Haute Route Trails:
Haute Route Overview
The Matterhorn's majestic, instantly recognizable peak is the ultimate destination of Switzerland's classic trek, the Haute Route. Rising 14,691 feet from the surrounding landscape, the Matterhorn has become one of the icons of mountain trekking, serving as a beacon for those ready and willing to complete the 110-mile trek from the alpine hotspot of Chamonix, France, to the lush Swiss valley of Zermatt. Traveling the Haute Route by foot takes roughly 10-12 days of strenuous trekking at nearly 12,500 feet, crossing glaciers, ascending remote passes, following the occasional road, and dipping into valley towns and villages. Hikers start at the base of 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, Western Europe's largest mountain, and then make their way east toward the Swiss border toward the Matterhorn's looming peak, passing through the birthplace of all mountaineering.
If you choose, you can trek the route sans the usual backbreaking pack by making reservations at the Alpine Club huts that dot the way. At the end of each day, hut-to-hut hikers feast on local cuisine, complete with good wine and beer, banter with an international assortment of fellow Haute Route trekkers, and savor the panoramic views. On the flip side, the huts rarely offer more than a cold shower; the bunk-equipped bedrooms can feel a little claustrophobic; and getting a good night's sleep among so many lively travelers may necessitate sleeping pills, earplugsor plain exhaustion.
Many Haute Route trekkers sign on with an organized tour or hire a guide, but the route can be traversed alone. If you decide to tackle the trek without employing one of the many skilled Swiss guides, mountaineering experience (rappelling, self-arrest), an eye for reading the weather, and solid map-and-compass skills are required, lest you head down the wrong trackespecially if you encounter heavy snow or fog. Huts are open from about mid-June through September, and reservations are a must if you travel during peak season (mid-July to mid-August). You can also slum it in the villages along the way by seeking out hostels or a dortoir (a roof under which you can bed down in your sleeping bag), but know that you may have difficulty convincing the more mainstream village hotels, accustomed to week-long stays, to rent a room for a single night.
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