Renata and Guido Knecht from Thusis have already experienced many summers as the hut warden couple on the Cufercal Hut of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) Rätia located above Sufers. During a visit it becomes clear why they and the many returning guests like it so much up here at 2,385 meters above sea level.
«In the summer you can see people stood in traffic jams down there.» Guido Knecht cannot resist a brief, mischievous smile when showing the guest the fantastic panorama consisting of the Seehorn, Piz Tambo, the Teuri and Cufercalhorn as well as the turquoise shimmering Sufner Lake while also pointing to a small section of the A13 road that is barely visible in the valley below. Indeed, one is very far, far away from those traffic problems up here.
With «up here» he means the Cufercal hut at the southern foot of Piz Calandari above Sufers. On this beautiful summer morning, the smallest hut of the SAC Rätia with 23 beds presents itself from its best side. And it is this side the convinced Guido Knecht and his wife Renata from the very first moment. «We immediately fell in love with the hut, the surroundings and the unique atmosphere that prevails here», Renata Knecht says as she comes out of the hut and interrupts the painting of the new hut warden’s room for a moment. For several summers the Knechts now run the Cufercal hut. They do so with great dedication, lots of passion and just as much warmth and hospitality.
The philosophy of the hut warden pair seems to have worked. The numbers of overnight stays as well as those of day trippers have risen steadily. In the meantime, there are about 650 overnight stays per season and the same number of day trip guests, explains Guido Knecht. That also of course means a lot of work for the hut managers. «Yes, it doesn't get boring so easily up here», says Renata Knecht laughing.
Cleaning, cooking, shopping for fresh produce in the valley once a week, keeping things at the hut rolling, doing office work or even repairing cattle fences or setting these up sometimes. There is always something to be done. And, of course, the direct contact with the guests is always a priority. «We place great importance on the personal interaction with our guests», says Renata Knecht. «We want everyone here, be it the toddler or the 83-year-old grandmother, to feel as comfortable as possible». And indeed, this feeling of wellbeing and feeling arrived and settled is already present after just a few minutes and the first sip of the wonderful homemade elderflower syrup.
The Knecht couple learned their hut warden skills in a short apprenticeship. «We were able to gain an insight into hut life at the Buffalora hut in the Calancal valley for two weeks», explains Guido Knecht. This was very helpful before finally applying to the job vacancy at the Cufercal Hut with around 30 other applicants. For there they also already learned how to deal with setbacks. After all, things don’t always work out as planned up here. Whether it’s a prolonged bad weather front or the kitchen stove breaking just as the hut is booked at full capacity. «One has to learn to deal with such problems and realize that the positive things clearly prevail over everything else», the hut warden explains.
«We specifically wanted such a small hut in which we can manage our tasks alone and let our personal ideas and visions flow into our work.»
With the hut manager job in the Cufercal Hut, the Knechts found their ideal role in their ideal environment. «We specifically wanted such a small hut in which we can manage our tasks alone and let our personal ideas and visions flow into our work», says Renata Knecht. It is exactly this passion that lead to the Knechts plan of being hut wardens become a long-term one. Guido Knecht explains that they have been able to establish a great network over time. Not only with the recurring guests, the locals or hut’s chef, but also with the other hut teams with who they are constantly interacting. This is exemplified by projects such as the Rätia-Hut Pass where a guest who stays in all six cabins of the SAC Rätia area within two years gets the sixth stay for free. Or the rating as one of the twelve Swiss-wide most «biker-friendly» SAC huts.
Yes, people feel very good up here, Guido Knecht explains as his elderflower syrup is unfortunately coming to an end. Accordingly, they find it difficult to go back down into the valley come mid-October and spend half a year in their «usual» work as a post bus driver and a commercial employee. One quickly yearns to be back on the mountain, Renata Knecht laughs. Something that everyone who once stayed in the Cufercal hut can only understand too well. Be it because of the breath-taking panorama, the many exciting encounters, the clocks seemingly ticking in a different rhythm or the unique sounds of cowbells, mountain goat cries and marmot whistles – or simply because of the somehow actually inexplicably soothing view of «those in the traffic jam below».
All hiking suggestions refer to the officially marked routes. The routes through Farcletta digl Lai Pintg and that via Höllgraben require a degree of surefootedness. From Glaspass, access is only suitable for mountain hikers with endurance. Families with small children and bikers are advised not to use these routes.