Stage 13 is the first day of the Europaweg, the balcony route with amazing mountain views. With this section closed for the 2019 season we instead hiked up to Europa Hut from Randa, a pretty forest climb with the option of exploring the Charles Kuonen bridge, the longest suspension footbridge in the world.
Day 13 – Grachen to Europa Hut
Based on the Cicerone guidebook, “Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route” by Kev Reynolds
With sections of the Europaweg closed we took public transportation to Randa.
From Randa ascent to Europa Hut: 780m
Distance: about 5k including crossing the bridge and back (1K for the bridge).
Time: 3 Hours with frequent photo stops and extra time to cross the bridge and back.
The morning started with snow and fog. Despite the fact that we couldn’t see the tops of the mountains the snow and fog were a welcome and beautiful change in the landscape.
With the Europaweg closed along a section between Grachen and the Europa Hut we opted to take the bus back to St Niklaus and the train to Randa where you can climb to the Europa Hut and the Charges Kuonen bridge. The trail to the mountain hut is along a loop with the faster, steeper leg generally the way down for those doing the counter-clockwise day hike to the bridge out of Randa.
Randa is a cute Swiss style village with a train station and several hotel/restaurants. Unfortunately there is no bakery or food market in town which we were counting on for a picnic lunch. We would have to survive on peanuts and M&Ms until we got to Europa Hut.
The steep trail climbs through a pretty forest with views through the trees.
At the suspension bridge, 494 meters long, the longest in the world, the fog flowed up and down the valley. Although we would cross the bridge the next day on our way to Zermatt we decided to cross over and back again just for the fun of it. Few people were out in the inclement weather. An eerie feeling crossing 85 meters above the ravine through a cloud bank.
From the bridge it’s another 200 meter climb to the hut. The track winds up the hill, sometimes steeply. Still cloaked in fog the hillside peeks out from time to time. We reached the snow level where it had been melting since morning. An Ibex stoof in the distance as we approached the hut.
A pleasant, warm mountain hut they do a good lunch business for daytrip groups doing the loop to the bridge. At nearly 2:30 we were starving and got a late lunch – an omelet – overcooked and too salty -and the rosti with bratwurst – well done and by far the better choice.
We were put in a 6 bed bunkroom with more space than in some other mountain huts. While the bunkroom looks spiffier than most, the mattress is thin and hard on old hips. Worse, the bunkbeds squeak with every move making earplugs essential for light sleepers.
The toilet is located downstairs. There was never much of a queue for women’s but, oddly, for the men’s there was.
Dinner was served individually starting with minestrone soup followed by a small salad of lettuce and too vinegary pickled beets. For the main a cheesy meat pasta dish with tasty sauce but the pasta was way overcooked. Flan for dessert.
Breakfast was a simple buffet with cheese, cold cuts, cereal, muesli, milk, bread, butter, grape jelly and Instant coffee, tea or Ovaltine.
Due to the weather a number of the people we were previously hiking with had quit the trail and taken the train to onward destinations. Even on a gray weekend with a number of known cancellations the hut was busy with all the dining tables occupied at dinner. A few hikers said they had difficulty getting reservations. We found that this end of the Chamonix-Zermatt route is more congested than earlier stages as it is also part of the Tour of the Matterhorn route.
September 6, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Chamonix to Zermatt page.