It turns out the Swiss Alps really are littered with Swiss Alpine Club huts and their privately owned lookalikes. At Chalet Martin I met Caroline, another WorkAway from the States, and after a few days of extra fridge cleaning and bed making we ran away from civilization for a night in a mountain hut. At Merlin’s suggestion we headed toward Cabana de Plan Neve, a smaller hut nestled in a mountain valley.
When we left the hostel the low hanging clouds were threatening rain but as the day progressed the sun broke through the clouds and we ditched our rain gear for tank tops as we trekked down into Les Gorges, through Les Plans and up toward Pont de Nant.
Hiking through Les Gorges was beautiful — a narrow trail led us along a rushing river through a thick forest full of moss-covered trees. It was calm and relaxing and stunning. Unless you needed to pee, then all the rushing water and too-close-to-a-river trail was a mild form of torture.
The gorges led us to Plan sur Bex, a small town where the donkeys apparently run wild and chase each other along the paved streets. Yup, definitely saw that but never thought up a good explanation. Our adventure got more mountainous as we left Plan sur Bex and become truly remote after hiking past Pont de Nant.
By now we had been on the trail for just over two hours and were under the impression we had roughly two hours left, if our Google calculations were correct. Unfortunately our Google calculations were not even sort of correct. When we arrived at the intersection/parking lot near Pont de Nant the sign stared down at us “Plan Neve 3h 15m”. What?! Good grief. Maybe it was wrong…?
We did some head patting and pep talking over a second lunch break then tugged our packs back on and headed up the trail. For a few hundred meters the trek wasn’t bad, just a long, slow climb. Then we arrived at Switzerland’s version of switchbacks leading up straight up the mountain. Oh, and by switchbacks I still mean zig zags. Tight, unforgiving zig zags.
The trail led us past a remote farm where a gaggle of fluffy puppies came to greet us then across a steep meadow before depositing us at the edge of a wide talus field. We picked our way through the rocks, following the white/red paint as we continued upward. By now we were keeping ourselves entertained with a fun little guessing game. “How much further, do you think?” “Do you think it’s up by that ledge?” “Or, maybe in that valley?”
Yea, we were playing all of the mind games! Eventually we rounded a bend and saw a single flag post peeking above a rocky overlook. We were close! Sort of. We still had 30 minutes of rocky, steep switchbacks where the flag never seemed to get closer. Then, suddenly a cabin roof appeared next to the flag and we had arrived!
We were greeted by a chatty dog and a very friendly host. With it being a weekday we were the only people in the cabin and Caroline got to put her French to good use sharing stories with the host, Martine. They chatted a lot as the host prepared us dinner. My French is essentially non-existent so I kept myself busy by staring at a SAC map and reading up on other huts in the area…where was I going next?
Dinner was quite tasty — we had vegetable soup, a carrot salad, lentils with sausage and orange/chocolate pudding. Some people have mentioned getting shoddy meals at the huts but so far I’ve lucked out with some really great chefs hosting the huts I’ve visited! They’ve always been incredibly friendly too. The woman hosting this cabin was also quick to share her experiences and tell us about the area. She even pulled us into her little kitchen to show us the chamois nibbling on grass near the window!
In comparison to other SAC huts I’ve stayed in this one was quite small with room for roughly 30 people, far less than the 80-115 capacity huts I have stayed at in the past. It was almost nicer this way, more personal. Especially with such a great host taking care of us!
On Thursday morning we were greeted with…lots of clouds and rain. We knew rain was in the forecast but had our fingers crossed the weatherman was wrong. No such luck. After a breakfast of bread + granola + yogurt we repacked our bags, piled on our rain gear and head outside into the cold rain. Our trek down the mountain was slow. Slick rocks and gusty winds do not make for a quick descent!
As we descended into the small mountain towns we decided to avoid the longer trail through the gorges and just take the road, hoping it would be quicker and maybe offer up a hitchhiking opportunity. The road seemed to go on forever and with all the rain, no one was out and about. So we hiked…and hiked…and hiked…and trudged through the rain. We were soaked, and cold, and a little bit miserable. Eventually, hours later, we mad it back to Chalet Martin. We dumped our wet gear in the mud room, made a beeline for the hot showers and inhaled hot apple pie with ice cream in front of the fireplace to make ourselves feel better about the wet, muddy, view-less trek we had just survived.
Of course, as we were washing up our pie + ice cream dishes the sun decided to pop out…and stay out for the rest of the afternoon. I guess the weatherman was only sort of right — he had called for a full day or rain, instead we only got a rainy morning. If only we’d known staying in the warm, cozy hut a few more hours would have saved us from hours of wet misery. Ha. Go figure. Even so, it was a pretty spectacular trek and worth the extra long, hot shower required to reheat our tingly toes + fingers!