Hiking in Switzerland is pretty much paradise.
It is a beautiful country with lush green valleys, snowcapped peaks and many (receding) glaciers. Transportation is easy and efficient, making point to point hikes very doable without complicated logistics.
There are mountain huts in very remote areas (resupplied by helicopters frequently) and hotels in small mountain towns. These huts and hotels serve food and one can opt for a half board (dinner and breakfast) option or just a place to sleep. These amenities allow hikers to trek from hut to hut with only a small day pack with clothes, snacks and water.
Hiking all day with a light backpack and being treated to a 4-course meal and cozy bed at the end of it — hiking life doesn’t get much better than that!
For the most part the Haute Route was well marked and distance is indicated in hours rather than miles. These predictions are moving time and can be achieved but without any dilly dallying.
The routes that we took were the hiking routes (indicated by a red and white blaze). The mountaineering routes (blue and white blazes) are more technical, higher in elevation, with a greater chance of snow and, from what we heard from fellow hikers, not as well marked.
When we first planned this trip we wanted to backpack the entire thing. But after doing some research and reading mixed opinions about camping, we decided to ‘do as the locals do’ and stay in huts and hotels at the end of each day.
Our post hike impression is that tenting along the Haute Route is doable, but it requires a lot of extra planning. Tenting is generally frowned upon near cabanes (mountain huts) and towns unless there is a designated campground.
If you plan to camp we would recommend setting your itinerary to camp midway between cabanes or at least an hour out of town. There are no developed camping options along the Haute Route (as you would find in the States) so one would need to be flexible, creative, prepared for long days and be comfortable reading a topo map to look for possible camping locations.
If we were to do the Haute Route again we would do a hybrid trek (some camping, some cabane-ing). This would force us to have heavier packs which may not always be enjoyable but would allow for more flexibility.
We would definitely stay at Cabane de Moiry and possibly aim for Cabane de Dix but would skip Cabane de Prafleuri (the least friendly staff and underwhelming cabane we stayed in).
The Haute Route offers an opportunity to walk through breathtaking scenery without the crowds of the Tour de Mont Blanc. The trail is steep (both ascending and descending) but the hours of hiking each day is manageable to allow for decent breaks.
It was a wonderful trek and we would do it again in a heartbeat. Actually we might do a longer one – Andy is already scheming a 500 km route combining the Tour de Mont Blanc, Haute Route and Tour de Monte Rosa.
In summary, if you are considering the Haute Route, start packing your bags. You will not be disappointed.