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I'm planning to head to the Alps this summer to walk the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Does anyhow know how far in advance I need to book the huts? Months, weeks or just a few days?

Also there's a good chance our plans might well change en-route, due to weather conditions, am I likley to find that means I can't get into the next hut on the route?

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2 Answers 2

You cannot book most huts in advance. You simply arrive and get a place to sleep. If you're late then you will have to sleep on the floor. Places are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. I speak from (limited) experience.

I haven't slept in huts much, but I've visited quite often, and most are quite basic. There are some modern huts that can be reserved, but if they can be, you certainly don't need to reserve more than a few days ahead.

You can search for huts at the Swiss Alpine Club website. Then, check the individual huts' websites for information such as opening hours. For example, the Cabane des Dix. To be sure, you might want to check the website for the huts where you will pass by and write down their phone numbers, so you can call them the morning before you arrive. Considering sudden changes in weather, any reservation more than a few days in advance is in any case too risky.

Note: my experiences are mostly from the 1990s and early 2000s. Perhaps the situation has changed; see also goingglacials answer.

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Yes this has changed then because nowadays you should book the hut (and even 2-3 days in advance often isn't enough). Weather is always an issue, but you can't change this. Btw I guess they won't kick you out if you didn't reserve the hut and arrive there late in the evening (maybe in a storm) without chances getting down. –  EverythingRightPlace Apr 6 at 1:02
    
@bashophil I think it depends on the hut as well. –  gerrit Apr 7 at 1:10

When exactly do you plan to go? If you head over there in mid-late June, you should be completely fine without reservations. High-season for European trekkers doesn't start until much later in the summer (around mid-July), and the trails and huts will be significantly less crowded earlier in the summer.

Otherwise, I would strongly suggest booking your huts in advance. Hut proprietors on a route that receives as much trekker traffic as the Haute Route are definitely accustomed to receiving advance inquiries. I've completed the Haute Route, the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Alta Via 1 (Italy), and the GR-20 (Corsica), and I benefited from reservations on all of those treks, save for the GR-20. Without the benefit of the reservations while trekking along the GR-20, I found myself completely shut out of certain huts along the way and thus forced to sleep on the rock-hard Corsican ground. I would suggest purchasing a guide book like this one, which will provide you with the necessary contact information (including websites) for the huts. From my experience, the best approach is to book about a week or two in advance when you have a better sense of your plans. In terms of weather, that's obviously a tough call...but, as I recall, I didn't encounter much difficulty in sticking to my itineraries on any of those trips. Like any other mountainous region, the Alps are liable to receive afternoon thunderstorms (and possibly a bit of snow here and there), but the storms usually pass pretty quickly.

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Really? Then things have changed a lot since the 1990s. That is of course possible. –  gerrit Feb 25 '13 at 17:29
    
I'd love to go in June but some members of my group can only get holiday in august –  Simon Hodgson Feb 25 '13 at 20:51
    
One change since the 90's is mobile phones. You can modify plans and check huts ahead as you go along. –  QuentinUK Mar 8 '13 at 3:33

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