The Solvay Hut at 4003 m is the highest hut on the Matterhorn. It is a small emergency refuge for about 10 persons situated on a ledge immediately above the Moseley Slab on the Hörnligrat. It is strictly to be used in the event of an emergency. About two thirds up the mountain, 743 m above the Hörnli Hut and 475 m below the summit, many Matterhorn climbers have rested on the small ledge outside the hut admiring the spectacular view of all the Monte Rosa summits.
The hut was built in August 1915. All the building material was brought up to the Hörnli Hut at 3260 m by help of animals. From there a small temporary cable car was used to transport the material up to the building site at 4000 meter. The hut was erected within only five days. In 1966 the hut was rebuilt and in 1976 an emergency telephone was installed.
The Solvay Hut is reached from the Hörnli Hut on the Swiss side of the mountain. Allow 3 hours in normal conditions. See the Hörnligrat page for more information on the route.
Who was Solvay?
Originating from Belgium Ernest Solvay (1838-1922) invented the industrial process for sodium carbonate production, from which a world-wide undertaking resulted. He devoted most of his time to his business and it was not until after retirement his alpine career began. He often visited the Walliser and the Bündner Alpen, the Dolomites and the Mont Blanc region. His companions were the guides Alois Supersaxo from Saas Fee and Martin Schocher from Pontresina. As a gratitude for the unforgettable hours in the mountains, and from the realization that occasionally sudden thunder storms were leading to tragedies, he donated the well-known hut on the Hörnli Ridge on the Matterhorn.
Who was Moseley?
The Lower Moseley Slab. The Hut is partially visible at the top. Photo by Fred Spicker
We find the Solvay Hut in between the Lower and the Upper Moseley slabs on the Hörnligrat. The summer 1879 Dr. William Moseley, a young man of twenty-nine years from Boston USA, arrived at Zermatt with his friend W. E. Craven. The famous pyramid was on their climbing list. Since the tragedy during the first ascent fourteen years earlier the Matterhorn had claimed no more victims.
During the ascent Moseley insisted on climbing parts of the route unroped but the guides persuaded him not to. At nine in the morning they reached the summit where they stayed for twenty minutes. Again on the descent Moseley wanted to climb without the rope and despite protests from the others he took the rope off. At the steep part below where the Solvay Hut later was erected the accident happened. Moseley fell to his death.
Maps and Books
Swiss Map: 1:25.000 Nr. 1347, Matterhorn
Griffin, Lindsay: Valais Alps West, Alpine Club Guide Books, 1998
Les Cabanes, Du Club Alpine Suisse, No. 15 Refuge Solvay, 1928
Gos, Charles: Alpine tragedy, Allen & Unwin, London, 1940