One of the highlights of my recent ski trip traversing the alps from Italy to Switzerland was staying in the new Monte Rosa hut. The old Monte Rosa hut was a lovely stone structure with painted red shutters built in 1940, and is my romantic idea of the perfect mountain refuge. When I caught sight of the sparkling angular architecture of the new hut as I skied down the Grenzglacier I was unexpectedly delighted by what I saw. Called the “Bergkristall” (mountain crystal) it’s modern design blends into its snowy and icy environment.
Built by the Swiss Alpine Club in 2009, it is a wonder of self-sufficiency. Isolated by mountain ranges and glaciers it sits alone at 2,883 meters and is accessible only by skis in winter, and foot in summer. The building’s shiny aluminum clad exterior is broken up by a band of windows and south facing photovoltaic panels. A small supplemental heat and electricity unit runs on rapeseed oil. Meltwater, collected in the summer and stored in a rocky cavern above the hut provides hot and cold water. Waste water is purified in a biological microfiltration plant and uses the grey water for flushing toilets. Surplus water is cleaned and returned to the environment. The new Monte Rosa hut is 90% self- sufficient.
The warm timber framed interior defies it’s cold metal exterior. The supporting timbers in the sunny dining room are digitally carved with lines that resemble the rings of a tree, or the contour lines of a map. The meals served by the hut keepers were surprisingly delicious. Tucked into my wooden bunk and covered with a duvet I slept like a log.