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Start at Les Bossons, near Chamonix.
Start at the campsite in Les Bossons. Wonderful views from the campsite of Mont Blanc and the Bossons glacier, especially at sunset. In the evening there is an introductory briefing by the trek crew.
Free day in the Chamonix Valley.
This is a limbering up day and there are several good walks nearby. Alternatively, take the cable car (optional) to the Aiguille du Midi for outstanding close-up views of Mont Blanc, the Chamonix Valley and the surrounding peaks.
The trail contours high in the valley before descending to Les Frasserands.
From Les Bossons (1,012m/3320ft) we have a short bus journey to Chamonix from where we take the cable car to Plan Praz (1,999m/6560ft). The trail is on the opposite side of the valley from Mt. Blanc and affords excellent views of the whole massif lying to the south. We ascend to reach the high point of the day at Lac Blanc (2352m/7715ft). The trail descends and then contours high above the valley before descending steeply to the hamlet of Les Frasserands (1,371m/4500ft). In the afternoon there is a very short section of ladders/steep steps with handrails to descend.
Cross Col de Balme to Switzerland.
We begin by climbing steeply to the Aiguillette de Posettes (2201m/7200ft), descend a little and then ascend towards the Col de Balme (2,191m/7190ft) where we walk across the border from France to Switzerland. Excellent views all morning of Aiguille d'Argentiere and Aiguille du Tour and its glacier. After lunch we descend to the small hamlet of Trient (1,296m/4250ft). Good views of the Trient Glacier. Rough camp near Trient.
Over Fenetre d'Arpette to Champex.
In good weather we take the trail adjacent to the Trient Glacier to cross a high rocky pass known as Fenetre d'Arpette (2,665m/8740ft) before descending steeply into the Arpette Valley (1,627m/5340ft) and down to our campsite in Champex (1486m 4880ft). In poor weather we would take the lower trail, which climbs first to the Col de Forclaz (1527m/5010ft) from where we can look down into the Rhone valley. The Swiss town of Martigny is in sight far below, as we follow the 'Bovine route' to Champex-Lac.
From Champex the trail leads to Verbier and on to Cabane Mont Fort.
From Champex we walk down to Sembrancher (717m/2350ft) then travel by train and bus to the ski resort of Verbier (1,490m/4880ft). We ascend steeply through forests and then open hillsides to reach our first mountain hut, the Cabane de Montfort (2457m/8060ft) from where we have good views of the Grand Combin and of the Mont Blanc Massif in the distance. Mountain huts have shared dormitory style accommodation with basic toilet and washing facilities only. The support vehicle is unable to reach this hut so we need to do some light backpacking until we re-join it in two days time.
Cross the highest pass of the route, Col Prafleuri (2965m). Views of Rhone Valley, Mont Blanc, the Grand Combin and the Matterhorn.
A long day. We start with steady accent to the Col de la Chaux (2940m/9643ft). If we're lucky we may spot herds of Ibex. From here we descend steeply before climbing to the Col de Louvie (2921m/9580ft ) and onwards towards the Grand Desert glacier. We pass by small tarns fed by the outflows of the glacier and ascend for our final pass the Col Prafleuri (2987m/9800ft) - the highest col on the route - with views of the Rosablanche and Mont Blanc de Cheilon. It is then a straightforward descent to the Cabane Prafleuri (2624m/8600ft). Again the support vehicle will be unable to reach us so we will be doing light backpacking to this remote mountain hut.
Long walking day; overnight at Les Hauderes.
Our route today starts with a short climb to cross the Col de Roux (2804m/9200ft). We descend across large boulders to Lac Dix (2364m/7750ft) and walk around its shoreline before climbing again above the glacier Dix, through meadows, which during the summer are quite often filled with edelweiss, to make a steep ascent on loose scree to the Col du Reidmatten (2919m/9570ft). Excellent views of the Pigne d'Arolla, Mont Collon and possibly the Matterhorn in the distance. Finally, a long descent brings us to the small and charming village of Arolla (1998m/6550 ft), from where we catch a bus to Les Hauderes (1,436m/4710ft). Here we are met by the support vehicle.
A static day. Most people will be happy to spend the day just relaxing and enjoying the mountain air. The twin villages of Les Hauderes and Evolene lie in the most picturesque part of the Val de Herens and there are many day walks in the area.
Past Lac Moiry to the picture-postcard village of Grimentz.
Today we have a big climb to reach our col where we'll be rewarded with stunning views. We climb first to Villa (1730m/5675ft) then on to cross the Col Torrent (2919m/9575ft) and enjoy vast mountain views; the Pigne d'Arolla, the Grand Combin, the Weisshorn, and make a long descent past Lac de Moiry (2249m/7380ft) to the woods above the picture postcard village of Grimentz (1572m/5150ft).
Longest walking day with excellent views of the Weisshorn.
A long day that starts with a gentle walk through woods to reach the valley bottom at Mottec (1556m/5100ft). From here there is a short but steep climb to join the main trail at a higher level with fine views of the Matterhorn and Ober Gabelhorn. The climb continues to today's col, the Forcletta (2874m/9426ft) where we enter German-speaking Switzerland. We have views back to Grand Combin and possibly Mont Blanc as well. Descend, with views of the Weisshorn to the southeast, to the Turtman Valley and Gruben (1822m/5975ft). This is the longest walking day. As there is no campsite in the Gruben valley we stay in dormitories in a local auberge and our bags are brought up by the support vehicle.
Join Zermatt Valley; descend to Jungu and St Niklaus, train to Randa.
We climb again to cross the Augstbord pass (2894m/9490ft) with good views of the Weisshorn and the 'Dom' and join the main Zermatt Valley high on its western side. We descend to cross the Emdbach and soon after get our first views of the Zermatt Valley plus the Weisshorn, Kleine Matterhorn and Taschorn. Descend to Jungu (1955m/6410ft.) and on to St. Niklaus (1127m/3700ft) either by walking or by an optional cable car, from where we travel by train or taxi to our last camp at Randa (1439m/4720ft).
Join the Europaweg, a high-level balcony path that contours along the valley towards Zermatt.
The final day of walking. Today we head to Tasch from where we ascend to join the Europaweg at (1930m/6330ft) This high-level balcony path contours along the Zermatt valley with stunning views of the Matterhorn, the peaks of Monte Rosa and the town of Zermatt itself. In the afternoon there's the option to descend directly to Zermatt town centre for a well-deserved cold beer or alternatively to continue to the traditional hamlet of Findeln and descend from there. We return to camp by minibus taxi.
Optional trip to Zermatt.
From our camp near Randa it is a short train or minibus trip (optional) to Zermatt. Being traffic-free, Zermatt is an ideal place for a free day: there are lots of opportunities for short or long walks in the locality, or one can simply relax in town. There are also lots of optional excursions: for example by mountain cog railway to Gornergrat for spectacular views of the Gorner Glacier and Monte Rosa. Perhaps the most spectacular however is the cable car ascent to Kleine Matterhorn. Using this optional cable car, those who wish may ascend to the peak at 3,883 m. The all-round views here are exceptional, including close-ups of the Matterhorn and Breithorn.
End at the Campsite near Randa.