22 SUMMITS stories about Zermatt | Dent d'Hérens

22 Summits Stories

Haute Route: on the way of the pilgrims and muleteers


Surrounded by mighty 4000-metre peaks such as the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Dent d'Hérens or Obergabelhorn: where parts of the classic high alpine tour of the Haute Route lead today, pilgrims and muleteers used to hike in ancient times. Before the 15th century, the mule track to the Val d'Hérens was an important glacier pass. It was the easiest and shortest route from Zermatt to Sitten (Sion). The bishop resided there. Every year, a Zermatt procession consisting of the priest and eight men made the arduous journey there. The Little Ice Age led to the desolation of the pass.


A few hundred years later, the old paths were revived. In the summer of 1861, "The High Level Route" was completed by members of the British Alpine Club. It comprises at least 12 days of hiking on the way from Chamonix to Zermatt over a total of 180 kilometres. In 1903, the route was walked on skis for the first time by a Frenchman. Since then, it has been called the "Haute Route".


In connection with the alpinist endeavours in this area, the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) built the Stockje mountain hut at the end of the Zmutt valley in 1875. It was the forerunner of the Schönbiel hut, Zermatt's first hut and one of the SAC's first huts ever. In 1890 it was destroyed by an avalanche and rebuilt in 1909 on a slightly higher site. In 1955 it was demolished and a new hut was built on the same site.


Our hiking tip in summer

You can reach the Schönbielhütte (without crampons) in 2.5 hours (from Schwarzsee) or on foot from Zermatt in just four hours.