Zermatt to Chamonix - doing a classic trek the "wrong" way
Annalisa Mejetta tells the tale of doing the Walker’s Haute Route Chamonix – Zermatt the "wrong" way round. With a Cicerone guidebook of course!
We decided to complete the Walker’s Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt, but "backwards" from Zermatt to Chamonix. We already knew that we loved Chamonix as we had been there for the Tour of Mont Blanc a couple of years ago. We were keen to finish our holiday there. To be honest we also liked the idea of doing something a little different from the majority of people. We didn't find very much information about a “reverse” Haute Route but we could figure it out from Kev Reynolds' guidebook that we’ve comprehensively studied.
On Friday we arrived by train from Italy to Zermatt, and were immediately surprised by this town, with its wooden houses, flowers and history. We stayed here for two rainy days, and only on Monday did the Matterhorn appear. It was worth waiting for though as it’s a stunning view!
We decided to follow the stages indicated by Kev Reynolds, with some little changes. For example, for the first stage, we chose the low route from Zermatt to St. Niklaus, but we decided to make a detour in Randa, to walk on the brand new Europabrucke: the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. The bridge seems really very long, and when you’re on it, 85 m over the ravine, you have a wonderful view on the Mattertal glaciers on your left, and on the mythical Europahutte in front of you. This detour made the stage a little too long (29 km), especially for a first stage, and the uphill from Randa was very steep… but it was really worth it! And it was only the beginning…
The next day we headed towards Gruben through the Augustboardpass: it should have been one of the finest stages, but unfortunately it was very cloudy, and probably the hardest day. After a steep uphill, we arrived in Jungen, a tiny collection of wooden houses, and continued towards Augustboardpass: the view should have been great, but we could only see Mishabel, Fletschorn and Aletschgletscher poking through the clouds… Anyway the place was awesome, and we were surrounded by rhododendrons and ibex! But it changed completely when we turned left in the Augustboard: we were surrounded only by stones, and the rumble of aeroplanes amplified by the wind was terrifying! We hurried up as the path steepened again towards the final stretch to the Augustboardpass: here the wind was so strong that we only took a few pictures and descended quickly to Gruben, a village of a few houses and one hotel.
The next stage, from Gruben to Zinal via Forcletta, was one of my favourites: the view both during the uphill and from the pass was stunning, with the majestic Weisshorn and Bishorn! But the real surprise was the astonishing view appearing over Zinal: it was surrounded by so many peaks and glaciers that it seemed unbelievable!
On Wednesday, under a sea of clouds, we climbed up to Col de Sorebois and down to Grimentz, a very charming wooden village. The next day, travelling by a very punctual and wifi-equipped bus, we picked up the original route at the Barrage de Moiry, towards Les Hauderes! Rising to the top, we were astonished by the colour of the Lac of Moiry with Glacier de Moiry in the background. From the Col de Torrent we had one of the most extraordinary views of the Haute Route: we are surrounded by peaks and glaciers, and we can even glimpse Mont Blanc! The sunny day certainly helped!
After a “resting” stage to Arolla, the next days we were meant to sleep at the Cabane de Prafleuri and Cabane du Montfort… But the weather forecast was not good, it was going to snow, and so we went to Verbier by train and bus and spent two days there.
We were curious about the conditions surrounding the Cabane du Montfort, so we climbed up there: the path towards the hut was slippery and we could see snow on the grass... it would have been impossible walking from Cabane de Prafleuri from here, in the fog and without crampons. By Monday there were no clouds in the sky so we decided to go up again (by cable car, this time) to see the spectacular view of Mont Blanc and Gran Combin.
From Verbier we walked to Champex-Lac, one of our favourite locations, and from there to Trient through Fenetre d'Arpette, beyond which you descend with the lower part of the Trient Glacier on your left. The rain was our travel-buddy for all of the next day, from Trient to Argentiere and then, before we knew it, we were at the last stage. We were happy but also sad as we walked to Chamonix, with the view of peaks and aiguilles on our left, and with minds and hearts full of the memories of this Reverse Haute Route.