The Alpine border between Switzerland and Italy has shifted due to a melting glacier. The location of an Italian mountain lodge is now in dispute.
The border between Italy and Switzerland runs along a drainage divide, where meltwater runs down either side of the mountain. However, the retreat of the Theodul Glacier means the watershed has crept towards the Rifugio Guide del Cervino.
The hikers’ refuge is near the 3,480-metre (11,417-foot) Testa Grigia peak and the water from the melting glacier is moving under the building.
Italy or Switzerland?
The refuge was built on a rocky outcrop in 1984. The, its 40 beds were entirely in Italian territory. However, now two-thirds of the lodge are technically squatting in southern Switzerland. In 2018, diplomatic negotiations started regarding the area in question. A compromise, of which no details are known, ended with a compromise last year.
The reason for the issue coming to general attention is because the areas is at the top of one of the world’s largest ski resorts. A major development, with cable car, is being constructed just a few metres away.
Loss of almost a quarter of mass
The Theodul Glacier lost almost a quarter of its mass between 1973 and 2010. Asa result, the rock underneath the ice was exposed. This changed the drainage divide and the two countries had to redraw the 100-metre-long stretch of border.
While the outcome remains secret, the refuge’s caretaker, 51-year-old Lucio Trucco, has been told it will stay on Italian soil.
“The refuge remains Italian because we have always been Italian,” France24 reported him as saying. “The menu is Italian, the wine is Italian, and the taxes are Italian.”
The years of negotiation have delayed the refuge’s renovation – the villages either side of the border have not been able to issue a building permit. The works will therefore not be completed in time for the scheduled opening of a new cable car up the Italian side of the Klein Matterhorn mountain in late 2023.
Currently, the slopes are only accessible from the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt.