The Walker’s Haute Route: The Final Chapter

Read the first Part of the Walker’s Haute Route HERE

& Chapter Two HERE

Day 8: Zinal-Gruben    9 miles

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.”

-Jules Renard

In the morning, we left the unknown creature and the pretty town of Zinal behind. Once again, we climbed above the valley, following switchbacks forever higher. Looking back, the Grand Cornier and the Weisshorn stood like twin towers guarding the tiny village far below. We watched as a paraglider slid off the mountain side, effortlessly floating in the sky. What a view he must have had!

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We climbed for much of the morning, passing dilapidated farm buildings and crossing small streams en route to the stony pass, the Forcletta (9340 ft).

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It was a barren saddle full of ripped apart rock and soft gravel that slid underfoot. The unstable ground made for a fairly treacherous descent. Clusters of alpine huts dotted the landscape, and scenic views of the Weisshorn and Bishorn came into perspective.

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The descent was long, but eventually we found our way down to the town of Gruben. It was unique in the fact that it was the first of our route that primarily spoke German. A small town, we quickly learned of a festival happening at a local restaurant. There was music, beer, and food! We enjoyed ourselves for a while, before setting up the tent in a sparse patch of woods just above the Hotel Schwarzhorn. There were no strange noises this night and we slept peacefully with only the trickle of a small stream to break the silence.

Day 9: Gruben-St Nicklaus     9 miles

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

-John Ruskin

We took down the tent and packed our backpacks under a light sprinkle. As the day went on, that sprinkle grew stronger and stronger. The dark grey clouds lingered ominously, erasing all hope for the sun to poke through. We trudged up a muddy trail, puddles splashing in our wake. The higher we climber, the stronger the rain came down. Even with a rain jacket on, my clothes became soaked. The wind howled and the rain whipped. We passed other hikers along the way. Seeing them eased my apprehension, we weren’t the only crazy ones! As we neared the pass, the rain turned to snow. Rocks crashed down the mountainside across from us and as they broke, so did Glenna. She wailed as loud as the storm roared. Tears mixed with snow and streamed off her face. But there was nothing to be done. We were too close to the pass to turn around now. With some encouragement, we topped Augstbordpass (9500 ft). There was no celebration for our final pass of the trail, in fact, there was no stopping. We continued onto the far side, still shrouded in grey skies. For what seemed like hours we hustled along, barely speaking; too cold and wet to stop for water or food. Our spirits rose as we approached the small alpine town of Jungen. A tramway there would take us down to the town of St. Nicklaus, bypassing the last two wet miles. Normally I would oppose such a thing, but all I wanted now was a hot shower. I found one in at a pension in town and we reveled in the warm water streaming over our bodies, thawing us out to the bone. Hamburgers and some beer made us forget all about our misery and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon in town.

Day 10: St. Nicklaus-Zermatt    11 miles

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

-Edward Abbey

With more storms predicted in the near future, we decided to bypass the Europaweg route and head straight to Zermatt. While it was a bit unfortunate, I think we were both okay with getting the hike over. Hopefully someday I can get back and do that route as well as it does seem like an epic hike in itself. Our route led us down the Mattertal Valley, following the Matter Vispa River. It was an easy jaunt, mostly paralleling the road and railroad tracks and remaining relatively flat. We pass through 5 towns along the way, none very big or memorable. As the day went on, it was a struggle to keep going. Maybe it was the sinking feeling that the hike was nearly complete or maybe we were drained from the previous day’s experiences. Either way, we were both mentally out of it. The gloomy weather was no help either. It sprinkled on and off all day, always threatening to unleash hell again. Zermatt couldn’t have come sooner! As we entered the mountaineering town’s bustling streets, a downpour commenced and we scrambled to find a hostel. Another long hot shower and a dinner in town completed the night. The next morning, we woke to a slight break in the clouds.

The Matterhorn was out!

While taking pictures of this glorious mountain, we reflected on our accomplishment.

We did it…

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Together, we walked over 100 mountainous miles from Chamonix to Zermatt.

And what a walk it had been!!!

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September 5-14… 10 Days

105 miles & 38,245 ft gain

walker's haute route

The Logistics:

When planning your hike on the Walker’s Haute Route, there is really only one place to start. Do yourself a favor now, click on the book on the left, and buy a copy of Kev Reyonld’s Chamonix to Zermatt on Amazon now. It’s like $20 and it is the best resource out there. Other than this book, there is very little information on this hike. There are quite a few companies who do guided treks of the Haute Route, but very little information dedicated to doing it on your own. For accounts from other hikers, check out Glenna’s website She Who Has Travels Has Stories to Tell, two great accounts on Summitpost.org & HERE, a post on Denverdavis.com, and Besthike.com, which has a decent video. Also check out haute-route.com. All of these should provide you with a great deal of information to work with.

Chamonix to Zermatt

Kev Reynolds Guidebook

In terms of food and lodging, there are plenty of options to choose from. Because the hike passes through so many towns and villages, food is really no problem. At most, you may have to carry a day’s worth of provisions. If you don’t mind spending money, there are always restaurants, even in the remote huts, where you could buy your meals. Just be aware, prices in Switzerland are very high compared to the U.S. A simple hamburger and fries will cost you $20! Water was no issue either. There are little troughs all over where you can fill up a Nalgene or bottle. Lodging can also be purchased in every town, provided there is space.

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We hiked in September and everywhere we went there was no need for reservations, there was always space for two in the huts. I have heard in the prime summer season this is different, however, so definitely think about making reservations ahead of time. If you can’t afford renting hotel rooms every night it is possible to camp every night of the hike. Actual campgrounds are somewhat rare, but wild camping is allowed anywhere above treeline. Technically, it is not allowed in the valleys or forests, though it is somewhat of a grey area. We heard as you long as you don’t cause any problems it is perfectly fine. Many times we set up our tent just outside of town, or in random forested areas near the trail. We never had any issues. If you are planning on camping, I would definitely consider bringing a tent to Europe with you. It was much harder than anticipated to buy one and, when we did, it was of crappy quality.

If you have any questions regarding the Walker’s Haute Route, please feel free to email me or comment below!

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

-John Muir

Written by Jake G

I'm a 26 year old who loves to hike, bike, backpack, and explore the outdoors. I'm a Midwesterner who currently resides in sunny Arizona. I hope to inspire others with my adventures and maybe give some advice for your future vacations. Follow me as I travel around the country and...
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2 Comments

Fresh Off the Grid

I had never heard of the Walker’s Haute Route before, but I am totally adding this to my bucket list! What an adventure! Bummer you didn’t get to do the Europaweg route, but hopefully you get the opportunity to do it in the future.

Thanks for the wonderful write up. Happy to have stumbled across your blog!

Jake G

Thanks man… it was one heck of a hike! It seems to be much overshadowed by the Tour de Mont Blanc, so there is very little information other than the Cicerone Guide book. Definitely worth it though. It was easily the best backpacking trip of my life. I definitely plan on getting back to the Alps so the Europaweg is basically unfinished business haha.

I appreciate the kind words. Your site blows mine out of the water! My girlfriend and I are always looking for easy backcountry recipes so you are now on my favorites list. Take care and keep enjoying the outdoors!

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