The Walker’s Haute Route

Chamonix to Zermatt, Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. What pictures these names conjure in the minds of those of us who love mountains! The two greatest mountaineering centres in the world – one overshadowed by the highest massif in Western Europe and the other by the most famous, if not the most elegant and most instantly recognised, of all mountains.

Chamonix to Zermatt, Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn – recipe for a visual feast!

To walk from one to the other is to sample that feast in full measure; a gourmet extravaganza of scenic wonders from first day till last, and each one (to carry the metaphor to its limit) a course that both satisfies and teases the palate for more.

The Walker’s Haute Route does just that.

In two weeks of mountain travel you will be witness to the greatest collection of 4000m peaks in all the Alps and visit some of the most spectacular valleys. There you’ll find delightful villages and remote alp hamlets, wander flower meadows and deep fragrant forests, skirt exquisite tarns that toss mountains on their heads, cross icy streams and clamber beside glaciers that hang suspended from huge buttresses of rock. You’ll traverse lonely passes and descend into wild, stone-filled corries. There will be marmots among the boulders and ibex on the heights. And your days will be filled with wonder.

It’s more demanding than the well-known Tour du Mont Blanc, for the route is over 180km long; it crosses eleven passes, gains more than 12,000m in height and loses more than 10,000m. But each pass gained is a window onto a world of stunning beauty.

There’s the Mont Blanc range and the chain of the Pennine Alps, one massif after another of snowbound glory: Mont Blanc itself, with its organ-pipe aiguilles; the overpowering mass of the Grand Combin; Mont Blanc de Cheilon and Pigne d’Arolla, Mont Collon and Tête Blanche and the huge tooth of Dent Blanche. There’s the Grand Cornier, Ober Gabelhorn and Weisshorn and stiletto-pointed Zinalrothorn; then there’s the Dom and Täschhorn, Breithorn and Matterhorn and all their crowding neighbours sheathed in ice and snow to act as a backcloth to dreams; a background landscape to the Walker’s Haute Route, contender for the title of Most Beautiful Walk in Europe.


The original High Level Route (Haute Route), from Chamonix to Zermatt and beyond, was developed more than a hundred years ago. But this was very much a mountaineer’s expedition, for it traced a meandering line among the great peaks of the Pennine Alps by linking a number of glacier passes. James David Forbes, scientist and active mountaineer, pioneered an important section of this in 1842 when he crossed Col d’Hérens, Col de Fenêtre and Col du Mont Collon. Alfred Wills also made early explorations, but it was mainly a joint effort by other members of the Alpine Club, notably J. F. Hardy, William Mathews, Francis Fox Tuckett, F. W. Jacomb and Stephen Winkworth and their guides, that saw a complete High Level Route established in 1861. This route went from Chamonix to Col d’Argentière, then via Val Ferret, Orsières, Bourg St Pierre, Col de Sonadon, Col d’Oren, Praraye, Col de Valpelline and on to Zermatt.

The following year (1862) Col des Planards was discovered, which led to Orsières being by-passed, thereby allowing a better line to be made in the link between the northern edge of the Mont Blanc range and that of the Pennine Alps.

This High Level Route was, of course, primarily a summer mountaineering expedition that was no small undertaking, especially when one considers the fact that at the time there were no mountain huts as we know them now and all supplies had to be carried a very long way. But with the introduction of skis to the Alps in the late 19th century a new concept in winter travel became apparent, and with the first important ski tour being made in the Bernese Alps in 1897, and the subsequent winter ascent of major mountains aided by ski (Monte Rosa in 1898, Breithorn 1899, Strahlhorn 1901, etc), it was clearly only a matter of time before the challenge of the High Level Route would be subjected to winter assault.

In 1903 the first attempt was made to create a ski traverse of the Pennine Alps, and although this and other attempts failed, in January 1911 Roget, Kurz, Murisier, the brothers Crettex and Louis Theytaz succeeded in establishing a winter route from Bourg St Pierre to Zermatt.

Having successfully hijacked the original High Level Route as the ski-touring route par excellence, and having translated its British title as the Haute Route, the journey from Chamonix to Zermatt came to be seen almost universally as a winter (or more properly, a spring) expedition; a true classic that is, understandably, the focus of ambition for many experienced skiers and ski-mountaineers today.

But there’s another Chamonix to Zermatt high level route that is very much a classic of its kind; a walker’s route that never quite reaches 3000m on any of its passes, that requires no technical mountaineering skills to achieve, avoids glacier crossings and yet rewards with some of the most dramatic high mountain views imaginable. This is the Chamonix to Zermatt Walker’s Haute Route.

It leads comfortably from the base of Mont Blanc to the Swiss frontier at Col de Balme, and from there down to Trient following the route of the Tour of Mont Blanc or one of its variantes. The next pass is Fenêtre d’Arpette leading to Champex, and from there down to the junction of Val d’Entremont and Val de Bagnes, then curving round the foot of the mountains to Le Châble. Avoiding Verbier a steep climb brings you to Cabane du Mont Fort, and continues high above the valley heading south-east before crossing three cols in quick succession in order to pass round the northern flanks of Rosablanche.

From Cabane de Prafleuri the route heads over Col des Roux and along the shores of Lac des Dix, then on to Arolla by one of two ways: Col de Riedmatten or the neighbouring Pas de Chèvres via Cabane des Dix. Arolla leads to Les Haudères and up to La Sage on a green hillside above Val d’Hérens in readiness for tackling either Col de Torrent or Col du Tsaté. Both these cols give access to Val de Moiry and its hut perched in full view of a tremendous icefall, from where the crossing of Col de Sorebois takes the walker into Val de Zinal, the upper reaches of the glorious Val d’Anniviers. From Zinal to Gruben in the Turtmanntal the route once again has two options to consider: either by way of Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola and the Meidpass, or by the more direct Forcletta. After leaving Gruben a final climb to the ancient crossing point of the Augstbordpass leads to the Mattertal. A long but easy valley walk to Zermatt is the basic final stage, but a two-day alternative and much better option adopts the dramatic Europaweg which makes a true high-level traverse of the east wall of the valley, with an overnight stay in the Europa Hut.

Every stage has its own special attributes, its own unique splendour, and all add up to a walk of classic proportions. It is, of course, a scenic extravaganza whose main features are the mountains that form the landscapes through which you walk.

First of these is dominated by the Mont Blanc massif with its towering aiguilles creating stark outlines against a backwash of snow and ice. Unbelievably high and seemingly remote from valley-based existence, the dome of the Monarch of the Alps glows of an evening, shines under a midday sun and imposes itself on panoramas viewed from cols several days’ walk from the crowded boulevards of Chamonix.

Then there’s the Grand Combin making a fair imitation of its loftier neighbour as it soars above the deeply cut Val de Bagnes. This too is a vast mountain whose presence is felt many days’ walk away, a grand block of glacial artistry that lures and entices from afar.

Heading round Rosablanche gives a taste of the other side of the mountain world, where gaunt screes and dying glaciers contrast the gleaming snows of its upper slopes. But then Mont Blanc de Cheilon returns the eye to grandeur on an epic scale, with Pigne d’Arolla and Mont Collon adding their handsome profiles for close inspection, while far off a first brief glimpse of the Matterhorn promises much for the future.

Val de Moiry holds many surprises with its tarns, dammed lake, majestic icefall and contorted glaciers, while Col de Sorebois and all the way down to Zinal is one long adoration of the Weisshorn. The head of Val de Zinal is so magnificent that one yearns to be able to explore further, but the route northward denies that opportunity yet still allows it to be seen in true perspective – a fabulous cirque giving birth to glaciers that have carved a valley of much loveliness.

The Turtmanntal takes you back to the 19th century. Above it once more rises the Weisshorn, along with Tête de Milon, Bishorn and Brunegghorn and a caliper of glaciers spilling into the valley.

One of the finest viewpoints of the whole walk comes an hour and a half below the Augstbordpass between Turtmanntal and Mattertal. The Mattertal is a long green shaft 1000m below. Across the valley shines the Dom with the tongue-like Riedgletscher hanging from it. Above to the right is the Brunegghorn with the Weisshorn beyond, while at the head of the valley is seen that great snowy mass which runs between Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. But the Matterhorn itself keeps you waiting. Cross the valley at St Niklaus and climb steeply to Gasenried, then walk the length of the Europaweg and you’ll not only have the Bishorn and Weisshorn (yet again), but also the Schalihorn, Pointe Sud de Moming and Zinalrothorn, and the incomparable Matterhorn at last seen as it should be seen, from its roots above Zermatt to its cocked-head summit nearly 3000m above the valley. It’s a view worth waiting for. A view worth walking all the way from Chamonix to savour.

Despite its high passes, despite the fact that it runs across the grain of the country where deep valleys slice between the long outstretched arms of some of the highest mountains in Western Europe, the Chamonix to Zermatt route is not the sole preserve of the hardened mountain walker – although there are some taxing stages and a few delicate exposed sections that might give an understandable twinge of concern to first-time wanderers among the Alps. Most days lead into a touch of ‘civilisation’, albeit sometimes this civilisation might be just a small mountain village with few amenities. Every night there will be a lodging place with the possibility of meals provided, thereby making it unnecessary to carry camping or cooking equipment. Backpacking on this route is a choice, not an obligation.

Lodgings on the Walker’s Haute Route are in themselves very much a part of the mountain experience. In villages they allow you to capture some of the region’s culture. In remote mountain huts the wanderer is introduced to the climber’s world, with an opportunity to witness high alpine scenes that are normally privy only to the mountaineer.

Accommodation varies from hotels (there are luxuriously appointed hotels in certain villages on the route for those inclined and financially able to make use of them), to gîtes and basic refuges, and mattresses spread on the floor of communal dormitories in the attic of a pension or inn. But those planning to camp must understand that organised campsites are not to be found in all valleys, and that wild camping is officially discouraged in Switzerland.

Wherever lodgings (and campsites) are to be found along the route mention is made in the text. Similarly, wherever alternative methods of transport occur (train, bus, cable-car, etc), brief details are given. This is to aid any walkers who might fall behind their schedule due to bad weather, unseasonal conditions, sickness or just plain weariness.

The walk outlined in this guide may be achieved within a two-week holiday, while those with plenty of time available are given options which would extend the route and increase the overall experience. These options are outlined below. The longest stage demands 71⁄2 hours of walking, but there are several days of only 4 hours each. Some of the less demanding days could be amalgamated by fit trekkers in order to reduce the time required to complete the route, should they not have a full fortnight at their disposal, but it would be a pity to do so. This is a route that deserves to be wandered at a gentle pace; the very best of mountain holidays.

The first stage (Chamonix to Argentière – 2hrs) may be seen as a prelude. Should you arrive late in the day in Chamonix as you would, for example, if you flew from the UK to Geneva and travelled from there by train, then you would probably only have sufficient time to reach Argentière on foot that day.

However, if your travel arrangements get you to Chamonix at a reasonable time in the morning (on the overnight train from Paris, for example), it might be feasible to walk all the way to Trient, thus combining two stages for a 71⁄2–8hr day, thereby cutting a day off the overall route allocation.
Stage 12a (St Niklaus to Gasenried) links the original Haute Route with the new finish along the Europaweg, and takes about 11⁄2hrs walking time. However, it is not really practical to add this short stage to the demanding Augstbordpass crossing (Stage 12), nor to tack it on at the start of Stage 13. If you cannot allow a full day for this walk, it is possible to take a bus from St Niklaus to Gasenried itself – either at the end of Stage 12, or first thing on the morning of Stage 13.

One or two commercial trekking companies follow a large portion of the Walker’s Haute Route, but opt for public transport over some sections in order to allow a day or two in Zermatt at the end of a two-week holiday. This is an option available to the individual trekker too, of course. But again, it would be a shame to miss any single stage of this route, for each bears witness to the last and forms a unique link with the next.

Image by Marmotpost

About Skiing in the Chamonix area


The Chamonix valley has five main ski areas, none of them particularly convenient for people staying in town. Le Brevent-La Flegere and the Aiguille du Midi are accessed by cable-cars that are rather too far from the centre for comfort, while Le Tour, Argentiere and Les Houches are within driving rather than walking distance. The gondola from Vallorcine to Aiguilette near the border with Switzerland has finally given Chamonix what it has always lacked, an area suited to all standards of skier.

Many insiders now find that driving to Vallorcine rather than Le Tour gives more efficient access to the inviting blues on the front of the Col de Balme and the rolling reds down the back, while experts can plunder the untracked powder through the trees above Les Esserts and Vallorcine. Advanced beginners get a real sense of adventure on the looping blue descent from the top of the Col de Balme at 2,186m to Vallorcine station at 1,264m, plus a just reward in the Arret Bougnette restaurant (04 50 54 63 04) at the bottom. There is extensive free parking, which is fortunate because the bus service could politely be called sporadic.

Up to 2,500 skiers a day take on the Vallee Blanche, Chamonix’s hugely popular, trademark off-piste adventure, rising to 3,821m in less than 20 minutes via the Aiguille du Midi cable-car. Vertigo sufferers are convinced they’re going to die the moment they emerge on to the infamous ridge walk from the top station to the start of the run. Not so: if there is no fixed rope, your guide and you must have one. This will link you to your fellow travellers. There will always be showboaters who skip down on crampons with their skis over their shoulder, but even those who take it centimetre by agonising centimetre get there in the end. And the descent is worth it, not so much for the run which is well within the scope of any competent and obedient intermediate, but for the chance to spend time in the most accessible ice wilderness in the Alps. In skiing terms, good brakes are key: the maze of crevasses where the glacier runs out take no prisoners, which means that those who stop beyond the guide risk more than a ticking off. Boarders be warned that the Vallee Blanche is too flat for easy riding. Experts note that there are more exciting variants, notably L’Envers du Plan and La Vraie Vallee Blanche.

The main town hill is Le Brevent-La Flegere, formerly two areas but now awkwardly linked across the intervening void by a low-level gondola that is designed to be eco- rather than skier-friendly. The slopes are south-facing, good for basking in the sun when it’s available but not for maintaining quality snow conditions when temperatures rise. The blue runs immediately above the mid-stations, Planpraz (from Chamonix) and La Flegere (from Les Praz), are suitable for beginners looking to progress beyond the tiny nursery slope at Le Savoy in the centre of town, but they?d be well advised not to stray on to the testing reds further up the mountain. Nor indeed down it because the only routes back to base are demanding blacks. The second stage of the Brevent cable-car goes up to 2,525m, but the pay-off is restricted to two black runs back to Planpraz. Regulars will be glad to learn that Flegere’s claustrophobic green L’Index chair now has a six-person replacement that provides a better connection by ending slightly further up the hill. Although advanced skiers would be fully extended on these slopes, the majority prefer to test themselves to the furthest limits on Argentiere’s legendary Grands Montets, accessed either by cable-car to Lognan or high-speed quad to Plan Joran. The Bochard people-carrier opens up much of the mountain, including the magnificent Combe de la Pendant and Lavancher bowls, but the jewel in the crown is the venerable second-stage cable-car to the top of the mountain at 3,275m, the starting point for a demanding clatter down 100 metal steps to the slopes.

The easiest way back to Lognan is on Point de Vue or Pylones, two long, often icy and usually bumpy black runs, but that is to miss the main event which is skiing off-piste on the glacier. Many self-styled mountain men risk death by exploring this incomparable terrain without a guide, which is definitely not a good idea.

The Vallee Blanche


The Vallée Blanche in Chamonix is probably the single most beautiful ski run in the world, and certainly the most famous off-piste route in existence. The route winds down from the massive Aiguille du Midi cable car, (3800m) zig zagging through a truly beautiful mountain environment.

A word of warning though, this is off piste skiing. There are no safety rails or attendants, and the route can be littered with crevices that could gobble you up in moments, never to be seen again.

Only recently a skier wearing jeans and a leather jacket emerged at the Aiguille du Midi asking “where’s the piste?” He disappeared not long afterwards.

You would be well advised to take an off-piste skiing course before you attempt your first descent of the Vallée Blanche – and if you have never skied off piste before, at least make sure you are with a group of people who know their stuff. Being familiar with avalanche transceivers and crevice rescue should be an absolute minimum.

The skiing (all 22 kilometres!) down the Vallée Blanche is technically not that difficult – it is the hazards – crevices – and potential avalanche that makes the route dangerous.

A guide is highly recommended, as people die on the Vallée Blanche every year. Helicopters are regularly seen looking for missing skiers and boarders.


Getting to the start of the route can be a little hairy too. You emerge from the Aiguille du Midi by going through a tunnel in the ice, to find yourself at the top of a sharp ridge (shown above) which makes its way downwards, with lethal drops on either side of it. Normally, in winter, there is a path dug down the ridge and a rope to clip onto, as well as a handrail. Even with these safety measures though it can be a very harrowing experience to the uninitiated. A fall here would not be good.

Further down the Vallée Blanche there are a number of points where crevices have to be crossed using snow bridges, which can be tricky at the best of times. Do not linger on snowbridges. They do collapse.

The classic route, “La Vraie”, is the longest and most straight forward. Initially heading south, this route turns to the east and then the north. The the Glacier du Géant is the first major obstacle, which can be a little bumpy – but once this is over you’re ready for lunch at the Refuge du Requin – a welcome refueling stop in outstanding surroundings.

Further down you’ll cross the Mer de Glace, one of Europe’s longest glaciers – a sweeping mass of ice making its way down another beautiful mountain valley. Following this it is possible to actually ski all the way back down to Chamonix, or of you’re feeling it, jump on the Montenvers railway for a rack and pinion journey back into town.

Read more about the Vallee Blanche at Pistehors.

Aiguille du Tour


Grade: F (facile – easy)

Main difficulties lie in routefinding on the upper sections of the Tour glacier.

Height gain

Day 1 : Col de Balme to Albert Premier hut 600m
Day 2 : Albert Premier hut to Aiguille du Tour 840m

This route is at the very eastern border of the Mont Blanc range, straddling the french/swiss border offering great views over the Trient glacier and Valaisan Alps to the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa in the distance.

The peak itself lies opposite the beautiful Aiguille du Chardonnet on the Tour glacier.

The route follows the Tour glacier to the sunny side of the Trient basin. The last 100m of the climb is on good granite.

High season

July, August to mid-September


From the village of Le Tour, take the Charamillon télécabine and the Balme chairlift to the Col de Balme.


Day 1 : To the Albert Premier hut

From the top of the lift, follow the well-marked track south.

The trail goes left, overlooking the Tour glacier, then crosses a rocky section which is fairly steep but not difficult.Crampons may be needed for final section up to the hut. 1½ hours.

Day 2: From the hut to the Aiguille du Tour

The track starts behind the hut in an easterly direction.

After about 15 minutes, the Tour glacier is reached. Put on crampons and rope up.

Cross diagonally eastwards keeping in line with the Aiguilles. As it steepens, look for a rocky outcrop on the right hand side called Signal Reilly. Go around this on the uphill side to gain gentle slopes once more. Continue south-east, passing on the left a glacial bay which leads to the Couloir de la Table.

Walk up a snowy bowl, leading to the Col Supérieur du Tour and so to the Trient glacier.

Head north alongside the Purtschellar ridge.

After a steep rise, you will see the Tour peaks. Cross the bergschrund below the gap between the two peaks.

Go up the snow slope to a shoulder below the left hand side of the left peak. From here it is an easy and pleasant rock climb up to the southern summit.


Same route in reverse.

3 day route

The Aiguille du Tour can be part of a 3 day route which takes in the Tête Blanche also.

Day 1 – go to the Albert Premier hut.
Day 2 – climb the Tête Blanche and go to the Trient hut.
Day 3 – climb the Aiguille du Tour and return to France over the Col Supérieur du Tour.


Image from Summitpost

Climbing Mont Blanc, Chamonix

mont blanc

Mont Blanc is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world and the highest mountain in Western Europe.

As such, it is an extremely popular mountain to climb. It was first climbed on 8th August 1786 by Jaques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard. It now sees hundreds of ascents each day in high season, over 20,000 each year.

Mont Blanc lies between the Haute-Savoie region of France and the Aosta Valley in Italy. The question of where exactly the summit lies is a source of controversy between the two countries. Although the border is officially at the highest point of Mont Blanc, the two countries tend to place the summit within their own boundaries on maps.

The exact height of the mountain is a little variable dependent on the amount of snowfall but is generally cited as between 4807m and 4810m.The summit snow and ice is between 15m and 23m deep.

Readily accessible from the town of Chamonix which lies at its foot, it is a sought-after prize for most mountaineers.

However, it is frequently underestimated. Although the technical difficulties are never very high, it is a long and arduous climb at high altitude. As such, a good level of fitness is required and prior acclimatization is essential over a period of several days.

High Season

The most popular times to climb Mont Blanc are in July and August as this is when the most consistent conditions are to be found. This does mean, however, that the routes will be crowded.

If there are good conditions in June, this is also a good time to go but can still be fairly busy.

The weather in September is less predictable but the mountain is slightly quieter.

By mid-late October the huts are closed as the weather is often very unstable and the days are short. Ski ascents can be made in spring –from April to mid June, when the huts then re-open early to mid-June for the summer season.

Typical Agenda

Allow 6 days
– day 1 école de Glace on the Mer de Glace or Grands Montets
– days 2,3,4 spend 2 nights in a hut for purpose of acclimatisation
– day 5 go to Cosmiques/ Gouter/ Tête Rousse hut
– day 6 summit Mont Blanc and return to valley

Climbs from the huts:

The routes and difficulty of the climbs vary according to which hut you stay in.
It is advisable to book your hut as far in advance as possible but if they are full, last minute cancellations are frequently available.

Discounts are available for BMC and Alpine Club members – card necessary.

There are 3 main huts on the French side that are used.

-Cosmiques hut 3613m.

+33 (0)4 50 54 40 16

145 places -Very well run hut that does not overbook.

Easily accessible in 45mins from the top of the Aiguille du Midi lift.

Descend the snowy crest from the lift station and then walk west under the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. Followed by a short snowy climb to the hut.

Breakfast at 1am.

On leaving the hut, walk downhill to the Col du Midi 3530m. Climb for 2 hours to the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul. Descend a short way to Col Maudit then climb more steeply up the North Face of Mont Maudit (can be avalanche prone) – 2 hours .The final 80-100m to the shoulder is steeper, can be icy and is usually a bottleneck. From there an exposed, descending traverse leads to Col Brenva in half an hour. From there it is 2-2½ hours to the summit. The steepest part is the initial climb up Mur de la Côte which can also be icy.

Total time 6-8 hours to summit.

-Goûter hut 3817m.

Tel. 04 50 54 40 93

76 places – Reservation difficult as this is the most popular hut to stay in.There is some chance of last minute cancellations so worth calling a day or so before you wish to stay if have not managed to book in advance.

It is often grossly overcrowded and is uncomfortable to sleep at that altitude but affords a shorter summit day.

The hut is reached by walking from the Nid d’Aigle – the terminus of the Mont Blanc tramway. This is most easily accessed from the Bellevue cablecar in Les Houches.

This takes you past the Tête Rousse hut after 2½ hours. Shortly afterwards you cross the Grand Couloir which will be snowy early season (june-july). There is significant stone and rockfall danger here – helmet essential

From there it is a 2½ hour scramble with some fixed cables to reach the Goûter hut.

Breakfast at 2am.

On leaving the hut, traverse the flat Aiguille du Goûter then go up the NW slope of the Dôme du Goûter. Traverse below the summit of the Dôme du Goûter on the left side to reach the Col du Dôme and then go up to the Vallot hut 4360m – 3 hours. From here the route more or less sticks to the crest of the Bosses ridge to reach the summit after a further 2 hours.

Total time 5 hours.

-Tête Rousse hut 3167m

+33 (0)4 50 58 24 97

68 places

This hut was built in 2005.

Access as described above for Goûter hut but reached 2½ hours earlier on the route.

Breakfast at 1am.

Shortly after leaving the hut cross the Grand Couloir (less stonefall danger as leaving early in the morning).

The route then goes up a broken rocky spur direct to the Goûter hut – 2½ hours. There are sections of cable which can be used as a handrail.

Route to summit same as described from the Goûter hut.

Total time 8 hours.


Minimum 2 nights stay in huts of at least 2,700m during few days prior to climb with ascents to higher altitudes during the day up to at least 3,500m.


Even on the hottest of summer days, Mont Blanc temperatures can be very low with significant windchill factor. It is recommended that you take a minimum of:

– waterproof jacket and trousers -2 fleeces -thermal top and trousers – gloves and mittens -hat and neoprene face guard (or balaclava) – ski goggles and sunglasses (min cat 3) – 4 season leather/plastic mountain boots – gaiters – headtorch – suncream – lipsalve – axe, crampons, harness, helmet – 1 litre of water – energy food – for the hut it is nice to have earplugs and sheet sleeping bag – small first aid kit (paracetamol and blister kit essential)

Book List

Mont Blanc Massif volume I ………..Lindsay Griffin
Snow, Ice and Mixed volume 2 ……..François Damilano

Image by Delp

Cosmiques Arete

Cosmiques Arete

Grade AD 4a This climb is deservedly extremely popular. Short, safe and exhilarating, on good quality rock, it is a perfect introduction to Alpine mixed climbing.

Height 150m climb to 3770m

High season June to September

Equipment 50m rope, half set of nuts, 4 quickdraws, 4 slings

Access Reached from, and ending at the top of the Aiguille du Midi téléphérique.

Route From the téléphérique station, walk down the snowy crest ( can be icy so crampons and axe advisable) to the Col du Midi.

Go around the rock spur to the foot of the Cosmiques Rid.

From there climb the snow slope to the right of the ridge- narrow in places. Move rightwards to reach the inclined slabs. Climb to the first gendarme of the subsidiary summit 3731m and proceed along the crest of the ridge to the second.

From here the route descends slightly while traversing. This is exposed and it can be advisable to abseil. Continue on to pass between two rock walls and then abseil 30m down a small gully. Traverse across to a tower where you climb a slightly awkward chimney (4a) to a substantial ledge on the right.

Go over a short snow slope to regain the ridge and from here you can choose either to go right round a second tower or left around it by descending a split in the tower to a snowy crest. Proceed along the ridge to the final step. Climb a short, slabby wall (4c) to a small ledge, then up a few metres either by a chimney on the left or a crack on the right to a platform.

Traverse left and step down to reach a large corner/ chimney. Climb this in 2 pitches (3c/4a) to a final snowy shoulder and the applause of the crowd as you reach the viewing platform. Bask in the glory and have a well- earned beer!

Descent Aiguille du Midi téléphérique.

Image via CosleyHouston

Traverse des Aiguilles Crochues (2840m)


Grade PD+

Length of climb – 150m in 5 pitches. 2-3 hours climbing, 6-7 hour day.

First climbed in 1920, this is a beautiful route in a superb mountain environment. It allows many climbers to experience the wonder of the high altitude Alpine environment for the first time.

The Aiguilles Crochues comprise 3 summits in close succession and are traversed from south to north. The southern summit is at 2840m, the central at 2834m and the northern at 2837m.

It is a sharp airy ridge with amazing views of the Mont Blanc range to the south. It is a scramble/climb on exposed, but easy alpine rock terrain.

High season – mid June to the end of September


4 quickdraws, 50m rope, half set of nuts, friends 1+2, 4 slings, helmet, ice axe, crampons may be needed early season.


From the village of Les Praz, take the Flégère téléphérique and then the Index chairlift to 2400m.


From the top of the Index lift, go north following the track in the snow which leads, after 10 minutes, to the base of the climb to the Col des Crochues 2704m.

The route leaves the path on the right then climbs steeply heading slightly left. Helmets are needed here due to rockfall from preceding parties. The upper section is 45-50˚. Go left up the grassy spur, rather than up the loose scree. This leads to a path which takes you to the Col des Crochues. 1 hour.

The climbing begins 60m from the col on the right with a 30m corner leading to a good ledge. From here, fairly easy climbing leads to the line of the arête.

Then descend by abseil 20m and follow a succession of small steps to regain the arête and reach the south summit 2840m. Continue along the arête leading to the north-east summit. The start is fairly narrow to begin with but not difficult as good footholds on the northside and good handholds on the south. Later, the arête widens into a broader path to the summit at 2837m.


The descent is from the first summit. Climb down the north side across loose rock to the snow. Continue south-east across snow and rock to the path to Lac Blanc. A quick stop at the restaurant for refreshment, then follow the well-marked path back to the Flégère lift.

Contact phone numbers for Chamonix mountain huts

Albert Premier Hut – 2702M


Argentiere Hut – 2771M


Le Couvercle Hut – 2687M


Envers des Aiguilles Hut – 2523M


Leschaux Hut – 2431M


Le Requin Hut – 2516M


Le Gouter Hut – 3800M


Les Grands Mulets – 3051M

+33 (0)

Tete Rousse Hut – 3167M


Durier Hut – 3358M

+ 33(0)

Les Conscrits Hut – 2580M


Chalet Alpin du Tour – Le Tour – 1453M


Plate Hut – 2032M


Gramusset Hut – Pointe Percée – 2162M


Les Cosmiques Hut – 3613M


Plan de L’Aiguille Hut – 2207M


La Charpoua Hut – 2841M


Montenvers Hut – 1913M


Bellachat Hut – 2152M


La Flegere Hut – 1877M


Lac Blanc Hut – 2352M


Lognan Hut – 2032M


La Pierre a Berard – 1924M


Loriaz Hut – 2020M


Col de Balme Hut – 2191M


Gite D’Alpage de Charamillon – 1850M


Moede Anterne – 1996M


Sales Hut – 1877M


Anterne a Wills Hut – 1807M


Les Fonds Hut – 1368M


Le Grenairon Hut – 1949M


Tre La Tete Hut – 1970M


Le Nid D’Aigle Hut – 2372M

+33 (0)

Plan Glacier Hut – 2730M


Robert Blanc Hut – 2750M


Dent du Geant SW face


Grade AD

This is an excellent peak with airy climbing on high quality rock with a fantastic 360 view from the top.

An early start is not necessary as it is in shade in the morning, though you may want to beat the crowds.

There are fixed ropes up most of the climb.

Length of climb – 4½ to 5½ hours from the hut

High season – June to September

Equipment – axe, crampons, rope, harness, slings, nuts, quickdraws

Access – from Torino hut



Hut is accessed from the Aiguille du Midi télépherique station and crossing the Vallée Blanche via the télecabine to Pt Helbronner.

Day 2:

From the hut, cross the glacier passing right of point 3615m to the base of the shoulder underneath the Dent du Géant. Go up the snowy couloir to the col on the left and then follow the ridge on right leading up to the face. Climb this in much the same line. As the angle lessens near the top, a large pillar can be seen.

Go around this on either side to the snowy arête beyond. This leads to a large rock called the Salle à Manger. Climb a large flake to the left of this and the slab above.

Traverse left here for 10m or so then climb about 30m up a couloir to a terrace on the left. From here, fixed ropes are on the exposed slabs leading to the SW summit.

To reach the NE summit, descend a short chimney and climb facing wall up to the top.


By abseil down the south face to the Salle à Manger.

Tour Ronde SE Aret 3792m


Grade PD
On the south edge of the Vallée Blanche, the Tour Ronde provides some of the finest views of the Brenva face of Mont Blanc, the south face of Mont Maudit and the towers of the Grand Capucin.

The southeast arête is excellent mixed climbing with exposed sections along the granite ridge, various obstacles to climb or maneuver around, easy snow slopes and a final rock climb to the summit.

An excellent introduction to Alpine climbing.

Length of climb – 3 hours from hut to summit

High season – July to September

Equipment – axe, crampons, harness, slings, ice screws, quickdraws, rope

Access – from Torino hut


Day 1:

Hut is accessed from the Aiguille du Midi télépherique station and crossing the Vallée Blanche via the télecabine to Pt Helbronner.

Day 2:

It is about an hour from the hut to the foot of the climb over the snowy slopes of the Col des Flambeaux, around the base of the Aiguille de Toule and up the glacier to the Col d’Entrèves.

Follow the snowy SE ridge on its right hand side for a way and then the route crosses to the left side finally reaching a snowy saddle (Col Freshfield). From there, climb the rock ridge leading to easy snow slope and finally more rock to the spectacular summit block. 3 hours from the hut.


It is possible to climb directly to Col Freshfield from the glacier but this is more usually the descent route.

Head back down the ridge and then bear left over mixed ground leading to the steep snow slope, bergschrund and glacier.