Before the 20th Century France’s foremost mountain resort, Chamonix, was all but cut off during winter months but in 1901 the resort was linked to the valley by a cog-railway. The rail line gave a considerable boost to tourism but it was a crossing made by Dr Payot, Joseph Couttet, Alfred Simond and Joseph Ravanel that caught the imagination, at least amongst city folk. On the 16th of January 1903 the four skiers set out from Chamonix with the aim of crossing the mountains to Zermatt. They arrived on the 22nd and the High-Level or Haute Route passed into ski legend.
The Haute-Route is still a challenge for ski tourers with a lot of climbing, particuarly if the weather closes in and two stages have to be completed in a single day. If you are interested this year then Saul Faust has contacted me to say there are two places open in his party, a mixed US/UK group. They meet in Chamonix on the 23rd of April and leave Grand Montets the following day. They will be accompanied by an experienced and senior high mountain guide from Cham who Saul knows well.
The route is subject to variation depending on weather and conditions with a modification to the ‘classic’ route to avoid the most dangerous climb in avalanche season on the middle section (middle bit is listed as the ‘Verbier start’ in the books - supposed to be better skiing!):
Night 1: Grand Montets lift then Argentiere Hut
Night 2: Champex village B&B
Night 3: lifts in Verbier then night in Prafleuri Hut
Night 4: Cabanne de Dix
Night 5: Vignettes Hut
End of Day 6 arrive Zermatt.
Contact Saul by email if you are interested in knowing more: s.faust (at) imperial.ac.uk