We offer two itineraries for the Haute Route Ski Traverse. Both trips take 6 days, but differ for the duration of 2 full and 2 half days starting on day 3.
1) Verbier Variation: "The Regular Route": Most commonly done variation, stays north of the divide of the Alps in terrain less committing in terms of avalanche hazard and involves less technical difficulty and shorter days. On Day 3, the use of the gondola in Verbier makes gaining altitude easy. Guide to client ratio: 1:5. Total of 5100m = 16700 ft climb, 8360m = 27420' descent over 73.5 km = 46 miles
2) Valsorey Variation: "The Classic Route": Less popular nowadays, uses smaller huts and the route sticks closer (and south) to the divide of the Western Alps with more glacier travel than the "Regular", more vertical and longer days. This variation is suitable later in the season, when snowpack is more stable. No lift assistance.The ability to safely front point up a 40 degree snowslope without a rope belay while carrying skis on your pack is required when climbing from the Valsorey Hut to the Plateau de Couloir on Day 5. Guide to client ratio: 1:5.Total of 6000m = 19430' climb, 7600m = 25000' descent over 77 km = 48 miles.
Haute Route Regular Variation via Verbier (For Classic Variation via Valsorey see italic font below)
Day 1: Travel to Argentiere in the Chamonix Valley (1.30 hrs driving time, Argentiere is about 10 min up-valley from Chamonix, Airport pick-up in Geneva optional). Lodging in our Hotel in Argentiere.
Day 2: Meeting with the guide(s), trip briefing, equipment check. Gondola to the Grand Montet (3300m) and avalanche transceiver exercise, descent to the Argentiere Glacier (about 2700m) and traverse across the glacier to the Argentiere hut (2770m=9085ft). 170m = 560' climb, 650m = 2130' descent, 4 km, 2.5 hrs. In the afternoon instruction on crampon use and kick turn refresher on the slopes around the hut.
Day 3: Early morning departure. Short run down the Argentiere Glacier, then up the Col de Passon (3028 m), towards the top often crampons required. Short descent underneath the Aiguille du Chardonnet north face and we skin across the Tour Glacier and up to the Col Superieur du Tour (3289 m), which marks the border to Switzerland. A long descent across the Trient glacier, followed by a short climb to the Col des Ecandies (2 796 m) opens up a magnificent run into Val d'Arpette, and the quaint village of Champex (1 480 m). Lodging in a nice hotel in town. Climb 1 020 m = 3 345 ft, descent: 2 345 m = 7 692 ft.
Day 4: Verbier Variation: Taxi ride to Verbier (1 hr). Gondola ride and descent in the Verbier Ski resort. Climb to the Col de la Chaux (2940 m), short descent and another climb to Col de Momin (3003 m). Optional ski ascent of the Rosablanche (3 336 m) and beautiful ski run to the Prafleuri hut (2 662 m) - showers available. Climb: 900 m = 2950', descent: 900 m = 2950' not counting the descent in the Verbier resort.
In stable conditions a strong group could also skip the Prafleurie Hut and descend and traverse directly in a long day to the Dix Hut (see day 6).
Valsorey Variation: Taxi ride to Bourg St. Pierre (45 min) and ascent through the beautiful and quaint Valsorey to the relatively small Valsorey Hut (3037m = 9960ft.), 1400m = 4600' climb, 8km, 7 hrs. Later in spring you might have to carry your skis for the first hour or two
Day 5: Verbier Variation: Short climb to the Col du Roux, short descent and then follows a long level traverse above the Dix Lake. After about 2.5 hrs, we climb up to the Pas du Chat and on to the Dix Hut (2990m = 9800ft), probably the nicest of all huts along the Haute Route in spectacular setting. 800m = 2620' climb, 350m = 1150' descent, 9 km, 5 hrs. In the afternoon, optional ascent of La Luette, an easy ski touring peak with good views above the hut with a light pack.
Valsorey Variation: Steep climb (usually crampons necessary while carrying the skis on your back!) to the Plateau du Couloir (3664m) and magnificent descent on the Durrand Glacier towards the Lac de Mauvoisin and back up to the Refuge Chanrion (2460m=8070ft). 940m = 3090' climb, 1510m = 4950' descent, 12km, 7 hrs.
Important: This is one of the crux days on the classic itinerary in remote terrain and requires both good weather and good snowpack stability. The Chanrion hut is very remote and hard to reach from the valley - that means there is no easy way out, should the weather deteriorate and preclude the group from continuing the Haute Route.
Day 6: Both Variations meet at the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla:
Verbier Variation: Spectacular climb through the rugged glacier to the Pigne D'Arolla 3800m and descent to the Vignette Hut (3157m = 10360 ft), 900m = 2950' climb, 640m = 1340' decent, 7km, 6 hrs.
Valsorey Variation: Summit day! Via the Glacier Brenay to the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla (3800m = 12500ft) with great views of the entire traverse. Descent to the Vignette Hut (3185m=10450ft). 1330m = 4360' climb, 640m = 1340' descent, 10km, 7 hrs.
Day 7: Last day of both itineraries are identical, which is only one reason, why the Vignette Hut tends to be the busiest of all huts along the Haute Route. Today waits the famous Three-Col-Traverse with Matterhorn view, probably the best day of the whole trip! Via Col de l'Eveque (3392m), Col de Mont Brulee (3213m) and Col de Valpelline (3568m) and a long, glaciated descent underneath the impressive North Face of the Matterhorn all the way into Zermatt, where we lodge in a 2 star Hotel. 1120m = 3675' climb, 2670m = 8760' decent, 25km, 8 hrs.
Day 8: Breakfast and return by train or van to the Chamonix Valley or directly to the Airport in Geneva. Alternatively, we gladly help you to make arrangements to stay in Zermatt to enjoy some of the world's best and most scenic resort skiing in Zermatt.
Optional Extension Day 9:
a) Spare day to be spent doing off piste skiing or adding another peak ascent around Zermatt, should things on the Haute Route work out as planned.
b) Extension to Saas Fee: Train to Gornergrat and by cable car to the Hohtaelli (3400m=11150ft).Traverse to the Stockhorn (Great views!). Descent on the Findelen Glacier. Steep ascent to the Adlerpass (3802m) and on to the summit of the Strahlhorn (4190m = 13750ft), descent all the way to the Britania Hut and on to the town of Saas Fee, where we lodge in a B&B or depending on the preferences of the group, return to the Chamonix Valley the same evening. 1180m = 3870' climb, 2800m = 9185' descent, 7-8 hrs.
Day 9 or 10: Return to the Chamonix Valley by Taxi-Van or Train or directly to the airport in Geneva.
The above itinerary is subject to changes depending on conditions at the time in regards to weather, avalanche hazard or the abilities of the group at the discretion of the guide and in the interest of the safety of the group.
Detail and Logistics
Day 1 at our Hotel in Argentiere - 6PM, located at the beginning of the traverse (about 15 min. up-valley from Chamonix, hotel night included in our trip package)
We gladly assist in organizing any pre/post trip lodging and airport transfers.
Climate, Weather, Temperatures:
Beginning of March - Mid May, with April being the most popular time. Avoid the long easter weekend as well as starting the trip on a weekend to skip the crowds. Late winter season makes for more settled weather, more settled snowpack and better coverage on the glaciers (less crevasse issues!).
Temperatures can vary hugely: If wintery weather patterns prevail, you can expect temps between -5 C and -22 C. In spring the temperature spread increases from -10 C overnight to +15 C, especially on sunny days and when descending to the valleys.
Services Included in the Total Price:
Guiding by an internationally (UIAGM/IFMGA) certified, multilingual, mountain guide or guide aspirant under supervision, all guide expenses. All lodging: Double room in 2 and 3 star hotels in Argentiere, Champex and Zermatt with breakfast; dormitories in huts of the French or Swiss Alpine Club with half-board dinners and breakfast, transfer from Champex to either Verbier or Bourg St. Pierre by taxi or bus, Grand Montets gondola in Argentiere. Use of technical equipment: Harnesses, crampons, rope, carabiners, avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes.
Not Included Are:
Air fares, rental of ski touring equipment (we can provide you with a discounted rate with our partner shop in the Chyamonix Valley), lunch (Sandwiches, snacks can be purchased in the huts or in the valley), drinks (beer is about CHF 7/ can, wine starts at CHF 30 / bottle), dinner while lodging in Zermatt and Argnetiere (2 nights), gondola cost for the Verbier resort (CHF 60) or for the Furi Gondola in Zermatt (CHF 15), should the snow coverage not be sufficient to ski all the way into Zeramtt, single room supplement for all lodging in the valleys, any additional transport or lodging cost due to unforeseen itinerary changes.
Additional Trip Services Available:
Airport shuttles Geneva to our Hotel in the Chamonix Valley: from Euro 40/ person
Luggage Transport from our Hotel in the Chamonix Valley to Zermatt: Euro 60 / bag
Lodging in Zermatt: Double room B&B, clean two star standard: From Euro 50 / pers.
Lodging Chamonix Valley: Double room B&B: From Euro 50 / person
Optional Ascent of Mont Blanc (two additional days):
The Mont Blanc ascent is technically more difficult than the Haute Route, implies more objective dangers and requires a client to guide ratio of two to one. Please inquire for a quote.
Can I Do It?
Strenuous backcountry ski tour in alpine, mostly glaciated terrain on alpine touring (randonnée) or sturdy telemark equipment.
You must be able to ski safely and controlled at all times while wearing a mid-weight backpack (7-10 kg /15 lb-22 lb).
Depending on the conditions, we might have to rope on while skiing both up and downhill. You need to be in very good physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about
8 - 10 hrs including, steep, continuous uphill climbs of up to 1200 meters (4100 ft) on some of the days. Being on your feet every day for 7 days requires a good deal of stamina! If in doubt wether you have the required skills and fitness level, feel free give us a call to discuss your options!
We do not recommend this trip for backcountry ski touring beginners!
Where can I rent equipment?:
There are 2 stores we recommend in Chamonix, Sanglard Sports rental equipment
Snell Sports rental equipment
What if the weather is bad or avalanche hazard is high:
Nobody can guarantee excellent weather and low avalanche hazard throughout the Haute Route traverse! Generally, we manage to move on to our next hut destination even in relatively bad weather, if our clients are up for it. Avalanche hazard can be a larger problem (and it often goes hand in hand with bad weather) and may cause delays or itinerary changes. Should itinerary / schedule changes be necessary, (1) we sometimes rearrange hut reservations and make up for a lost day or (2) we may have to skip a day or two by using public transport and pick up again at trailheads in either Verbier, Bourg St. Pierre, Evolene or Champex, depending on the itinerary chosen. To give an estimate, about 80% of our Haute Route trips run in accordance with the schedule and in about 20% itinerary changes are necessary, more often due to lack of fitness and preparation on our client's side than weather and avalanche hazard issues.
HAUTE ROUTE SKI TOURING
1. Technical Equipment:
• Telemark or Alpine Touring skis* Only bring your telemark skis if you are at least an advanced/intermediate telemark skier with backcountry experience.
• Telemark or alpine touring boots*
• Collapsible or non-adjustable ski poles*
• Climbing skins (stick-on) that fit your telemark or alpine touring skis*
• Avalanche transceiver (475 Megahertz)
• Lightweight snow shovel
• Avalanche probe
• Backpack, medium sized (about 40 liters) with rain cover and outside straps to attach skis and crampons. Some have built-in rain covers (eg. Deuter backpacks). Rain covers can also be bought separately. Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing harness for glacier travel
• Crampons, lightweight if possible
• One locking carabiner
• Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik slings, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
• Ski crampons
• Repair kit / spare parts for your bindings (optional)
All items marked with ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
Harness, carabiner, transceiver, crampons, snow-shovel and avalanche probe can be provided by OnTop. Please bring your own equipment if you have it, also let us know!
We suggest using the ‘layer system’: Light technical clothing that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly if sweaty or wet. Layers can be put on and taken off fast if weather conditions change during the day.
• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore Tex or similar)
• Warm pants (insulated / fleece/ polypro)
• Fleece or wool pullover or jacket
• Medium weight fleece shirt
• Capilene, fleece or wool underwear, top and bottoms
• 2 Pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
• Scarf or neck gaiter
• Socks: thick (wool) outer and thinner liners
• Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
• Gaiters (unless pants lock tightly to your boots or ski pants have integrated gaiters)
• Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
• Bandana (optional)
3. Hotel lodging:
• Spare underwear, socks
• Toiletries (minimum supply – most huts do not have running water!)
4. Hut lodging:
• Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
• Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
• Light-weight sleeping bag liner (preferably silk) - wool covers are provided by the hut
• Very light jogging shoes or slippers for town (optional). Most guides don’t take any and walk around town in inner boots.
• Light hut slippers (optional, see above). Usually huts provide slippers, especially in France and Switzerland (Haute Route)
• Alpine Club card, if you are a member
• Ear plugs (optional but very useful)
5. Other items:
• Sun Glasses (with very good UV protection, extra pair is a good idea)
• Sun screen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter
• Head lamp with spare battery and bulb
• Blister kit (optional)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.)
• Personal items (Prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses etc.)
• Pocket knife or Leatherman tool
• (Health/Travel) insurance documents
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Camera, batteries (optional)
• Compass, maps and GPS (optional)
• Ski wax / skin wax (optional)