Sean Gallup via Getty Images
ENVIRONMENT – On top of the mountain there is a refuge built in Italy. Climate changes have shifted the glacier border and two-thirds of the hut located at 3,480 meters above sea level is now in Switzerland.
The refuge of the Matterhorn Guides, which offers board and lodging in this corner of the Alps among the most famous ski enthusiasts, was the subject of intense diplomatic negotiations for more than three years, until a compromise was reached in last year, the details of which will remain secret.
The strategic position of the building arouses envy: it is located at the junction of Zermatt-Cervinia, one of the largest ski resorts in the world, in the heart of a pharaonic modernization project.
“We split the pear a little in two,” explained AFP the head of the Swiss national border, Alain Wicht, who took part in the negotiations where everyone made concessions to find “a solution so that both feel if not winners, at least not losers. .”
The Theodule Glacier is melting
In the Alpine glaciers, the Italian-Swiss border follows the dividing line of waters whose flow towards the north marks the territory of Switzerland, and that towards the south, Italy. It was changed by the melting of the Theodule glacier which, having lost almost a quarter of its weight between 1973 and 2010, moved, forcing the two neighbors to redraw a few dozen meters of their border.
According to Mr. Wicht, if these changes are frequent, they are usually settled by comparing the readings made by the groups in the two countries, without political intervention. “You must know that we are fighting on land with little value”, he said. His Italian colleagues for their part refused any request for an interview “due to the complicated international situation”.
The mysterious content of the agreement negotiated in Florence in November 2021 will be revealed only after the approval of the authorities – on the Swiss side, the subject will not be presented to the Federal Council until 2023, at the earliest.
Former head of the Swiss delegation, Jean-Philippe Amstein is the most talkative, explaining that these disputes can be resolved through an exchange of territories of similar surface area and value. “Switzerland is not interested in acquiring a piece of the glacier”, he explained, and “the Italians cannot afford to lose the Swiss surface area”.
The residence remains Italian
The caretaker of the refuge, Lucio Trucco, 51, has been informed that he will remain on Italian soil. “The refuge remains Italian because we have always been Italian”, he said: “the menu is Italian, the wine is Italian, and the taxes are Italian”.
These years of negotiations have delayed the repair of the refuge, nor can any of the villages on either side of the border issue a building permit. The works will not be completed for the opening of a new cable car, which will allow access to the Little Matterhorn, one of the highest skiable peaks in Europe (3,883 m) from Italy at the end of 2023 , which ensured the crossing of the Alps. “with dry feet” at an estimated cost of 45 million francs (45.8 million euros).
The area is only accessible from Zermatt, where summer skiing on 21 kilometers of glacier pistes has helped make it one of Switzerland’s most successful resorts. While some resorts in the middle of the mountain are preparing for the end of alpine skiing due to global warming, Zermatt-Cervinia is making fun last, even if these activities contribute to the melting of the glacier.
In addition, in the Matterhorn, high mountain guides stop their excursions at the end of July because of the heat that compromises the safety of hikers, especially with falling rocks. Evidence of warming: zero degrees was recorded at 5184 meters above sea level. The previous record was zero degrees at 5117 meters, measured in 1995.
On the Matterhorn, between Italy and Switzerland, mountain guides stop excursions until the cold returns. The heat is such that in the refuges, at 3500 m, we sleep with the window open. “The mountain closes”, title @LaStampa
– Lucie Tournebize (@occhiodilucie) July 22, 2022
As announced yesterday, a #record full altitude of the 0°C isotherm would have been reached last night with a value of 5184 m recorded at Payerne sounding midnight, ie above the previous record of 5117 m on July 20, 1995! To be confirmed tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/fY2R71i8cM
— MeteoSwiss (@meteosuisse) July 25, 2022
“We have to improve the area here because it is the last one to die”, defended Mr. Trucco despite everything. “We ski with the sun, in the heat, without cold feet, and everything is the same in good snow”, he said. Currently, on Swiss maps, the border surrounding the refuge remains dotted.
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