Hiking Chamonix to Zermatt
In 2019, Brandon Neubert and his brother embarked on an epic journey across Switzerland on the Haute Route. Together they hiked 130 miles (210km) and climbed 30,866 feet (9408m) from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland. This film charts their incredible journey, and features maps, route summaries, photography, drone footage and beautiful music. It is a film for every outdoor enthusiast!
There is something special about taking your first step on a long journey, knowing that you have miles and miles ahead of you that will take days, even weeks, to complete. There are so many questions that go through your mind when you begin. 'Am I ready?' 'Do I have what I need?' 'Do I have what it takes?' Just to name a few.
This trek took us through quaint villages, beneath quiet forests, on ancient glaciers and over massive cols. Our expedition wasn't easy, but well worth every step! Stretching across 14 days we hiked through all kinds of weather and terrain. The Haute Route winds through the most beautiful places that I have ever seen.
When Nathaniel and I decided to hike the Haute Route, the route was just something I had casually heard about before, having stumbled on it by accident online. I had never fully researched it, but knew it was a route through the Swiss Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt, well known and traveled, and that was good enough for me. When I mentioned its existence to my brother, his enthusiasm was intoxicating! We both decided to do it together, brother with brother.
This wasn’t our first-time visiting Switzerland, we had visited together before on a limited schedule that included beautiful places such as Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, and Mürren. As a family we had hiked past the towering peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and the Jungfrau. That day, Nathaniel and I fell in love with the Swiss Alps and knew we would return for an extended trip.
As we got to work planning, it was clear that we had much to do to prepare for the trek. These were places we had never heard of or seen before, and the thought of navigating so many miles together through unfamiliar and foreign territory was daunting to think about!
Slowly, the day of our trek loomed closer and closer, and we would spend hours with each other reviewing the places we would stay, scavenging for airline tickets, and learning more together about the trek.
Through the planning and preparation though, the trip never felt truly real, until the day we stepped on our flight, packs in hand, and headed for Switzerland. From the moment we stepped off the bus in Chamonix, we knew that all the effort we had made to prepare and all the savings we had set aside had been worth it.
Every leg of the journey had a different tale to tell. Some days were relaxing, as we walked from village to village through the lush green valleys of France and Switzerland. The wildflowers were blooming spectacularly, and the air smelled as clean and pure as the mountains that surrounded us.
Other days were more challenging, as we began the long climbs over the high cols that divided valley from valley. These mountains had dominated and divided nations and armies for thousands of years, yet here we were enjoying them as the joyous journey led us from cabane to cabane.
Even the occasional rain burst never seemed to dampen our spirits, although they did hasten the excursion somewhat. One beautiful rainy morning I could only begin by saying, 'fortunately our shoes are already wet', as we embarked to our next destination. However, the weather would eventually clear, and marching onward we would admire the clouds as they surrounded the distant peaks lining the valley.
Through glacial deserts and wildflower meadows, past happy cows with their golden bells and quaint towns and villages ageing with memories, we continued. However, this was not a race. Our time was immensely enjoyed as I stopped for image after image with my camera. This was a trip to be remembered and enjoyed, and I wanted to share it with the world and all those who share my love of the mountains.
Over ancient glaciers of ice and through brilliant blue meltwater, we moved forward, pausing on each scene, to take them ALL in as much as we could. It was with a sad enthusiasm that we left the beauty of the current behind, to discover the many surprises of the future that lay ahead.
We made many friends along our journey and reunited with a few of them many times! Over humble suppers we conversed about the scenery and the trail that we had both shared together that day, where we had come from, and what our destinations were. We had a common camaraderie with each other, and all shared a bond and a bedroom for the evening.
Our destination loomed ever nearer and nearer, as we approached the city of Zermatt. We felt both excitement and anticipation until finally we arrived at the monolith named the Matterhorn.
Having been blessed with an additional day, we enjoyed our time in Sunnegga, relaxing as we played Settlers of Catan together, walked the area free from the weight of our packs, and photographed both sunrise and sunset to my heart’s content. Together we rushed to destinations I had pre-chosen to take my photographs and relaxed under the shadow of the mountain as the sun descended behind its distant peaks.
It is difficult to summarise such a wonderful and unique experience. The Haute Route was both soul filling and crushing. It filled my heart with joy as we turned the corner to another view, yet ached when I was forced away from it again. Tears were shed on more than one occasion, as our hard work paid off time and time again. 130 miles had never passed so quickly in my life.
One day I will do it all again on another course, as numerous mountain paths wind throughout the alps.
However, the Haute Route will never be forgotten.
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