For those well acquainted with the Scottish bothy system you will find the Monte Rosa something of a treat. The hütte, along with all the Swiss Alpine Club huts offer not only beds and linen, but the option of breakfast, lunch and dinner, wireless internet and even a shower.
The hut has 3 floors, a basement and can sleep 110 people. It is simple and spacious, hexagonal in shape but not symmetrical. The sleeping quarters are bunked and found upstairs via a spiral stair case, and downstairs there are racks for boots and equipment as well as an emergency shelter opened during the 3 winter months when the hut is unmanned.
The building pivots around a stylish and airy dining area on the ground floor that looks out over the Gormer glacier. The dining room is constructed with beams of unvarnished pine wood which reflects the mountain light to every corner of the room. The same wood is used for the tables and benches.
The hut prides itself on its energy conservation. This is certainly apparent from the abundance of energy efficient light bulbs, low ceilings, and the recycled brown coloured water used to flush the toilets. Having achieved so much in the way of energy technology I thought the hut was let down on two accounts. First the lack of soap in the toilet, and second the somewhat contradictory use of a helicopter to fly in supplies.
Up to 650kg of supplies are flown up to the hut in order to meet the needs of its 2 set menus. On its return journey it removes litter and every 3 months, solid refuge. Having achieved so much it seems a shame that the hut still depends on a the machine to keep it running but with few other options available the accommodation will have to innovate further to raise its green profile.
According to in-house manager Brett Macdonald the development of the Monte Rosa Hütte arose primarily in response to falling Swiss Alpine Club memberships over the last 10 years. It appears that the green aspect of its design was just as much about making the structure an attraction as it is about conserving energy. Never the less the initiative has certainly paid off; The hut is very busy, attracting many non-climbers who make the hut the goal of their trips. The hut promotes energy efficiency and conservation on a series of information boards down stairs aimed at directing people to see first hand the state of the Gorner Glacier which has fallen 150 metres in the last 10 years.
Stay, Eat & Drink
One night at the hut costs 24 CHF (Swiss Francs) per person. Breakfast is a further 15 CHF and a three course dinner another 24 CHF, both requiring in-advance bookings. Considering the grandeur and location of the hut, we thought this remarkable value for money considering you could easily pay this much to stay at any ordinary travelodge in the UK. The lodge doesn’t reduce the rate for longer stays which could be an issue for anyone looking to stay for prolonged periods in the mountains to avoid fines for illegal camping in the Swiss Alps. As a comforting token beers are sold for the price of 4 CHF which is a lean sum for Swiss standards.
From a discussion with the Zermatt Tourist board it is clear that the Monte Rosa is the latest in many eco tourist options to bless the Zermatt area. Regardless of its shortcomings it is still well worth a visit for both what it has achieved and also what it aims to achieve.
From London follow the greentraveller journey plan to get you as far as Geneva. At Geneva hop on a train to Visp and wait for the connecting mountain train to Zermatt. Buy tickets for train travel in Switzerland before you go from Rail Europe. If booked in advance a return ticket cost in the region of £90.
Once in Zermatt the walk from Rotenboden station to the hut is the most common route and takes about three hours. It takes you down and across the Gormer glacier, followed by a steep walk on the other side of the feature. The Zermatt Tourist office advises visitors only to cross the glacier in the cool of the morning with use of crampons but few – at least during our stay – heeded this advice. Although there is a 1 million CHF plan to improve the route in the next 3-4 years, it does at present remain quite arduous and will require a reasonable level of fitness. Brett Macdonald informed us that in the last year 12 people have had to be airlifted out due to misjudging the severity of the walk to the hut so be well aware of your level of fitness and ability.
- The average stay at the hut is 2 nights
- The busiest times of year are in July and August. Visitors should book early on the hut’s website