Day 13 Sunday 28 August Gasenried to Europahutte

For the last two days of the trek, I will follow the Europaweg. This is a trail, created in 1997 that runs high above the Mattertal, usually keeping above the tree line and is said to give great views of the mountains at the head of the valley and on its western side. Reading the guide, there are some section that are exposed and protected by chains or ropes. In some places, there are unstable scree slopes above the path and it has had to be diverted several times over the last 25 years. This year was no exception. Climate change is now really affecting the alps. I have already made mention of the retreating glaciers. The drop in snow fall and glacier melt have affected the stability of the scree and boulders and there were several rockfalls this spring. As a result, the whole of the route between Gasenried and the Europahutte has been closed and the path now runs at a much lower altitude below the tree line.

The weather had improved and there was little cloud so I got an early view of the Weisshorn as I walked through Gasenried village.

The new route followed the road through the village and then took a path that contoured round the mountain. Gasenried is a small village with a main road and chalets scattered along the hillside

Looking back at Gasenried from the edge of the forest

The path now entered the forest. I had intermittent views across the valley. There was a steep descent to cross a dry river bed followed by a re-ascent. I continued to ascend through the wood and then came across a rather precarious looking bridge

It was more stable than it looks. Beyond it there was a section where several trees had been felled and lay across the path. I had to climb over or under them and then continued through the wood to the next obstacle, a waterfall on the Riedbach.

There was a little exposure to climb up to the waterfall. The path then passed between the waterfall and the rock which was a novelty. I tried to take photographs through the water but these were not a success, it just looked like there were drops of water on the lens.

There was now a long descent, almost as far as the valley floor at Herbriggen

Herbriggen

I now had a cIimb of about 1000 metres to get to the Europahutte. Most of the afternoon was spent in the trees with occasional views of the opposite side of the valley. I climbed steeply away from Herbriggen. After a while there was a series of steep steps, not as exposed as the ladders on the Pas de Chevres, to cross the Geisstriftbachji torrent.

On the other side of the river there was a steep descent, partly on steps and partly on rope protected rock. About half an hour later I came to a clearing with a superb view of the Weisshorn across the valley

There was now a long climb through woodland which was fairly steep and not particularly interesting. The path was tortuous in order to wind its way around cliff faces. Eventually I broke into open ground above the tree line. I crossed a torrent draining the Hobarggletscher glacier on what felt like a wooden plank, the crack in the middle did not add to my sense of security.

Across the river the path now climbed up over grassy and rocky ground to meet the old Europaweg route. I was rewarded by a view of the Bishorn and the Weisshorn and their glacier

Weisshorn (left) and Bishorn (right)

The path now traversed rocky ground to pass around a spur and I could then see the Europahutte perched on rocks between trees just below me.

I think this small hut was built for the Europaweg. Somehow it sleeps 43 people. Despite its isolation it had a bar (essential) and served us a nice three course meal. I ate with two Scotsmen who normally climb in the Alps but this year were just walking between the high altitude huts. I was a little concerned about Felix and Thora. They have always overtaken me within an hour or two of me starting the day’s walk but I had not seen them all day. They eventually turned up at about 7pm, exhausted after having tried to follow the original Europaweg route before having to turn back. At least they saw the fine statue of St Bernard on the slopes of the Grathorn, I had to make do with the picture in the Cicerone guide.

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