Double the Struggle

Posted on July 7th, 2019 by

The previous two days have been the most challenging, but also the most exciting days of our month long endeavor so far.  It was full of hard-work, sweat, rain, ice, and very little sleep. However, it was also full of beauty, learning, and great food.

Yesterday we started our day with a wonderful complimentary breakfast together at Zermatt Youth Hostel, cleaned our rooms of dirty linen, and packed our backpacks with all of the essentials for an overnight hike.  This took longer than it probably needed to because all of us who are rooming together would keep asking each other what they are bringing.  From there we set out to the train station where we met our guide Wolfie (aka Wolfgang, but yes, he also looked a little wolfy.)  The train took us up to the site where we would begin our 7-mile hike at Gornergletscher to Monte Rosa Hutte.

Alpine flowers blooming in abundance

The tallest mountains in Switzerland

The descent was quite beautiful with wild flowers, birds, and the alpine range that could be seen for miles.  I was not able to fathom the distance or size of the mountains but this majesty was warm and peaceful.  Along the way we passed hikers from all over the world.  We heard Spanish, French, German, Dutch, and possibly even Finnish.  We finally reached out first “obstacle course” – the ladder leading us closer to the glacier.

A shaky descent

It was not far from here until we finally reached the glacier.  We strapped on our crampons with some struggle as we still haven’t used them enough to be comfortable with it. When you improperly tie your crampon, the tip of your boot will pop out and you have to stop and retie them. This, of course, occurred at least five times during the hike.  This hike across the glacier was not long, but it was incredible to see the deep and wide crevasses.

Glacial views

We continued across the rocky field and began our ascent up the first steep hill, saying “that’s a whole lot of up.”  We eventually made it to the blue lake with a sigh of amazement from everyone.  This is where we took our first break and ate some fruit and took in the scenery.  It was not too long before we started our last “that’s a whole lot of up” ascension.  This one was difficult for everyone because it was rougher terrain and straight up.  With some breaks and lots of heavy breathing, we all finally made it.

The blue lake 

The Monte Rosa Hutte

The Monte Rosa hutte was shockingly wonderful. The accommodations were more than ample, even down to some pretty great hot chocolate. It was incredible to think that all of the provisions used to make our dinner and breakfast had to be flown up to the hut by a helicopter due to the glacier and otherwise difficult terrain up. After dinner and a calamitous game of Uno with our guide, I ended up having a long conversation with him about his opinions on climate change and how it will effect both his personal love for climbing and also his profession as a guide. He explained that business is booming right now but that he has serious concerns for when the snow stops accumulating at the top of the glacier and even after that when the glacier is completely gone. He does significant mountaineering guiding and would be consequently be less effected than other guides who work exclusively on the glaciers, but his love of the outdoors still drives a feeling of concern and sadness. He explained that he usually avoids the topic of climate change with his clients for the fear that they are vehemently against the facts that express the change he has observed in his 25 years as a guide,  but he still shared cautiously “if it’s humans that are causing climate change, we’re f***ed.” Despite this belief, he stays positive because he got to spend most of his life thus far outside doing what he loves in nature. As for if he were to ever have children, he said that he hopes they’re as lucky as he was, but that he doubted that would be the case.

The descent from the Monte Rosa Hutte was most certainly the most adventure we have had on a hike yet. We had to wake at 5:30 for a 6 AM communal breakfast and got to watch golden light slowly spill onto the surrounding peaks as the sun continued its gradual ascent. After reflecting on a short and kind-hearted lecture from Wolfie on the impracticality of carrying nearly four liters of pure water each for such a “short hike,” some of us decided to opt for the warm tea provided by the hut. We almost immediately began our retreat to Zermatt on a different, more gentle route. The beginning was wonderful; the trail has just been established so many of the alpine plant life was still highly abundant in the areas we were walking and along the trail. Of course, rain clouds were gathering by the time we got to the glacier crossing and a storm whipped in after announcing itself with a massive gale of wind. In the initial moments of thunder, driving rain, and wind it was very easy to understand why locals thought that glaciers were cursed. We may have been skeptical about filling our waterbladders with warm tea at first, but it rapidly became a life-saver. The rain stopped the moment we were off the glacier and it was an uneventful trip back to the trailhead in our rain drenched waterproof gear.

Sunrise over the mountains

“A bad day to be on the Matterhorn” -Wolfie. Our incoming storm.

 

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