Great Alpine Traverse

Five Countries—on foot!

Trip Level

This trip is Level 4+, Moderate to Strenuous. Most hiking is between 2,000 and 9,000 feet. However, at times we hike at higher elevations, with a maximum of 11,500 feet at the Theodul Pass on the Italian-Swiss border. On Day 2, we ascend by cable car to 12,678 feet at the top of the Aiguille du Midi above Chamonix. There is a good bit of up-and-down hiking on most days (often 2,000- to 3,000-foot gain or loss in elevation per day) during the 2-7 hours on the trail each day. There are also a few easy days with shorter hikes on fairly level terrain mixed in with the
moderate and strenuous hiking days. You’ll carry just a daypack on most days, but on two hiking days, when we are staying in a mountain refuge with no road access, you must be able to carry your overnight needs in your daypack. Most medium-sized daypacks have enough room for your overnight belongings (a toothbrush, soap, small towel, and a fresh t-shirt suffice for most people).

Altitude is not usually a problem for people on these trips. The itinerary is developed to take you gently to higher altitude, giving you plenty of time to acclimatize. However, some people still find they get a few problems when they first reach high altitude. Slight headache and sleeplessness in the refuges are the most common problems.

Getting in Shape
We strongly urge you to “train up” for your trip. The best training for hiking is hiking, especially over hills or rough terrain. Next best are running, swimming, bicycling or other sports exercise (stair-climbing machines are excellent preparation for hiking uphill). It’s important to take time to build up muscle and endurance prior to your trip. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule at least a couple of months before departure. Your feet should also be well prepared—make sure your hiking boots are sturdy and thoroughly broken-in.

Most of the hotels we stay in are rustic, well located for hikers, and continuously busy in the summer hiking season. Please note these are hikers’ hotels, not five-star resorts. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but not always of uniform size or amenities. Other hotels are very nice. Our Trip Leaders try their best to assign rooms in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage throughout the trip as a whole. Single and double rooms are offered when possible, but both couples and those who pay the Single Supplement may have to share a room for the two nights at the mountain refuges.

On two nights (Days 10 and 12), we stay in mountain refuges with shared baths (no private baths). Hot water and showers are available. Bunks, mattresses, and blankets are provided. The bedding at the refuges is quite clean, but there are no individual sheets, soap, or towels available. If you prefer to bring your own sleeping bag liner, you can carry it in your daypack on these overnights.

Life on the Trail in the Alps
All meals are included except one lunch and two dinners. Some lunches are picnics on the trail and others are in local restaurants or alpine huts. Most evenings we have dinner at our hotel—hearty alpine fare. Vegetarians please note that we will accommodate dietary needs as best as possible, but it is a good idea to bring along protein bars and other supplements.

We use many forms of transportation as we travel during the trip, so we ask that you restrict your luggage to one piece, plus your daypack/rucksack. A support vehicle will transport the group’s luggage each day, except for the night we stay in a mountain refuge with no road access.


The months we visit the Alps are the optimal ones, but the weather can be fickle and it can range from blue skies with temperatures in the 60s and 70s to cloudy, wet, cold days on which rain gear and wool garments are necessary. There’s even a possibility of encountering snow on the trails. At night the temperature will drop quite a bit, depending on the altitude. In a two-week period, you are likely to experience a full range of weather conditions.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

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