On Wednesday afternoon Henry and I decided to take a hike together and headed off for the Schönbielhütte, just the two of us… no kids!
The Schönbielhütte (2694m) is an attractive mountain hut at the end of the Zmutt valley, across the valley floor from the awesome north face of the Matterhorn and in view of the stunning Dent d’Hérens, Tête Blanche and Dent Blanche. The tourist office suggests that it’s just over a 7hr hike, walking from Schwarzee to the hut and then back down to town via Zmutt.
Henry and I just had the afternoon, so we decided to take our bikes to cut down on time. We took the Matterhorn Express up to Schwarzee and then got on our bikes. We headed off, happy to be able to spend time together in the mountains and marvelling at the views and the gorgeous weather (even when you live in Zermatt, you never get tired of the panoramas!).
After the gentle and rolling first section, the trail starts to get rockier and a little testing for my fairly novice biking skills and things weren’t feeling quite right with my bike. No matter how hard I was squeezing those brakes… not much was happening. Hummm…. After continuing a little further I finally had to ask to switch bikes with Henry to give my hands a rest! Phew… that was better.
We headed off the main dirt road and on to the little winding and rolling paths, under the Matterhorn’s spectacular North face. Then Henry shouted out…. Oh no… the front brake cable had snapped on my bike. With the back break not offering much, we had no option but to walk our bikes down the final steep pitch to Stafalalp. This was frustrating… having to walk your bikes down a mountain isn’t ideal.
We almost decided to head down from there, but once we got down to the main dirt road by Stafelalp we thought we would go for it. The road from there winds gently up, so the bike was back in action again. We headed across the floor of the valley, past several moraine lakes and an area where the glacier melt water looks to be held in various small reservoirs, all part of the large hydroelectric power plant near Zmutt. Up ahead we could start to take in the scale of the lateral moraines left by the receding glacier and the beautiful Arbenbach waterfall.
At the base of the moraine we locked up our bikes and headed up the path. We were quite happy to be ditching the bikes at this point, although I was trying not to worry about how I was going to get back to town (it would be a really long walk just rolling the bike down the hill!).
The first few switchbacks hiking up the moraine are steep but in no time at all we get up and its now that you can really start to take in the views. The walk along the moraine is wonderful, down to your left you see the bare rock and angry scar left from the glacier pulling back, but down to the right there is babbling stream and lush grass and alpine flowers. Looking up in all directions you see giant peaks and huge glaciers towering. In the distance we could see the Schönbielhütte. As you get closer you see that the gentle walk we were enjoying along the top of the moraine was all about to come to an end, and you are met with a last set of switchbacks to get you up on to the plateau where the hut sits. Schönbiel literally means ‘beautiful small plateau on a mound’ in Zermatt dialect, and that is exactly what it is… surrounded by moraines, towering peaks and glaciers, the hut sits perched in a grassy and quite spot in the middle of it all.
We stopped for a short while at the hut for a drink and to cool down from the walk (a refreshing breeze did the job perfectly). From the large stone terrace you get a great view of the Zmutt ridge on the Matterhorn, not something you see from town or other walks around Zermatt. After that we walked on a little further on past the hut, to get a better look around the corner and to the right at the Dent Blanche. Henry set up a camera to take a time lapse of the clouds that were rolling over from Italy right between the Matterhorn and the Dent d’Hérens, and then took his drone out to film some of the incredible scenery we were enjoying.
The walk down was lovely too. We chatted about work, kids and family… and also about how nice it was to escape and have some time just the two of us. We got back down to our bikes fairly quickly and during the walk Henry had come up with a plan to get me down the hill. He tied two spare bike inner tubes together and put one end round the seat of my bike the other round the handlebars of his. We couldn’t stop laughing! I rode ahead and he literally braked for the two of us, we went super slow but it was still way faster than walking down with the bikes.
We had a quick stop off by the Arbenbach waterfalls so Henry could take the drone for another flight and then we were on our way again. We had some pretty strange looks from hikers on our way biking down the hill in some crazy form of tandem… but we got down safely and relatively fast.
It was a great afternoon out, beautiful views and quality time together… with a little adventure thrown in too. Just perfect!