Saturday, September 24, 2011

Monte Rosa

One of our goals in Switzerland was to hike to a hut in the alps and spend the night.  We almost left it until too late as the first huts we tried to get into were closed already for the winter - but we lucked out and got a place in the new Monte Rosa hut.  Some of you  may have already followed this link - but if not, here is a short video of this amazing new hut in the Swiss Alpine Club system.

It still amazes us that we can get from Bern to high in the mountains in just two hours!  Each train meets the next like Swiss clockwork, and if you have to wait more than ten minutes for a train or a connecting bus you are NOT in Switzerland!  Likewise, if you can't find a sign to the glacier you are probably not in Switzerland either!

Darrell at the Monte Rosa trail sign
We only had to take some lunch, snacks, warmer clothes, and a sleeping bag liner to the hut - so we could travel quite lightly.  The hut included dinner and breakfast as well as a warm bed.  We had crystalline weather and a great view of the Matterhorn for the entire hike.

Cairns help mark the route to the hut
The hut is a little hidden in the picture below.  It is the bluish dot in the center of the photo - in the center of the heart-shaped rock area around it.

Where's the hut?
We rented some crampons in Zermatt and I was happy to have them as we crossed two glaciers on the way to the hut.  Those of you that have hiked with me know I have some fears of heights/falling.  With the crevasses, knife-edge seracs, and impossibly polished rocks we had to climb to get to the hut, it was the most mentally challenging hike I've ever done.  Darrell was a patient saint and always had a hand or a pole ready when I needed extra security.  He never laughed at me, even when I got a crampon tip stuck in my pants that I had stupidly rolled up at the bottom - and ended up landing on my knee (ouch) when I tripped crossing a not-too-big crevasse.

Getting closer to the space-age hut
After getting off the glacier, we climbed a steep path to get to the hut.  Part of the path had anchored ropes that I definitely used.  The "smooth" part was the path up the crest of one of the moraines.

Darrell on the crest of one of the moraines
The final approach to the hut showcases its solar panels and south-facing deck.

Approach to the "hut"
This next picture highlights the view from the hut to the Matterhorn.

The windows follow the staircase on the inside.
The outside is an aluminum skin that expands and contracts with temperature so is not supporting.  The main load-bearing structure, that can be seen inside of the hut, is gorgeous native fir and spruce.  Helicopters lifted 420 prefab wood elements to the site.  The beams and supports in the dining area have computer-aided digital carvings that mimic the rings of a tree.

Here is the view from the dining area where we had dinner.

Recognize the view?
We ate with a wonderful couple from Montreaux, at the north end of Lake Geneva.  We are hoping to visit them later and see some of the area around Lake Geneva.

Our room that night held enough bunks for 10 people, but only six were filled and only one person snored so we did pretty well getting a night's rest.

The view from our bunk
The next morning we walked above the hut with Richard and Michelle to get a higher view down.  They continued on with another glacier hike farther up, and we headed back on the trail towards Zermatt.

Darrell in front of a perched boulder
The hut mimics the peak of the Matterhorn from this angle
The hike back was just as adventurous as the hike there.  Darrell got a picture of me trying to avoid walking on the crest of an ice feature by traversing the face.  Thank goodness for crampons!

Focusing on every step
I was relieved when we got back on terra firma.  We had lunch on the roche moutenee above the present glaciers and got a nice squint-eyed photo of the two of us.

Preview of our holiday photo?
Glacially grooved roche moutenee
The trail back traverses a steep grass-covered slope.  I liked the image of the ice over the landscape here.

The serpentine pattern in the lower ice is from the meltwater running down
As we approached the train station we came across some goats.  I'm not sure what kind they are, but the black and white pattern was striking!

Black and white shaggy herbivores
After looking at magnificent views for so long, I will show you a beautifully tiny plant from this region.  This spider-webby looking plant is called Spinnweben Hauswurz in German and the scientific name is equally descriptive, Sempervivum arachnoideum!  Thanks to Vera for the botanical information!

Exquisite little plant

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