Chamonix, France

Bristol Grammar School Haute Route Trek July 2018

The Summer Haute Route trail linking Chamonix in France with Zermatt in Switzerland, two of the principal alpine mountaineering centres, is one of the world's great multi-day treks and is featured in National Geographic's top ten worldwide treks.

The Haute Route trail provides some of the finest views in the Alps, stretching from Mont Blanc to the Grand Paradiso. The Classic Haute Route trail takes to the higher elevations in the mountains, as opposed to the walker's summer Haute Route which stays at lower levels. The route features the greatest concentration of 4,000m peaks in the Alps, creating the unique vistas and breathtaking alpine scenery which makes the summer Haute Route trail so famous worldwide. Completing the Classic Summer Haute Route trail simply means stunning mountain panoramas every step of the way! Mont Blanc, Grand Combin, Weisshorn and the Matterhorn are just a few of the 4000m+ peaks that you will encounter on this classic alpine journey.

The route follows a well-defined hiking trail, ascending up into glacial terrain where you’ll be walking above the snowline. There is no technical climbing but you need to be physically well prepared for long days of high-level trail walking. Most days on the Haute Route trail start early. When staying in huts this means breakfast is usually taken between 5.30-6am and we are on the trail by 7am. The pace is relaxed and there is plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the fantastic scenery. Depending on ground conditions, at least 3-4 days will be above the snowline when you can expect to be wearing crampons. On the steeper sections and when crossing glaciers you will be roped up for safety. We usually walk for 6-8 hours and so often arrive at the next hut for a late lunch. The afternoon is spent relaxing around the hut - playing cards, reading, chatting to other hikers. The evening meal is usually served between 6 and 7 and lights out are at 10, although most people are fast asleep by then!

The price per participant includes 9 guided days with 1 training day in Chamonix before 8 trekking days, all local transport costs, all accommodation in Chamonix, Zermatt and huts enroute, all meals (breakfas, packed lunchs and dinners), all uplift costs, all guide fees and expenses and equipment rental (harness, crampons, ice-axe, helmet).

If participants wish to use trekking poles then they must provide these themselves.

The price does not include flights to and from Geneva, personal drinks taken in resort and huts, additional food if needed, personal insurance, hire of mountaineering boots from a shop in Chamonix if required. 

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This list contains our recommended clothing and equipment for the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route trek, one of the finest multi-day tours in the Alps. Key for a successful and enjoyable trek is to bring the correct clothing and footwear. In the summer months, the days generally start cold and warm up during the morning to become hot in the afternoon. It is therefore essential you have 2-3 thin layers which you are able to put on/take off as the conditions change. Thin layers also allow better movement as opposed to one layer of bulky clothing. In the Alps there is permanent snow throughout the summer above about 2700m and on the glaciers. This means you will be walking on snow & ice for significant portions of the trip, with crampons on your alpine boots.

If you are uncertain or need further information, please contact us.

    • Base Layer Top and Bottoms – a few base layer tops, usually long sleeved is best, wool base layers form Smartwool or Icebreaker are good as they offer good wicking properties and dry quickly. A short sleeved top is worth brining too for hot days. For your legs a couple of pairs of long or ¾ length bottoms are best.

    • Mid-layer fleece tops – a couple of fleece type jacket or tops that can be worn between your base layer and outer layers. The “Layering” approach offers the best heat retention and flexibility in warm and cold weather.

    • Insulation Layer - a down or primalotf jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.

    • Lightweight softshell type trousers - you want to wear a lightweight softshell or similar material on your legs, these types of trouser offer good protection from snow/ice as well as abrasion on rock and are comfortable to move in.

    • Walking shorts or pair of trousers with zip-off legs. Useful for walk-ins to huts on hot days.

    • Gore-Tex Jacket - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable jacket. Best to have a lightweight jacket that can be worn in the event of wet or windy weather but is packable enough to fit in your rucksack. Your insulated ski jacket will be overkill and too hot and bulky.

    • Gore-Tex Pants - Gore-Tex or other waterproof breathable trousers. Lightweight is important plus side zips for putting on over your boots and crampons. Used in cold, wet and windy weather.

    • Sun hat and warm hat – bring a wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap plus a warm beanie style hat.

    • Light, thin gloves – a thin pair of fleece or softshell gloves for warm weather are a must.

    • Insulated gloves - You need to have a pair of waterproof warm gloves to wear on cold days

    • Gaiters – these are useful to wear to keep snow out of your boots.

    • Socks - 3-4 pairs of medium weight socks usually mid-calf length is good.

  • The Haute Route is a glacier trek and significant time is spent walking on snow and ice. You therefore require a boot which is ‘B2’ rated. This is a semi-rigid boot available in either leather or plastic/composite options. Leather boots tend to be more comfortable and breathable whereas plastic/composite boots are warmer and more waterproof. B2 boots are compatible with C1 and C2 crampons.

    Boots can be hired in resort but to avoid discomfort we do strongly recommend that you have your own pair which need to be well worn-in prior to your trip.

    Alpine huts supply hut slippers, croc type shoes, that you can use.  We do recommend you pack a pair of flip-flops for the night you spend in Arolla on our Haute Route Trek as the hotel does not supply any shoes and its more comfortable to walk around in these than your boots or socks!


  • These items are essential for all our alpine trekking trips.

    All items can be hired from Mountain Tracks or from sport shops in the Alps.

    • Climbing helmet
    • Ice Axe - General mountaineering / alpine pick 55-70cms long depending on your height.
    • Boot crampons - with anti-balling plates.
    • Climbing Harness – adjustable leg loops are useful for easy of putting on over your boots.
    • Adjustable trekking pole(s)
    • Rucksack - A simple and lightweight pack with a capacity of between 35-45 liters is recommended. You need to have one loop for carrying an ice axe on your rucksack.

    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – a silk or cotton sleeping bag liner is now compulsory in all mountain huts.

    • Water bottle or Thermos – a water bottle or hydration system is needed.

    • Head torch with spare batteries

    • Penknife

    • Personal first Aid Kit - Should contain:

      • Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.

      • Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen

      • Antiseptic cream or wipes

      • Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!

      • (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)

    • Whistle

    • Sun Glasses - minimum category 3.

    • Ski Goggles – these can be very useful if you encounter strong winds and poor weather.

    • Sunscreen and Lip Protection

    • Ear Plugs - For noisy huts!!

    • Camera

    • Hold-all bag - for gear not required on trek. Will be left at first hotel and collected on return.

    • Passport

    • Money - You will need some cash for food and drinks. There are some ATMs and most hotels, shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, but most huts still accept cash only. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 25-35 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption).

    • Toiletries – Should contain:

      • Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal

      • Soap

      • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner

      • Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene

      • Tissues and toilet roll

      • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel

      • (Any other essentials you need but remember there are no shower facilities and generally no running water in the huts and you have to carry everything with you!)

      • Alpine club card - If you're a member.

    • Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.

Its possible to hire suitable B2 trekking boots in Chamonix, we work with a shop where we can reserve boots for participants.  We will collect the necessary information from the school to do this in advance of arrival.  We will arrange for the boots to be returned to the shop at the end of the trek.

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Chamonix

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The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).

Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.

As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Our top reasons to visit Chamonix

  • Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents

  • Great destination for weekends and short breaks

  • Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports

  • Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski

  • The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure

  • Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe

  • Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May

  • Good range of accommodation for all budgets

Chamonix Ski Area

The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.

Off Piste runs include:

The Vallée Blanche

The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).

Pas de Chevre

Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.

Glacier du Toule

You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.

Le Tour

From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.

Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.

Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers.  Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.


Resort Information:

Resort Height: 1,042m

Highest Lift: 3,842m

Nearest Airport: Geneva

Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.

More about Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy

The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.

  • It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.

    For UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
    If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
     

  • There will be a private tranfer arranged for each group from Geneva to Chamonix for the start of the trek and from Zermatt to Geneva for the return journey.  

  • We will transfer any additional bags you want to leave in Chamonix with other personal belongings in to Zermatt for your arrival at the end of the trek. We scheduled this transfer for the day before you arrive in Zermatt incase of any change to the itinerary in the event of bad weather. Your luggage will be at the hotel we use in Zermatt for your arrival.

  • All our trekking trips are run by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.

  • The maximum ratio for the Classic Haute Route Trek is 6 trekkers with 1 guide and the tours often run with up to 12 trekkers and 2 guides.

  • In Chamonix our preferred hotels are either the Hotel Les Lanchers in Les Praz or the Hotel Couronne in Argentiere. Both are comfortable 3* hotels offering light and airy rooms and a comfortable lounge area. Rooms are booked on a twin share basis unless you specifically want a single room, where a supplement will be charged.
    In Zermatt we use the Hotel Tannenhof which is centrally located just off the main street and has exceptional views of the Matterhorn. All hotels are booked on bed & breakfast and each hotel serves a mixture of hot and cold options.

    During the trek you will be staying in a combination of comfortable Gite/Auberges and traditional mountain huts (like 1* hotels) operated by the Swiss and French Alpine Clubs.
    The mountain huts have dormitory style accommodation with rooms ranging from 4 to 20 beds. All accommodation is mixed sex sharing and washing facilities are usually limited, some huts have some cold running water but typically its basic living. Toilets are septic tank type (non-flushing) in general and again mixed sex.

    Meals

    Food in the huts is nourishing and comes in generous portions.
    A typical breakfast will consist of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, orange juice, bread, butter, jam. In the Swiss Alpine huts you also often get muesli and yoghurt. During the day you carry 'hill food' e.g. snacks such as nuts & raisins, chocolate or muesli bars. Sometimes you will arrive at huts for a late lunch of omelettes, rosti (swiss fried mash) or pasta.
    The evening meals are usually a set menu of 3 courses. Typical menu will be soup to start, a main dish of meat or pasta with mash or rice and vegetables. Dessert will be fruit or mousse. The huts will cater for vegetarians, vegans and Gluten Free diets but you need to remember that all their food is delivered by helicopter so you may not get a large variety in your meals but they do understand dietary requirements and do the best they can.
    All the huts serve beer, wine and a selection of soft drinks including bottled water.

  • The Alps generally have a very pleasant climate throughout the spring, summer and autumn with warm days and cool nights, with daytime temperatures in the valley around 25 - 30°C. At high altitude the temperature often goes down below -10 and can feel even colder with wind chill.

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