Approximately early July to mid-October.
Via Valais season starts when the huts open, but more importantly, when some key bridges are put into place for the descent to Randa on Stage 7. Without these bridges, it is not possible to cross a steep gorge. You'll need to check the Topali Hut website for the dates.
The end of the season is similar - it's when the huts close and the bridges are removed. See our Via Valais SERVICES page for hut links.
In many places, yes, but we will only present the primary route here on Elevation. You'll need a map to determine your options. There are optional, and sometimes more direct routes through the Valais, many of which are on the nearby Haute Route.
Summer weather in the Alps is mostly good, but like any mountain range, anything can happen. Be prepared for thunderstorms, which may include snow, wind, hail, and lightning. Mountain skills and common sense are the best things to take along.
Maybe. We don't know your skill level so we really can't answer this very important question. While the route is relatively easy to follow with the GPS track in FatMap, poor weather can make things serious.
The Schöllijoch is the crux of the whole tour, and it's here that if the weather and visibility are poor, you'll need to make critical decisions about how to continue or not.
If these warnings make you nervous, consider a guide! Experience in the Alps is almost mandatory.
If you are interested in a guided tour, we can connect you to our network of guide services and tour operaters. Contact: email@example.com
Just the right amount of not too much! You'll need to have enough warm gear if things turn ugly, but you'll also need to consider how easily you want to be able to run. Good, ultra light running gear is critical.
If you've set yourself up for re-supplies in any of the towns, you can perhaps carry a bit less, but overall, your pack has a base line amount of gear you'll need to carry for running and overnights. You can see what we took, and use it as a packing list, at our Via Valais gear story.
The Via Valais has two sections with exposure.
The Pas de Chèvre is crossed on stage 2 and requires climbing steep ladders for a short section. While there is air beneath your feet, you are literally on a solid ladder bolted to the wall.
The Schöllijoch is crossed on stage 7 and is the most serious section of the Via Valais. We won't kid you, it is exposed and requires some scrambling between ladders, cables, and handles. It's a rocky, alpine cliff face you need to descend, and while it is maintained as an official Swiss alpine trail, those with a fear of exposure may have problems. Additionally, at the base of the rock face is a fixed rope to access the glacier. Depending on the season, the rope might be long or short.
Once on the glacier, it is more of a snowfield to descend than glacier, with no crevasses, and not steep enough for crampons, as of 2018.
Bonus peaks may involve more technical terrain and scrambling.
The decision to not cross the Schöllijoch requires some serious re-routing and likely the addition of a day to the tour.
If you decide to not cross prior to the Turtmann Hut, you'll probably want to switch to the Haute Route and spend the night in Gruben. From Gruben you'll cross the Augstbordpass and descend to St. Niklaus before heading up valley to Randa, where you'll rejoin the Via Valais. Study your maps if this is how you choose to go.
Phones work almost everywhere along the Via Valais, but don't rely on them in case you are in the rare hole, or if your battery is dead. Emergency services is 1414 or 1415.
Visitors to the Alps should consider getting Rega, a Swiss emergency rescue program with an app function that immediately initiates a rescue based on your position.
Maybe! Most huts have power strips these days for guests to use, but, they can be busy, or the hut keeper may need to switch them off if their batteries are low. Be independent and carry your own power pack!
This is a great question, and one that needs to be understood. In Switzerland, it is possible to send your luggage from train station to train station.
So, say a group of Americans arrive to Geneva, train to, as an example Martigny or Verbier, where they spend the night. The next morning they can put their bags on a train to Zermatt, and then take a bus to the Verbier start with only what will be carried on the Via Valais. When they arrive in Zermatt, the bags will be at the train station, and voila, party time!
All the information about he SBB luggage service: www.sbb.ch/en/luggage.
Luggage may only be presented with a valid ticket for the whole route or a SwissPass GA/Half-Fare travelcard and annual travelcard (GA travelcard, point-to-point travelcard, Half-Fare travelcard (1, 2 or 3 years), regional travelcard, travel discount for SBB employees, Track 7, inter-regional travelcard).
You can certainly always purchase water at the huts. But, this is very expensive (CHF15 for 1.5 liters) and puts another plastic water bottle in the mountains via helicopter. We carry a small water filter for both on-trail use and for in the huts where you can usually get non-potable water. We use either the Katadyn BeFree or MSR Trail Shot filters.
This is a big question, best to use our Alps Hut System page.
And remember, reservations are required at all huts and hotels. Most huts have online reservation booking, but be sure to put all the hut phone numbers in your phone. If you don't show up for your reservation the hut may initiate rescue services.
There are bail out points all throughout the tour, typically to the valleys that run north south through the Alps. Again, you must have a good map app on your phone, or carry paper maps. Once in a town or valley, find yourself a bus stop and use the SBB app for public transport timetables to get out. Remember, in the more remote valleys, buses run less frequently.
Swiss paper maps are probably the best, most detailed, and most beautiful maps in the world. They're key for planning and understanding the overall route. But, underway, you'll want to use our GPS tracks for each stage. We offer the route by FatMap for the best visual experience.
Most Swiss Alpine Club huts do not have showers, but your valley overnights will be in hotels. Also, the Mountain Lodge Seewijnu above Zermatt is a hotel.
Phones work almost everywhere in the Alps, but there are holes. Also, American phones sometimes do not work in Europe, check with your provider to be sure you'll have a functioning phone. And, download those maps for offline use prior to heading into the mountains!
Swisscom is the best provider in Switzerland for mountain connections.
Expect to pay about CHF100/person in huts. This is your overnight, dinner, breakfast, some drinks and maybe a late lunch. Carry cash, huts don't take credit cards.
If this seems like a lot, remember how light your pack was and that you get to run through the Swiss Alps for nine days.
Hotels are between about CHF75 and CHF125/person, for overnight and breakfast only.
We'll provide a Bonus Peak for every day of the Via Valais. These peaks are for the super motivated or abundantly fit. They are not required, instead they are detours that'll access summits with wider views of the landscape you are moving through. While most are walk ups, some require easy scrambling. Do your own research All but two peaks get you above 3000 meters and might require much earlier starts for the extra time they'll take.
If we had to recommend which to do, the Pigne de la Lé and Barrhorn are the must do's. The Pigne de la Lé is simply stunning and puts you amongst several 4000 meter peaks and glaciers above the Cabane de Moiry on night 4. Be warned, the route to the summit of the Pigne de la Lé requires easy climbing in somewhat exposed terrain to alpine grade PD. Know your climbing abilities and don't venture into alpine rock terrain without sufficient skills. If the Pigne de la Lé is for you, get an alpine start and be on top for sunrise, you'll never regret it and will still have plenty of time to get to the Turtmann Hut.
The Barrhorn is the highest official trail to a summit in the Alps. You'll reach 3610 meters via singletrack, and have a pleasant dash back down. Like the Pigne de la Lé, it looks out at some of the Alps' monsters.