France, Europe

Grand Lui Haute Route Ski Tour

The Haute Route Ski Tour is the most famous ski tour in the Alps. It is a legendary high Alpine ski tour linking two historic Alpine centres, Chamonix and Zermatt. There are 3 main route options for the Haute route. These are: Verbier, Classic and Grand Lui.

Described here is the Grand Lui variation which is the longest and most technical route that eliminates the road break of the Verbier and Classic variations. This route is best suited to experienced ski tourers who are familiar with using an ice axe and crampons. The Grand Lui is for purists who wish to travel by foot for the whole way. This route requires 7 days skiing (compared to 5-6 days for the other variations). The tour is guided on a maximum ratio of 1:3 and a maximum group size of 6 with 2 guides.

The crux of this route is the ascent to the Plateau du Couloir (day 7). This is a very steep slope (up to 45 degrees) and skiers need to be confident on steep snow on skis and crampons. The climb is made on foot with skis attached to our packs.

The route starts from the summit of the Grand Montets above Argentiere. The first main passage is through the Col du Passon or alternatively the Col du Chardonnet and then the Fenêtre de Saleina, to the Trient Hut. From the Trient Hut ski over the Grand-Lui through the Col du Saleina or around it via the Swiss Three Cols and a long descent to La Fouly. Then skin up the Val Ferret and over the pass to the Grand St. Bernard Hospice. The Hospice is a working monastery and offers a very interesting place to stay. The next day is down to Super St. Bernard and over the shoulder and a long ascent to the Valsorey hut and a junction with the Valsorey route.


After a night in the Valsorey Hut we climb steeply up to the Plateau du Couloir. Most of this section is done on foot with boot crampons with skis fastened to the packs. The slope reaches about 45 degrees at its top so can be tricky. After reaching the Plateau a short descent is made over the Col du Sonadon (3504m) followed by the impressive descent of the Glacier du Mont Durand. Once at the base of the glacier there is a short climb at the end to reach the Cabane du Chanrion (2462m). The next day is a comparatively straightforward skin to the Cabane des Vignettes up the Glacier d'Otemma. Once at Vignettes, the journey to Zermatt follows the same itinerary as the Verbier route.

 

Day Itinerary

  • Travel to Chamonix. You should aim to arrive by late afternoon.

    At 7pm there will be a welcome meeting and briefing with the guides. Here we discuss plans and gear, review the conditions and weather forecast. We overnight in a comfortable hotel in the town.

    Welcome meeting and briefing with the guides. Here we discuss plans and gear, review the conditions and weather forecast. We overnight in a comfortable hotel in the town.

  • To Argentiere hut

    Today we use the ski lifts within the Grand Montets ski area to reach the highest point we can before skinning towards either the Aiguille des Grand Montets or the Col des Rachassess. From here we ski down to the glacier before an easy skin to the stunning Argentiere hut.

  • Argentiere hut to Trient hut.

    Today we start the first big day of ski touring, climbing to the Col du Passon (3028m) or alternatively via the Col du Chardonnet (3323m) and then Fenêtre de Saleina, to the Trient Hut (3170m). Approximately 5 hours.

  • To La Fouly.

    An early start to traverse the Col de Saliena and then ski the long and impressive 1800m descent down to the Swiss village of La Fouly where we spend the night. Approximately 7 hours.

  • To Gd St Bernard Hospice.

    Today is a long gentle climb toward the Fenetre de Ferret and to the St. Bernard Hospice (2469m), where the monks have been providing food and lodging to travellers for hundreds of years. Approximately 4 hours.

  • To Valsorey hut.

    From the monastery we skin to the Valsorey hut (3030), this day brings us back among into the high alpine terrain carved by glaciers. The hut is perched at over 3000m. Approximately 5 hours.

  • To Chanrion hut (over plateau du Couloir).

    This is one of the most exposed and difficult passages on the Haute Route.  At 3600m, this intricate route finds a passage across the Grand Combin at over 3600m. Often this passage is done on foot with skis on our backs. Once the plateau is gained then careful route finding is needed on an exposed traverse above the Mont Durand Glacier. This is followed by a wonderful and remote ski down towards the Otemma Glacier. From the valley bottom ashort skin to the Chanrion hut (2462m). Approximately 7 hours.

  • To Vignettes hut.

    After a short ski down from the hut we begin the long but gentle ascent of the Otemma Glacier to the Vignettes hut (3160m). Approximately 6 hours.

  • To Zermatt.

    There are few days in alpine ski mountaineering to match this one. Covering 30km, we cross the three cols of the Col de L'Eveque, Col du Mont Brule and the Col Valpelline and seven glaciers, a fitting finale to the Haute Route before arriving in Zermatt. Approximately 10 hours (1100m ascent; 2400m descent).

    On arrival in Zermatt we stop for a celebration drink before taking a train to Tasch station below Zermatt where we meet a pre-booked private minibus to return to Chamonix at our hotel. Overnight in our hotel in Chamonix.

  • Depart after breakfast.

2020

Dates

Price

Sat 25 Apr
- Mon 04 May
£2495 Book
Flexible From £2,495 PRIVATE GROUP Enquire

Price includes all guiding fees and expenses, 2 night B&B in Chamonix one at the start and one at the end of the trip, all hut fees on HB basis and private minibus transport from Zermatt (Tasch) back to Chamonix at the end of the trip.

The price does not include evening meals in Chamonix, lunches, beverages, travel to and from Chamonix, uplift costs and personal insurance.

We are proud to offer all of our returning customers a £50 discount.

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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming to one of our Ski Tours.

During the tour you will be staying most nights in catered high mountain huts and will need to carry all the equipment and clothing you require for the duration of the tour. The huts are comfortable but basic with limited facilities. 

Any clothing or other items not required on the tour can be left in a travel bag at your first hotel ready for your return on the final night.

We recommend keeping the weight of your pack as light as possible. If you are new to alpine multi-day ski touring, try taking your pack out on the slopes before the tour to see how it feels. You quickly realise the benefit of ‘skiing light’.

If you are uncertain or need further information, don't hesitate to contact us.

  • When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply a suitable kit.

    This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.

     

    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • 1-2 thin fleeces - rather than a thick layer between your skin and the outer shell - an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’. The principle of ‘layering’ e.g. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity is recommended to ensure comfort on the mountain.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft 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.
    • For the lower half it’s essential that you have a pair of thermal base layer pants (long johns).
    • These can then be combined with either:
    • (a) a good pair of ‘technical shell’ pants in a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex (b) a pair of mountain or alpine pants in a softshell material together with a pair of lightweight, breathable over trousers with long side zips.
    • Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Ortovox. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Good quality Gore-Tex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell or fleece gloves for when it is hot and for ski touring in. Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer from cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.

    Skis

    This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. The MTN 95 is an award-winning ski with great stability at high speeds whilst the MTN 88 is a best-selling lightweight touring ski. The QST’s are slightly heavier and therefore suited to charging; perfect for day-touring.
    Lockwoods Ski and Outdoor are supporting our guides and we suggest that if you’re interested in any of the MTN or QST skis, you should make Lockwoods your first point of call. 


    For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.


    There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufacturers:
    Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com 
    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com  
    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com  
    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us 
    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

    There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.

    If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.

    Boots
    It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking uphill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best. 

    Scarpa have lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.
    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all-round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit. They can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    It’s essential you have ski touring bindings on your skis. Although Pin bindings have been around since the Dynafit Low Tech bindings over 30 years ago, since their patent expired the technology has advanced substantially. Salomon, with their Shift Binding, are at the forefront; they’re ‘multi norm compatible’ so fit a selection of boots and are lighter than most freeride bindings. Our lead guides are using the Shift binding this winter, so if you’d like to know more about them give Lockwoods a ring.

    Ski Poles
    We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.

    Rucksack
    For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.

    Key features of a good ski touring pack:

    • a method of attaching your skis in either an A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage
    • easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom
    • separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe
    • small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglassed/goggles etc; an ice axe loop
    • built-in rain cover and a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    Ortovox Haute Route 40 rucksack will be a good choice for ski touring trips. 

    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one. 

    Over a long multiday tour, every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.

     

    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons. 
    • Ice Axe - general lightweight mountaineering / alpine pick. Ideally this needs to be short enough to fit in your pack.
    • Boot Crampons - ideally lightweight aluminum ones although steel crampons are required for more demanding tours
    • Climbing Harness - a simple lightweight harness. The key feature is that it should have fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots, crampons, etc.

    On some tours in non-glaciated terrain an ice-axe, boot crampons and climbing harness may not always be required. However as conditions and itineraries can change we do generally recommend that you bring these items with you. If you do not own these items they can be rented to you by our guides or via one of the local sports shops.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.

    • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
    • Snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe

    We recommend Simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+ 

     

    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it. 

    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training

    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 35 – 40 liter rucksack
    • 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favorite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve
    • Camera with a large capacity memory card!
    • Money – most hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but not all the alpine huts do. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 20-30 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption)
    Please note that your guide will have a few “spares” and other safety items that he or she will ask the group to carry between them; so leave a small space in your sack for an item e.g. spare skin, spare ski pole, emergency shelter.

    For a hut night:
    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – now compulsory in most huts.
    • Wash kit with small personal first aid items – should include:
    • 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
    • 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)
    • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
    • Most huts have limited washing facilities
    • Earplugs – it can get quite noisy!
    • Headtorch - lightweight and carry spare batteries.
    • 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.
    What to wear in the hut
    We are often asked by people what they should wear in the hut. It's a good question as you don't want to carry many or any extra clothes with you if they are not required. In the winter you will probably end up wearing your base layer thermals (top & bottom) or you can carry a lightweight pair of loose trousers to wear around the hut in the afternoons/evenings. Your base layer top is what you will probably wear on your top half or you can carry a t-shirt to wear in the hut that can double to sleep in. 

    Food and Water
    We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
    If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
    You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.

  • Most resorts have ski shops that hire ski equipment and we try to provide relevant contact details for all our courses and tours.

    Prices do change by resort/country, but here’s an approximate guide to hire costs for 6-days hire:

    Touring Skis plus skins and ski crampons €150-180
    Touring boots €80-90 
    Boot Crampons €45-50
    Ice Axe €30-40
    Harness €20-30
    Helmet €20-30
    Transceiver/shovel/probe €75-80

    Our guides also generally have additional sets of safety equipment (transceiver/shovel/probe) which they hire out to clients for €65 for 6 days hire. Must be booked in advance.
  • 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.
     

  • Please note the Grand Lui Haute Route ski tour is only suitable for experienced ski tourers with a high level of fitness with strength and endurance. All participants must be confident on steep ground on both ascent and descent. Confidence in using crampons on steep terrain is essential.

  • You should arrange to arrive in Chamonix by late afternoon on the first day. 

    The most convenient airport is Geneva and from here the transfer time up to Chamonix by road is just 1 hr 15mins.  To travel between the airport and Chamonix we recommend you reserve a seat on one of the many commercial shuttle buses. Mountain Tracks can book this for you and the usual prices are from £40 per person one-way. Please supply your full flight details to us so we can make the reservation.

    Want to take the train to the resort?  No problem – it’s possible to get to Chamonix by train from the UK using the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris, then the TGV to Bellegarde and a regional train to Chamonix.  The journey can be done in 1 day. However, please note to arrive in Chamonix by 5pm you should be departing Paris between 9am and 10am, there is a small selection of options ranging from 5hr to 7hrs of travel. If you need to arrive late in the evening for any of our trips please discuss with us as soon as possible. 

    The London to Paris Eurostar timetable here 

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

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

    On this ski tour the guide ratio is 1:3 and the  tour will run with a maximum of 6 skiers and 2 guides.

  • In the Chamonix valley you will stay in a comfortable 2* or 3* standard hotel. In between you stay in alpine huts run by the French and Swiss Alpine Clubs. These are operated as basic hotels and are comfortable and warm. Facilities are limited. Most do not have running water or hot water or showers. Food is plentiful and include limited menu options for vegetarians.

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