Cabane Bétemps (1895-1939)
The Cabane Bétemps was built in 1895 and lies at the foot of the Monta Rosa ‘Platji’ at 2990 metres altitude. At the time the wooden hut had only one room which could host 25 guests. The hut was named after its donor, Mr. François Bétemps, who generously bequeathed funds in his will to the SAC (Schweizer Alpine Club) for the construction of the hut. The Seiler family from Zermatt also provided financial support for the reconstruction of the hut. The Cabane Bétemps was then managed by the SAC Central Association who increased the number of beds to 45.
In 1929 the Sektion Monte Rosa became the owner of the hut. Further reconstruction of the hut took place in 1930 when a 50 cm thick wall was built. The number of beds at this stage remained unchanged. After this renovation, it became one of the most visited huts in the Sektion. The reason behind this was the boom in winter tourism in general.
Monte Rosa Hütte (from 1939)
In 1939 a major renovation took place: the kitchen and the bedrooms were separated and the number of guests who could be accommodated rose to 96 persons. At the inauguration in 1940, the hut was renamed the ‘Monte Rosa Hütte’.
In the mid-1940s, the Monte Rosa hut was still one of the most visited huts in the Monte Rosa Sektion, and the number of visitors continued to increase. In 1957, the dining room was expanded. In 1972, around 30 beds were added, some of them in the attic. Eventually the hut could offer space for 146 people.
In 1972, the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) launched an «Aktion saubere Berge», clean mountains initiative. The Federal Office for the Environment observed that the habitat around the Monte Rosa Hütte was contaminated by waste. Therefore, the SAC asked the Sektion Monte Rosa to look for an innovative and sustainable solution for waste management. Since this problem also affected other huts, the SAC selected the Monte Rosa hut as a pilot project.
Between 1982 and 1984, the Monte Rosa hut was once again renovated and expanded. Solar panels were installed and there was new water supply and a septic tank added for the toilets. After the renovation work, the hut was extended to a four-story building with space for 160 guests.
Sadly, the renovations led to disappointments: the toilet reservoir had to be emptied much more often than expected, the ventilation also had defects. the ventilation also had defects. Due to the large influx of ski tourers in the spring, a pumping station for drinking water had to be set up. Tanks with a capacity of 8,200 liters were housed in the Kriechkeller space.
In 1996 Zermatt Civil Defense set up various routes across the glacier that led to the hut. The vulnerability of the glacier and other sections of the paths required annual renewal and security measures put in place through the installation of stairs and a fixed rope. The hut warden had to oversee the walkways regularly, which was a huge job.
In 1998, the solar system broke down. The batteries had to be charged with a generator.
The hut warden Sepp Gruber resigned in 1999 after 29 years of service at the Monte Rosa hut. Horst Brantschen took over the job as the warden.
The new building built by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
In 2002 the hut showed signs of aging, the roof was getting old and there was mould on the walls. As a result, the beams carrying the whole construction started to break. According to the report by the hut commission of the SAC, a renovation or a full reconstruction of the hut was inevitable.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, which was looking for a major project on the occasion of its 150th birthday, found out about the Monta Rosa hut reconstruction project. The Architecture Department, under the direction of Professor Andrea Deplazes, worked with architecture students on this assignment. In an architectural competition that took place in 2004, the Crystal Design for a new Monte Rosa hut was selected.
The planning of the new hut started at the beginning of 2008 and could only be constructed thanks to the support of numerous patrons and sponsors. On the 10th of July 2010 the inauguration took place.
The old hut was blown up in 2011 as part of an army exercise.
During the construction of the new hut, the path to the hut was also reassessed and improved as the melting of the glacier kept causing problems. Ladders were installed in 2010 to ease the crossing over the rocks at the edge of the glacier. In addition, a steel bridge was installed, which allowed the crossing over the moraine.
The new Monte Rosa hut
The new Monte Rosa hut could then host 120 guests, was equipped with the latest high-tech and could produce up to 90% of the energy itself. The self-sufficiency target of 90 % could not be achieved in the first years of operation due to the high number of visitors. Furthermore, the media response at home and abroad was huge which led to a boost in overnight stays up to 11,000 per year. Originally, the organisers estimated 6,000 to 7,000 overnight stays per year. In 2014, the number of overnight stays of 8,000 became the average.
From 2015 to 2019, the Rubin family was responsible for the Monte Rosa hut.
In 2019, Richard Lehner and Kilian Emmenegger took over the Monte Rosa hut and are now the new wardens.
The high tech hut
Through its special form, silver aluminum shell which reminds one of a mountain crystal, also with respect to techniques used and energy efficiency, this innovative building paved a way to new ways of construction. Thanks to a photovoltaic system as well as thermal solar collectors integrated in the south façade of the building, the hut can produce 90% of the energy it consumes. Melting snow accumulated during a couple of months in the year is stored in a rock cavern. A microfilter plant which uses a certain type of bacteria cleans the wastewater and greywater which is reused for flushing the toilets. Sophisticated energy management is required for the hut to achieve such a high level of energy self-sufficiency as well as the interplay of the individual components. ETH Zurich developed a software to manage and monitor the technologies in the building.
From the book «150 years Monte Rosa (1865 – 2015)» (2015), pp. 61-69, CHAMAN/Diffusion, Neuenburg