Cabane du Petit Mountet

Cabane du Petit Mountet is in Val d'Anniviers west of Geneva. Zinal is village closest to the hut. We took a train to Sierre, then a postbus to Zinal. Despite the short connection time between trains and buses, we made the journey without any problem (see Afterthought on the Swiss transportation system). The buses were very crowded - we have to stand all the way. It was because there was a run (Sierre to Zinal) that weekend.

At Zinal we walked out to pastures next to the river colored by glacial flour. It was very hot. We passed some glacial erratics, including one that a young father was using to teach his 7-year old son to climb and belay. To reach Cabane du Petit Mountet, we continued up the path that followed the turbulent river.

Cabane du Petit Mountet is the white structure at the end of the white path.
It is located at the end of a knife-edge ridge, overlooking a glacier.
On the way up we took a "shortcut" using the narrow white trail which is steeper and more rugged.

  

(L) Looking back to Zinal in the valley     (R) On the shortcut trail to Cabane du Petit Mountet

  

(L) Cabane du Petit Mountet on a ridge overlooking 2 glacier valleys     (R) Outdoor dining area outside cabane

  

Beer, wine, dinner and dessert are available at the Cabane

At the cabane, we four shared a room with two bunk beds. Several other groups of hikers were also staying overnight. Dinner was communal, a casserole of potato, bacon, a little pork, some cheese and zucchini. There was homemade onion soup and salad with very fresh greens, and of course, beer and wine. Dessert was a “mousse” of chocolate and couscous. Not very sweet, a bit too grainy for our taste.

David and Sally took an early hike up the adjacent mountainside (faint brown trail behind the hut), trying to get to “Pleine des Lettres” that one of the Cabane staff told us about -- where hikers have supposedly used their tent poles to flatten down the grass to make large alphabetic letters. We didn't get there due to lack of time.

We left the cabane around 12 noon and arrived Zinal 3 pm. On the descent there were signs for a side trail to a historic “mine de cuivre.” Signs near the bridge over the river indicated there is copper in these rock formations.

We took a postbus to Grimentz where we stayed at Hotel Crystal, our first "pit stop". Grimentz is a quaint little town with dark wood chalet-style buildings and red and white geraniums in boxes under every window.

 

(L) Crossing a rapidly flowing glacier-fed river near Zinal          (R) On a practically empty postbus to Grimentz

   

Grimentz, a vacation village built on a hillside

Cabane de Moiry

The next morning we took the bus to the far end of the lake below the Moiry glacier. We started hiking the three- or four-mile trail to Cabane de Moiry where we had reservations for two nights. The trail was well marked and not steep at the start, but after a mile or two it narrowed against the hillside and became steeper with trickier footing – loose, slippery gravel and in one place you had to cross on snow. Lorraine became very nervous where it was steep up on one side and steep on the other looking down. Having a heavy pack on her back made it more difficult. People coming down from the cabane told us it was worse up ahead. So we stopped and decided that Lorraine and John would not finish but would head back to Grimentz. I stayed with David’s and my packs while David, with Lorraine’s pack, accompanied them back to the easier part of the trail. Lorraine did much better without the pack.

We worried that John and Lorraine may not get back to the parking lot before the last bus. But they made it with plenty of time to spare. Even better, in the parking lot, they were offered a ride by another hiker who was driving back to Grimentz. So they had an extra night at Hotel Crystal and then continued a day early to our rendezvous at Interlaken.

 

(L) At the Moiry trailhead, with Moiry Glacier in the background   (R) Looking back at the trailhead/parking lot

 

(L) Trail going through snow pack         (R) Sally on the trail with Moiry Glacier in background

  

(L) A metal chain for helping to cross a narrow portion of trail    (R) David on a knife-edge

Google Earth view of Cabane de Moiry and its surrounding.
The hut is the small brown in the top right corner of the picture on the top of a ridge.
We came up the hiking trail and the switchbacks marked clearly by snow (there was no snow when we hiked).
The knife-edge is in the foreground.

Cabane de Moiry is in a spectacular setting and is surprisingly luxurious, with gleaming new wood and heavy Swiss-engineered fixtures. Even the locks on the bathrooms are solid and beautiful. There were hot showers – five minutes of hot water for five Swiss francs. The hut was rebuilt about six years ago after it burned down. Food is brought in, and waste taken out, by helicopters that do not land but carry supplies on pallets. Two-thirds of the cost of food is for transportation. There is a high tech biological sewage treatment system for human waste. All the rooms are semiprivate – four bunks, with a view of the glacier down below and mountains across the glacier.

        

(L) Bunk beds in this 4-people room.   (C) Window in our room overlooking glacier.   (R) Dining area in cabane.

 

(L) Moiry Glacier down from picnic area outside Cabane de Moiry      (R) An ibex seen from the Cabane dining area

Dinner – with beer of course - was pork and veggie curry, with quinoa. Dessert once again was not sweet – yogurt with a dusting of nutmeg. Unlike Cabane du Petit Mountet where a table is assigned to a group, the dining tables here are shared. At our table we talked to a group of Brits – a woman and her boyfriend, and their guide from Wales. They were planning to get up very early – 4 am – to try to reach the peak of Morty (the main peak is Moiry). They succeeded, but the weather did not clear for them either.

The next morning breakfast was yogurt, muesli, strong coffee, juice, thick bread, butter, jams and sticks of cheese.

We did a day trip to the nearest pass (Col de Pigne) above the cabane, only a mile each way on a steep rocky trail with cairns for markers, crossing one snowfield. We could see the PVC pipe that carried drinking water down to the hut. We made it to the pass, and hoped for clearing to see the view to the other side, but fog enveloped us as we ate our lunch at the top.

 

(L) Water source for Cabane de Moiry    (R) The pass is marked by the cairn in the distance

Hiking in the rain

Google Earth view of trail to the pass with hut at lower left corner. There was no snow in the summer, except the glaciers.

We ate dinner the second evening and talked to a Swiss couple who were walking hut to hut for 11 days of their two-week vacation. He seemed perhaps 45 or 50, she might have been in her early to mid-thirties. They were from near Bern and had not been to this region of Switzerland before. They seem not to have traveled outside of Switzerland except for her journey on the pilgrimage to Santiago in Spain. As her husband put it, “she walked the last stretch on drugs,” apparently her feet were worn out, perhaps bloodied and blistered.

Dinner was slices of sausage, mustard, brown rice, leeks and a big bowl of lentils. Dessert – finally a hint of sugar! – streusel coffee cake with prunes.

Cabane de Moiry to Interlaken

Got up at 7 am. Our “roommates” from the previous evening had left at 4 am, so we once again had the room to ourselves. Ate breakfast, packed, left at 20 minutes to 9, started downward. It is a fun hike, at first quite difficult in the large boulders where footing is tricky. Wildflowers are strewn everywhere – daisies; a yellow-centered “susan;” huge patches of thistle with hairy yellow-white centers; heathers; tiny twinkly white flowers; purple campanula; a lovely rose-colored flower. Reached the parking lot at 11 am, in plenty of time for the 11:58 postbus.

 

(L) Pinic area with massive Moiry Glacier in the back      (R) Hiking down switch backs on a steep slope

Cairns and hikers (can you find them?) in the fog. Stacking cairns is becoming a tourist custom, like locks on bridges.

We took three buses: Glacier to Grimentz; Grimentz to Vissoie; Vissoie to Sierre. Hopped on the train at Sierre which took us to Visp. Then changed train at Visp to Spiez; and a third train to Interlaken Ost. The entire journey took 3 hours, with 3 to 10 minutes between connnection. We made all the connections, thanks to Swiss time precision (like their watches!)


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