The Walker’s Haute Route: a 125 mile hike through the French and Swiss Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt, Mont Blanc to The Matterhorn. The route gains more than 12, 000m in height and loses 10,000m. It passes through many mountain villages and valleys, crossing eleven passes, with views of the surrounding 4000m peaks of the massifs and glaciers.
We are a couple from Scotland who are very proud to be from a beautiful country that has a lot to offer when it comes to stunning mountain ranges, beaches, and lochs. In June 2015 we walked the West Highland Way – a 91 mile hike from Milngavie (pronounced Mul-guy – I know, what!?!?) to Fort William, passing through the well known Loch Lomond and picturesque Glencoe mountain range.
As much as we love what Scotland has to offer, we couldn’t resist the call of the Alps! After a bit of reading around popular long distance hikes, we decided on The Walker’s Haute Route, and started planning! If you’re thinking of doing this walk, definitely buy yourself a copy of “The Classic Walker’s Haute Route” Cicerone guide by Kev Reynolds. With detailed route descriptions, timings, amenities on the way – a must buy. The only thing to watch out for is Kev must’ve been a quick ascender as we couldn’t keep up with a lot of the timings on the way up!
Chamonix is where you begin the Haute Route, but as keen rock climbers, we couldn’t go to climber’s paradise without bumming about for a few days and visiting a few crags. We spent our first two days on a local campsite called Camping de la Mer de Glace. It was actually about 2 miles outside of the town centre but the campsite gives you a free bus/train pass or you can walk in around 35 mins along a nice cycle path. The bus stop is on the main road and is pretty regular, and the campsite staff were very helpful with directions.
Our first day climbing was spent at the La Joux crag, a 10 minute walk in from the train stop, however make sure to ‘stop’ the train as this is not a designated stop on the route. I think there’s a bell you press to request it to stop. From there it’s pretty easy to find your way up to the crag, with clear signposts through a path in the forestry. We used the book below to plan our trips which had detailed descriptions of the rock type, climbing difficulty, access, and route maps of all the climbs.
The crag at La Joux was busy, but we found a couple of easier routes to start off on. It was a scorching hot day, much hotter than we’re used to in Scotland anyway, but there was some much appreciated shade under the trees. The views over to Aguille di midi were incredible and we ticked off 3/4 climbs.
Our second day climbing was at the Servoz crag, found not far from Les Houches. Again, you can catch the train from Chamonix (we hopped on from our campsite) to Les Houches, then walk from there. When we arrived, we could tell it was a popular spot. A much bigger and noisier crag than at La Joux, as it was next to a road with a cafe opposite. Although we enjoyed the climbing we did, we found it difficult to get on any of the routes we had been eyeing up as quite a few groups had left their ropes in. It seems there’s a different climbing etiquette in France!
Instead of lugging all of our climbing gear over, we rented a harness, helmet, and shoes for about 70€ for 2 days. There are plenty of shops in the main drag you can get this from. A last note on our climbing experience in Chamonix – the routes are graded a lot higher over there! We were struggling on stuff that we consistently climb at in the UK.
When we weren’t climbing, we spent most of our time chilling out on our campsite, wandering around the outdoor shops, and drinking beer! (some of it green!)
Now for getting down to it!!!! THE HAUTE ROUTE…
Day 1: Chamonix – Argentiére – Col de Balme – Col de la Forclaz
We spent a while faffing around in the morning, packing up the tent, our bags, and getting rid of all the s*** that we didn’t need and had somehow accumulated in two days! Seriously though, when you’ve got that kind of weight on your back for that distance, every little bit of it counts.
A couple of pain au chocolats later and we were off! The first half of the day I felt excited about what was to come, but also an enormous amount of dread about leaving behind the comforts of sitting around on my arse on the campsite in Chamonix! Before we knew it, the path started to incline and I was getting my first taste of what it felt like carrying this huge backpack uphill…
We walked through a lovely forest with a glacial river flowing through, and much of the morning was spent still amongst the Chamonix business, with families playing in the parks, and people passing by who were out for the day. We reached Argentiére by late lunchtime and picked up a few snacks and dinner for our first camp that night (and the following 3 nights it turns out…we lived off cous cous and sausage cooked on the camp stove!)
After Argentiére, we were planning on reaching Col de la Forclaz where we had a campsite booked for the night (Next to Hotel du Col du la Forclaz). Getting to the Col de Balme was a tough slog up, a fairly uninteresting section of the day. There was a cafe at the top, you can take a cable car up if you wish. I had to take a big time out here to get my sugar levels up (I have type 1 diabetes , and it wasn’t too happy after the hike up!).
By the time we had reached Refuge Les Grands at Le Peuty we were more than ready to stop (you can camp outside the hut here). It was a tough mental and physical battle to get back up out of the valley to reach our campsite, but we knew we had the most demanding day the next day and wanted to minimise the pain for that. It was late evening by the time we settled at the campsite at Col de la Forclaz and pitched our tent, only time for a quick beer, shower, and a munch before hitting the sack.
Day 2: Col de la Forclaz – Champex
We woke to the sound of a helicopter, sounding as though it was landing on our tent! Eventually we crawled out of the tent to see it was landing on the pitch below us to drop off supplies. It was an earlier rise than we’d planned, but an early start turned out to be necessary…
Ouch!!!! It was obvious my body was struggling getting used to carrying so much weight. But we knew we had a hard day ahead of us, so we had our porridge and off we went to tackle the fenetre d’arpette – a 2665m ascent up a steep rocky path. The first hour of the walk to the Chalet du Glacier was pleasant, a fairly flat path through the woods, not a sign of what was to come.
After the Chalet you start to climb, and it’s steep, with no rest!!! You eventually come out of the woods to get your first glimpse of the Trient Glacier, a breathtaking sight! You can use photo taking opportunities as an excuse to stop and catch your breath.
I really struggled with this section to reach the Col. I was feeling faint and had a spinning head. I kept testing my blood sugar levels, convinced it was my diabetes, but my levels were good. A lot of people pass you on their way down the path, coming from the other side. The Mont Blanc trail completes this route the opposite way, and it’s a popular route. Every time someone passed, I asked “how far to the top”… I kept pushing myself, and Evan was pushing me hard too. Too hard! I had to take myself off the path to empty my stomach!!! I brought up all my porridge from breaky and all the water I’d been drinking on the way up. This wasn’t good… Not only did I have to replace all my lost fluids to keep hydrated, but I had to make sure my sugars stayed up too. At this point I was blaming my fitness levels for the wobbly, and after forcing some glucose gel and a flapjack down, we eventually reached the top.
We had underestimated how long it would take us to summit the fenetre. We checked the time as we were eating lunch at the top and came to the conclusion that pushing on to Le Chable as originally planned was a ridiculous idea. We phoned ahead to book a night at the campsite in Champex instead (http://champex-camping.ch/). On the way down from the Col, Evan developed a stinking headache. It was this that woke us up to the realisation that my sickness was possibly due to the altitude! The descent was pretty hard because of how exhausted we were feeling, but there were some spectacular peaks to see, and the path into Champex wandered through some nice forest surroundings. The campsite was fairly standard, although the owner didn’t speak much English. Again, just time for a beer, shower, and food before bed!
Day 3: Champex – Sembrancher – Les Chable
Today’s weather forecast wasn’t looking great, a bit showery and dreich! The walk through Champex village was beautiful. We picked up lunch and supplies at the local shop, and strolled along the lake, a lovely start to the day.
It was an easier day ahead, which was extremely welcome after the fenetre!!! We took it slow, and stopped under some trees a few times when the rain came on. It was mostly downhill all the way to Sembrancher, sauntering through some green, flowery fields, with crops and livestock a plenty, and passing through a couple of sleepy villages on the hill. Sembrancher itself has some interesting little farm buildings, and a quaint village square.
From Sembrancher to Les Chable you follow a path alongside a river, not much to see, but nice and flat for the legs. We had been speaking to a few people on the way who had recommended staying in the mountain hut Cabane du Mont Fort, so we phoned ahead and with Evan’s very basic French, booked ourselves in. We’d also heard that the walk up there from Les Chable was nothing to shout home about, a missable section if you’re not too fussed about completing the whole route “properly”. We also had it in the back of our minds that we had to make up time, and so took the cable car from Champex to Verbier. It cost around 30€ each, and came regularly. We kicked back and looked down on a boring looking path which meandered through forestry, crossing the mountain biking trails.
Verbier is a lively ski resort in the winter, but was mostly shut up for the summer season, so there wasn’t much to see. We thought we’d manage to get a coffee at the top, but nae luck! It only took a couple of hours to reach our comfy bed at the Cabane du Mont Fort. This was our first proper bed and meal of the trip, and turned out to be one of our favourite nights!
We checked in with a handsome young Frenchman and were shown our room. We had read about the mountain huts and were expecting to be sharing a room with other walkers, in a dormitory style room. We were blown away with the private twin bed room we were given, with a wee window with views of Mont Gele behind. The place had a nice relaxed atmosphere, and we started chatting to a few other walkers doing the route. We loved our stay here and would say it’s a must! You can wild camp outside the hut if you want to save some money, there were a couple of folk doing this and coming to the hut for food and showers, so I’m sure they’re okay with you doing that and paying a small charge for doing so.
Day 4: Cabane du Mont Fort – Cabane de Prafleuri
We woke up to the most incredible cloud inversion in the valley beneath us. There was a bit of chat amongst the groups of walkers before we set off, as the path wasn’t entirely clear from standing at the hut. This became much clearer as we descended slightly, and we soon found the path which breaks away on the left. There is an alternative route at this stage which s more direct and shorter, and safer underfoot if you’re looking for an easier option.
As we cut round the side of the mountain on a narrow path (if you’re not too with slight exposure you may find this section a bit uneasy, but we had no problems at all), we took in striking views of the Combin Massif ahead.
This stretch was quickly becoming one of our favourite days of the trip so far. The sun was out, and we were feeling a million miles away from any stresses or worries – what this trip was all about!
Another tough day, but amazing views all round, and a chance of seeing ibex and chamois! We reached Col de Louvie for lunch and took a big rest here. It was very rocky here with even a bit of snow and a bit of a chill in the wind. We filled up our water in a wee stream and cooked our freeze dried packet lunches on our camping stove.
As we came down the other side into what can only be described as a barren landscape. It looked like we had been plonked on Mars! Called the Grand Desert, you see a dying glacier and moraine, the only sign of life were some pretty purple flowers peeping through the rocks. You can clearly make out the route climbing back up from big red arrows painted onto boulders, as you ascend towards the next Col, Col de Prafleuri.
It took us longer than anticipated to reach the Cabane de Prafleuri, but we were greeted with some cute donkeys and some familiar faces from previous days. We had phoned ahead and booked again, as we were unsure about the suitability of the surrounding area of the cabin for wild camping, but once we arrived it was clear that this would be possible, with plenty of grassy areas on the mounds around the hut area. We were a bit disappointed with our stay here actually. It was a busy hut, and the service wasn’t that friendly. We were told that there would be a wait for a hot shower, but after waiting, we discovered that there was no hot water at all, so we just went without… Not ideal but couldn’t have been helped!
The beds were what we had been expecting at the Cabane du Mont Fort the night before – a row of mattresses side by side in a large dormitory. If you don’t want to sleep next to a stranger you can pay more for bunk bed rooms. We didn’t mind sharing, and there were only a couple of annoyances such as a man going to bed at 6pm and asking everyone to be quiet thereafter, and some snorers and farters in the room (this did lead to a few immature giggles from others, myself included, hehe!). I think we were overly spoiled by the haven that was Cabane du Mont Fort, it was hard to beat and made Prafleuri seem a bit dull. The Prafleuri hut was used by workmen who were there to excavate a quarry in the mountain side, so it lacked any real charm.
We cooked our own food on the camp stove outside, so didn’t eat the meals here, but they looked reasonable. You can stock up on chocolate bars, crisps etc here, and order a packed lunch if you wish. While we cooked, we started chatting to an American guy called Peter outside. He was doing the route with his gorgeous wife Lily from Costa Rica, so we shared many stories with them about back home.
There was a lot of chat amongst the walkers about the day ahead of us. In the books it mentions a laddered section of the route – the ladders of Pas de Chevres. However, it was difficult to tell from the descriptions and pictures we Google’d how risky these would be. There are old and new ladders which have helped walkers over the pass. The old ones look pretty scary, consisting of only 3 vertical ladders bolted to the rockface, and with decades of wear were a bit rusty and rickety! In 2014, new ladders were fixed at an angle with platforms between them. These were deemed to be easier and safer to climb. We had to decide whether to tackle these or take the alternative route by navigating up the scree to cross at Col de Riedmatten (2919m). The debate continued throughout the evening and so we decided to sleep on it and see how everyone felt in the morning.
For a useful account of the ladders with pictures, see https://alittlebitoutoffocus.com/2015/09/27/walking-tour-day-2-of-2/pas-de-chevres-ladders/#main
Day 5: Cabane de Prafleuri – Arolla
It was impossible to get a lie in with some walkers rising at the crack of dawn in the room. We also woke to being told by the hut staff that a bad thunderstorm was making it’s way in and advised that we should get an early start to avoid being caught out on the ladders in the rain. We all set off at different times and we were the last to make our way up a steep start to get over the Col des Roux. By the time we came down the other side, we had caught up with two couples we had been chatting to in the huts. Gill and Gary, a couple from Essex and Andy and Lucie, geologists from Adelaide, Australia. We didn’t know it back then, but the six of us became the best of friends on the route, and had many laughs and good times along the way!
We enjoyed a chatty walk along the side of the beautiful Lac des Dix, getting to know the guys, doing some marmot spotting, navigating our way past some pretty intimidating cows on the path, and continuing the debate – ladders or no ladders!?
After the lake, you face a steep climb up a path. We had to let the other guys go on ahead, as my sugar levels had taken a big nose dive. I was running low on snacks so I had to sip my water and take handfuls of dry oats to take on some longer acting carbs (a very hard point for me on the trip!) It was a nasty half hour as my sugars continued to drop rather than rise, and I was getting increasingly frustrated as we waited. We could see the rain clouds coming in and had the blooming ladder drama looming over us. Eventually, we got moving again and managed to catch up with Andy and Lucie just as they stood at the point of deciding whether or it to take the ladders. Gill and Gary had already started to make their way up the alternative route up the scree to the left. As we deliberated, we heard a huge crash from the mountains ahead of us. At first we thought it was thunder, but it was clear the second time that we were hearing the clattering of rockfall. It was quite scary, but it was far enough away that we were confident nobody was hurt. Apparently this area is partial to a bit of this every now and again, and this section was actually diverted after some damage after a landslide.
After we got over the fright of the rockfall it was back to it, and luckily we saw a group of walkers come over the Pas de Chevres and down the ladders. We thought, if they can come down them it must be okay to go up them, and so we decided to give them a go.
What was all the fuss about? The ladders were fine! It had even been raining a bit by the time we reached them, but steady footwork and taking your time made it very straightforward. We caught up with Gary and Gill over the Col to hear that they had actually had a much worse time getting up the scree, with it being very loose and gritty underfoot. So after all that, it turned out that the ladders were the better option. For us anyway!
The descent down to Arolla was very pleasant, made all the more interesting by Andy and Lucie who enlightened us with their inspiring knowledge of the rock types we came across. There was a lot of Shiste and Limestone, and Gill and I found a few bits of marble to take home with us which we were very pleased with!
We parted with the other guys as they stopped at some lovely hotels (there are quite a few potential places to stay here), and we descended further into the valley to find our campsite in Arolla. We had booked a pitch at Camping Arolla (http://www.camping-arolla.com/) before we left Scotland because we loved the look of it, and we weren’t disappointed. A lovely campsite, looking up at Mont Collon and Pigne d’Arolla glacier. You can order fresh bread and croissants for the morning at the campsite shop which were delicious. Useful info – if, like us, you happen to be running low on cash, you can get some at the local post office in Arolla.
Day 7: Arolla – Le Sage
The only downside to camping in a valley is the dew! The mountains are so high that the sun takes a while in the morning to come over the top and hit the campsite, meaning you’re stuck with a wet tent to pack up. We had another later start, but it was a lighter stage of the walk. The hardest part of the day was probably getting back up out of the valley. It was a lovely walk up through a path rising up into the woodland. There are a couple of sections on this path that have steep drops at one side and rockface on the other, but there are chains in place if you need them. We didn’t have any issues other than when I decided to stand on a wet tree stump and took a big slide on my arse (at a safe bit).
A highlight of this section is Lac Bleu – and it certainly is what it says on the tin. Absolutely stunning. You’ll find plenty of cows and bulls with bells on, be careful, they can come quite close! It does get quite busy here, as people can hike up from La Gouille.
The walk to Les Haudères was quite simple, nothing spectacular going on, but it’s always nice to get some shade and some downhill! We got slightly confused about the route to get up to Le Sage, and I can’t exactly remember how we found our way, but we managed with Kev Reynold’s guide… You’ll see some beautiful old wooden buildings and chapels as you come up on the track to look over Les Haudères.
We thought it was about time for another comfy bed for the night, so we booked into a dortoir (we asked the lovely lady in the post office in Arolla to phone ahead for us). Both the old rickety building and the old rickety couple of ran it were full of character. If you want a good night’s sleep, be sure to have ear plugs as the floorboards can make a hell of a racket! We lucked out on this one again and were given a room at the top of the building to ourselves, with views of the Pigne d’Arolla once again. We kicked back with a beer and watched the sun set, then went inside for a homecooked 3 course meal with Andy and Lucie. All in all I think we paid about 60 euros pp. For those not on as strict a budget as we were, Gary and Gill highly recommended Hôtel de la Sage, a boutique hotel on the hill which they said was just fabulous!
Day 8: Le Sage – Cabane de Moiry
It was a steep hike up out of Le Sage to start the day. The steepness only continued, relentless until we reached Col du Tsate. We climbed up through a lovely alp hamlet with many many cows surrounding us with the clanging of their bells. We stopped for some lunch at the top of the Col and took our time descending in the beautiful sunshine. We caught up with Team Essex, Gary and Gill, who had also been taking advantage of the idyllic setting with an afternoon sunbathe on the grass!
At this point we were still unsure about where we were staying that night, but as we turned and saw Glacier de Moiry, we very quickly made our decision – what a breathtaking sight! By far our favourite slab of ice of the trip, Glacier de Moiry towered over the valley below. We saw the Cabane du Moiry sitting beside the glacier and couldn’t turn it down. It was quite an effort to reach the hut, a rocky and steep path for 400m or so, busy with day hikers and mountaineers who were staying at the hut whilst on expeditions up the glacier. Plenty families were also around, taking a trip up purely just for the views and the experience of the hut.
The Cabane was perfect! With a renovation project in 2010, the hut now combines new with old. A modern extension on the back of the hut hosts a dining room with full windows down the side with superb views of the glacier. The more expensive private rooms are in this section up the stairs. For us budget-cheapos, the dormitories are in the 1920’s original hut, but are very comfortable and have been done up nicely. The showers here were amazing! You have to pay for a token, we found all of the huts do this.
Outside, there’s a fabulous decking area with benches, where we enjoyed a few beers and laughs with our new friends – “the six pack”. Bliss.
To save some cash, we cooked macaroni on our camping stove a outside on the decking while the rest of the guests dined inside. The food looked and smelled delicious!!! Gutted we didn’t join in on that…
Andy (team Aussie), was a pro at spotting the wildlife. After dinner as the sun was coming down we heard him shout on us from the hill at the back of the hut. We scrambled over some rocks to find him pointing to a huge male ibex on the mountain side! What an incredible animal. If you look, you’ll be sure to find them here, as after this we saw a few more dotted about. They were obviously used to human company around here.
Day 9: Cabane du Moiry – Zinal
There were a few early risers in the Cabane, so we had another early start. We were actually pretty gutted to be leaving here as it was definitely one of our favourite spots. We left as a group with the six packers, and enjoyed a pleasant morning stroll along the mountain side. After an hour or so, we curved round the path to get our first glimpse of the bluest of blue, Lac de Moiry.
The only tough part of this stretch was at the end of the lake, to reach the Col de Sorebois. We took it slowly as it was a hot day, and we were planning on taking a big stop at the restaurant at the top and then cable-carring it down into Zinal.
The rest of the gang were staying in Zinal for the night, but we were keen to squeeze a wild camp in. This meant us continuing on and climbing back up out of the valley on the other side. As I’ve already mentioned, it was a hot day. And getting hotter! It was about 3pm when we started to ascend, and we weren’t entirely sure how much further we would have to go before we found an appropriate camping spot.
Technically, it’s illegal to wild camp in Switzerland, but we’d seen plenty of people doing so along the way, and it seemed that it’s acceptable as long as you’re out of the way and leave no trace. The other concern is the cows. You don’t want those big beasts anywhere near your tent!!!
We took advantage of every bit of shade on the way up through the forest. It was another lovely stretch, with superb views down the valley. We passed through a farm village, Barneuza Alpage, and kept going for another couple of hours till we reached a flat it of grass on our right. We scrambled up off the path to find a perfect spot with a small stream running down from the mountain. We sunbathed for a while, but when the sun eventually crept behind the mountains on the other side of the valley, it got very chilly very quickly!
Day 10: Zinal (wild camping spot) – Gruben
By the time the sun came up enough to dry off our tent, the Aussies had caught up with us. We headed off along a path on the mountain side towards the Forcletta pass (2874m). As we turned off the path, we started to smell something funny… A couple of steps later we saw a trickle of runny brown stuff coming down the path. Another couple of steps and what can only be described as a river of SHITE appeared at our feet!!!! After carefully crossing this meandering river of poo to make our way up the path, it transpired that the farmers had been cleaning out the cow sheds with a big hose, and the path we were walking up had been the path of least resistance for this poop to make its way down the mountain! Stinky stinky. We had a few laughs, and nobody fell in so all was well once we shifted the stench stuck in our nostrils.
The push on up towards Forcletta was quite tough. Made more enjoyable by Andy and Lucie’s enthusiasm and geology facts! After a decent rest at the Col, we made our way down to Gruben. The flowers were beautiful and we passed through some lovely alp hamlets and forests.
Once in the valley, it was a pleasant stroll along flat ground to reach our stop, Hotel Schwarzhorn. This was a busy place, with both dormitory style beds and private rooms. The dormitory was a row of mattresses, much like those at Cabane du Prafleuri.
We joined the Aussies and Essexies and Peter and Lily for dinner and had a few beers (standard!). The food here wasn’t anything to shout home about, but it was nice to get a hot meal and a natter.
Day 11: Gruben – St Niklaus – Zermatt
We were keen to spend more time in Zermatt than hike the last stage, and so caught a train from St Niklaus into Zermatt.
The last uphill part of the trip for us! We had a lazy start to the morning as we knew we were on our last push, and so set off later than most other folk. It was a hard hike up the forest path from the hotel, and my sugars dropped very quickly. We had to take a massive rest at a boulder before we made our way up to the Augstbordpass. Evan was full of beans and had lots more energy to use up so off he went up to the summit of Schwarzhorn (3201m). I waited at the pass for him and ate the packed lunch we had bought at the hotel (lovely salami sandwich, fruit, and a whole Swiss chocolate bar hehe!). It took Evan a couple of hours to get there and back. He said the path up was a bit exposed and scrambly, but fine for any relatively experienced walker.
The views from the top of the Schwarzhorn.
A spot of lunch with Gary and Gill!
The descent from the Augstbordpass was actually quite difficult. A bit bouldery at parts, taking extra care with where you put your feet was a must. There was a few slightly exposed bits when the path cut round towards Jungen, with rockface on your right and very steep drops to the left. It took a bit more concentration but was fine if you can handle a bit of vertigo.
When you turn the corner, you’re greeted with arguably one of the best views of the route, looking over from Twara to the Mattertal, the Dom and other mountains above the Ried Glacier. There’s a perfect sticky out rock to get the classic picture on too!
It was a roasting hot slog down to Jungen, and we had stupidly run out of water! After an hour or slow, working our way down the path, we saw a suitable stream over a wall we could use with our water filter (an essential item for the trip!). For us, this was the last steps of the route. We planned to catch the cable car down to St Niklaus and then train it into Zermatt. I didn’t feel the elation I thought I would as we reached Jungen, but I think this was because I still felt like we had to see The Matterhorn before we were really done.
Jungen was dead cute. A lovely little picturesque alp hamlet with the dramatic drop into the long Mattertal valley. The cable car cost roughly 30 Euros and seemed to run fairly regularly. It’s a fun journey down!!! Made more interesting by me worrying about our bags falling off as our car swung about from side to side as it slid through the cables…
Once on the train from St Niklaus to Zermatt, we enjoyed a seat and peered out the windows at the steep valley walls. Occassionally a glacial waterfall cut through the rock, and we passed many meadows, fields, and forests before finally getting our first glimpse of probably one of the most iconic mountains in the World, The Matterhorn. Although we weren’t walking at this point, it felt pretty special to know we had reached the end. We finished off by walking through Zermatt, to one of the bridges where you get excellent views of The Matterhorn, stared at it for a while, and then completed our magnificent journey the only way we know how – with a big old cold pint of beer.
We had two days to spend some time chilling out in Zermatt. We stayed at The Matterhorn hostel up the hill at the back of the town. It was pretty basic, but we had our own room which was comfy enough. We showered at headed down to the town centre, where there are loads of lovely shops, cafes, and restaurants (although bloody expensive and busy!!!).
We bumped into most of the people we had seen on the route, and sat in a lovely bar for a pint and a giggle with Peter and Lily.
If you’re like us and like your mountain gear, Zermatt has loads of good shops where you can try on stuff you can’t afford! We also found a lovely chocolate shop where we picked up some beautiful handcrafted chocolates to take home as a gift for my Mum and Dad. I wanted to find an authentic cow bell to take back too but these turned out to be way too big and pricey – a real one will set you back at least 100 Euros!
Before we reached Zermatt we had planned to hike up to the Hörnli Hut up the Matterhorn. By the time it came round to it we decided we were too knackered and just wanted to laze about in the town. Gary and Gill made it up and said it was a really cool and worthwhile trip if you’ve got time and you’re up for more adventures! You can get a cable car up to Schwarzsee and then it is a 2 hour hike from there. They said it was really cool to see all the climbers coming back down from the summit and have a close up view of the mountain, but can be quite exposed at sections and requires a good weather window.
We spent our last night reuniting with the six packers, with a lovely pizza and a beer at Pizzeria Molino. There was a lovely outside area to sit, and the waiters were all very nice. We had a right good chuckle with the guys and reminisced about the trip we had shared together. It honestly wouldn’t have been the same without them, they made our holiday and we know we have made lifetime friends!
Walking the haute route was one of the most challenging but best experiences of our lives. I’d encourage anyone who has a love for the outdoors to give it a go and make the lovely memories we did. I hope this blog helps with any uncertainties about the route you may have, and get in touch if you do have any questions. Happy hiking!