Trails

Walker's Haute Route

Zermatt to Chamonix · September 2019

After reaching the Mediterranean sea, I wasn't done hiking yet. After a day of rest in Banyuls-sur-mer and a visit to Carcassonne, we boarded a Eurolines nightbus from Perpignan to Geneva - worst service and bus ever. There Flora and I took the train to Zermatt to start our second hike. At the end, I will return to Ghent, while Flora will hike on along the GR5 to Nice.

Campspots along the Walker's Haute Route from Zermatt to Chamonix
Zermatt

After finally making it to Zermatt, we only hike a short distance to find a good spot to put up our tents. We immediatly find out wild camping will be a lot harder than it was in the Pyrenees.

Jungu

In the morning we pass the Charles Kuonen Suspension bridge on our way to Grächen. The world longest suspension bridge just shy of 500 meters. We briefly meet up with Jukebox who is just hiking the bridge before touring Europe.

We soon hit a detour with little information on how far or where to go. We descend all the way to the valley before starting a big climb of 1800m out of Saint Niklaus. About a third in, we have dinner first passing time before set up camp stealthily behind the restaurant in Jungu, which luckily is closed that day. Odds of finding a better spot are slim as it's straight climbing from here on out.

Jungu to Gruben to Zinal

We continue our climb from Jungu to the Augstbordpass, the first big mountain pass. Dark clouds are closing in behind us and there is some forecast of thunderstorms, but once we make it over the pass, it clears up again.

Views crossing the Meidpass at almost 3000m were amazing. We pass the famous hotel Weisshorn and make it to the Zinal campsite late afternoon. Soon after pitching our tents, it starts raining.

Zinal to Les Haudères passing Lac de Moiry

After our first early morning climb, we reach the top of a cable lift where a big group of people is doing yoga while the sun is rising above the mountains. We stop to enjoy the same view while having breakfast. I find it somewhat ironic to go sit barechest on a mountain in the morning do to some meditating, but take the cable lift up and down instead of hiking.

We take the route passing barrage de Moiry. Walking along the lake and on the dam, we have great views of the glacier. A few cols later we descend towards Les Haudères. After several closed and one very expensive hotel, we manage to book a room. Laundry and resupply time. The rest of the afternoon and evening is spent chatting, planning and abusing the hotel WiFi.

Les Haudères to Arolle

By now we are pretty confident that we will finish well ahead of the planned 9 full days so we decide to slow down a little :) We book a dorm room in Argentière just outside of Chamonix and hang out in the hotel lounge before having a soup at Le Petit Café across the street.

Early afternoon we finally hike out. At Lac Blue after debating for way too long, we go for the shortest ever swim. At the end of the day, we pitch our tents in the bend of another ski slope.

Pas de Chèvres, Lac de Dix, Prafleuri, Pas de Louvie and Col Termin

We continue over Pas de Chèvres with ladders on the descent. We skip walking over part of the glacier as it looks plain sad. A tiny patch of ice mixed with dirt in a big valley of rocks where once a huge glacier resided as seen in the picture.

Once the sun is out, we stop for a late breakfast. Instead of going up to Pas de Doux we continue along the lake to the 284m high dam. On our climb to Col de Prafleuri we are greeted with a constant stream of trail runners in competition. On top of the narrow pass, they were breaking down a container checkpoint, waiting for the helicopter to airlift it out.

On the other side was a desolate moon landscape covering the distance to our next pass of the day. Pas de Louvie and finally we go over Col Termin. All the time being chased by dark clouds. Every time making it over the mountain pass just in time to enjoy a little more sunshine while thunder roars in the background.

The only flat spot and water source after 12h of hiking seems to have a big house party nearby at yet another big ski lift. It's hard to get away from civilization in the Alps.

Le Châble to Arpette

Downhill to Le Châble. As it is Sunday, the shop is closed and we hike on the Champex. Some decent climbing on the way. Champex is filled with tourists due to the UTMB race. Shop is open and extremely expensive.

We start climbing to Arpette when it starts to rain late afternoon. We set up camp at their campsite and have a good shower instead of hiking slightly further to wild camp. Rain is pooring down.

Fenêtre d'Arpette to Le Peuty

It is very dark in the morning, having rained all night. We rest some more until it gets light. With the dark clouds above, we decide on an alternate route to Trient. No point in doing a steep descent on wet rocks when there will be no views to enjoy at the top anyway. The alternate follows the well known Tour de Mont Blanc. After crossing the Col de Portalo we pass several large groups of tourists on an organized hike.

There is very pink church in Trient next to a big check point from the UTMB that finished yesterday. We end our day around noon when we dry our tents at Le Peuty before pitching them. Idling through the afternoon, we have an early dinner and drink in a yurt next to the campsite.

Le Peuty to Argentière

A later start as the sun rises a bit later compared to when we started hiking over a month ago. Another short day. Starting out in the clouds but when we finally climb out of the clouds, we have an insane breakfast spot near L'Arlette. Final breakfast on trail, in the sun, with clouds covering the valley on both sides. I spent more time taking pictures than eating breakfast. Perfect.

The rest of the day was uneventful with a descent into Le Tour and Argentière after. Checking in to our hostel around 11h in the morning.

Chamonix

A third day of only hiking in the morning. If you are in decent shape 7 or 8 days should suffice to hike the Walker's Haute Route. While the Alps might be slightly prettier than the Pyrenees due to higher altitude and thus more snow and glaciers, the view is often diminished by ski slopes and resorts. Looking down into a valley, there is always a town.

Furthermore, there is a big difference in huts between both mountain ranges. In the Pyrenees, there was always a spot to pitch your tent nearby, toilets, outside faucet to refill water. In the Alps, a bunch of no camping signs. And no faucets outside. Overall it felt like in the Pyrenees they want to help out hikers, while in the Alps they want your money.

After hiking half the Pyrenees and this stretch through the Alps together, it is time to say goodbye to Flora. Early afternoon she hikes on towards Nice while I go for a dayhike to get some better pictures of the Mont Blanc massif. And then time to board the nightbus home. Or so I thought.

Getting home

My bus to Frankfurt and Brussels would leave at 21h. For some obscure reason though, Flixbus doesn't care about Shengen and free transport of people and goods. And alas, I lost my passport somewhere along the trip, quite likely during the hectic boarding the horrendous nightbus to Geneva.

I always have a high resolution image of all documents on my phone but the busdriver who hardly spoke English or French was not very helpful and did not let me on the bus. So there I was. 21h in the evening, stranded in Chamonix with no way of getting home or place to sleep.

For a moment I contemplate to not give any fucks and also hike the GR5 to Nice and catch up with Flora. But my mind was set on getting home already. I walk back to the tourist office where the have decent WiFi. Sitting outside on a bench I start googling train info. Turns out, it takes 7 different trains to get from Chamonix to Ghent Dampoort. I book the first 5 taking me to Brussels. Now find a place to sleep. Luckily there is still some room in a budget hostel on the outskirts of town. It's near midnight when I finally hit my bed.

The next day, after 14 hours of trains, I make it to Ghent St. Pieters. I decide to walk home to Dampoort. Enough trains for me. Home at midnight, happy to have made it. Even on the same day as the bus. Time for my own bed after spending 6 weeks in the mountains.

Trail info

Walker's Haute Route

Countries
StartZermatt
FinishChamonix
Length140 mi / 225 km
Elevation gain45.930 ft / 14.000 m
Best hiking seasonMay - September
Official websitehttps://www.chamonix.net/english/summer-activities/trekking/haute-route