Today we were heading to the mountain hut. Ruedi had informed us that it was about a 2.5 hour hike to the hut but we should spend longer on it to spot some wildlife. We needed to sort a few things out in the morning before we left, so we took it easy and got all our stuff together before heading to the Co-op. We stocked up on hiking food, paused on the edge of town for a snack, then headed onto the trail.
Across the meadows then straight away we were climbing, but thankfully we were in the forest and it was cooler in the shade. It was a beautiful trail up the side of the mountain and we followed the path towards a recommended viewpoint.
When we arrived at the viewpoint, we could see Zernez below us and the opposing mountains behind. We could also hear some loud music coming from the valley and spotted some festival tents with the binoculars. After lunch, we carried on up until we went around the side of the mountain for a view of the next valley. From there, we couldn’t hear the music or the road any more, just the breeze and the birds.
We got up to an area where the trees were growing close to the ground, curving up in a not very tree-like way at all. We later learned that this type of pine grows like that in snowy or avalanche-prone areas, so that it can bounce back after the snow is gone. Clever!
After being overtaken by a hill-runner (rather him than me!), we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the steep-sided valley. The gravelly river in the bottom full of melt water from the snow-topped mountains behind. We couldn’t see any animals from there but spotted the hut where we would be spending the night and the trail up the other side of the valley where we would be hiking tomorrow.
We had a lot of downhill to do now and tried not to hurt our knees on the steep descent. We realised the other day that we’re outside the EU now and don’t have any health insurance! But I’m sure we could ride to Germany on a twisted ankle…
Once we got to the bottom, we crossed the river and headed back up a few switchbacks on the other side to reach the hut. When Ruedi said we would be staying at a mountain hut, I imagined a shack with some space for lying down, and some composting toilets. But no, this was a luxury mountain hut, a beautiful old wooden building with a modern kitchen where the chef was preparing dinner. And the toilets were flushing toilets! Where does it all go?
So we checked in and were showed to our huge dorm, which we only had to share with one other person tonight. Then we sat out on a picnic bench and made second lunch whilst scouring the mountain meadows for deer. There was still some time before dinner and we found a quiet area along the path to sit and I did some yoga whilst Dave caught up on some blogging. Then it was 6.30pm and we all gathered in the dining room to eat. We were sat at a big wooden table with a white-haired mountaineer, and two couples out hiking. They were Swiss except one of the blokes who was Argentinian, so we spoke mostly English together and shared stories of the day. The food was great, especially considering it arrives by helicopter – or on someone’s back! And we treated ourselves to a beer.
In the evening, we gathered outside overlooking the mountains and spotted red deer and chamoix through binoculars and a telescope. The chamoix were right on the top of the mountain, on a patch of snow in the late evening sunlight, jumping around and playing.
Just before bed, I got chatting to a German girl who works in the hut and she told us her experience of doing seasonal work in the Alps. At the moment, she does three weeks on, one week off at the hut, but it’s hard work! You have to get up at 6am and you don’t get to bed until after 9pm. Oh, and your commute is a 2.5 hour hike!
We were all in need of some sleep by then and headed to bed, the alarm set for 4:55am.