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Rescue of the Europaweg Trail through the creation of a new attraction

Warning – Important information regarding the suspension bridge, see here!

The Europaweg trail leads from Saas-Fee to Zermatt at a high and almost uniform altitude. The Europaweg trail is very well known worldwide, and is also very popular. The view, the altitude and the quality of the trail are unique. Five years ago, however, the artificial passageway by the Grabenufer (trench bank) above Randa had to be closed; it could no longer withstand the forces of the pressure of the mountain. Thanks to a new suspension bridge, the Europaweg trail can now once again be used over the whole of its original route.

Constant closures and diversions
For safety reasons, hikers had to be diverted much lower down in the valley last summer in order to bypass the Grabenufer above Randa - between the Europahütte cabin and the Täschalp. After this closure, a climb to around 2,000 metres was necessary in order to pass the Grabenufer, followed by a further climb to the Europahütte cabin at 2,350 metres. This trail diversion finally had to be closed this spring due to rock falls from the “Grabengufer” block glacier. Every hiker thereby had to descend 1,600 metres to Randa and then tackle the 2.5 hour ascent to the Europahütte cabin. The exceptionally strong movements of the block glacier meant that the trail was repeatedly buried under rocks within a few days of the repair work.

Investment
Having had to invest a great deal of money in the upkeep of the Europaweg trail over the last few years, the five Europaweg municipalities of Zermatt, Täsch, Randa, St. Niklaus and Grächen were faced with the difficult decision in the autumn of 2009 of whether to close the attractive mountain trails or to search for a new solution. The extremely tricky location at the “Grabengufer” would have to be permanently maintained. The only possible solution – a suspension bridge – would again entail a large financial outlay, however. The participating municipalities nevertheless decided in favour of this solution, and jointly launched the “Europaweg suspension bridge” project within a short time. Thanks to the generous support of various sponsors (including Zermatt Tourism), the five municipalities, working together with the canton, were able to save the “King’s stage” of the Tour Monte Rosa. The Europaweg trail has been open again without diversions since the 4th July 2010.

The suspension bridge is at an altitude of 2200 m.a.s.l. and, with a length of 230 metres, is one of the longest suspension bridges in Switzerland. The construction was started on the 7th June 2010, and work was already completed by the end of June. According to the cost calculation, the outlay for building the bridge amounted to around 350,000 Swiss Francs. With the realisation of the bridge, the most dangerous part of the wonderful mountain hiking trail has been eliminated on the one hand, while an additional attraction has been created on the other.

Info box: The fascination of suspension bridges
There are only a few constructions in the world that leave such a fascinating impression as suspension bridges. It is for this reason that they are known as the “Queen of the Bridges”. Although suspension bridges made from lianas and bamboo already crossed deep gorges as long ago as 2,000 years BC, they have now been revolutionised by the invention of steel. The modern history of the suspension bridge began around 1800. The principle of using chains as the load-bearing element was first replaced by wire ropes in America, and then also in Europe. And this actually took place in Switzerland, when Joseph Charley created a sensation in Fribourg in 1834, namely the longest suspension bridge in the world, suspended on steel cables. With the industrial production of bundled steel wires, huge constructions were ultimately created, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in the United States of America, the Humber Bridge in England, the longest suspension bridge in Germany between Kleve and Emmerich, or the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan.


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