Suppose I am descending the Matterhorn along the Hörnli ridge, and night falls when I am near the Solvay emergency hut (4003 m; safe bivouac is several hours of descent away). In this case, I believe I should not try descending further, but spend the night there.

I'll need drinking water in this case, but I am not sure where I can get some snow to melt. Can I expect to find snow anywhere along the Hörnli route? What should I do if I find myself running low on water, while starting to descend from the summit?

I am talking about high season here (August).

  • 3
    As I'm sure you're aware, spending the night in the Solvay hut is only allowed in an emergency, and you must not plan to spend the night there. Just noting it here in case others might have different ideas.
    – gerrit
    Aug 3, 2016 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


The solvay biwak is solely an emergency shelter. There is an emergency radio available. So if you sleep there without declaring an emergency (even if just to inform the authorities) you have to expect to be fined (the locals are very strict and fines not negligible).

In August you cannot expect snow around the hut (though you might get lucky and it can snow at these altitudes even in summer). The first place you are guaranteed to find snow/ice is the shoulder above the Svolvay bivouac. This takes about 3/4h on the way up. As with anything on the Hoernli route: Finding your way and rockfall are the main problems. Even if you have done the way already, if you are exhausted and it is dark, it might a better idea to stay and not have anything to drink for one night. If you are too late you should already know ahead, so you could take snow on your way to the Svolvay bivouac.

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