The Monte Rosa Hut

Pure as “Rock Crystal”

Text Laurent Grabet
Date of publication Winter 2019-2020

Inaugurated in 2009, this mountain refuge is an inevitable stop on the route to the Dufourspitze— Switzerland’s highest mountain peak (4,634 m)— and is one of the country’s most famous, most beautiful, and most modern alpine huts.

Perched at 2,883 m, on a natural terrace that overlooks Castor and Pollux — twin 4000-meter summits—, the Breithorn, the Matterhorn, the Border Glacier (Grenzgletscher) and the upper Gorner Glacier, lies the ultra-modern Monte Rosa alpine hut. The structure itself is a joy to behold, a true feat of engineering, and one of the country’s most surprising high-altitude, architectural wonders. Run by the Monte Rosa section of the SAC (Swiss Alpine Club), this high-tech edifice appears to hover on the mountainside like a “rock crystal,” one of its earliest nicknames. Built on stainless-steel foundations, with a wooden, spiral-shaped interior that’s covered in windows, aluminium siding, and a 180 m2 photovoltaic system, the building is 92% energy-sufficient and certified Minergie-P.

An Architectural Gem
This living mountain laboratory was launched by the SAC in 2003, to mark the 150th anniversary of Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). After laying the structure’s concrete centre, which binds the heart of the building to the rock itself, a six-story structure (made entirely of spruce wood from Valais) was pre-assembled into 420 units, transported up the mountain, and pieced together on-site like a giant puzzle. It was high-precision work, especially considering that certain sections weighed over 1.5 tons each. The ultimate goal was to build an iconic, environmentally-friendly mountain hut that would be strong enough to resist the intense local winds (the building can withstand winds up to 200 km/h), while not sacrificing any comfort for its guests.

That goal has been achieved. The hut can welcome 120 people in 18 rooms, made for 3-8 people each. But these are no ordinary mountain dorm room accommodations. Here one can expect good mattresses, hot running water, indoor bathrooms, and even four showers; true luxury when it comes to alpine hut standards (at the old Monte Rosa hut, hikers had to melt snow over a coal-powered stove for water). If that were not enough, an integrated microfiltration system cleans waste water, which is then repurposed, and an ETH-designed computerized energy management system considers weather data and expected visitor numbers to optimize the building’s energy consumption accordingly.

 The Perfect Ski-Touring Destination
This is one mountain hut that is never left empty. Reservations to stay overnight must be made in advance, particularly during high season. The hut will only be open in 2020 from March 13-May 23, and from June 6-September 19. The hut makes a perfect ski-touring destination. Approaching the hut is relatively straightforward for the experienced skier, crossing an exceptional landscape of legendary mountain peaks and glaciers, while the bravest, most-prepared visitors will take in the view as they climb the Dufourspitze.