This being the final day meant we could take things a lot easier, we had a nice lay in and didn’t have breakfast until 7 am. We paid up which was ~CHF400 for 3 of us with a few beers the previous afternoon and got ready to leave. We said farewells to a few others leaving before us whom we’d met on the route i the huts over the previous days. Our bags felt quite heavy today as they had everything inside this time rather than wearing harnesses etc added to the exhaustion from the previous days walking.
The route down from the hut to Zermatt was very straight forward just following the marked path over glacier moraine, through grassy parts and finally into the pine forest. There are a number of signs which show 2 routes to Zermatt, strangely the only difference being the direction of the train on the sign! We took the shorter option, which is straight down the valley rather then an up and over route ending up further north in the town.
At one point we did get diverted across the river due to rock falls in the path on the north side of the valley, this meant walking down the road until we came to the Zmutt Dam where we crossed over and joined the marked path again.
The path does guide you through the village of Zmutt, which you don’t have to follow but it is a lovely little mountain village with a few bars and cafés. Out the other side of the town there were a lot more people walking up from Zermatt for a spot of lunch and to enjoy the views. Some looked at us quite strangely with ropes in our bags and ice axes on the back possibly wondering what we’ve been up to and more likely why we smell so much! The scenery was lovely but we didn’t think we fitted into the categories from Peter Cliff’s caption in his Haute Route guide book “Purists, the impoverished and late arrivals will enjoy the path down to Zermatt through pine woods and first summer flowers“. This has to be one of the weirdest guide book captions I’ve seen and makes no sense whatsoever, we think it must have been a dare to put in.
Finally after a total of around 2.5 hrs walking we got to the outskirts of Zermatt where we decided to check the train times to get back to Bourg St. Pierre to pick up our bags…turns out we had about 20mins to avoid getting there late in the afternoon. After a brisk walk through Zermatt waving at the Dutch guys we’d met on route who were enjoying a beer we made it to the station. There was even enough time to spare to grab a sandwich for the journey. It wasn’t long after sitting down in the carriage around clean things and people that we noticed that we did smell a fair bit. The train journey was efficient, as your expect, with a change at Visp then Martigny then the bus from Orsières to Bourg St. Pierre. In the town we phoned the hotel owner who gladly opened up so we could grab our bags. There was time for a few beers before the return bus following that we spent 2 nights in Vevey on Lake Geneva to chill out and recover.
We had a great trip and were so lucky with the weather, other then the first day the conditions were nearly perfect for us. We had built in an extra day into our flight plans in-case of bad weather and we would have had to stay at a hut for an extra day. It is also possible to complete the route from the Bertol Hut to Zermatt in one very long day. It was certainly worth staying at the Schönbiel hut though for the views and to relax before going to to civilisations. Anyone with a reasonable amount of alpine experience could do this trip but if in a pair or not much experience / confidence in glacier crossing and navigation then it is certainly worth considering hiring a guide.
I would also say that the route from Valsorey to Chanrion as per the guide book probably isn’t really recommended anymore due to the changed conditions. It is worth walking into the Chanrion Hut from Mauvoisin whether starting the route as we did or coming from Champex on the whole route. It was a shame we didn’t have the holiday and our time constraints meant we couldn’t do the first part of the route from Chamonix to Champex but i think we made the most of what we could. We’d walked in Chamonix in the past anyway so we didn’t feel like we lost out on too much.
The GPX for the route is here: GPX
Elevation profile was: