The Haute Route - Part 1 (Chamonix to Arolla)
The walker's Haute Route travels from Chamonix (France) to Zermatt (Switzerland) up and over 11
passes, traversing from valley to valley just below a number of large glaciers and beautiful panoramas.
It tracks along the traditional Haute Route (typically done in the winter of many of the same glaciers
and peaks we saw), both of which avoid traveling down in the Rhone river valley miles to the north.
These are photos from the first 5 stages of the hike. Each day, we hiked close to 10 miles and
about 3500 feet of elevation change. We hiked through cow and sheep pastures (with clanging cowbells)
and up and down steep terrain into tiny little towns nestled amongst the alps or mountain huts (cabanes)
that were off the grid (yet still could hold 60-100 people).
For this first part, we took the bus from Chamonix to Le Tour (to cut out the valley walk), hiked from La
Tour to Col de La Forclaz, then hiked from Col de La Forclaz up and over Fenetre D'Arpette down into
Champex. From Champex, we used the bus and the train to get over to Verbier, where we hiked up to Cabane
du Mont Fort. From the Cabane, we crossed three passes to reach Cabane de Prafleuri. The following day
crossed two passes to reach Arolla where we took a much needed rest day.
See Part 2 of the Haute Route Photos The hotel Mont-Blanc in front of Mont Blanc in Chamonix Lisa and Brian Mont Blanc Church in Chamonix Mont Blanc from Le Brevent across the valley Chamonix from above The valley leading up to our first pass on the left (Col de Balme) Mont Blanc from Le Brevent across the valley Starting the hike up and out of Le Tour - Mont Blanc in the background Brian hiking up towards Col de Balme on the first day Col de Balme (7229 ft) This pass marks the border between France and Switzerland Lisa on the Swiss side of Col de Balme Brian and Lisa The Col de Balme refuge on the pass The front door of this refuge is in Switzerland...the rest is in France. Looking back on Col de Balme and the refuge Trient (4268 ft) and Col de La Forclaz (5017ft) in the valley below A view up the valley of tomorrow's hike Crossing a small stream before entering Trient La Forclaz The route down from Col de Balme on the first day Trient in the valley below Col de La Forclaz Our first night"s lodging at the top of this small pass between Trient and Martigny The trail following a small bisse (water irrigation channel) Glacier du Trient The photo cannot really show the scale of this glacier...our best guess was that the glacier was probably 50 feet tall at its terminus Hiking around an exposed point with a fixed chain Glacier du Trient Fenetre D'arpette (8741 ft) in the distance This was probably the steepest climbing day. We climbed 3500 feet in 2 miles, working out to be a 32% grade on average Glacier du Trient Glacier du Trient Nearing the top of Fenetre D'arpette The busy summit of the pass This stage of the Haute Route is shared with the even more popular Tour of Mont Blanc, so this pass was particularly busy Lisa and Brian above Val D'arpette to the east Val D'arpette Looking down the far side of the pass...yes, it really is that steep Descending the steep pass The trail coming down from the pass through a boulder field Brian along the trail Val D'arpette, looking back towards the pass Val D'Arpette, still a few miles above Champex Arriving in the small resort town of Champex The train station in Sembrancher To avoid the long valley walk from Champex to Le Chable, we took a bus down to Orsiers, a train to Sembrancher, another train to Le Chable, then a bus to Verbier Depeche Mode - now available in CD or a boutique Verbier This ski town was nestled in a huge valley with ski slopes coming down from all sides of the valley Hiking up through Verbier Lisa Hiking up through Clambin Brian Grand Combin (14,154 ft) in the distance from Les Ruinettes Lisa overlooks the valley (Sembrancher in the distance) A paraglider Cabane du Mont Fort (8060 ft) The cabane is actually smack in the middle of a ski valley (note the lift tower in the distance) Cabane du Mont Fort A butterfly lands on Lisa's hand Our room at the cabane One of the dorm rooms in the cabane ...an unexpected poster to find in a Cabane in Switzerland The evening's hut residents out on the porch watching the sunset The valley below Grand Combin in the distance around Bec Termin Tomorrow"s trail is faintly visible up the grassy slope to the left Sunset at Cabane du Mont Fort Inside the dining area of the cabane Inside the dining area of the cabane Airing out the laundry in our tiny room Setting out towards Cabane de Prafleuri Hiking up to Col Termin Cabane du Mont Fort just visible on the left Just a bit "slopey" Fantastic views of Grand Combin from the trail Brian Nearing Col Termin Grand Combin Fixed chains in an exposed section of trail Lisa Col Termin (8685 ft) Looking down to Lac de Louvie 2400 feet below This is the "balcony" part of the path More balcony Brian with Col de Louvie in the distance Grand Combin in the distance More balcony path Ibexes ...or is it Ibie...what"s the plural of Ibex? Passing over Col de Louvie into the Grand Desert The Grand Desert is a rocky wasteland below the receding Grand Desert glacier Yup...pretty barren The trail was marked by flashes of red and white paint on the rocks. Cairns would be next to impossible to pick out Looking down the valley Lisa with the Grand Desert glacier in the distance Brian Trail markers Like I said...paint splotches on rocks Another 300 foot drop before reaching Col de Prafleuri (8733 ft) Col de Prafleuri Looking back on the Grand Desert Climbing Col de Prafleuri Looking down from the pass into the next valley This area was a rock quarry for a nearby dam Glacier de Prafleuri Descending Col de Prafleuri Looking over to the following day's climb below Mont Blanc de Cheilon One of our fellow hikers left this helpful note along the trail Still half an hour away from the cabane Col de Roux (9200 ft) - the following day's starting climb Cabane de Prafleuri (9725 ft) Another helpful sign: Cabane de Prafleuri 5 min Cabane de Prafleuri Lac des Dix An ibex on the pass The route around Lac des Dix and up over Pas de Chevres (9368 ft) The valley in sunlight cows Lac des Dix was an unusual color of white from the glacier meltwater silt The bridge to cross over the lake inlet A steep climb (45% grade) up the valley wall Looking back at the 300 foot climb Mont Blanc de Cheilon and Glacier de Cheilon Cabane de Dix is perched up on the rock on the right Looking across the rocky slope to Pas de Chevres (the ladders) Lisa Pas de Chevres, 3 ladders climbing up 100 feet to the pass The top of the ladders Approaching the base of the ladders along an exposed trail The pass in its full glory Waiting for the ladders to clear up Another hiker descending Brian reaches the top View from Pas de Chevres - the tip of the Matterhorn is just barely visible in the distance Brian and Lisa Looking across the top of the ladders at Cabane de Dix Descending down to Arolla Brian, photographing... ...this Descending down to Arolla The small town of Arolla Looking north up the valley from Arolla Farther down the valley in Les Hauderes We saw a number of buildings built in the 14th century in this town Les Hauderes Les Hauderes