France, Europe

Haute Route Ski Tour - Team Boyce

The Haute Route Ski Tour is the most famous ski tour in the Alps and is a must for any enthusiastic ski tourer! It is a legendary high Alpine journey linking two historic Alpine centres, Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. Total distance is about 120kms and there are 6,000m of ascent and descent.

The Haute Route ski tour traverses exceptionally high terrain and its popular reputation is fully justified on account of the fabulous mountain scenery you pass through. Whilst the Haute Route is undoubtedly very popular, our carefully selected route allows you to enjoy all the high points of the Verbier variation but avoid over-trafficked areas.

There are many other variations on the Haute Route that we can run on a private basis. Some like the 'Grand Lui' or 'Classic' variations involve greater technicality and are thus run on a lower guiding ratio.

 

Day Itinerary

  • Sunday 10th March 2019

    Arrive in Chamonix and meet the guide and the rest of the group in the early evening for a welcome meeting, briefing and equipment check.

  • Monday 11th March 2019

    We start the tour with a warm-up on the Grands Montets ski area in the morning. Your guide will run skills sessions on avalanche search and rescue, skinning technique and use of crampons/ice axe. This will give you a chance to use all your kit and get your ski legs ready for the challenge to follow! In the late afternoon we ski and skin to the Argentiere hut for the night.

  • Tuesday 12th March 2019

    Starting from the Argentiere hut we ski and skin towards the Col du Passon 3028m, which is our preferred route due to the technical difficulties you now encounter descending the Col du Chardonnet. From the col there is a short descent down to the Glacier du Tour from where we ascend to the Col du Tour 3288m. We then cross onto the Trient plateau in Switzerland and arrive at the Cabane du Trient 3170m where we spend the night. Approx 1100m ascent, 1200m descent (6-7hrs).

  • Wednesday 13th March 2019

    One of the best descents of the trip - initially down the Trient Glacier before turning east and making the short crampon climb over the Col des Ecandies 2796m and then down the wild and remote Val d'Arpette which ends in the village of Champex 1466m. From here we take a taxi transfer to La Chable and ascend using the lift system in Verbier. A quick piste ski down from Mont Fort accesses a short skin to the Col de la Choix. A short descent and then ascent  to the Col de Momin 3003m gives amazing views of the Grand Desert and Rosablanche up ahead. If time allows we make the short ascent of Rosablanche 3336m then descend via the Glacier de Prafleuri to the privately owned Prafleuri Refuge 2624m where we spend the night. Approx 900m ascent, 2400m descent (8-9hrs).

  • Thursday 14th March

    We make an early start and skin over the Col des Roux 2804m and then follow a long descending traverse on the west side of the Lac des Dix. At the end of the lake, we make the long ascent via the Pas du Chat 2372m which leads us to the Cabane des Dix 2928m our stop for the night. Approx 900m ascent, 600m descent (5-7hrs).

  • Friday 15th March 2019

    A spectacular day. Beginning from the Cabane des Dix we make the long ascent to summit the Pigne d'Arolla 3790m (the highest point on the Haute Route). From here you get stunning panoramic views back towards Mont Blanc and onto the Matterhorn. A steep ski descent then leads to the spectacularly perched Cabane des Vignettes 3160m. Approx 950m ascent, 700m descent (5-6hrs).

  • Saturday 16th March

    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 3386m, Col du Mont Brule 3218m and the Col Valpelline 3562m and seven glaciers. A  fitting finale to the Haute Route before arriving in Zermatt. Approx 1,100m ascent; 2,400m descent (8-10hrs).
    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 the hotel in Chamonix.

  • Sunday 17th March 2019

    The group will disperse after breakfast.

The price shown is for the route via Verbier, 

Price includes all guiding fees and expenses, 2 nights B&B hotel accommodation in Chamonix at the start and end of the trip, all hut fees on HB basis, taxi transfer between Champex and La Chable on Day 4, private return minibus transfer from Tasch to Chamonix.

The price does not include: evening meals in Chamonix, lunches, beverages, personal insurance, hire of ski equipment, travel to and from Chamonix, unscheduled local transfers and uplift costs.

For 4 participants for our standard ski tour the price will be £1,450 per person, for 5 people it will be £1395 and if you can get 6 participants it will be £1350 per person.  If you think you will only have 4 to start with that is fine, we can begin with this number, each person pays a £300 deposit to secure their places.  If you then manage to recruit a 5th and 6th person we can reduce the total price per person down to the above figures.

 

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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Haute Route 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 – running cold water, European-style toilets, dormitory-style accommodation. All the huts provide ‘hut slippers’ – these days they are usually crocs - and so you will not need to carry additional footwear.

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 suitable kit.
    • 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 a 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 Icebreaker and Smartwool. 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 with 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
    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 manufactures:
    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

    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 up hill 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!

    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 a 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
    • a built-in rain cover an a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    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
    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.
Chamonix-View.JPG

France

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France a Western European country with Paris as its capital city.  The country is diverse with countryside, mountainous areas and many beautiful beaches.  The country is renowned for its food and wine as well as well know places like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

Its population is around 66 million people (2013).  The highest mountain is Mont Blanc at 4,810m which is visited by many every year to climb.  

  • 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.
     

  • 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. 

  • This is a private ski tour, where the group size will be maximum 1:6.
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