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Haute Route

2 August 2016

Trip Report: 2–11 August 2016

Somehow I managed to take extended vacation to section hike three trails in the Alps:

  • Tour du Mont Blanc: Les Houches to Champex via Courmayeur
  • Haute Route: Le Châble to Zermatt via Europaweg
  • GR5: Lake Geneva to Modane. Remaining section of this trail, Larche to Menton, is scheduled for September 2017.

I had just finished Tour du Mont Blanc the night before in Champex, on Swiss National Day, with fondue dinner & fireworks.

I took train through the valley to start walking Haute Route from Le Châble.

Realized there are no signs for such Haute Route. It is made up as a patch work of trails, although for a large part it follows the Alpine Passes trail, #6.

Cabane du Mont Fort

Entire first day was pure climb. From Le Châble, relied heavily on GPS to navigate climb to Verbier ski town: many shops & accommodations. Continued climbing: along the way were paragliders & fast downhill mountain bikers.

Finally, some signs for Mont Fort appeared, although not consistent. Trail leveled off slightly before final climb to the Cabane to open view of Mont Blanc massif:

Col de Prafleuri

Tough long day over three cols: Termin (2,648m), Louvie (2,921m), & Prafleuri (2,965m).

Initial section to Col Termin was a beautiful belvedere trail with direct view of Mont Blanc & Combin massifs. Past that, it was tough, rocky, snowy, & tiring. No opportunity for glacial lake dip, despite passing several of them along the way.

Col de Riedmatten

Most memorable & frightening section was the vertical climb to Riedmatten.

Most of the day was pleasant on well maintained trails. The section before Riedmatten was made of crumbling rock from mountain. Very similar to White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Then the climb came. On all four. Hopping from one rock to the next. Then there were chains. Until finally reached the rocky cleft with views on both sides. It was time for an Ovomaltine chocolate bar.

Lac Bleu

Great day started with a generous breakfast at Grand Hotel, especially the chocolate granola. Rain stopped around 10:00. Decided to proceed with the original high route, instead of staying in the valley.

Good thing I did. Lac Bleu was wonderful, clear, & frigid. With no hesitance, I plunged in the water for mere seconds:

Rest of day was easy walk, listening to music & relaxing.

Col du Tsaté

Memorable day in Cabane de Moiry near the glacier. Perched on top of rock platform, huge windows, glass wall, wide open views. Only Swiss engineering.

But not yet. Two big climbs were in the way: Col du Tsaté (2,868m) & Cabane (2,825m) with incredible views the whole way.

Glacier de Moiry is immediately next to hut. Many climbers have the hut as a basecamp before continuing on.

Helicopter delivered supplies in the afternoon:

Col de Sorebois

Easy stroll down from Cabane de Moiry before belvedere along Lac de Moiry.

Finally, climb to Col de Sorebois started as farmer was calling cows in. All coming down from mountain while I am trying to go up on same path. Not pretty.

Descended slightly from col to take cable car from Sorebois station to Zinal. Took bus for quick visit to Grimentz. Found it average town.

Relaxed that evening with bread, salad, & Ovo chocolate milk.

Meidpass

Big day, estimated book time at 8 hours. Good weather though & reasonable elevation. Better views than route described in book.

Met local mountaineer & guide on top of Meidpass: he climbs weekly to pass from Gruben. It took him 1:54 today at 70 years old, compared to book time of two hours.

Augstbordpass

Forecast was for plenty of rain in afternoon. Light rain was in morning. Rest of day stayed cloudy & cold, but no rain.

Met Laura & Philipp again, after missing them on Prafleuri.

Long steep descent to St Niklaus. Then big steep climb to Gasenried. Stopped at Migros to load up on supplies of Ovomaltine:

Europaweg

The day was a walk in the clouds, on a visual extravaganza, with great views on all sides. The Matterhorn stayed hiding behind the clouds though:

Kev Reynolds reiterates in the book multiple times the risks involved with hiking the Europaweg. I agree. It was certainly high risk of rock fall, slide, & lost trail, even in good weather.

Matterhorn

At last, it was time to see the Matterhorn.

The remaining section of Europaweg was severely damaged, closed in multiple places. The night before, in Europahütte, I met several hikers of Haute Route. We agreed to descend together to Randa, take a taxi to Täschalp, hike to Pfulwe pass, & descend to Zermatt through a valley of giant mountains in view of the Matterhorn:

But who can resist a plunge in Stellisee with Matterhorn in the background?

Itinerary

Day Service Log
Tuesday 2 August 2016: Cabane du Mont Fort Dinner, bed, & breakfast: CHF80.00
  • Map: Garmin & Strava, download GPX, FIT, TCX, KML, & other file format for GPS track
  • Distance: 13.26km
  • Pace: 19:13min/km
  • Time: 4:14:56
  • Steps: 24,112
  • Ascent: 1,601m
  • Descent: 52m
  • Temperature: 18°C
  • Calories: 1,115
Wednesday: Cabane de Prafleuri Dinner, bed, & breakfast: CHF75.00
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 16.22
  • Pace: 27:55
  • Time: 7:32:26
  • Steps: 28,426
  • Ascent: 1,078
  • Descent: 895
  • Temperature: 18
  • Calories: 1,435
Thursday: Arolla Bed & breakfast: Grand Hôtel & Kurhaus, CHF60. All services in town.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 18.82
  • Pace: 18:31
  • Time: 5:48:32
  • Steps: 31,148
  • Ascent: 829
  • Descent: 1,373
  • Temperature: 16
  • Calories: 1,302
Friday: La Sage Bed & breakfast: Restaurant Gîte L’Ecureuil, CHF38. Few services in town.
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 13.29
  • Pace: 19:13
  • Time: 4:15:27
  • Steps: 19,578
  • Ascent: 783
  • Descent: 1,169
  • Temperature: 11
  • Calories: 778
Saturday: Cabane CAS de Moiry Dinner, bed, & breakfast: CHF83
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 11.86
  • Pace: 26:05
  • Time: 5:09:22
  • Steps: 23,365
  • Ascent: 1,687
  • Descent: 571
  • Temperature: 11
  • Calories: 1,358
Sunday: Zinal Bed & breakfast: Auberge Alpina, CHF43
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 12.12
  • Pace: 19:04
  • Time: 3:51:00
  • Steps: 25,878
  • Ascent: 633
  • Descent: 1,013
  • Temperature: 8
  • Calories: 672
Monday: Gruben Bed & breakfast: Hôtel Schwarzhorn, CHF43
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 24.01
  • Pace: 18:42
  • Time: 7:29:02
  • Steps: 36,667
  • Ascent: 1,429
  • Descent: 1,276
  • Temperature: 18
  • Calories: 1,301
Tuesday: Gasenried Bed & breakfast: Hotel Alpenrösli, +41 27 956 20 16, CHF38
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 23.29
  • Pace: 21:03
  • Time: 8:10:03
  • Steps: 41,551
  • Ascent: 1,706
  • Descent: 1,861
  • Temperature: 13
  • Calories: 1,302
Wednesday: Europahütte Dinner, bed, & breakfast: CHF76
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 15.14
  • Pace: 22:13
  • Time: 5:36:30
  • Steps: 22,963
  • Ascent: 1,206
  • Descent: 634
  • Temperature: 7
  • Calories: 875
Thursday: Zermatt Bed & breakfast: Matterhorn Hostel, CHF38
  • Map: Garmin & Strava
  • Distance: 13.06
  • Pace: 20:45
  • Time: 4:30:58
  • Steps: 29,993
  • Ascent: 1,134
  • Descent: 718
  • Temperature: 7
  • Calories: 865

Tips

  • Keep it combined with Tour du Mont Blanc. I would not spend all time circling the same mountain area. The stages become very similar. Best sections of both can be hiked in two weeks.
  • Consider Alpine Passes Trail, #6, as the main route. It overlaps with the Haute Route as described for most of the way, well marked, has many references, & extends to more passes.

Packing List

Detailed packing list included with last part of the trip on GR5.

Guide

Main reference was Trekking Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route by Kev Reynolds. It had good overview of the route, suggested stages, & lodging options.

Major sections of the route overlapped with Alpine Passes Trail, #6, which I used as a guide on the ground.

Web search & Google Maps helped find lodging options & contact information.

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