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The Walker's Haute Route

by: Alexander Stewart

UPDATES

Updated information

Thank you to the readers who sent in the following updates including David Croll, Wim van Hoorn, Wouter Vanderhorst.

The information has not yet been checked by Trailblazer but it will be for the next edition.

October 2018

Feedback from  a reader: "Now in 2018 everything has gotten more expensive, from accommodations to lifts.
Anybody advising on stage one to get from Chamonix to Argentiere is missing a significant important and impressive mountain; The Mont Blanc. What a great way to acclimate after a day of travel (from Florida USA), I spend 3 days in Chamonix seeing the different sites, riding lifts, gondolas and just awe inspiring of what is coming ahead on the Haute Route. The route to Argentiere is listed as the Balcon Sud, but the Balcon Nord is much nicer with much more variety. The glacier at Argientier is very impressive and as close as you can get to any glacier, worth mentioning and a visit ( reachable by lift). The lift at Le Tour was closed for the first section. The second section was open if needed. After Col de Balme, I choose the alternative route mentioned in the Cicerone book to Refuge les Grande, which give you the first exposure to climbing rocks. The hut was closed and you need an 4 digit code to open the door, which I didn’t have and was therefore forced to descent down to Hotel du Col de la Forclaz, which was very crowded with people from the Tour the Mont Blanc.


As it had rained that night I chose the alternative route to Alp Bovine, on which I encountered at least 150 people travelling in the opposite direction from the Tour the Mont Blanc.

p171 Map 8 the Relais d’Arpette is in the wrong location. You would have to walk all the way to the top of the road where the lift is located, otherwise there are no signs indicating the accommodations. At the lift the trail follows a biss up the track to the Relais. An alternative path of just following the road is possible too. The views from the Relais of the Fenetre are just breathtaking.
p176 Champex to Le Chable;. No need to wear mountain shoes or boots here, as the whole trail is down hill till the very end where there is a bump in the road. Some of the signage is not clear where to go, just keep the lower trails which will all end in Sembrancher.

p184 Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort. Worth mentioning is that accommodations in Le Chable offer a free lift pass of the Verbier lift system, which can bring you to 30 minutes to the Cabane du Mont Fort. Some die hard hikers wished they had used that option as the climb is very long, which should change the difficulty from moderate to difficult. But with the use of the lift system several people opt to bypass the Cabane, take the Col de la Chaux directly to the Cabane de Plafleuri.
p180 Cabane de Mont Fort to Cabane de Plafleuri. The spectacular trail is to the Col Termin and the path that leads to the junction of the col de la Chaux. After that it is bolder hopping with very difficult path finding, which would be terrible in bad weather. Now you are not crossing only 1 but 2 cols full of bolders and rocks.
p194 Cabane de Plafleuri to Arolla. This is by far the most taxing, most beautiful, longest day of the tour. What a variety. There are some alternatives, but the Col de Riedematter is not easy, so you might as well take the more challenging Col de Chevres by Cabane des Dix. Although I asked if the route was easy to find over the glacier, it was very difficult to find, so did other tour hikers said so. The ladder section sound scary, but the ladders are slightly angled and therefore not really straight up, there are several platforms giving you a break. The descent to Arollo is longer than is listed in the book. This was a 10 hour hiking day for me, the longest.
p203 Arolla to La Sage is downhill only which don’t require mountain shoes. This is also the shortest day by far. 2 hours only. It is not recommended to continue and skip LaSage as it would make it a very long and difficult day, but you could also use the post bus from Arolla to La Sage and take the next stage. That would make more sense.
p209 La Sage to Cabane de Moiry. The climb up the col de Tsate is made out of slate rock, which is much easier to negotiate than bolders. This is a long climb, followed by a long descent. Map 22 the route to the parking the Glacier is no longer there, instead they want you to follow signs to lac du Glacier which brings you back down by the moraine of the glacier to the parking. Cabane de Moiry offers free lift pass to Zinal or Grimenz.
p216 Cabane de Moiry to Zinal. The haute route du Lac is a great alternative, longer at least by 1 hours, but more attractive. Great backwards views on the glaciers. When coming to the barrage, the road has switchbacks on which suddenly there is a new path created which leads straight up the mountain with more switchbacks, but it doesn’t have a sign post to col de Sorebois or markings in red and white. Once getting on the col the mountain on the other side is totally destroyed by ski slopes. Don’t take the first gondola which leads to Grimenz unless you have extra time, which you will have as it is one of the shorter stages.
p223 Zinal to Gruben. Although this would be long day as well. Cicerone offers an alternative to Cabane de Bella Tolla, just before the Meidpass. Poor signage can make it difficult to find the Bella Tolla. The ascent out of Zinal is steep initially, but levels out all the way to Hotel Weishorn. There is a long descent after the Meidpass to Gruben.
p232 Gruben to St. Niklaus. After the Augustborg Pass the scenery changes and you will have some great exposure not only on the trail but also of the deep valley below on both sides. Arriving in Jungen there is a 2 car cable system in place for which you have to call the operator to activate the descent and pay at in St. Niklaus. I opted to take the post bus to Grachen where the Europaweg starts.
p238 St. Niklaus to Europahutte. The Europaweg between Grachen en Europahutte is blocked. Therefore take the post bus down to St. Niklaus and train to Randa. Where there a several options to go to the Europahutte. Any of them are fine.
p244 Europahutte to Zermatt. After leaving the hut you know have to take the suspension bridge. The old route is blocked. There are some very exposed section where the tunnels are, not for the faint of heart. They could use more of those suspension bridges in the next 2 section. The Sunegga train station is inside the mountain and brings you directly into Zermatt. What a ride, what a tour. Without doubt the most rewarding hiking that I have done in my life."
 

22 August 2011

page 202, Arolla, Chalet Les Ecureuilsthe phone number in the book is incorrect. The correct number is:

027 283 23 61.  The website is: www.arolla-bazar.ch/ecureuils

 

May 2011

- You could add the bus line from Sion to Le Chargeur (the location of
the Grande Dixence dam). So, people who want to start the journey with
the highest col of the whole route (Pas de Chèvres or Col de Riedmatten)
can do so easily.

- When I did the Grande Dixence-Arolla part, the path from the Lac des
Dix directly to Col de Riedmatten was blocked at various places because
of rock avalanches. The path has been re-routed and it contains several
steep, gritty slopes now. If you like it, I can send you a PDF file of
the most recent map and a scan from the 1998 map which shows the old
route. As soon as you've passed the Lac des Dix, the new routes begins
to climb much faster than the old one.

- I've missed a mention of the Barrhorn (3600 meters). Instead of
proceeding from Gruben to St. Niklaus, one could stop at the Turtmann
hut (in the same valley as Gruben) and make a trip to the Barrhorn on
the next day - it's the highest peak in Switzerland you can without
alpine gear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrhorn

The T numbers are Swiss Alpine Club difficulty grades for hiking, see:
http://www.hikr.org/post2984.html

Gruben to Turtmann hut: 700 meters altitude gain, 2-3 hours, various
paths from T1 to T2+

Turtmann hut to Barrhorn: 1100 meters altitude gain, 3-4 hours, T3

Then, go back to Gruben and re-join the original Haute Route trail, or:

Descent from Barrhorn to Topali hut (located southwest of St. Niklaus):
T4 (via ferrata and a short glacier passage), 900 meters of altitude loss.

Topali hut to Täsch: Hiking path - how long it would take I could not
figure out yet.

September 2009

We are grateful to Bernd Rickenberg from Denmark for sending the following update information. The author has checked the two sections which were affected by rockfalls and confirmed one route is now fine, and the other has an alternative in place. Please see the updated information below.

Page 57 Money
ATMs are readily available in post offices and banks in Suisse cities but not in villages. At post offices you will not even get cash with your credit card. The only way to get cash on the trip is using the few ATMs that are on the way or catching a bank at opening hours.

Page 166 Trient
Wild camping near Refuge de Peuty is tolerated. The hut itself does not have a guardian. He/she comes by every evening after 19.00 to collect 10 Euros per person and night staying in the hut.

Page 172 Champex
The supermarket has closed.

Page 179 Sembrancher
Hótel de la Gare has become cheaper – 80 CHF for double room incl. breakfast, lovely place to stay
o There is a campsite between the main road and river, close to the station
o There are two banks (but none with ATM)
o There is a supermarket at the main road opposite a gas station, close to the station.

Page 182 Le Châble
There is a supermarket and ATM close to the Hótel du Giétroz.

Page 189/191, Maps 13-14 Sentier de Chamois
Was temporarily closed due to rockfall some months ago but has since been secured and is currently fully open again and it is possible to walk the path without any problem. If walkers are still concerned they can contact the Cabane de Mont Fort (+41(0)27 778 13 84) or Cabane de Louvie (+41 (0)27 778 17 40) who will provide an up-to-the-minute assessment of the trail.

Page 194 Cabane de Prafleuri
Has no drinking water. You have to purchase all water. 1,5 l bottle for 8 CHF. The price for half-board was cheaper: 59 CHF

Page 194 Cabane des Dix
The guardian of Cabane des Dix told us that the alternative route described in the guide is dangerous because of falling rocks which we were not told at Cabane de Prafleuri the evening before.

Page 202 Arolla
Arolla also has a post office and a great camp site with a little shop: 7 CHF per person and 6 CHF for a small tent per night.

Page 231 Gruben
Café-Restaurant Waldesruh has a new phone number: 079-2746218

Page 237 St. Niklaus
St. Niklaus has an ATM, a supermarket and bakery. Cheapest place to stay is Bahnhof Buffet, 35 CHF for double incl. breakfast, 027-9561810, has nice and clean rooms.

Page 238 Europaweg
This has sustained rockfall and is partially closed just above Randa, after the Europahutte. However, there is now a detour via Randa that involves you descending a long way from the original path towards Randa and the valley floor, in order to pass beneath the section of rockfall, before climbing back up again to rejoin the original route. Allow an additional two hours to tackle this new section. This affects Map 33 in the current(first) edition of the book; there is actually already a warning in the book about rockfall in this area and a warning about the possible need to use an alternative route in the wake of a previous landslip at the time of initial research. There are also paths arrowed off to Randa on the map in the book; these are now the main way of connecting the Europahutte with the section of path south of the junction and path to Kinhutte. Having climbed down to Randa though you may choose to in fact continue along the valley floor for a couple of miles, before climbing back up to rejoin the route much further along, above Tasch.

To help shore up the Europaweg, additional tunnels and fixed chains are being introduced along the section of path after the Europahutte. This will mean that some of this information relating to the section between the Europahutte and the Taschalp Hut will inevitably be missing from the current (first) edition of WHR. There isn't a date for completion of this work though and no indication yet as to when the Europaweg as it was previously will be properly open again.

That said, the path is still definitely walkable and is still the most exhilarating way of completing the Walkers Haute Route. However, if people tackling the route aren't confident about the way ahead, they can phone the Europahutte (tel +41 (0)27 967 82 47) in advance for confirmation and an up-to-date assessment of the conditions. Alternatively if they really don't fancy the Europaweg in the light of this information, they can still complete the Walkers Haute Route from St Niklaus by staying on the valley floor and walking to Zermatt via Randa and Tasch (described p238/Map p239).

 

August 2011

- in Champex a new supermarket has opened, near the post office. It sells everything you might reasonably need for a few days hiking
- the shop/greengrocer in Sembrancher has closed. A notice on the door suggested that in due time there would come a Coop supermarket. Currently this village only has a couple of cafes and a bakery
- camping Les Rouses in Zinal does not exist anymore (since 2010). The nearest campsite is in Vissoie, half an hour by bus. Not really a nice campsite, but it has a separate field for small tents without car. A useful solution if cheaper accomodation in Zinal is fully booked, as was the case when we arrived
- just before Gruben (5 minutes walking) there is adjacent to the river a terraced terrain with some tipi's and a toilet. Camping is allowed there, according to people living in the village. There is no sign. Also opposite the village camping is tolerated
- St Niklaus has another B&B worth mentioning: Chalet Bergblick, Familie Otto Biner-Schnidrig, Stook 33, St Niklaus; tel 027-9561865. It is the cheapest in town (45 chf pp I believe). The location is just beyond hotel La Reserve. If you arrive there walking, they treat you to a beer!  Breakfast is excellent
- currently a bridge near the Europahutte (direction Zermatt) is washed away. A detour is available, but this makes the section Europahutte-Zermatt a bit longer than 9 hours + quite a bit extra ascend/descend. It is not yet clear when it will be restored
- wild camping is often tolerated when done somewhat discretely. We saw many places where wild camping would have posed no problem at all.

 

 

 

The Walker's Haute Route