Chamonix High Traverse
Θ Point to point
The Chamonix High Traverse trail running route follows the highest trails along the Aiguilles Rouges side of the Chamonix Valley, from the Col des Montets to the Brevent top station directly above Chamonix. Sections of the trail are undoubtedly some of the busiest in all of the Alps thanks to iconic views, lakes, and easy lift access.
If the crowds don't keep you away, the lack of running is the next issue. The trail is not the kind of dreamy singletrack you came to the Alps for. It's rocky, loose, steep, and more often than not requires you to walk. So why do it? Location, location, location. With the kind of views you're going to get, honestly, who wants to run? Thankfully, it's just enough running to keep it as as a run in your Suunto or Strava feed.
If you're staying in the Chamonix Valley, you'll need to get yourself to the Col des Montets starting point by car, bus or train. After about a 1000 meter climb to Lac Blanc, make your way through the crowds and start traversing towards the Index high station on an on again off again running trail. If you're a climber, pay attention to all the walls and ridge lines towering above, they're loaded with quality routes.
From Index, a short descent leads to your next rising traverse to the Col de la Glière. There, you'll cross to the west side of the crest and make your way to the Col Cornu where much of France will be sitting looking at the lakes far below. "Excuse-moi" your way through all the cigarette smoke, Bonjours and sun tanning hikers to reach the descent trail to Planpraz. Here, once again, you'll probably not run a lot. But, you will have one mighty view of the highest mountain in the Alps.
From Planpraz, all that's left to accomplish is the 500 meter climb to the Brevent lift station. At this point, you'll either want to get the hell out of the mountains or hope the views go on forever. You'll also notice your legs have some meters in them. At about 2300 meters, a side trail leaves the main route and cuts off to the left to a craggy, blocky ridgeline where you'll have good reason to move much slower. Ladders allow passage of the steepest sections and you're likely to encounter more than a few ambitious beginner climbers learning how to move in rugged terrain.
Finally, it all funnels into a dirt road/piste that leads to the Brevent high station, just 5 minutes further. And here we leave you to decide how to proceed. You can buy a ticket down to town (be warned, the last lift is at 17:45) or make your way down one of countless trails that lead back to Chamonix.
I poke fun at this trail and the experience, but it truly is something that must be done. It might even be one of your early ticks as it'll give you an overview of the region and help you make decisions about what comes next, which as a comparison should probably be the Grand Balcon Nord.
Detailed GPX Track
Download the GPX File and import the route into your phone's mapping app and/or your watch for the full turn-by turn.
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Start: 46.004065, 6.923565
There are restaurant options along the way; Lac Blanc, Index and at the Brevent high station end point
This is a busy trail. Accept that it's not a wilderness experience and enjoy the Euro flare.