+ The first week of the Haute Route
+ Tough, rocky Alpine trekking with remote situations
+ Walk in our small groups of up to 8 people
Latest news October 2019
Our 2020 dates and prices are up! Availability is great at this early point. Please ask us about a trip - thank you.
Our groups on the West week of the Walker's Haute Route go as far as Arolla. Reaching Arolla is a feat in its own right, and trekkers can continue if they wish on the second week to Zermatt (our East week).
The Walker's Haute Route is the trekking route, distinct from the Classic Haute Route which crosses the glaciers. The trek does not involve rock climbing or technical skills but is nevertheless a very tough trek even by the standard of Alpine walks. The culmination of this week is the 3 stages to Arolla. These are broken up by 2 mountain huts. Especially on the last 2 stages, the ground is stony and loose over large distances. We cross the Pas des Chevres involving ladders before the final descent to Arolla.
Our guided treks are led by our fabulous leaders, all International Mountain Leaders (IMLs). We keep our groups small, no more than 8 trekkers plus the leader.
The two huts involve dormitories, often quite busy ones, but the settings are splendid and the experience is a part of the trail. Meals are taken at long tables. The hotel nights are towards the comfier end of our Alpine hotels.
HRWg Walker's Haute Route West (Guided)
19 July to 18 September 2020
Prices in GBP
|Scheduled guided trips|
|Private trips only||
|Private trips only|
|Private guided trips|
All stops except huts
Here is our normal schedule of 7 stages:
Arrival day: Arrive in Chamonix
Your trip starts on arriving at your hotel in Chamonix. This is a bustling Alpine centre as trekkers, mountaineers and tourists pass through. The group dines out in the town centre.
Hotel in Chamonix
Stage 1: Chamonix to Argentiere
Red3 grade, 15.5km with 1340m ascent, 1120m descent
Our aim is Argentiere higher up the Chamonix valley, and to reach it we take in one of the area's most impressive spots: the high mountain lake of Lac Blanc. It's a shame to rush out of Chamonix! (A gentler valley alternative goes via Les Bois.)
Hotel in Argentiere
Stage 2: Argentiere to Trient
Red3 grade, 15km with 1180m ascent, 1130m descent
Climb the first pass of the route, Col de Balme, via the ridge of the Aiguillette des Possettes. The col is one of the easier ones on the Haute Route and is the border with Switzerland. We are in Switzerland for the rest of the trek.
Auberge in Trient
Stage 3: Trient to Champex
Black3 grade, 14km with 1380m ascent, 1190m descent
One of the most challenging passes, the Fenetre d'Arpette (2,665m), is on today's stage. There are higher passes to come, but few as rocky and steep. Descend for a night in the quiet resort of Champex with its lake. (A less challenging yet still unusually scenic alternative goes via the Bovine alp.)
Hotel in Champex
Stage 4: Champex to Le Chable
Blue3 grade, 13km with 260m ascent, 930m descent
There follows a relaxing day's walk through quiet Swiss countryside to Le Chable. Drop to Sembrancher in the valley, a taste of small-town Switzerland, then walk steadily up to Le Chable. This is a gentle day as an interlude before the three tough days to come.
Hotel in Le Chable
Stage 5: Le Chable to Cabane de Louvie
Red3 grade, 15km with 1470m ascent, 150m descent
After a valley walk to Fionnay we settle into a steady rhythm for this solidly uphill stage, our goal being the charming Louvie hut by its mountain lake. Views widen throughout the day as we gain height. A hearty meal awaits and a first night in the mountains.
Stage 6: Cabane de Louvie to Cabane de Prafleuri
Black3 grade, 8km with 1040m ascent, 640m descent
This remote, rocky stage will be among the trickiest and a challenge for everyone. Boulder-hopping and close navigation are consistent almost from start to finish. It's also quite spectacular. Cross Col de Louvie and Col de Prafleuri, at 2,987m the highest point on the Haute Route, to arrive at the Cabane de Prafleuri.
Stage 7: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla
Black3 grade, 15km with 780m ascent, 1400m descent
Perhaps the most consistently awe-inspiring and exhilarating stage of the trek, today we walk along Lac des Dix, climb up the lateral moraine, cross underneath Glacier de Cheilon and then cross a choice of Pas de Chevres (with ladders) or the very steep Col de Riedmatten. There is a sense of being among high mountains. Dropping to Arolla seems simple after this, on solid paths, albeit at the end of a long day.
Hotel in Arolla
Departure day: Depart from Arolla
After breakfast in Arolla, take the bus the length of the Val d'Herens to Sion; here join the Swiss rail network with Geneva and Zurich in easy reach. Please ask us to advise on onward Swiss travel.
Our usual schedule of accommodation might not be available, especially if there is not much time between booking and your trip. We book accommodation as closely as possible to this itinerary and present a schedule for you to check before we proceed.
There is not too much to carry on the Walker's Haute Route. As per normal our trips do not include baggage transfer; we carry our own kit throughout. Whether joining a scheduled trip or a private trip, please ask us about our baggage transfer option. We also advise on sending kit ahead to Arolla.
Swiss path gradings in 2020
Paths in Switzerland are undergoing classification as part of a country-wide scheme. Each part of the Haute Route within Switzerland is subject to such changes in nominal grade. Instances have occured of walking paths being given a grade that is beyond the remit of a walk leader (as per our IMLs); if it happens again then we will re-route the trek to cause as little disruption as possible such that your IML can legally lead your group.
Mont Fort area
Beyond Le Chable the Haute Route splits into three paths towards Cabane de Prafleuri, of which a trek led by an IML must take the route via Cabane de Louvie. This is due to the legal classification of the other two paths. Thus for 2019 our guided groups will use the Cabane de Louvie and enter the area from this different angle, in fact a fine approach.
Why Alpine Exploratory for your guided Haute Route?
We trek the full route, missing nothing
On completing this trek you'll have walked every step from Chamonix to Arolla. Cable cars, buses and trains are available in places, and the group can use them if needed, but the plan is to trek continuously. Nothing is worth cutting out! We start with a full day above Chamonix, to appreciate it before trekking into Switzerland.
Expert knowledge of the route
The same careful research that goes into our self-guided Haute Routes informs our guided treks too. We keep on top of changes to the route and we place a lot of emphasis on good relations with our hotels and huts.
Flexible, personal planning
As per our general ethos, even on our scheduled guided trips we like to be flexible. Single rooms are no problem, except at huts and some auberges where they're unavailable. (The single supplement takes this into account.) If you'd like extra nights in Chamonix or Arolla, or to move on to Zermatt afterwards, please ask us.
Small groups expertly led
Alpine Exploratory follows best practice in the mountains. Our leaders are all International Mountain Leaders and we keep to a maximum group size of 8 clients. The aim is a small, tightly knit group with an engaging leader, trekking the Haute Route with safety, proficiency and fun.
About us - more about what makes us tick
Options (for private trips)
If you join us as a private group instead of joining our scheduled treks, then we can adjust your Haute Route West in various ways.
+ Shorten the trek to perhaps 6 or even 5 stages, or add rest days
+ See more of Chamonix by basing yourself there before the trek
+ Favour auberges or huts or up the comfort with our best hotels
Of course, on a private trip you can come on the dates that suit you. Except for the composition of the group and the dates, everything else is the same as on our scheduled Haute Routes.
Walker's Haute Route West (Self-guided) - all the options
Our approach to the Haute Route West
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Chamonix to Arolla. Nothing is missed out. No transport is needed. (On some days there is a choice of routes and the possibility of a cable car, so by sticking to the group you might skip some sections.) Standardly our trip has 7 stages. Where the trail splits we try to follow the higher and more scenic alternatives, subject to trail conditions. These change year-to-year on the Haute Route, more than any other of our routes.
Haute Route terrain comprises wide tracks through forests, the odd country lane, zig-zagging hillside paths and steep, rocky mountain paths. In some places the paths are particularly steep and loose, for example on the final approaches to cols.
At one point, Pas de Chevres, there is a long section of steep ladders. (This can be avoided by a very steep and loose alternative path.) However, the Haute Route has no via ferrata or climbing sections and is a trek throughout, albeit a tough one.
How to get there
Your holiday starts in the major French Alpine resort of Chamonix and ends in the small Swiss village of Arolla. Most Swiss airports work well but perhaps Geneva is the easiest for Chamonix, while Zurich (or Geneva) is the easiest from Arolla. The transfer is quickest by a minibus service to Chamonix. Then from Arolla take the bus through the Val d'Herens to Sion and join the Swiss rail network.
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price. We take care to give the most useful notes possible about all the travel options. We supply these both on booking and in your info pack, and we offer personalised tips at any point. The aim is that our trekkers arrange their travel by the simplest and most scenic means as suits their plan.
Key information Summer 2020
Trip name: Walker's Haute Route West
Dates Summer 2020
Scheduled trips 2020
Private trips 2020
Please join us any time in our season from
19 July to 18 September 2020
Research Summer 2020
Snow patches, Cabane de Moiry (Photo gallery)
Alpine Exploratory's service
The Haute Route in the Alps
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