The Haute Route, (or the High Route or Mountaineers' Route) is the name given to a route (with several variations) undertaken on foot or by ski touring between Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland.
First charted as a summer mountaineering route by members of the English Alpine Club in the mid-19th century, the route takes around 12+ days walking (or 7+ days skiing) for the 180 km from the Chamonix valley, home of Mont Blanc, to Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn. Originally dubbed "The High Level Route" in English by members of the hiking club, the term was translated into French when first successfully undertaken on skis in 1911. Since then the French term has prevailed. While the term haute route has become somewhat genericized for any of the many multi-day, hut-to-hut alpine tours, the "Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route" remains the original.
Besides the original Haute Route, there is nowadays also a "walkers" Haute Route, which is an alpine hiking trail that follows a network of well-marked and signposted paths. The "walkers" route stays below 3000 meters and takes advantage of the popular mountain huts and small inns and hotels in the villages along the way. In the spring, summer and fall, this route is safe, entirely non-technical (requires no ropes, crampons, or protection devices, unlike the actual Haute Route) and while challenging because of its daily elevation gains and distances, is achievable by any hiker in reasonably good physical condition.
The original Haute Route has large portions of glacier travel, for which suitable mountaineering gear and experience is necessary. In the winter, ski touring gear is required, and depending upon the weather and route chosen, may require crampons, ropes and avalanche protection gear.
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