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Tragic mix-up: how Hamilton Lodge on Switzerland’s Belalp got its name

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“Hamilton Lodge” is not really what you would call a usual name for a lodge. Especially one located on a Wallis Alp in the Swiss mountains. But host John Wegink was so taken by the story of glaciologist John Tyndall and his wife Louisa Hamilton that he had to name his lodge after her. This, even though she slipped her beloved husband a deadly potion!

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On a tranquil Belalp sun terrace

The Belalp is part of the UNESCO Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage Site  and is situated at an altitude of 2,100 meters on a car-free sun terrace high above the Wallis, one of Switzerland’s southern cantons.

This little sister of the neighboring Riederalp and Bettmeralp is touristically less developed and therefore offers a very relaxing “rocky mountain high.”

Belalp-Panorama-Rhonetal

At left, Belle Epoque Hotel Belalp with view of the Rhone Valley

From Aletschbord by the Hotel Belalp you can see not just the Matterhorn, the Mischabel Group and the Rhone Valley, but the main attraction: the Great Aletsch Glacier.

At 23 Kilometers long, it is the largest glacier in the Alps!

The Great Aletsch Glacier

The Great Aletsch Glacier

A little John Tyndall history

The Aletsch Glacier also fascinated the Irish naturalist and Alps lover John Tyndall (1820-1893). He studied among other things glacier movements and climate change on the Belalp. His writings proved of great value for the development of international Alpine tourism to Switzerland.

On 19 August 1861 Tyndall, accompanied by two mountain guides, was the first to conquer the difficult Weisshorn! A year later, he made the first ascent of the southwest shoulder of the Matterhorn, today called the Pic Tyndall.

The Matterhorn itself had until then be regarded as unclimbable.

The Weisshorn in Switzerland

The Weisshorn: a difficult climb…

Matterhorn Switzerland

… and the even more challenging Matterhorn

Tyndall built a chalet on the Belalp for himself and his beloved wife. Together, for 44 years they returned here every summer. The Wallis had long ago become their second home.

Louisa Hamilton

As he neared the end of his life, however, Tyndall suffered from multiple health problems, so that he had to take all kinds of medications. Among them was chloral hydrate, the first synthetic sleeping medicine.

One evening, as it turned out, the good Louisa mixed up his medications and gave him a fatal overdose of his sleeping potion!

The young widow then returned many times over the years to their beloved Belalp, where she arranged for an imposing memorial for him. During our visit, we could not find it because it was buried under all that snow, alas…

Deep Snow on the chalets in Belalp

Meters deep snow on the chalets and Tyndall’s memorial

Snowed-under chalet in Belalp

Snowed-under chalet

To honor the tragic couple, today John Wegink’s hotel is named “Hamilton Lodge.”

Overnighting in the Hamilton Lodge

Blue hour at the Hamilton Lodge

Blue hour at the Hamilton Lodge

We thought it was interesting that our host Wegink also named his previous hotel in Zweisimmen after Hamilton. But, here you are now lodging with historical accuracy on the right mountain.

Just don’t mix up your sleeping potions…

Prosecco at Hamilton Lodge

Prosecco or Heida, which is best for a good night’s sleep?

The stylish, snug lodging in hip-Heidi look is positioned somewhere between romantic Alpine chic and down-to-earth family lodge: somehow, it comes across as elegant yet still comfortable, and still does so at a very fine 3-star standard…lots of design details everywhere!

Comfortable lounge in the Hamilton Lodge

Comfortable lounge in the Hamilton Lodge

Newspaper Hamilton Lodge

Just the right sort of comfort for leisurely newspaper reading

Hamilton Lodge

My favorite!

Chandelier in the Hamilton Lodge Restaurant

Chandelier in the Hamilton Lodge Restaurant

This hideaway’s restaurant offers tasty regional food. I tempted myself, among other menu items, with a juicy hamburger. Stomping through meter-deep snow makes hungry, after all!

Burger at Hamilton Lodge

Burger, mountain man style

Before and after this, the clever guest will read a book by the fireplace, relax in the spa area with view of the Alps, or revel in the spectacular view from the sun terrace.

The small sauna oasis comes with a bio sauna, Finnish sauna, a whirlpool and a hot tub outside in the snow. Admission per person is CHF 23.50 for Hamilton lodge hotel guests and CHF 35.- for non-guests (inclusive of bath robe, hand towel, and hammam towel).

The saunas are open from 16:00h to 20:30h. Day guests do well to book the Spa & Dine package for CHF 80.- per person, which includes spa admission and a 3-course menu.

 

Firewood at Hamilton Lodge

Firewood in the snow

Hamilton Lodge & Spa
Postfach 29
CH-3914 Blatten near Naters
Wallis, Switzerland

Hosts: John & Jacqueline Wegink
Tel: +41 27 923 20 43
E-Mail: info@hamiltonlodge.ch
Website: www.hamiltonlodge.ch

The room prices vary between CHF 200.- and 260.- per night.

Winter hiking on the Belalp

The Belalp is a compact hiking paradise. In the winter, a stay in the Hamilton Lodge means ski-in ski-out. That’s because the lodge sits right in the middle of the ski slope, right next to the lifts, the rope way, and ski school for the kids.

If you can handle snow shoes, you can set out from the sun terrace and about an hour later you’ll reach the Aletschbord with its magnificent view of the Aletsch Glacier and suspension bridge. The timing depends on how many photo stops you can’t resist making along the way…

Hotel Belalp with Alps panorama

Hotel Belalp with Alps panorama

You can fortify yourself right by there on the modern panorama terrace of the Belle Epoque Hotel Belalp, the oldest hotel on the Belalp. In 2011, hosts Marketa and Christian Meier expanded the historic mountain lodge with a spectacular glass-wooden panorama restaurant addition.

Sun terrace Hotel Belalp

Sun terrace with modern wood construction

Here they dish up Wallis delicacies, much of it from Valais Prime Food. The entrecôte, in any event, is fantastic! And so is the little soup that precedes it.

Restaurant with view of the Great Aletsch Glacier

Restaurant with view of the Great Aletsch Glacier

Hotel Belalp

Belle Epoque Hotel Belalp with its modern Panorama restaurant addition

Hotel Belalp Panorama restaurant

Hotel Belalp Panorama restaurant with Breithorn in the distance

And if you really want to relive the history of the place, you’ll overnight in John Tyndall’s original room! The other rooms come in modern 3-star standard.

Hotel Belalp
Aletschbord 20
CH-3914 Belalp
Wallis, Switzerland

Hosts: Marketa and Christian Meier
Tel: +41 27 924 24 22
E-Mail: info@hotel-belalp.ch
Website: www.hotel-belalp.ch

The room prices range between CHF 180.- and 195.- per night.

Location and getting there

For a carefree trip, the smart way is to take the train, since the Belalp for all intents is car-free…

Via the Brig train station and post bus to Blatten by Naters, getting there is relaxing. In Blatten, you catch the Blatten-Belalp Gondola and a few minutes later will already arrive at the Chiematte mountain station. Just a short walk down and there is the Hamilton Lodge.

You’ll find a large selection of rental winter sports equipment up here, thanks to Intersport. Children can start their practice runs right there and a short ski lift will also bring them back.

Walter in Belalp

Walter stomping around in Belalp

Snowed-under chalet in Belalp

Snowed-under chalet

Chapel in Belalp

Chapel in Belalp

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About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog travelmemo.com. In his day job Walter is an online marketing manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

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