The scenic Swiss canton of Valais is one of the most magnificent mountain regions in Europe. It is an alpine network of valleys that lead off into beautiful and little-visited areas, some of which rarely see a tourist. Our Swiss Valais trek, following part of the well-known Haute Route, visits these remote districts, where the walking is of true alpine character and where charming villages lie in lush, green meadows, dominated by rugged and dramatic mountain scenery. There is some very dramatic scenery on offer, Mount Colon, the Pigne de Arolla, The Dent Blanche, Weisshorn and Dom, not mentioning a huge range of peaks at the head of the Mittertal Valley including the Matterhorn, and Briethorn. Although the Haute Route is popular, you will find that compared to many other areas in Switzerland, most of the paths are little trodden, giving rise to an excellent variety of alpine flowers and frequent sightings of alpine animals. As you cross the linguistic frontier from French-speaking to German-speaking Switzerland you have a chance to practice both languages. Many people praise their stay on this tour at a rather eccentric Victorian hotel with some of the Alps’ finest views, in good weather!
This trip is ‘Challenging’, and is a trek, which involves much daily uphill and downhill walking. It is only suitable for fit walkers who can readily manage days with more than 1000m/3300 feet ascent and descent in a day. Those in good physical condition, who take regular exercise and who have recent hill-walking experience, will find this a trip whose exciting challenges are equally matched by its rewards. You will not be with your main luggage on Nights 5 and 6, you will therefore need to carry enough clothing for these nights. On other days only a daypack need be carried. The highest point on this tour is the Col de Torrent (2918m) on Day 4. Almost as high is the Augstbordpass (2894m) on Day 7. General mountain walking skills are required; the route is not generally vertiginous, although there is a slightly exposed sections on Days 2 towards Lac Bleu and 7 heading on the trail around to a viewpoint called Twara.
Make your own way to the famous climbing village of Arolla (1998m). It is a tiny place with a small supermarket, a post office and a couple of hotels. At this altitude, you are already almost up among the glaciers and if there is time you could walk up the valley for a bit from the hotel towards the glaciers of Mount Colon. This afternoon a trip briefing will be held with your trek leader.
Accommodation: Our 2 star hotel in Arolla is located on the edge of this small village. It offers wonderful views from its terrace.
The famous peaks of Pigne d’Arolla, Mont Colon and Aiguille de la Tsa dominate the morning views as we begin our walk from Arolla along the Val d’Arolla. We follow a contouring path just above the tree line to the beautiful Lac Bleu (2090m). From here we decide whether we want to extend the route for another couple of hours or to descend through meadows and farmsteads to Les Hauderes and our hotel.
The higher option is possible from Lac Bleu which will take us high into the alpage under the peak of L’Etoile, before a steep descent into Les Hauderes. 15 km/9.3 miles, 7 h.
Ascend 150m / Descend 690m / Maximum height 2090m.
Accommodation: Our hotel is located at the entrance of the village and is close to all amenities.
A longer, but rewarding day takes us over the Col de Torrent (2918m). Walk or bus up to the village of Villaz, then it is steep into the pastures where many bird species can be seen. From the pass we can see the interesting expanse of glacial water backed up by the Barrage de Moiry, and a beautiful tarn called Lac des Autannes, which makes an ideal stop for lunch and descend with views south of the Moiry glacier. From the dam we descend to the picture-postcard village of Grimentz below the Lac de Moiry.
Ascend 1475m / Descend 1357m / Maximum height 2918m.
Accommodation: Our 2 star hotel for the next two nights is in the heart of the old village.
Grimentz is an excellent base from which to explore the upper reaches of the Moiry valley, using the public bus to save time. The tumbling iceblocks of the Moiry glacier present a stunning spectacle from the terrace of the Cabane Moiry (2825m). Another equally impressive walk crosses the Col de Sorebois (2896m) to Zinal, with fine views of the Weisshorn and Zinal Rothorn. Return from Zinal to Grimentz by bus or walk along forest track. There are other walks that you can take by taking the Gondola above the village.
Today our luggage will be sent to Zermatt so you'll need to carry what you require for the next two nights. Contour through pleasant forest to Mottec (1556m) in the Zinal valley to begin your ascent to the Hotel Weisshorn (2337m).
Ascend 900m / Desend 100m / Maximum height 2430m.
Accommodation: The Hotel Weisshorn is in a prime position to offer stunning views. This Victorian hotel has a wonderful view from its restaurant and its infrastructure was upgraded a few years ago with its own hydroelectric plant to provide power. It now hot showers, although the old ceramic wash bowls and jugs are still on the landing! Its basic services are redeemed by superb views, excellent cuisine, and acceptable accommodation. Private rooms, some ensuite but most with shared facilities.
Walk over the Meidpass (2790m), enjoying marvelous views of the Schwarzhorn, Gletschhorn and the Weisshorn. At the col, enter German-speaking Switzerland. The shore of the lovely alpine Meidsee Lake makes an excellent lunch spot. A long descent brings us to Gruben (1822m), in the peaceful, unspoilt Turtmanntal.
Ascend 589m / Descend 1104m / Maximum height 2790m.
Accommodation: Schwarzhorn Mountain Hut - There are a few twin-bedded rooms. If these are not available dormitory-style accommodation is the only alternative. Mattresses, blankets and pillows are provided but you should have a sleeping bag liner. We will book the basic twin rooms when possible.
Take the track beside the hotel up to the Augstbordpass (2894m). It is a long path to the last col of the trek. The path from the pass contours along a rocky track with a further slight ascent and emerges above the Mittertal Valley to a viewpoint called Tara where one of the best panoramas in the Alps has been laid out. On a good day we can see as far as the Jungfrau to Lyskamm. The Matterhorn is however not visible from here. The pleasant descent takes us down to Jungu, where the path turns the corner into the Mittertal valley. From Jungu (1955m) we can either walk or take the cable car down to St Niklaus (1116m). It is too far to walk on from St Niklaus to Zermatt today, so we take the hourly train service or bus
Ascend 1072m / Descend 1767m / Maximum height 2894m.
Accommodation: Two nights at our 3 satr hotel in Zermatt is a typical Swiss chalet type building. This hotel is very comfortable, informal and family run. It has a pleasant terrace garden and a sauna as well as spacious rooms with private facilities. The excellent restaurant has views out to the Matterhorn and a nice bar.
Various inspiring walks await you today - the only difficulty is deciding which to choose. Zermatt is traffic-free and is dominated by the imposing, distinctive shape of the Matterhorn. All around Zermatt there is a wonderful panorama of mountain peaks. Examples of walks below with more options included in our route notes.
Option 1: A walk in the shadow of the Matterhorn 9 km/5.5 miles, 3-4 h
Option 2: Views of Monte Rosa 10 km /6.2 miles, 4 h
Option 3: The Trift valley leading to Trift 5 km /3 miles, 3 h and onto the Mettelhorn 13 km/8 miles, 8 h
Option 4: Schwarzsee to Hornlihutte, with optional return via Stafelalp 14 km/8.6 miles, 6 h
For a less energetic day one can take the exciting cable car ride to the top of the Kleine Matterhorn (3820m). This is one of the highest cable cars in the Alps. There are many more walks and activities to choose from to fill your day.
Depart from Zermatt after breakfast.
Per Person, Twin Share