Morteratsch weekend: glacier, MTB and great camping

I dreamed of such trip for the whole summer. It wasn’t easy to organize however – unpredictable weather (even in August!), coronavirus uncertainty in June, trying to arrange some outings with other people (and dealing with the last minute cancellations) and so on. The more it got postponed, the more I felt like I am depleted of energy and need some time on my own. “WTF, the summer is over, I have to act now”, I thought 2 weeks ago and booked a place on a night hike, organized by canton Graubünden (there are hikes every day until 30th September – book yours and have an unforgettable experience).

As a night person, I made plenty of dusk/night hikes and bike rides, but in a new area, especially near the glacier, I thought it would not hurt to join a group.

I arrived to the camping Morteratsch around 20:00 on Friday, pitched my tent and made dinner witnessing how the mighty mountains around me are preparing to sleep. By 22:00 I made my way through the darkness to the Morteratsch train station and was absolutely stunned to see around 25 people there! My expectation was 10 participants maximum. I felt very good in the company of people who see the point of hiking from 22:00 to 1:30 and then making the long way home.

Can’t find enough words to describe the Morteratsch Glacier Trail, which tells a lot about the whole glacier ecosystem. It makes you feel as well how fast the climate change has become in the recent decades. If you happen to be in that area – it’s an absolutely must do route!

Needless to say, I slept very well after the night hike :) Fortunately I was smart enough to keep all the deadlines very loose, exactly the way I like it. I had the bike rental starting at 13:30 in Pontresina (2 stations away), so I could sleep longer and woke up when the sun was already in the full glory. Not a bad view for just 32 CHF per night :)

A picturesque lake between the camping and the train station.

With all my passion for the bikes, it might sound strange, but on Saturday it was the first time when I tried a full-suspension MTB. (I mean the real trial, not just exchanging bikes with a friend for 10 min. or so). Needless to say, I was excited when I got this machine with very decent components and 27.5×2.8″ wheels. The bike felt very well from the very first minutes, steering was natural, geometry just perfect, all parts working like a Swiss watch. I made it over the hills to St. Moritz in no time, then climbed a bit more – to the Chantarella funicular station.

St. Moritz – Chantarella funicular was almost empty, so I had a compartment entirely on my own (and no need to wear the f***ing face mask).

The second funicular stretch, Chantarella – Corviglia, was on the opposite so full with the mountain bikers that I even forgot to take a picture. The difference explained itself later – the MTB trail goes from Corviglia to Chantarella, so people do quite a few loops before they go back to St. Moritz.

That’s just about 1/3 of the bikers which were brought by the funicular.

Some of them start rushing down right away.

Others hesitate a bit or just wait so that they don’t get too close to the ones who left already.

Some people feel not too confident at all, like this girl, although the trail is marked as easy. Well, I sympathize her and her boyfriend at the same time. It’s always a complicated and elusive balance to keep: sharing the joy of the common activity vs making people hate cycling (and you). So happy that I don’t have this problem right now! (Although I couldn’t keep my eyes off some seriously cute MTB girls up there in Corviglia).

I knew that I don’t have time to ride the trail twice, so I parked the bike and decided to stay up for a while, enjoying the scenery around (and some latte macchiato).

Apart of the Corviglia trail, there are plenty of other destinations! One day I will come there again and will ride route 671 with 5 km of steady singletrail, bringing you to the breathtaking Bever valley.

One more glance around…

…and off I go!

The trail is easy indeed, but not in the way that it’s boring. It’s just flowy, with few nice things here and there and nothing very technical/demanding. The overall descent is just under 500 m.

You see, this bike even fits my jacket :) I seriously considered buying it, as the rental guy mentioned by the way that it’s autumn and they sell rental bikes with a discount. Fortunately I didn’t have the credit card with me, so no need to think how to deal with a hole of 2200 CHF in my budget and how to squeeze the fifth bike in the basement storage. The idea of having a full-suspension bike one day did not completely leave me however ;)

Up there I was! (Notice the shape of the funicular above the tree line).

Some uphills and the final stop by the Lej da Staz before I handed the bike back to the rental agency.

Contrary to my expectations, the water was pretty good for swimming (couldn’t expect it in mid-September and at the altitude of 1700 m).

The second night at Morteratsch was colder. I woke up around 6:00 on Sunday because of the cold, but exactly this made me to go out of the tent for a while to see the beautiful fading moon, some light over the mountains, which will become sunrise in an hour, and the overall magic of the moment. So no complains :) I put some more clothes on and slept well until around 9:30.

By the noon I reached the glacier. It was my first time to see any glacier, not only Morteratsch. Needless to say, I was astonished.

I was also sad to see how little is left out of the mighty glacier :( It used to extend well beyond this area and had much thicker ice. How would it look in another 20 years?

There was some sound, which my imagination could easily take as “the voice of the glacier”, but soon I found a rational explanation. This waterfall fills the whole area with the wild sound of the water, trying to find its way through the stones.

As in every place with the cable car, there are plenty of people around. However, as soon as one goes a bit away, there are enough silent places with no people.

For me it was an achievement to climb even to the Sass Queder peak, which is just around 100 m higher than the cable car station. Breathing was suddenly hard, the pulse was insane. Which is no wonder – both Diavolezza and Sass Queder were the highest points I’ve ever been.

Some other people around were suffering no less than me :) Some others headed however to the hard alpine routes, via ferratas and so on. Do they just train more? Or is there something about being less prone to the altitude sickness?

See some people on the top? :) If I’m not mistaken, it’s Piz Trovat, 3146 m.

On Sass Queder.

OMG, there are zigzag traces on the snow up there! Someone climbed that slope up. Later I’ve also seen some people coming back from the peak. Little black spots on the huge wall of ice and snow…

Just admiring…

My initial plan was to hike from the Diavolezza top station to the Morteratsch station along the glacier. Apparently, the hike route is not an easy one, as the glacier is moving and obviously it’s not recommended to do it without the proper skills. (At least it wasn’t signposted. Instead, they offer to do a one hour retour hike to the edge of the glacier).

Taking a closer look, I was sure I’m not going to hike over moraines, as I know nothing about them and how to stay safe in such places.

A bit disappointed, I went back to Diavolezza, stared at some dummy stretch of via ferrata and…

…decided to hike the whole way down to the Diavolezza base station.

At first, the hike didn’t really inspire me. I don’t really enjoy jumping from a (loose) stone to another for hours, being surrounded by stones only, looking at the stones, hearing how they crunch as I am passing by.

How wrong I was! From the “mediocre plan B hike” it turned into a real A-class hike, long and enjoyable.

After a while Laj da Diavolezza showed up. The hike was varied, a good combination of easy and more challenging stretches, fantastic views all the time and the sun still high in the sky.

Love these lines!

People went up and down with the cable car and I walked alone, enjoying the tranquility. Sometimes there is no need to go far to be happy. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Spending 3 days and nights in these remote mountains it was hard to believe another world exists – the busy streets of Zurich, the need to stay hours and hours in front of the computer (and even worse – in the office), the artificialness of the surroundings, the eternal noise around…

The luxury of making as many stops as I like, for as long as I like.

So different and so similar at the same time – the rock and its big brother up there.

In a way, even the landscape is trying to convince me that hiking on “just rocks” is not boring. With time, one can discover many subtle differences between them. These rocks were greenish, for example.

Soon I learned where the green color comes from.

Well, thank you, rocks. And see you next time! You are nice, but I still prefer a bit lower altitudes, with the wild flowers and some greenery here and there. Or even lower, with lush meadows and giant fir trees.

A glance back… I was up there just a couple of hours ago. It is impressive what a humble walker can achieve, isn’t it?

Lago Bianco.

Not the real sunset yet, just some mountain obscuring the sun. Anyway, the hike is mostly over and soon the bus will take me back to the camping, where a sauna (!) is waiting for me.

And a glance to the valley on the opposite side – the “snake” of the road mesmerizes me. “I will go there one day, for sure!” That’s what they call wanderlust, I think :)

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