On our route, there are several sections paved with stones.
These stones, some of which are embedded flush in the path, protect it from the wear and erosion caused by rain and animals. These stony paths are called “en Bikki” in the Zermatt dialect and the path itself is “gibikkinutta”.
This technique was used in the Alps as far back as Roman times. We find traces of similar paths on the route to the Gandegghütte.
The materials to build the path were sourced and processed locally. A single dry stone wall was built on the uphill route. On the valley side, the path was separated from the fields by a fence, protecting them from hungry animals. The paths were usually the width of one cow.
In the 1950s, a large section of rock came away from the cliffs above the fields and tumbled down, stopping at a bend in the path. It was blown up in situ and the blast holes can still be seen. This provided material for several metres of paving.
This sturdy method of building did have its pitfalls, however. In wet weather, the path became extremely slippery and dangerous, especially for livestock. If you wore inadequate shoes, you could feel the hard surface beneath your feet.