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Top 3 Summer hikes in the Alps

The snow is melting, most resorts are now closed for skiing, only a few resorts can sustain the activity all year round. What am I going to do now that I’ve packed my ski’s away? Well, to be honest there’s a lot to do and see and the Alps provide a superb playground for summer activities every bit as captivating as skiing. One challenge I’ve wanted to undertake for some time is the Haute Route, a ten day trek across the roof of the world. The Haute Route – Zermatt to Chamonix This is a spectacular and demanding summer hike. You will need to be able to manage round about 25k and a fair amount of climbing every day to complete this fairly taxing hike. You also need to pace yourself and start slowly as you’ll need a couple of days to acclimatise to the thinner air. There could be anything up to 25% less oxygen and at first you could find you’re blowing hard. Once your body adjusts you should be fine. The route traverses below the summits of ten out of the twelve of the highest peaks in the Alps, and crosses several high passes. The highest pass is at 2964m. This is a world of diamond white glaciers and awe inspiring snow-capped peaks. The route also meanders through lush green alpine valleys with flower-covered meadows and picture-postcard villages, this is a trek of contrasts and a hike you’ll never forget. The route passes through the centre of both the French and Swiss Alps: two distinct cultural regions with different languages and architecture. This is a remote trek. Take a tent or sleep in a hut or refuge. In general these are open from mid-June until the first or second week in September. It is advisable to reserve a bed, particularly in the high season of mid July to mid August. One or two nights could be spent in valley hotels to catch up on hot showers and indulge in a bit of luxury, you will have earned it. The early season (June-mid July) is the quietest and most beautiful but beware of old snow on the higher paths which could be icy and dangerous and would make crampons essential. Haute-Route The Eiger Trail – Eigergletscher to Grindelwald This walk is a breeze compared to the Haute Route but as short as it is, it’s still pretty spectacular. Seven hours should see you complete this hike. At the Eigergletscher railway station, you walk a few steps back towards Kleine Scheidegg, cross the tracks of the Jungfrau Railway and hike up to the vantage point above the station. This is the beginning of the Eiger Trail, which also makes the Eiger an adventure for hikers as it actually runs along the foot of the famous Eiger North Wall. You can get up close and personal to the scene of heroic Alpine deeds and dramas and wonder how they ever had the nerve to tackle this brute. On the hike you enjoy impressive views of Grindelwald’s wide valley basin, bordered to the east by the striking silhouette of the Wetterhorn. But most of all, the Eiger Trail gives you a sensational close-up impression of the Eiger North Wall. With a little luck, patience and keen eyesight, you may even be able to spot a roped team inching their way skyward. The trail leads gradually downhill and the wide scree slopes give way to lush pastures carpeted with Alpine flowers. The last mound of scree is crossed in the Langenegg gully. Over time, hikers have built a large number of small cairns here, this spectacle is pretty awe inspiring in its own right, maybe you could add your own! The part to Bonera has exposed passages only suitable for sure-footed hikers with a head for heights. From Bonera the trail descends steeply to the glacier gorge and continues to Grindelwald. Here you can enjoy a well earned feast, you should be ravenous by the time you’ve finished. The hike is not too demanding but shouldn’t be underestimated. Eiger Gornergrat to Zermatt This hike is a personal favourite of mine. You catch the train in Zermatt and on the way up marvel at the engineering that allowed this train to ascend to near on 4,000mts. I think you would be hard pressed to think of a more spectacular journey by train. This is the easy part, although the first part of the hike down to the lake is fairly easy going too. Once at the lake you get the reflection of the Matterhorn in the icy waters and it’s good to stop here for a while and just take it all in, it’s truly stunning. After the lake there are several stretches that are in shade and still retain the winter snow, these parts can be hazardous and very slippery. You need to be sure footed here. The hike descends all the way down into Zermatt on well marked trails. Although the hike is all downhill, it’s not as easy as it appears as constantly walking downhill can play havoc with your thighs and your toes tend to jam into the front of your foot ware, so make sure you boots are comfortable. There are so many places to stop and admire the view that you could easily double the length of the time taken to return to Zermatt. This walk should take about five hours. There is the opportunity to stop for lunch half way down at the Albosco at Riffelalp restaurant if you want to make a day of it and break your journey in to two manageable halves. Don’t go crazy on the red wine though as your not out of the woods just yet, there’s some way to go. Zermatt Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. Nice article. I have been wanting to do these hikes for years finally, I will be able to get one done this summer. I have lived in France for 30 years and its now I am attempting to do these hikes. Thanks for the info.

  2. Thanks Marc – Brilliant. well good luck on your adventure and do come back and let us know which walk you tackled and how you got on. Have fun! Rebecca

  3. I was lucky enough to do the Gornergrat to Zermatt walk last summer and it was really beautiful, such a lovely day’s hiking. Fab lunch en route as you might expect in Zermatt, food never disappoints. The Haute Route would be a big step up I think, less lovely leisurely lunches with wine and more picnics en route I should imagine! One for the bucket list for sure though!

  4. The Haute Route is certainly a great walk with the most remote section being from Verbier through to Arolla. Certainly early in the season you will come across areas (possibly large areas) of old snow that may be hard and icy; so you should plan accordingly. The Europaweg section from St Nicklaus to Zermatt currently has some diversions where rock fall has damaged the path. Worth checking up with the local tourist / guides office for up-to-date information.

    Enjoy! It’s a fantastic trek.

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