Making the most of the Walker’s Haute Route

Making the most of the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) is the more demanding close cousin of the popular Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). While the vistas, the natural beauty and the pretty vales are very similar, the fact that the WHR take the high passes most of the time, makes if more arduous and taxing. That is not the say that it is without any easy days at all, for there are. And for those whose legs take a beating, there is always chairlifts and ski lifts to take you either back or down.

The itinerary of both the trails overlap for a few days. I would strongly recommend taking up TMB first and then attempting the WHR. It will give you a proper flavour of what is to come and help prepare you for WHR. And here is a 8 day TMB itinerary for the busy adventurer. Below, I have laid out how to make the most of the Walker’s Haute Route with accommodation for route changes.

Using Alternatives Modes

Speaking of lifts, some purist climbers abhor it’s use and think less of folks who do. It draws me back to a story, where a delighted 80 year old man made it to the top of a scenic lookout point using a chair lift. This view point has thus far been accessible only after an strenuous hike. The only thing between our Grandpa and the beautiful vista was a lift. What a story of inclusiveness in the mountains. Also, if you think climbing mountains takes years of experience or is the domain of elite athletes then read this post to have all that nonsense rubbed off from your head.

The WHR Itinerary

Now that settled, here is how you can make the most of the WHR with a 12 day itinerary that I followed last summer (2019). This includes time at both ends of the route to explore the city. And also accomodates the changes I needed to make on the fly due to route closures or refuge closures.

  • Day 1 – Reach Geneva and then via a train + Bus combo reach Champex Lac.
    The reason we chose to start at Campex Lac was because we had already covered the first few days of WHR as a part of TMB. I did not want to repeat the route once more and saved days here.
  • Day 2- Champex La to Le Chable (13 km)- this is where I started following the traditional WHR route. It is an easy first day with gentle downhill for most of the first half and a flat walk into Le Chable.
  • Day 3 – Le Chable to Cabane Du Mont Fort (9 km) – On this day you leave your main pack behind and take a 3 day pack up to the Cabane. You will now see you main pack directly in Arolla. Since we were laden with the pack, we took the lift to Verbier – Ruinettes, fueled up there and then hiked up to the Cabane. We were just in time to catch a sun set and a stunning views of the Combin Massif.
  • Day 4 – Cabane Du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri (14 km). Here is where the plan hit a snag because the Cabane was closed for maintenance. They announced that without much notice and we had to reconsider plans. We trekked to the lookout point at Chamois the Sentiers to see the sights and went back to the Mont Fort. Then we took the lift down to Le Chable and took a train bus combo to La Dixence. If we could not reach Arolla via Prafleuri, then it would have to be via Dixence and the ladders route.
  • Day 5 – La Dixence to Arolla (Les Hauderes) (17 km)- The Dixence is a a huge dam holding back glacial waters. There is only 1 hotel right below the dam where we stayed. We hiked up the height of the dam and reached a trail that lead through tunnels in the mountains side before opening up before the hike towards Pas du Chevres. It is not a long route but seems so till you actually see the ladders. When we went over they were safe, but the rocky path leading there is treacherous and time consuming. There are several trails that lead into Arolla from there and some bits of it are hard on the knees. We chose to stay in Les Hauderes, a short bus ride from Arolla.
  • Day 6 – Arolla to Le Sage (10 km) – For this walk, we stayed put in Les Hauderes and took a bus to the start point to go to Le Sage and the Blue lake on top. It is an easy day hike with families and locals joining you at the Blue lake. Entirely scenic but jarringly cold, the blue lake is a nice picnic spot. We were back in Les Hauderes to enjoy a nice dinner.
  • Day 7 – Les Hauderes to Cabane de Moiry (10 km)- This was going to be particularly long and ardous day, so we made short of it by hitching a ride to the Barrage du Moiry. From there, the climb to Cabane De Moiry is steep but short.
  • Day 8 – Canabe Du Moiry to Zinal via Col Du Sorebois (14 km) – A scenic path that gets steep as you approach the pass. There are always ski lift on the other side to save you time and save your knees. Often the way down is sometimes boring because it goes near the pistes.
  • Day 9 – Zinal – Gruben via Forcletta Pass (14 km) – This is one scenic route, the whole valley opens up.
  • Day 10 – Gruben to Grachen via Augstbord pass (16 km) – Another scenic route and you can feel it within that you are approaching Zermatt. Don’t miss the Twara view point. We passed a group of seniors on this route.
  • Day 11 – Grachen to Europa Hut  on the Europaweg (14 km) – We chose to be driven to the starting point of the climb to Europa Hut by one of our friends. You can take a combination of train and Post bus there. The route goes through a nice forest, arriving at the famous Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge. The Europaweg is often in distress due to rockfall or route getting erased from the mountain side. This is the best way to experience the best of the Europaweg and the Europa Hut. A fabulous view of Weisshorn dominates the sky from the hut and it keep your mesmerized for long.
  • Day 12 – Exploring Zermatt – Since the Europaweg was not open after the Europa Hut section, we climbed down the same way we came and took the Post bus + train combo to Zermatt.

Overall a top notch trek, taxing enough to challenge you but still can be enjoyed by an average healthy and fit person. The views are unsurpassed and will lighten the challenge if you keep your eyes on the prize.

Barrage Du Dixence

Cabane De Mont Fort

Up the path to the Ladders

Trail to Cabane de Moiry

Tunnels besides Dixence

Snow coming down from Augstbord Pass

The bridge on the Europaweg  The lake on the hill at Le Sage

The Walker's Haute Route Enroute to Le Chable

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