The Haute Route is the most famous ski tour in the world and with good reason. It is a long, tough and highly rewarding ski journey taking an aesthetic line through stunning alpine touring terrain and linking the worlds two best known alpine resorts, Chamonix and Zermatt.
With steep slopes from the departure, challenging cols, long descents and huge glaciers this tour will test your skiing, skinning and mountaineering skills as well as your fitness. However, fortunately, the excellent Swiss mountain huts in which to relax each evening are also an integral part of the Haute Route experience. A superb climax to this classic week of ski mountaineering is provided by the long glacial ski descent, under the North Face of the Matterhorn and right down to the streets of Zermatt…
Plateau du Couloir Route
For many ski mountaineers, this is The Classic Haute Route and it is certainly a longer, tougher and more committing option than the Verbier option. It includes an ascent of the 600m high ‘Plateau du Couloir’ which, from a mountaineering point of view, is the crux of the journey. By taking a more southerly course this line avoids any road travel which certainly adds a more aesthetic feel to a journey which is only possible if conditions are right and the team are fit enough. If all these things come together, it is a magnificent undertaking!
Evening meet, introductions and equipment checks at Hotel in the Chamonix Valley. *Note 1 above, Pre-Course Build up.
Hotel in Chamonix Valley (1050m)
Off-piste skiing and ski touring equipment checks at Grands Montets ski area. Mid afternoon descent to Argentiere Glacier and Hut. Argentiere Hut (2771m)
Early start for crossing of Col Du Chardonnet (3323m). Descent to Glacier de Saleina and back up to Col de Grande Lui (3457m). Huge (1800m) descent to La Fouly. NB this day can be split using an intermediate Hut for less fit or acclimatised parties. Hotel / Hostel in La Fouly (C.1600m)
A day of mainly skinning crossing the 2698m ‘Fenetre de Ferret’ and linking the village of La Fouly with the Great St. Bernard Hospice. Great St. Bernard Hospice (2469m)
A long day with a lot of climbing and some (a little!) fine skiing and there is an option to use a ski lift to save 600m from Bourg St. Bernard. If the Mont Velan option is taken the route splits on this day to ascend to the Velan Hut instead of the Valsorey, 9-10 hours to the Valsorey Hut. Valsorey Hut (3030m)
A magnificent days ski mountaineering and one of the key passages of the Haute Route. The ascent of the 600m Plateau de Couloir is likely to be mostly in crampons with skis on the packs. After crossing the Col du Sanadon (3504m) a fine long and intricate descent can be made to the lovely Chanrion Hut, 7-9 hours. Chanrion Hut (3462m)
Another superb days ski touring and after ascending the high col of ‘Les Portons’ the crossing of the Pigne d’Arolla at nearly 3800m (the high point of the whole route) gives a big mountain feel, great views of the Matterhorn and other Swiss giants and some good skiing down to the Vignettes Hut, 6-8hours. In poorer weather or if an easier day appeals the steady ascent of the Otemma Glacier can be made to reach the Vignettes. OR – if you prefer a longer day and to save a day on the programme here, it’s possible to continue up the long & steady Otemma Glacier from Chanrion direction to Vignettes (3160m) or Nacamuli (2830m) Huts.
The final day, and what a day! Another great days ski touring and a wonderful climax to this tour. 3 Cols, 25km distance and 2000m of ski descent culminating in the final descent under the Matterhorn and into Zermatt, 6-8 hours. Taxi to Chamonix or stay in Zermatt for further ski options. Chamonix Valley Hotel or stay in Zermatt for further options
3 Day Haute Route
This traverse includes a couple of days with ascents up to 1700m and all 3 days have well over 2000m of skiing in descent. There are lots of transitions and all three days will feel like major days ski mountaineering and once put together back to back form a substantial ski expedition! This will require a blend of good ski ability, good touring skills, with a solid kick turn and very good fitness.
It will also require pretty good weather and conditions and, due to the nature of the days extending later in to the afternoon, may be best suited to early in the high touring season. In 2015 we completed this 3 day traverse in good style with good conditions in the 3rd week of March. The Huts had just opened but were quiet, the snow cover was good and the slightly cooler conditions meant the later finishes worked ok.
Following these principles of a fast well trained team wanting to do a swift Haute Route in early season cooler conditions, there are lots of other options for a 2-5 day Haute route to be designed, so get in touch to discuss your preferences!
Morning meet, introductions and equipment checks at Hotel in the Chamonix Valley. *Note 1 above, Pre-Course Build up.
Ski Mountaineering Warm Up / Acclimatisation & equipment checks using one of the high lifts of the Mont Blanc Range e.g. Punta Hellbroner on Italian side of Mont Blanc. An opportunity to test all aspects of your ski mountaineering skills at high altitude whilst doing some good skiing on day 1. Hotel in Chamonix Valley (1050m)
Early start in Chamonix to ensure all equipment is ready & prepared before being first in the queue for the Grands Montets lift. A rapid ascent to 3300m gives access to the sustained ski down to the Argentiere Glacier which is rapidly followed by the ascent of the Col de Passon and over on to the Tour Glacier. After crossing the Swiss border and on to the Trient Glacier a traverse under the Trient is made to access the famous Val d’Arpette. This is descended all the way to Champex where a swift drink & taxi ride to Verbier allows the team to make the last lifts through the Verbier lift system and check in to the comfortable Cabane de Mont Fort rest & recuperation for the evening. Phew! A great day! Mont Fort Hut, Verbier (2457m)
Another long days ski touring linking days 3 and 4 of the Verbier Haute Route. From the Mont Fort Hut 3 cols are crossed and a traverse under the Rosablanche (3336m) before a fine long north facing descent leads to the Prafleuri Hut. If conditions allow, and the traverse above Lac Dix can still be made, then the onward jouney takes us a short climb to the Col de Roux. A long traverse from here, above the Dix Valley, leads into a steady ascent towards the Dix Hut. We break off before the hut and cross the famous ‘Pas De Chèvre’ to access the fine long descent in to Arolla Village (2006m) for a welcome night in a Hotel.
Another tough & very sustained ascent leads out of Arolla up towards the Bertol Hut. Legs are getting tired now but the there is not far to go before the Col de Valpeline is reached. The fantastic long final descent of the Stockli Glacier leads under the Matterhorn North Face and down in to Zermatt and a drink to celebrate the end of an impressive, swift & scenic journey through the Swiss Valais. A taxi can be taken back to Chamonix or a night spent in Zermatt to enjoy the feeling of a journey well done….and give the legs a break! Hotel in Chamonix or Zermatt
This final day can be used to finish the journey in the event of poor weather experienced along the way. In the event of everything going to the Plan A, it could also be used for a final day of skiing around Chamonix although your legs may be ready for a day off by then! Hotel in Chamonix
Fitness, Ski & Mountaineering Experience Pre-Requirements
The Haute Route is not an ideal beginners ski tour, partly because it has a long and tough first day from Chamonix. The Col du Chardonnet is not the bestplace to learn how to kick turn! It is infact a fairly challenging tour with some big days and steep terrain and therefore is suitable for folk with some previous ski touring experience and a good level of fitness (ability to sustain an ascent rate of 300m/hour for up to 5 hours). There are some long and steep descents on a wide variety of off-piste snow conditions and folk should have the ski technique and fitness to cope with this whilst carrying a rucksack with all your kit for the week in. Good skinning technique, secure kick-turns on steep terrain; experience of using crampons and walking / climbing uphill with your ski’s on your rucksack are all also important skills. If you don’t have these skills check out our introduction to ski touring course.
Folk wishing to ski the Plateau du Couloir Route will need to be even fitter and more comfortable on steeper terrain whether skinning, skiing or cramponing and those wanting to do the Haute Route in 3 days will need all that but with an exceptional level of fitness!
Verbier Haute Route
A superb ski tour and now the most popular way of doing the Haute Route….
This journey takes an elegant natural line through the Swiss Valais and avoids some of the tougher mountaineering challenges involved in the Plateau de Couloir and Grand Lui variations. It provides fantastic views, some highly enjoyable skiing and a number of short technical passages. The majority of the terrain however is ideally suited to alpine ski touring and is a pleasure to be journeying through it, whether skinning or skiing.
This route is also slightly less committing and less susceptible to inclement weather and snow conditions than the alternatives.
The route described below is the classic itinerary and works well for most parties. Timings are approximate and will vary according to group fitness, snow conditions and weather.
Pre Course Build up. As with all our ski courses, we recommend you prepare as much as possible in advance with relevant ‘ski fit’ preparation and then arrive at least a day or two early to both warm up your ski legs & check equipment. This is especially important if you will be renting boots or skis & bindings. Please also make sure your skis are well serviced & bindings correctly adjusted. Evening Meeting, introductions and equipment checks at Hotel in the Chamonix Valley.
Hotel in Chamonix Valley (1050m)
Ski Mountaineering training / refresher. Off-piste skiing and equipment checks. Avalanche transceiver training. Opportunity to sort any kit problems before setting off on tour. Hotel in Chamonix Valley (1050m)
Take the Grands Montets lift to the top (3285m) and ski down to Argentiere Glacier. Steep skin up to Col du Chardonnet (3323m) or Col du Passon (3028m). Cross Fenetre du Saleina (3267m) and traversing descent to Trient Hut (or alternative route via Tour & Trient glaciers from Col Passon). 6-8 hours. Trient Hut (3170m)
Descent to, and crossing of, the Col des Ecandies (2796m). Huge ski descent of the famous Val d’Arpette to Champex. Taxi to Verbier and use lifts to ascend to Mont Fort Hut. Skiing and training around Verbier ski area. Nb Some fast teams in good weather & conditions can link this day with the next to save a day on the programme and build in a poor weather contingency day. Mont Fort Hut, Verbier (2457m)
A classic days ski touring crossing 3 cols and making an ascent of the Rosablanche (3336m). A fine long north facing descent takes us to the comfortable Prafleuri Hut, 5-7 hours. Snow profile analysis training if appropriate.
Prafleuri Hut (2662m)
An early start with skins on takes us up a short climb to the Col de Roux. A long traverse above the Dix Valley leads into a steady ascent to this large and lively alpine hut, 4-6 hours. If time, energy and conditions allow an afternoon ascent of La Luette (3369m) can be made in 2-3 hours. Dix Hut (2928m)
Atmospheric dawn departure and skin under Mont Blanc de Cheilon North Face. The ski traverse of the Pigne d’Arolla (4-6 hours) is a classic and provides both fantastic views and, at 3772m, the high point of this tour. Descent to Vignetts or, to make the two final days more even, continue over the Italian border to the Nacamuli Hut.
Vignettes (3160m) or Nacamuli (2830m) Huts
The big one! A great days ski touring and a wonderful climax to this tour. 3 Cols, 25km distance and 2000m of ski descent culminating in the final descent under the Matterhorn and into Zermatt, 6-8 hours. Taxi to Chamonix or stay in Zermatt for further ski options. Chamonix Valley Hotel or stay in Zermatt for further options
2018 Haute Route Dates & Prices
Mid March – Late April – COURSE NOW FULL FOR 2018 – Please enquire about private guiding or 2019 dates.
7 Days, £3450 for a single skier + £200 per additional skier (Group size Max 3)
Mid March – Late April – OPEN COURSE NOW FULL FOR 2018 – Please enquire about 2019 or private guiding.
7 Days, £3395 for a single skier + £150 per additional skier (Group size Max 4, For Groups of 4-7 We highly recommend also taking an Aspirant Guide at increased cost but with a greater level of support for the team)
Fast Haute Route
Mid March – Early April – Please Enquire For Private Guiding Dates To Suit Your Convenience
5 Days, £2450 for a single skier + £200 per additional skier (Group size Max 3)
What’s included in the Price?
- 5 or 7 full days ski mountaineering with an International Mountain Guide (IFMGA)
- We offer you a ‘guiding only’ package which means that you pay cost price for all other expenses and can choose your own level of accommodation in Chamonix.
- Trip planning & booking of mountain huts
What’s not included in the price?
- Accommodation. We recommend that you stay at the Hotel Pt Isabella in Chamonix which is very central and near the ski hire shops and ‘apres ski’ area of Chamonix! If this is full or you prefer an alternative style of accommodation please see our recommended list for places to stay in Chamonix.
- Mountain huts & lift passes, for you and the guides. Allow about 70 euros per night half board accommodation for each person and just over half this for the Guide
- The guides expenses are split between the group members and are discounted in huts and on lifts. Often the base way to deal with these expenses is to make a communal group ‘kitty’.
- About 100 euros for 2 days for lift passes.
- Taxis, from Champex to Verbier and Zermatt to Chamonix. Allow about 300 euros for both trips.
- Food and drink during the course
- Ski equipment. Check the kit list below
Course Notes & Equipment List
Please note that the detailed kit list, given via the link below must be followed and all hire kit including boots, skis, skins, ski crampons, poles, transeiver, shovel, probe must be hired in advance or arranged in advance with us.
Ski Haute Route – Latest Conditions
Please check the latest snow & skiing conditions info below for the Haute Route journey and let us know if you have any recent info we can add here as a resource for other teams heading out…
Bon ski, bonne route!
3 April 2018, Quiet At Valsorrey & No One Crossing The Plateau Du Couloir
The guardian at the Valsorrey Hut indicated the poor weather had left the crossing of the Plateau du Couloir quiet for a number of days although, with plenty of warm & sunny weather ahead in the forecast, hopefully things will settle down quite quickly with some sunny days and cool nights.
30 March 2018, Lots Teams Crossing The Col de Passon, A Few On The Chardonnet
Despite the powerful foehn winds funnelling down the Argentiere basin there were numerous teams crossing the Col de Passon today from both the Argentiere Hut and first lift at Grands Montets. Conditions are good for the ascent with impressive snow cover to access the snow slopes above the Argentiere Glacier and then the couloir to the Col itself. No info from the Col de Chardonnet so please let us know if you have crossed recently and what the snow conditions were like / anchors available on the Swiss side descent!