Once a year my dad and I make time for a hiking holiday together. Sometimes this is in the UK (Hadrian’s Wall, The West Highland Way and Coast to Coast have been our favourites) and sometimes we venture further afield. Recently, we completed a ‘best of’ version of the Mont Blanc to Matterhorn trek where we enjoyed some quality daddy-daughter time.
Whilst we walk we talk about general daddy-daughter gibberish, updating each other on our separate lives and the people in it. Although for the most part mundane, these are the conversations that have shaped many aspects of my life… the best advice is given on top of mountains, especially when it’s from your Dad!
A lot of time we don’t talk at all and just enjoy each other’s company, the stunning scenery, and the cute wild animals (mainly me squealing over a tiny calf whilst my Dad rolls his eyes).
Starting in Charmonix and finishing in Zermatt, the ‘best of’ Mont Blanc to Matterhorn trek meant that we could complete the stunning alpine route within a week of annual leave by missing out a couple of the least interesting sections. It’s the perfect trip to introduce yourself to alpine trekking without anything too technical and within a shorter time frame. Read on for my guide to booking your trip, and what to expect when you get there.
Booking and Planning Your Trip
This is certainly a trip that you could book yourself, researching the route and the best places to stay with good old Google and a guide book. The route is really easy to follow with painted rocks guiding the way, and the limited accommodation means that you don’t need to do that much research when deciding where to stay.
However, we took the easy (but pricer) option and booked the trip through a tour operator. There are loads out there but we chose KE Adventure Travel because we’d used them before when walking the GR20 in Corsica and had a fantastic experience with them. There are loads of reasons to use an operator such as KE, such as:
- They’ll book all accommodation for you, meaning you just need to worry about your flights (and getting fit!)
- You get your own guide to lead you along the route, meaning that you don’t even need to be able to read a map (I’m useless at this kind of thing despite my Dad’s best efforts). This is also hugely helpful if there are any issues such as path closures or bad weather.
- You get breakfast, a packed lunch, trail snacks and dinner included in the package so the only money you need to take with you is for the beer fund
- You’ll be in a group with others who have booked onto the holiday, meaning that you get to meet like-minded people and share the experience with others. If you’re travelling on your own this is a fantastic way to meet people
- You even get a kit list to take the stress out of packaging
The Mont Blanc to Matterhorn trek is truly beautiful… from Alpine meadows to rocky mountains to snowy glaciers to amazing wildlife (I’d never heard of a marmot but they’re so cute and now I want one), this trip had everything. It wasn’t as difficult as previous hikes I’ve done (or maybe I’d trained harder?) which meant that I could fully enjoy the surroundings rather than wonder how much further until the top of the mountain.
Our route started in a village called Argentiere in the Chamonix Valley, where we had an incredible view of Mont Blanc from our chalet and for the first half of the day. We spent the day walking through meadows and forests with a couple of cable cars thrown in for good measure. We passed through Verbier and a sculpture park, before arriving at a mountain hut for the evening.
If you’ve not stayed in a Mountain hut before, it’s a rather interesting experience but a key part of alpine trekking. I’ve written a mountain hut guide here with top tips on how to survive, and even enjoy, these huts.
Over the next few days the sound of cowbells was the joyful background to our adventure which included steep climbs, slipping on snow patches, natural clay face masks, shots of Génépi (a local herbal liqueur made from alpine plants) to warm up on mountain tops and, my personal highlight, climbing up ladders on the side of mountain faces.
After passing through countless beautiful alpine villages, we eventually concluded our adventure in Zermatt, with stunning views of the Matterhorn.
Most Importantly…The Food and Drink
I wasn’t expecting the food to be great because we would be spending time in mountain huts, where a small kitchens cook en masse with limited ingredients for a load of hungry hikers. I was SO WRONG!
With the majority of the Mont Blanc to Matterhorn trek being in Switzerland, cheese was of course in abundance. This meant that our packed lunch consisted of cheese and ham sandwiches almost every day, but they were so delicious that it was impossible to get bored. Breakfast most mornings consisted of freshly baked bread and jam. Dinner depended on whether we were in a hotel or a mountain hut, but usually consisted of a soup course, a salad course, a main course (often pasta dishes or other much needed carbs) and a dessert (often fruit). My food and drink highlights were:
1. Hot chocolate with rum: the BEST way to celebrate a completed day of snowy hiking in a mountain hut.
2. Swiss wine… I had no idea! My favourite was called Fendant and I couldn’t get enough of it.
3. Cheese, cheese and more cheese. As well as the cheese sandwiches mentioned above, cheese highlights included my first ever cheese fondue and a spinach and ricotta pasta covered in SO MUCH CHEESE. Heaven.
The Alps are highly addictive! There’s just something about those snowy peaks, alpine meadows and ringing cow bells that won’t allow you to visit just once. Whilst I loved this trip, walking beneath the glaciers made me desperate to experience a higher route and almost immediately on return Dad & I booked to return the following year and take our trekking to the next level with some glacier climbing just over the Italian border. You can read about this trip here.