Justin’s daily digest, episode 3.
When I told a good friend, Dan, about the idea for this trip, he thought it sounded great, but he simply couldn’t believe we were going to walk from Zermatt to the Monterosa Hut, especially not with skis and boots in tow, ‘I sort of have an allergy to schlepping things’, he had told me; schlepping being Dinglish for ‘dragging’. Interestingly, in comparison to the other stages, this one gave the lowest reading on my worry and anxiety scale – which is probably why it found me completely unprepared for just how draining it would be.
The alarm went off at 4:30. We got up quietly so as not to disturb Marco, Giuseppe’s brother who has been acting as our support guy. He wasn’t planning on getting up till six as he was going to take the train to Rotenboden at about 2800m and walk with us from there. We slunk downstairs and I had my customary 2 coffees, banana and apple, topped off with a mini Linzertorte, yum. By 5:20 we were sorted, packed and the schlepp then began. Our hostel was at 1650m, by 8:30 on the nose we had done the 1200 vertical meters to Rotenboden where we arrived just as Marco was stepping off the train. We had some breakfast while we drank in the panorama of 4000-meter peaks all around us.
I was pretty convinced that, given the fact that we were nearly at the same elevation as the hut, visible now in the distance on a spit of land between two massive glaciers, that our work for the day was all but over. How wrong I was. We left our snack spot at 9:15 and headed up the valley on a prominent trail etched into the side of the expansive steep southern-facing slope. It took us an hour just to reach the glacier. By then my bag was already feeling quite heavy. The trail continued onto the glacier where big tripods and flags marked the route. It took another hour to cross the glacier and another hour still to ascend back up the steep polished granit and loose boulders on the other side. By the time we reached the hut at 12:40 we had been underway for 7 hours. We were all pretty beat, but the worst thing was our shoulders. None of us could even lift our arms anymore from the strain of schlepping all our stuff all that way.
Nevertheless, the hut here is stunning, but it doesn’t come close to matching the awe-inspiring scenery. While on the terrace having a refreshing drink, we heard a distant rumbling which quickly turned into a roar. Turning toward the Liskamm, we watched as an enormous serac broke off the west face and thundered down onto the glacier below. Impressive.
The rest of the afternoon was spent dozing in bed. At 18.30 was dinner of macaroni with a goulasch sauce. Afterwards we sorted our gear so we can literally get out of bed, grab our stuff and be ready. Then we filled our waterbottles up and went out to recon our route for the morning. Now it’s 21.30 and I’m already late for bed. Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 1:30, and the final, and arguably most important, day of our four-day adventure will begin!