nd day walking, 2nd day of four on Tour du Mont Blanc)
We had rain, thunder ‘n’ lightning during the night, and awoke to cloudy skies & an outer wet tent (Ian hates packing a wet tent, ‘cause of the extra weight.  >:(
Me too, ‘cause it takes longer to put the separate inner & outer up. After a long day I just want to get inside.  ;D
During our last walk along the South West Coast Path it rained for the first 5 days until I reminded Ian to pay his subscription to the Lucky B*st*rd Weather Club. We had sunshine for 10 days thereafter.
So I politely asked him – “No worries”, he said, “I’ve doubled my subscription – the clouds will lift”. Top man. Money well spent.  O0

Ian said he had been dreaming of this day, possibly the best day on the whole Tour du Mont Blanc, unbelievably, one that most walkers don’t do – Balcony walk to Le Brévent then on to Lac Blanc & Lacs de Chéresys . . Would his dreams come true?  :smitten:

Ian popped into the supermarket to stock up with bananas/bread/cheese & ham as we’d be wild camping up high for the next two nights. He even got me some extra dog food :) , though I was dreaming of decent French cheese. Yummy.  :smitten:

Our first (of many  :) ) forest paths . .

These metal steps made it tough for me to climb the rocks. :tickedoff:

Ian at the super friendly Refuge de Bellachat. [/font] :)
Ace breakfast stop for me . . I always have breakie a couple of hours after we start . . I hope Ian keeps choosing such great spots. [/font] O0

"Hey, Ian, you are not going to believe this!"
"What’s got your attention away from Mont Blanc, Zen?"

Shocking!  :knuppel2:

Le Brévent

Finally, some snow to play in.

Path looking back towards Le Brévent.
(Ian pull your finger out . . of the way :knuppel2: )

Challenge 1 - Ladders – avoided. Sensibly we took the ski-scarred route towards Plan Plaz, avoiding the ladders via Col du Brévent. Good choice mate.  O0
Cool spot  :)

Having trekked up over 1500m Ian was feeling pretty chuffed with himself . . . then reality bumped into us, well, rather hundreds of Chamonix marathon & ultra runners.

It took a while to ‘swim against the tide’ of runners but we finally made it to Refuge La Flégère.
Now, me & Ian have a ran a few trial marathons together over the South Downs, so I had a quick glance to see if he was taking a little too much interest. Fortunately, he’d read my mind and said we’d stick to the Downs. Phew!

View back towards Refuge La Flégère on route to Lac Blanc & Refuge Lac Blanc.

We saw lots of these, in pairs & in families all having fun sometimes oblivious to us, sometimes overly curious they’d come to spy on me from above.

Finally arrived at Refuge Lac Blanc. I wanted to have a paddle in the Lac. It was so refreshing…Ian kept telling me my ripples ruined his photos. Never mind, we did share an omelette outside the Refuge whilst watching the clouds melt away, before descending to Lacs de Chéresys, via the ladders . .

Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc

Challenge 2 – avoid more ladders.

It was easy to find an alternative way down the rocks.

Not my photo, but you get the idea. For us, there was no one about, only a family of Ibex, though I did count eight other tents around Lac de Chéresys -

Magnificent -

Today was majestic, the best ever . . camping high above Chamonix with ibex & spectacular views.

You’ll never guess what Ian said to me . . “This was just a taster . . the main walk, Chamonix – Zermatt starts tomorrow”
Wow . . woof . . wow !  :smitten:

(more to follow, but be patient pls - Day One - Lacs [/font]de Ch[/font]é[/font]resys to Refuge les Grands)[/font]
« Last Edit: 01:46:11, 24/07/17 by IanyZen »
Good luck on your next adventure
Ian & Zen


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Really enjoyed this, and looking forward to further instalments!  :)

Great photos too!  O0


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 :D great TR - next please
Most walks start by finding the way out of the car park


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Re: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017
« Reply #10 on: 09:47:03, 24/07/17 »
Great report Zen, post some more when you can get your paws on the laptop.
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where


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Re: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017
« Reply #11 on: 12:57:28, 24/07/17 »
Great writing Zen and very small world - me and two friends stopped and chatted with you and Ian the next day - we were on our way up to Lac Blanc from the col de Montets and you were pretending not to notice an ibex in the hope it would come a bit closer.


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Re: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017
« Reply #12 on: 13:37:10, 24/07/17 »
Great TR Zen   :)


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Re: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017
« Reply #13 on: 17:36:50, 24/07/17 »
Ah! Memories, great memories! Its a gem of a hike isn't it! So much to see, to do and so many people to meet. It was at a campsite just north of Cormayeur that I popped into their little camp site bar and ordered a 9 euro pizza. I thought it would come out of a freezer, but no, a lady in full white regalia, plus large white hat made it for me from scratch and did the twirling bit above her head as well! Incredibly entertaining!

When she bought it to my table, the pastry was thin, it was as big as a dustbin lid and totally delicious!

I hope the weather stays clear and dry for you.


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Re: Walker's Haute Route - Chamonix to Zermatt June/July 2017
« Reply #14 on: 19:51:43, 24/07/17 »
Brilliant report and pics so far Zen.  It looks like you're enjoying the views as much as your human companion  :)
No expense spared in pursuit of a bargain ;)