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Haute Route

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Have you seen that Globe Trekker episode currently running on PBS (American public television) about the intermediate skier taking on the Haute Route in the Alps? Very enjoyable, here's a little written description of the broadcast:
It would be interesting to get a take on the show and the Haute Route from someone here who's done it.
Is it overhyped or a truly great experience? Is it full of tourists/gapers struggling to make the grade, or mostly taken on by advanced/expert serious mountaineering types? Is a guide is mandatory? Is it primarily for the rich and privileged or enjoyed frequently by common folk?
post #2 of 6
I think we better keep Trekchick away from that link.
post #3 of 6
It's a mix of everything you described.
post #4 of 6
I've done it (or most parts of it and several variations on the theme) three times. You find all types on the route from casual intermediates to hardened mountaineers. In good weather and snow conditions it's pretty straightforward and with some experience and a lot of mountain sense you could do it without a guide. Given my experiences with snow and weather on the route, I wouldn't try to do it without a guide. The groups are mostly older (40-60+) folks out to enjoy the scenery and to sample the life in the huts. Skiing ability is nowhere near as important as aerobic fitness and the stamina to do 5 to 7 hours of slow steady climbing every day for days on end. You don't do it for the downhill skiing. The journey through the mountains is the thing.

Looking at the blurb, there's some extra hype thrown in. The Vallee Blanche is long but there's not a lot of steepness and it's really not part of the Haute Route. The trip to the Argentiere hut (assuming you start atop the Grand Montet) is a very short hike. Skipping from Verbier to Arolla cuts off a couple of options (one considered the crux of the classic route [Bourg St. Pierre to the Chanrion Hut over the shoulder of the Grand Combin], the other a very long slog) and shortens the trip. They may have been forced to do so by the weather.

Anyway, highly recommended because of the scenery and the amount of glacier travel. In season it can be a zoo both on the trail and in the huts. Lots of people. I like going from east to west better, starting in Saas Fee. There are better tours other places in the Alps, but this is the most famous by far and on everyone's must do list.
post #5 of 6
I agree with choucas, it is a must. I did the classic route from Chamonix to Zermatt in 2001 and I have to say it was a great experience. Definitely one of the best ones I have done, just because we spent four nights deep in the Alps.

The route is pretty easy but there are couple of a bit challenging places. Additionally you have to be ready to go down to valley if weather changes to bad. We were too optimistic and had difficulties during the last day due to a heavy blizzard on a glacier.

If you are plannign to ski Haute Route, I can only say that do it. I did enjoy it very much and I would like to do it again.

Do you have some similar routes in US?

Marko Pyhajarvi
post #6 of 6
What Choucas said.
And beware of Zermatt cemetery ("where thousands of mountain climbers have lost their lives in the pursuit of their sport.")...
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