(Walker's Haute Route West) The Aiguille Verte and Mont Blanc above the Chamonix valley
WALKER'S HAUTE ROUTE WEST (GUIDED)   7 stages . 8 nights . Swiss Valais   Booking

Walker's Haute Route West
Self-guided trekking holiday

+ Walk half-way to Zermatt in one week
+ Rugged Alpine trekking with remote stretches
+ Expert planning to find your ideal itinerary

Latest news November 2019
Our 2020 dates and prices are up! Availability is great at this early point. Please ask us about a trip - thank you.

Trek the first half of the Walker's Haute Route, from Chamonix as far as Arolla, in a week's Alpine trekking of the highest order.

The Walker's Haute Route is a trekking route, as distinct from the Classic Haute Route which crosses the glaciers. The trek calls for no rock climbing or technical skills but is nevertheless a very tough trek even by the standard of Alpine walks. Many sections need self-reliance, strong fitness and good navigation; cols at nearly 3,000m take much climbing to reach and the terrain is often rocky and rugged. The crucial stretch is the 3 stages to Arolla, covering remote ground and staying in 2 huts.

This being a self-guided holiday, you're free to complete the walks as you choose; we book your huts and hotels and give you our detailed routecards for the walking, and then it's up to you to carry out the walks yourself.

We book your accommodation in our intriguing mix of hotels, auberges and mountain huts. The huts are high, remote, yet quite comfortable.


Map showing the route of Alpine Exploratory's Walker's Haute Route West self-guided walking holiday


Alpine Exploratory
HRWsg Walker's Haute Route West (Self-guided)
19 July to 18 September 2020
Prices in GBP
per person
Hutty Classic Comfy
Popular schedules
6 stages
(7 nights)

Singles 80
Singles 150
Singles 170
7 stages
(8 nights)

Singles 100
Singles 180
Main HRW
Singles 200
7 stages
1 rest day
(9 nights)
Singles 130
Singles 210
Singles 240
Specialised schedules
5 stages
(6 nights)

Singles 60
Singles 120
Singles 140
Baggage transfer
All stops except huts
Please ask
Baggage transfer


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. Enjoy dining 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 du Mont Fort
Blue4 grade, 9.5km with 1700m ascent, 60m descent
The only way is up! Settle into a steady rhythm for this solidly uphill stage, your goal being the Cabane du Mont Fort which is typical of Swiss Alpine Club huts. Views widen throughout the day as you gain height. Terrain is not unduly difficult being on farming paths and tracks, but the ascent is unrelenting. A hearty meal awaits and a first night in the mountains.
Mountain hut

Stage 6: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri
Black3 grade, 8.5km with 990m ascent, 820m 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. (Col de la Chaux is an option; we generally recommend lower routes via Col Termin.)
Mountain hut

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.

Baggage transfer

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. Please ask us about our baggage transfer option. We also advise on sending kit ahead to Arolla.

Alternative starts and pacings

A quicker trek
If 7 stages is too long, we can make it 5 or 6 while still walking the whole route from Chamonix to Arolla. For example, our quicker clients sometimes ask to walk straight from Chamonix to Trient, or walk the Chamonix to Argentiere stage on the afternoon they arrive. Further mergings of stages are possible down the line. Please ask us to adapt things to your time.

Route variations
At some points in this Western half, our routecards describe variations to the route. These include the Bovine Alp route to Champex instead of the high and steep Fenetre d'Arpette, and the Col de Termin route instead of Col de la Chaux (also our high, rocky, main route) on the way to Cabane de Prafleuri. Choose on the day according to energy and weather.

Rest days
We recommend adding a rest day or two if you have time. Champex is a good location for such a day. Perhaps of more interest would be a day or two in Chamonix before your trek, where there is a great buzz and where local walking abounds. We can advise. Please contact us to discuss what would suit you best.

Alternative accommodation

More comfy?
As standard our itinerary is fairly comfy. A simple way in which we can add luxury is to swap some 2* hotels for our lovely 3*s. If you're not keen on dorms then we can request private rooms at the huts, but these are only sometimes possible. The two huts are fairly essential to the crossing to Arolla, so can't be avoided altogether... and they are great fun.

More basic?
We can add huts and swap hotels for auberges. At the extra auberges you can still have private rooms, but to economise further we can book plenty of dorms. We have come to know some buzzing, friendly options at all levels. Please just ask.

The route

Our approach to the Haute Route West
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Chamonix to Arolla. No transport is needed along the way. The Haute Route is a loosely defined trail where map and compass skills are needed to supplement any waymarks on the ground. There are no 'Haute Route' waymarks to follow. Where the trail splits we advise on all viable routes and encourage exploration of the high options. Once you've completed the route to Arolla, return in future to finish the route to Zermatt. The hardest walking and the multi-day stretch in the mountains will be behind you.

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 Chrevres, 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
Guided or self-guided? Self-guided
Trip code: HRWsg
Route: The Walker's Haute Route
(Walking guide)
(Prefer Guided or East?)
Group size: Any, from solo trekkers to groups
Length: 7 days' trekking
Start: Chamonix in France
End: Arolla in Switzerland
Typical walk: 14km, 1,110m ascent
Total distance: 98km or 61 miles
Highest altitude: 2,987m
Grade: Black4 (Walking grades)

Prices Summer 2020

7 stages, per person:

HRWsg Classic
GBP 1,190 (singles 180)
Walkers Haute Route West (self-guided)

Research Summer 2020

Ollie Boyd at Alpine Exploratory Keith Miller at Alpine ExploratoryAlpine Exploratory's 2019 research on the Walker's Haute Route was led by:
Keith Miller in July
Ollie Boyd in July

Recces 2020

From above Trient, looking towards Glacier du Trient and Fenetre d'Arpette
Glacier du Trient (Photo gallery)

Alpine Exploratory's service

8 nights, staying in:
3-star hotels (2)
2-star hotels (3)
Auberges (1)
Mountain huts (2)

Accommodation and itinerary
Breakfasts and 3 evening meals
Expert and unlimited advice
Routecards HRT1-7 of the Exploratory system
Maps and local information

Season for self-guided treks
19 July to 18 September 2020
Trek on your ideal dates

Starting out from Cabane du Mont Fort
Cabane du Mont Fort (Photo gallery)

The Haute Route West in the Alps

Map of the Walker's Haute Route West within the Alps

Our city information included in your info pack:
Geneva, Bern, Lucerne, Basel, Zurich

City breaks after trekking

Find out more

About our walking holidays Our FAQs page covering equipment, weather, insurance and more about how our trips work

Walking guides Our background page on the
    Walker's Haute Route

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Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.
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