Our Adventure on the Haute Route
During one of the rainiest summers (July 2014) in Switzerland, my husband and I walked the walkers Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Along the way we made great friendships, hiked/slid through snow in the high mountains, stayed in B&Bs, hostels and hotels in bucolic Swiss and French villages, tested our mental and physical stamina, witnessed a deadly avalanche, and saw a few snow-covered mountain peaks.
I won’t say it was the adventure we had expected, but I don’t think we’ll ever forget our three weeks in the Alps.
This page brings together all the blog posts (now with photos) as well as some practical information for people planning for the walk.
Practical Tips for Hikers
Grocery Stores and ATMs
Chamonix – everything you could possibly need
Argentiere – smallish town – at least one grocery store and a few sports stores. Our friends stayed at the Belevedere and loved it. We were at the Randonneurs – a walk out of town. It was ok.
Trient (first time you may need Swiss Francs) – theRelais de Mont Blanc has a bar and small store – they take credit cards. The other place (next door) was rumored to serve great meals.
Champex – Pension en Plein Air charges 3% for credit cards. The dorms here are better than most (more privacy) but upgrade to a double room isn’t much extra. Good radiators to dry things – and washing facilities. Town has a very small grocery store (closes mid-day) and an ATM outside the store. One small sports store as well.
Le Chable – Pizza place (second floor on main drag) is good and reasonably priced. Two grocery stores – closed on Sundays. We didn’t take out money here – but I’m sure there was a bank or ATM. Verbier has everything (short cable-car ride away).
Cabane du Mont Fort – takes a credit card.
Cabane de Prafleuri – cash only. Must pay for dinner before dinner (and also order drinks before dinner).
Arolla – We stayed at a three star hotel – Hotel du Pigne (since the rest of the town was booked – it had a bathtub – great for weary legs). Hotel Glacier / Edelweiss was supposed to have a great breakfast. Not so for the Ecureuil. Two small grocery stores – didn’t look for an ATM. Only a small grocery in Haudreres (and out of the way – down the road the opposite direction).
La Sage – No store or ATM as far as I know – really tiny village. Ecureuil was cheap, but not that clean, and the food was canned and over salted. Showers didn’t lock.
Cabane de Moiry – will take credit cards for the deposit, but must pay the balance in cash.
Zinal – larger town – two grocery stores open every day.
Gruben – tiny village. Hotel Schwarzhorn charged 3% for credit cards. No ATM or groceries available. Double-check if they say they have no room in the dorms.
St. Nicklaus – Grocery store and ATM (I think).
Blog Posts – July 6 to 26, 2014
The biggest mistake people made was taking too much.
- Good boots – well worn in (we wore low boot/shoes and they worked fine – but everyone else chose leather hiking boots.)
- Socks (I took 3 pairs – one to wear – one that was usually wet – and a spare).
- Light, quick dry pants, shorts, and shirts. I took 3 tops – one to wear, one that was drying, and a spare to wear in the evenings after my shower.
- One long sleeved light cover up.
- One mid-weight fleece
- A rain coat. (I didn’t use rain pants and I was fine.)
- A sun hat and a fleece hat (it got cold, I used my fleece hat a lot.)
- Something to sleep in for the dorms (or to get up to go to the bathroom at night.)
- Good backpack
- Water bottle (we didn’t take purifier stuff but if it was hotter out, we would have needed more water.)
- A sleeping bag liner (lightweight). They don’t wash the bedding in the cabins.
- First aid and blister stuff
- Headlamp and space blanket for emergencies
- Personal stuff
- Camping towel (ours was the smallest – I’d get a larger one next time)
We also took:
- Kindle with guidebook loaded (lighter than a paper copy, plus had other books to read).
- Cell phone (worked in most places)
- Maps and compass (used the maps in the evening, but felt safer that we had them. )
- Sandals (the huts provide sandals, but its nice to have your own for the hotels as well).
Is the Route Well Marked?
Yes. If you have Kev’s book for directions (get from Amazon) and a decent sense of direction, and the weather is fine, you shouldn’t have a problem. Most people carry maps and a compass as well as backup. We didn’t need them at all, but used them in the evening to better understand the next day’s route. It can get confusing in the valleys where there are many roads and trails – but the maps won’t help there, and getting lost isn’t that big of a deal – except you waste time.
How fit do you need to be?
Fit. You should walk – a lot – before you attempt the route. You need to be comfortable with heights, exposure, and scrambling over uneven surfaces. It’s also high -so expect shortness of breath going up the passes. You don’t need to be a super athlete.
Book in Advance or On the Go?
Accommodations fill up on the weekends, so book those as much in advance as you can. Those that booked in advance found canceling expensive or a pain. Those that booked one or two days ahead found accommodations sometimes expensive or hard to find. It’s a coin toss in my opinion. If the weather is bad, it’s nice to have the flexibility to change things around.