Arriving at the Brunnipass immediately opened up new mountain vistas. We could now see north, across all sorts of high and very rugged mountainous terrain - the terrain of the Glarus Alps.
Closer and more immediately to our right was the deep 'U' of Cavardiras Pass. We knew the Cavardiras hut was very near this pass, but we couldn't quite see it from our vantage point. Below us was the broad cirque of the Brunnifirn Glacier - completely covered in snow, with no crevasses or ice visible. Up and to the left was the Oberalpstock - our ultimate objective. We couldn't see its peak at the moment, for a cloud had enveloped it.
We did not immediately descend from the ridgecrest into the bowl of the Brunnifirn (as you might casually suspect). Instead, the marked route over the Brunnipass involves turning left and scrambling for a few hundred metres along the craggy crest of the ridge. There are some artificial aids in place to assist, including one section of metal ladder.
While scrambling along this ridge we at one point heard a curious hissing sound. It took a moment to realize that we had knocked some loose snow off the north side of the ridge, and it had started a small wet-snow avalanche. We watched with fascinated interest, observing that the snow moved quite slowly (perhaps 10 km/hr by my estimate) and seemed to be only about a foot or so deep. It didn't *look* particularly dangerous, but then again, it was indeed an avalanche. Another data point that confirmed that we were not up here in the best of conditions.
Presently we came to a section of the ridge that was a little lower, a little less craggy, it was here that we were able to start descending down a short steep snow slope to the lower-angled floor of the bowl below. We started to cut diagonally towards Cavardiras Pass, where the stone structure of the Cavardiras hut was now visible, perhaps one kilometer away. We could also now see that the entire north-facing slope below the ridge showed signs of recent wet snow avalanches.
Even though we were now moving slightly downhill as we crossed diagonally towards Cavardiras Pass, our progress was still difficult and slow. We were crossing the scars of old wet snow avalanches, and the surface was a jumble of uneven snow. And said snow was still quite soft, resulting in us sinking in all the time. As a result, the little dot of the hut grew very slowly in our vision.
Across the lower Brunnifirn
It took us forty-five minutes to cover the roughly one kilometer distance from the Brunnipass to the Cavardiras hut - a very slow speed of 1.3 km/hr. The last few hours of trudging through soft wet snow had sapped a lot of energy. We were very pleased to have finally reached the hut.
The Cavardiras hut is one of many huts scattered about the Swiss alps. Like most, it offers fairly comfortable overnight accommodations. In the case of the Cavardiras hut, there is room for 65 hikers and climbers.
The hut is only fully open from the end of June until the second week in September. During the rest of the year, the hut is in "winter" mode. In winter mode, the hut is not manned, but it is still open and can be used. Since today was only June 16, we were still in winter mode, and when we opened the latched door and peered inside, all was dark. Looked like we'd be the only ones here for the night.
We got out our headlamps and explored the interior. Most huts in the alps these days have a solar panel installation. This hut was no exception, and soon we were able to activate the overhead lights in both the kitchen and dormitory room. The day's sun had heated the upper dormitory area, and even though it was now almost sunset and rather cool outside, the dormitory room felt warm and cozy.
Cavardiras Hut sleeping quarters
With our gear stowed away, we returned downstairs to the "winter" kitchen to have dinner (during the open summer period, a much larger kitchen and eating area is opened). Although we had deliberately brought a cold dinner with us (to reduce weight), we still needed a way to melt some snow for drinking water. Fortunately, the winter kitchen has a wood-fired stove.
There was plenty of material available from the hut's stores to light the oven's firebox. The problem was, the fire just didn't want to start. Various configurations of paper, kindling and wood resisted fully catching fire, possibly because of the very humid conditions in the hut. Brian finally put together just the right configuration of paper and kindling and we managed to get the stove going, but not before burning through an hours' worth of time!
We filled two of the hut's large pots to the brim with snow and set them atop the stove's hotplate, had our "cold" dinners, and then, ensuring that the stove was well stocked with wood to keep it going for a while, headed off upstairs to bed. We were quite bushed and needed a good night's sleep.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Oberalpstock Day 1 - click map to view
Acletta to Cavardiras Hut - Climb Data (Oberalpstock day 1)
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet