The New Monte Rosa Hut

Mountain climbing has arrived in the 21st century. The building of the new Monte Rosa hut has been finalized at 2883 m (9460 ft.) altitude. If you’re expecting a romantic alpine chalet, look again. This building is a state of the art computerized building built on the principles of sustainable energy. 

The Swiss Alpine Club, one of the largest sporting organisations of Switzerland, and the technical University of Zurich ETH had launched the project in 2003. The Monte Rosa hut is the most important staying point for climbers going to the Monte Rosa area with the Monte Rosa himself as the highest mountain in Switzerland at 4635 m (15208 ft.). The Rosa part does not mean any rose or pink colour, but derives from the Provencal language and means glacier. The mountain is known in Switzerland as Peak Dufour, too, in honour of the co-founder of the Red Cross.

The first hut on the trail to Monte Rosa was opened in 1894 and rebuilt in 1940. The materials for both those buildings were brought to the building site by mule, but because of the shortage of mules these days, this very green aspect could not be considered in the newest rebuild. The estimates for the transport of the building materials to be brought up by mules would have taken several years. The materials were instead prefabricated and transported by train to the foot of the mountain; helicopters airlifted them only the last lap.

The area in which the hut was built is a nature preservation area, which means that the old hut will not only have to be torn down, but the materials must be transported back to the valley. The planners of the new hut therefore included the tearing down of the new hut and the recycling properties of the materials used into the planning of the building.

The main goal of the building is its energy autarchy, the current set up guaranteeing a 90 percent self sufficiency for all energy used in the hut. This grade of autarchy is attained through solar panels covering the entire south facade of the building covering 85 square meters linked to on site electric generators. Surplus energy is stored in accumulator batteries to be used during peak hours. An emergency energy unit using rapeseed oil was installed as well.

The heating is based on a thermal system using a heat reclamation process from waste air. To supply heat during cold periods and when few people are staying there, an additional 35 square meters of thermal solar panels have been installed. Water is collected during the snow melting season for use in the building, and used water is recycled, cleaned in a bacterial filtering system and then reused in a secondary water circuit for flushing toilets and cleaning purposes.

To make this all work together the building has been completely digitalized and is run effectively from a computer centre located in the University of Zurich. All information relevant to the running of the hut are transmitted to Zurich, starting with the weather figures from the weather station built into the hut, through reservation orders, and feedback on energy used and efficiency levels of the individual units are constantly monitored by specialists. They will be using the gained data from this relatively closed system to further improve on the current design.

The hut has already been nicknamed ‘Bergkristall’ (Mountain Crystal) by the public. The hut will take up its operation in spring 2010. Monte Rosa Hut offers sleeping space for 120 climbers and proffers a communal eating area subdivided into smaller eating units. The spectacular views from the eating area’s windows is complemented by a panoramic stairway leading from the ground floor to the sleeping floors on the first and second storeys of the hut.

For pictures from the construction site, please visit the hut’s webpage

Further reading
History in The Alps: Bernina Pass
History in The Alps: Fluela Pass
Mystery in Scotland