Walking from Chamonix to Zermatt
Home > Tourist Guide > Table of contents > Valais > Grand-St-Bernard > Walking from Chamonix to Zermatt

The snowy Pennine Alps of Canton Valais drain north to the Rhône through a series of spectacular valleys walled by high and craggy ridges. The Walker’s Haute Route makes a traverse of these on a west-to-east journey which begins in Chamonix (France) below Mont Blanc, and ends in Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn, one of the most beautiful and scenically rewarding of Europe’s long walks. It’s a demanding two-week trek, but there are no glaciers or permanent snowfields to cross, and overnight accommodation is plentiful in huts, mountain inns or valley hotels. You can also easily join the route partway along at strategically accessible points for a few days’ hiking – the Val de Bagnes, Arolla and Zinal, for instance, are all served by public transport from main Valais towns. Along with the maps LS 5003 Mont Blanc–Grand Combin, and 5006 Matterhorn–Mischabel (both 1:50,000), you’ll need to pack Chamonix to Zermatt, the Walker’s Haute Route by Kev Reynolds (see “Books”, p.531).

With a long climb out of the Chamonix valley, the Haute Route enters Switzerland by way of Col de Balme and descends to Trient. On day three there are two routes to choose from: either the formidable but non-technical Fenêtre d’Arpette alongside the Trient Glacier, or the more pedestrian Alp Bovine route to Champex – the former is tough but visually exciting, the latter an energetic alternative, also with fine views. From Champex an easy valley walk leads to Le Châble in Val de Bagnes, from where the route on day five makes a 1600m climb to the Cabane du Mont-Fort (Phone 027/778 13 84), a mountain hut with stunning views across to Mont Blanc. Leaving the hut next day an airy balcony walk takes you along the Sentier des Chamois, with the Grand Combin (4314m) a mighty presence across the valley, then over Col de Louvie to skirt below the Grand Désert glacier, and across Col de Prafleuri to Cabane de Prafleuri (Phone 027/207 30 67). Views from this hut are restricted, but a short climb to Col des Roux reveals the tranquil Lac des Dix below, with Mont Blanc de Cheilon (3870m) at the head of the valley. Beyond the lake, the way traces old moraines alongside a rubble-strewn glacier, then crosses either Col de Riedmatten (2919m) or the neighbouring Pas de Chèvres – the latter by way of two long and very steep ladders. Once you’ve crossed this ridge, there’s a very pleasant descent through pastures to Arolla.

Day eight is an easy one, taking you from Arolla down to Les Haudères and up to La Sage, while on day nine Col de Torrent (2919m) leads you into the Moiry glen, near the head of which Cabane de Moiry (Phone 027/475 45 34) overlooks a cascading icefall and the glacier easing from it. Col de Sorebois is next, with the descent from there to Zinal in Val d’Anniviers allowing you to make the acquaintance of the hugely impressive Weisshorn (4505m) and its attendant peaks on the far side. On day eleven, you leave Zinal on another balcony path, this time heading north for about four hours to the Weisshorn (Phone 027/475 11 06), a Victorian hotel perched high above the valley looking to the sunset from its glass-fronted dining room. Next day you cross the Meidpass (2790m) to Gruben in the Turtmann valley, the first German-speaking valley and a truly forgotten little corner. The penultimate stage (day thirteen) is the setting for another high-level crossing – the 2894m Augstbordpass. This brings you into the Mattertal, the valley which leads to Zermatt and the Matterhorn; an hour and a half below the pass the trail turns a spur to confront you with the most amazing of panoramas. Across the unseen depths of the Matter valley soars the Dom (4545m, the highest mountain entirely in Switzerland); at the head of the valley far away a long crest of snow and ice stretches from Monte Rosa to the Breithorn (the Matterhorn is just hidden from view), while the Weisshorn dominates the right-hand wall. An hour below that viewpoint lies Jungen, a summer alp hamlet clinging to the near-vertical hillside. The path then plunges steeply to St Niklaus in the bed of the valley. The last stretch (day fourteen) offers no passes to cross, but a mere wander up the valley to Zermatt, in order to make your final pilgrimage to the Matterhorn.

© Micheloud & Cie 2013     No part of this site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without our prior written permission. Printed from http://Switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/valais/walking.html