chamonix to zermatt sample itinerary...

Most days on the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route involve an early “alpine start” and you will be on your skis 6 to 8 hours each day (with an occasional longer day).  We aim to arrive at our overnight stop in time for a late lunch and to relax in the afternoon sun.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of this ski traverse is the fact that we stay overnight in a succession of high mountain refuges.  These refuges are spectacularly located, provide comfortable accommodation and good food and also give us the chance to meet up with a cosmopolitan bunch of skiers and mountaineers.  Staying in huts throughout also means that we can travel light, a very important factor that makes the skiing easier, safer and a lot more fun.  This is still a tough trip, however, and not only will group members need to be fit, but, more importantly, they must have a good level of skiing ability.


Strenuous multi day, ski touring in a high mountain environment (Maximum Altitude – Summit of Pigne d’Arolla 3796m).  This is a ski touring adventure for skiers with a good level of ability.  As a minimum, you must be able to make linked parallel turns on red runs with a good stance.  You must be able to descend black runs on your skis.  You must be able to side slip in a controlled manner, snow plough and do stationary kick turns.  You should have experience of skiing off-piste in variable snow conditions.  A basic knowledge of mountaineering techniques is helpful, but not necessary as we can give some instruction during the course of the trip.  Finally, you need to be fit and remember you will be carrying a rucksack.  If you are unsure as to your ability for this itinerary, feel free to contact us to discuss the issue.  The Guides on our trips will not allow any participant to continue if they feel that the dynamics, safety or well being of a participant or the group itself is compromised because of the minimum requirement of ability.  We run a series of backcountry ski intro and adventure programmes and also Custom Ski Guiding throughout the Winter, which provides a perfect opportunity to assess your skill level and learn the appropriate techniques to this exhilarating sport before committing yourself to a long programme.  

Group Size

We have a maximum of 4 clients on this Haute Route.  We believe this enables us to move more efficiently in the mountains, gives us more flexibility and safety and generally makes for the most positive group experience. 

Detailed Itinerary

Important – This day to day schedule should be taken only as a general guide.  Although we update our itineraries regularly, it is not possible to guarantee that any of our trips will run exactly according to the proposed itinerary.  A variety of factors, for example, adverse weather and/or mountain conditions can lead to enforced changes.  The Guide(s) will make any changes that are necessary.

Arrival by 18.00hrs in Chamonix 
The group will rendezvous at a hotel/chalet/accommodation in the Chamonix Valley.  In the evening, we will meet our Guide and have an informal chat about the trip.  Anyone proposing to hire items of equipment will pick these up on this day or before setting out in the morning.

Day 1 – To the Argentiere Hut
There is no rush in the morning and we have the last chance to go through equipment and to get your rucksack.  There may be items of communal safety equipment to hand out amongst the group.  We will transfer to the Grands Montets lift station where we take the lift to the top of the system at 3280m.  From here, we ski down onto the Argentiere glacier, where we put on skins for the relatively easy climb to the Argentiere hut at 2771m (3-4 hours).

Day 2 – Cross the Col du Chardonnet and descend to the Trient Hut
An early start today, as we want to be well on the way to the Col du Chardonnet before the first lift arrives at the top of the Grands Montets.  This effectively gives the group a head start and allows us to cross the col ahead of any other groups coming up from Argentiere that day.  It also means we are not reliant on the lift being open!  Leaving the Argentiere hut, we ski down the glacier, where we will put on skins for the 4 hour climb to the Col du Chardonnet (3321m).  From the pass, there is a steep descent (rope assisted) onto the Saleina Glacier, which we cross to reach the base of the pass known as the Fenetre de Saleina (3261m).  We climb to this pass, again using skins, drop down onto the Trient Glacier and make the relatively gentle ski across to the Trient hut at 3170m (8 hours).

Day 3 – Descend to Champex and transfer to the Mont Fort Hut
After breakfast we descend by way of the Trient Glacier and the Val d’Arpette to Champex.  This is a relatively straightforward descent of 1300m over a distance of about 8 kilometres and should take us 3 to 4 hours.  From the picture postcard, lakeside town of Champex, we transfer by taxi to la Chable and then use the Verbier ski lift system to take us up into the ski area.  A pisted run takes us down to our overnight accommodation and first shower at the newly built Mont Fort hut at 2457m (6 hours).

Day 4 – To the Prafleuri Hut
Following an early start from the hut, we make the 2 hour climb on skins to the Col de la Chaux (2240m), from here we make a short descent followed by 1½ hours climb to the Col du Momin (3003m).  At this point we have the option of climbing the Rosablanche (3336m), before skiing down to the Prafleuri hut at 2624m (4-6 hours). 

Day 5 – To the Dix Hut
From the Prafleuri hut we climb a short distance to the Col Roux (2804m) and drop down to the Lac des Dix, where we keep as high as we can in the attempt to ski all the way to the southern end of the lake.  Here we put our skins on for the 550m climb up to the Dix hut at 2928m, we should arrive in time to have lunch and sunbathe on the south facing terrace in the afternoon.

Day 6 – To the Vignettes Hut via the Pigne d’Arolla
Today’s route takes us by way of the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla (3796m). A short ski descent from the hut takes us on to the Cheilon Glacier.  We cross this on skins and climb up toward the Col de la Serpentine.  Between here and the Col de Brenay, we have a short steep section to negotiate, normally on crampons.  From the Col it is a short climb to the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla, we reach the summit 4 – 5 hours after leaving the Dix hut.  From this summit with views to the Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, we truly feel we are in the middle of the Alps.  After spending some time on the summit, we ski down to the Vignettes hut at 3160m which we hope to reach in time for a late lunch (6 – 8 hours).

Day 7 – Ski to Zermatt
Passing beneath the north face of the Matterhorn, there are few days in Ski Mountaineering to match this one.  It is enormously varied and includes a pre dawn start at our high mountain refuge.  The views of the Matterhorn are outstanding.  Additionally there are 3 passes to negotiate, the Col de L’Eveque (3392m), the Col du Mont Brulé (3213m) and Col de Valpelline (3568m).  It’s a skins on, skins off day, with perhaps the use of  crampons on the climb up to the Col du Mont Brulé.  We would hope to reach the Col de Valpelline by noon, which will enable us to make the long ski descent of the heavily crevassed Stockli glacier in favourable snow conditions until we find ourselves traversing under the huge north face of the Matterhorn.  Continuing our descent of the valley, we find ourselves, once again amongst pleasant woodland and pretty hamlets above Zermatt.  We can stop in one of the splendid chalet/restaurants along the way to have a beer and some lunch and look up at the famous view of the Matterhorn.  If snow conditions allow, we can ski all the way to Zermatt, but it is more usual to catch the lift down from Furi.  We will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Zermatt, enjoying a shower and a chance to freshen up and also looking forward to celebrating our successful completion of the Haute Route that evening (8 hours).

Day 8 – Spare Day
This day is likely to be used up somewhere along the itinerary in order to give some leeway due to bad weather. If we arrive in Zermatt on day 7, then we will use the day to explore the off-piste around Zermatt or return to Chamonix and explore off-piste there. 

Day 9 –Return to Chamonix
After a leisurely breakfast, we bid farewell to Zermatt and catch a taxi that will take us back to our starting point in Chamonix, where we will be reunited with our luggage.  An opportunity to relax in the afternoon, ski at one of the stations or explore Chamonix. here to close this section