Sunday 11 October 2015

Zermatt September 2015 - Day 3

Zermatt to the Shonbielhutte

16.03km / 1469m Ascent / 367m Descent

Today is our Silver Wedding anniversary! Well done us!

To mark the occasion, we had decided we would spend the night at a mountain hut, and the Shonbielhutte seemed the best of the options available - a reasonable distance away, with several route variations to choose from so it wasn't simply a there-and-back walk.

It was reasonably warm and bright as we set off on the first stretch - the climb through woods and meadows, via Zum See, to Furi.

Zum See on a sunny mroning

From Furi we headed west in the shadow of the Matterhorn, past the dam and towards Stafelalp on the southern side of the valley. The going was pretty easy. We took a slight detour from out intended path to reach a slightly higher level path with better views that also avoided the construction works of the new Hirli chairlift that is being built. This alternative path proved quiet and very pleasant - a track through woods - and we saw black squirrels and a nuthatch along the way.

Below the north face of The Matterhorn near Stafelalp

We had half intended to have a break at the restaurant at Stafelalp, but we kept on along the same path and somehow managed to miss it. No problem: we took a break by a small bridge and ate our sandwiches there.

The next section took us across the valley past the hydro-works - not perhaps the most attractive scene, but quite interesting to see how the natural energy resource is utilised.

Arbenbach waterfall #1

Arbenbach waterfall #2

Arbenbach waterfall #3

Our next objective was the waterfall near the Arbenbach, a very noticeable feature. We zigzagged up the side, pausing halfway to exchange photos with a passing mountain biker. Just over the top, we took our second lunch break and had half an hour dozing in the sun as well.

So we know which way to go

Heading further up the valley

Glaciers by the Dent d'Herens

Path along the lateral moraine

The final leg of the day led beside the glacier, basically following the line of the edge of the moraine. Cloud was building slightly as the Schonbielhutte came into view. It was only about 30 minutes away - but about 200m higher, and perched on a rocky outcrop opposite the towering north face of The Matterhorn.

On the final zigzag

Nearly there .....

We arrived and made ourselves known, although we were the only ones there, and only 5 were due to stay overnight. No problem, we settled in for beers and games of Scrabble to while away the remaining afternoon.

Our three companions arrived about an hour later – wet through, as by now it was raining quite steadily - two German men and a Swiss woman. At first they huddled round the stove, trying to dry out and warm up, but conversation gradually ensued.

Dinner was at 6.30pm - vegetable soup, Bratwurst, pasta and salad main, with meringue for afters - filling and warming and just the job, as by now the weather was worsening, with strong winds and heavy squalls strafing the hut.

Inventive use for skis in the summer

We went to bed about 8.30pm. For our 25th wedding anniversary night, we had a room to ourselves - just the two of us in matratzenlager (mattresses on the floor) in a wooden attic, with strong winds and heavy rain battering the building all night long. Although duvets were provided, it was very chilly, so we slept in all our clothes to keep nice and warm – a very different scenario to that of 25 years ago, and one which will be memorable if not conventional! 

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