PanARMENIAN.Net - Except the easiest mountains, mountaineering requires experience, athletic ability, good equipment, and technical knowledge, and safety can seldom be guaranteed. Dangers and even death are accompanying even the most sophisticated climbers, but if you are climbing a Swiss mountain, you can also come across an unusual shelter.
Located at 4,003 meters above ground level, the tiny Solvay Hut offers its visitors a priceless view. Perched on the narrow north-eastern ridge of Matterhorn, in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland, it is only meant to be used during emergencies, but climbers stop there to rest and take photos.
Being the highest refuge property of the Swiss Alpine Club, the largest mountaineering club in Switzerland, the hut is intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, hikers and climbers. The cabin, which can accommodate about 10 people, was built in 1915. The materials were brought with a cable rising from the Hörnli hut, located just 700 meters below. It was rebuilt in 1966 and an emergency telephone was installed in 1976.
The hut is named after Ernest Solvay, a Belgian chemist, industrialist and philanthropist.
Born in the municipality of Rebecq in 1838, he suffered from acute pleurisy and could not go to university. Solvay just worked at his uncle's chemical factory from the age of 21. In 1861, he developed the ammonia-soda process for the manufacturing of soda ash (anhydrous sodium carbonate) from brine (as a source of sodium chloride) and limestone (as a source of calcium carbonate). The process was an improvement over the earlier Leblanc process. He founded the company Solvay & Cie and established his first factory at Couillet (now merged into Charleroi, Belgium) in 1863 and further perfected the process until 1872, when he patented it. Soon, Solvay process plants were established in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Austria. Today, about 70 Solvay process plants are still operational worldwide.
The exploitation of his patents brought Solvay considerable wealth, which he used for philanthropic purposes, including the establishment in 1894 of the "Institut des Sciences Sociales" (ISS) or Institute for Sociology at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel), as well as International Institutes for Physics and Chemistry. In 1903, he founded the Solvay Business School which is also part of the Free University of Brussels. In 1911, he began a series of important conferences in physics, known as the Solvay Conferences. He was twice elected to the Belgian Senate for the Liberal Party and granted honorary title of Minister of State at the end of his life.
Besides being a scientist, Solvay had a passion for mountains. The hut was actually donated by him, as a symbol of gratitude for the countless hours he spent climbing. He recognized the need for a place like this after sudden thunderstorms led to tragic deaths.
Solvay Hut is not a place that you can visit on a family outing, by design; it is a location accessible only to climbers, mountaineers and adventure experts, who are equipped with the necessary tools, ready to treasure the experience of similar expeditions.
Getting up to the hut that’s used in emergencies can practically cause an emergency itself. Over 500 people have died while climbing the Matterhorn, many on the descent. To avoid injuries, or even worse, the trek requires good stamina and physical condition, plus enough rock, snow, and ice climbing experience to move efficiently enough in various mountain terrain.
The assent is best attempted during a “good nick”, one of the 30 or so days a year when the weather is dry and the terrain is free of snow and ice. Regardless of how nice the weather is though, the temperatures are still likely to drop at night.
Nevertheless, the amazing view from the Matterhorn is certainly worth the climb for brave hearts, who can enjoy the view of the cloudy peaks of the Swiss Alps and the picturesque towns in the valleys bellow.