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The Silk Route - World Travel: Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland
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Switzerland: Zermatt
Most recent: July 2015

Zermatt The Matterhorn Stockhorn Gornergrat Riffelsee
Klein Matterhorn Schwarzsee Rothorn Gorner Gorge
Matterhorn

The awe-inspiring Matterhorn towers above the alpine village of Zermatt. In winter the spectacular landscape is a stunning contrast of brilliant white snow and deep blue skies (if you're lucky with the weather), in spring and summer softened by meadows of alpine flowers and gushing waterfalls. Skiing, hiking or just enjoying the view: all year round a wonderful place to visit.

Zermatt

Matterhorn
2008

Zermatt was once just a tiny mountain hamlet, difficult to reach and completely cut off in winter. Now it is one of the most visited of Swiss towns, for its peace and recreational activities and, of course, its stunning location high in the mountains with the Matterhorn dominating the skyline.

Matterhorn
1991

postcard
From the scrapbook.

Zermatt
postcards
Great reproductions of old postcards.
Zermatt
In the Alpine Museum.
Zermatt
Zermatt
Matterhorn
1991
Zermatt
Zermatt
In July 2015 we returned for the 150th anniversary of the climbing of the Matterhorn.

Zermatt cannot be reached by car.  We have variously taken the train from Basel, parked at Täsch and taken the train from there and, on one memorable occasion when we forgot to check whether the mountain passes had reopened, took the Glacier Express from Andermatt! We got our languages mixed up on that occasion and took Di on the parking ticket as Dimanche, whereas we were in German-speaking Switzerland and it was actually Dienstag! The receptionist at our hotel (the Garni Adonis) was extremely helpful and phoned the station at Andermatt to ensure our car was OK - this after pouring glasses of Freixenet for us - excellent service!

postcard
From the scrapbook - a 1908 postcard.

The town expanded immensely in the nineteenth century after the English discovered what a great place it was for mountaineering. Today it has many hotels and restaurants but the old wooden houses can still be seen in some parts. The mushroom stone supports on some of the small wooden buildings are a protection against rodents.

Above the village are many peaks over 4000m: Hohberghorn (4226m), Dom (4554), Täschhorn (4494m), Alphubel (4207m), Allalinhorn (4030m), Rimpfischhorn (4202m), Strahlhorn (4191m), Monte Rosa (4638m), Liskamm (4527m), Felikjoch (4068m), Castor (4230m), Pollux (4094m), Breithorn (4171m), Breithornzwillinge (4148m), Roccia Nera (4089m), Matterhorn (4482m), Weisshorn (4512m), Dent Blanche (4364m), Zinal-Rothorn (4223m), Gabelhorn (4073m), making this something of a paradise for climbers, skiers and hikers.

Matterhorn
Whymper Stube 2015

 

There are many places to eat in Zermatt. We usually go to the Whymper Stube at least once during a visit: excellent fondue and raclette and friendly service.

In 2015 we ate one evening at La Ferme - excellent lamb followed by parfait flamed in Grand Marnier!

There is a good Alpine Museum in the town with displays of the old wooden houses and furniture as well as mountaineering memorabilia including a piece of the snapped rope of the Whymper expedition - see below.

The monochrome photographs are all from April or August 1991.

alpine mueum
Zermatt
In the Alpine Museum.
Zermatt
In the Alpine Museum.

 

 

The Matterhorn

Matterhorn

Because of its distinctive shape and romantic history the Matterhorn is probably one of the most easily recognised mountains in the world. It really is a beautiful mountain and never ceases to work its charm - millions of photographs have been taken of it, quite a few of them ours!

In 2008 we stayed at the Hotel Couronne in a room with a view of the Matterhorn. I was transfixed by the Matterhorn as night fell and the light left first the town and then, slowly, the mountain. By moonlight it looks even more magical.

matterhorn
Matterhorn
Gravestone of the father and son Taugwalders, mountain guides, who survived the first successful attempt to climb the Matterhorn.

Matterhorn
1991

The young Englishman Edward Whymper was the first to conquer the mountain in 1865. He was an illustrator whose publisher had asked him to produce drawings of the Alpine peaks. He became a skilled mountaineer, the first to conquer the Barre des Ecrin, the Aiguille Verte and the Grandes Jorasses, but it was the Matterhorn which fascinated him most. In 1865 he had already attempted to scale the peak 8 times and failed. This time he approached along its northeast ridge. The climbing party included three more British climbers: Douglas, Hudson and Hadow with their Chamonix guide Michel Croz, Whymper and the veteran Zermatt father and son guides the Taugwalders. They set off on the thirteenth of July in good weather and set foot on the peak in the early afternoon of the fourteenth. Tragedy struck on the way down when the young Hadow slipped dragging Croz, Hudson and Douglas with him - if the guide rope between Douglas and the elder Taugwalder had not snapped probably the whole party would have gone to their deaths.

Zermatt
The rope which snapped between Douglas and the elder Taugwalder.
Now in the Alpine Museum, Zermatt.
Matterhorn
Cover and interior of card celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the conquering of the Matterhorn

There were accusations that either Whymper or the elder Taugwalder cut the rope to save their lives but it is hard to see how they could have done so in an accident which must have happened very quickly.

The mountain has claimed many lives since this first great tragedy but this doesn't deter the many who wish to climb, including Gertrude Bell who, in a letter dated August 31st 1904 to her beloved stepmother Florence, wrote:

matterhorn
1991

"We got our climb yesterday. It is a much better climb than I expected. I left Breuil early on Monday morning. It was very delightful walking up to the hut over the Matterhorn meadows and up easy rocks below the Dent du Lion. The mountain is full of story--here the great Carrel died of exhaustion, there so and so fell off from the rocks above, and when we got on to the little Col du Lion, which separates the Dent from the main mass of the mountain, we were on historic ground, for here Tyndall and Whymper bivouacked year after year when they were trying to find their way up. There is a difficult chimney just below the hut, but there is a fixed rope in it so that one has not much trouble in tackling it. We got up to the hut about 11:15, a tiny little place on a minute platform of rock, precipices on either side and the steep wall of the Matterhorn above. It is very imposing, the Matterhorn, and not least from the Italian hut; the great faces of rock are so enormous, so perpendicular. Unfortunately the hut is dirty, and smelly, as I had occasion to find out, for I spent the whole afternoon lying in the sun in front of it, sleeping and reading. The guides went away for an hour or two to cut and find steps on the snow above and I had the whole Matterhorn to myself--no, I shared it with some choughs who came circling round looking for food about the hut. At 7 we went to bed and I slept extremely soundly till about 1:30, when the guides got up and reported unfavourably of the morning. There was a thin spider's web of cloud over the whole sky, a most discouraging sign, but the moon was shining and we made our tea and observed the weather. By 3 it had distinctly cleared and we started off, without even a lantern, the moon was so bright. I knew the mountain so well by hearsay that every step was familiar, and it gave me quite a thrill of recognition to climb up the Grande Tour, to pass over the little glacier of the Linceul, the snow band of the Cravate, and to find oneself at the foot of the Grande Corde which leads back on to the Tyndall Grat. It was beautiful climbing, never seriously difficult, but never easy, and most of the time on a great steep face which was splendid to go upon. The Tyndall Grat leads up to a shoulder called the Pic Tyndall; it was dawn by this time and a very disquieting dawn too, So we hurried on for it's no joke to be caught by bad weather on this side of the Matterhorn. However, the sky gradually cleared and we had our whole climb in comfort. The most difficult place on the mountain is an overhanging bit above the Tyndall Grat and quite near the summit. There is usually a rope ladder there, but this year it is broken and in consequence scarcely any one has gone up the Italian side. There is a fixed rope, which is good and makes descent on this side quite easy, but it is a different matter getting up. We took over 2 hours over this 30 or 40 ft.--the actual bad place! & not more than 15 or 20 ft.-and I look back to it with great respect. At the overhanging bit you had to throw yourself out on the rope and so hanging catch with your right knee a shelving scrap of rock from which you can just reach the top rung which is all that is left of the ladder. That is how it is done. I speak from experience, and I also remember wondering how it was possible to do it. And I had a rope round my waist which Ulrich, who went first, had not. Heinrich found it uncommonly difficult. I had a moment of thinking we should not get him up. We got to the top at 10 and came down at a very good pace. The Swiss side is all hung with ropes. It's more like sliding down the banisters than climbing. We got to the Swiss hut in 3 hours and were down here by 4 o'clock. We have heard that two parties who tried to do the Matterhorn from the Italian side this year have turned back because they do not tackle the ladderless rock, so we feel quite pleased with ourselves."
The Letters of Gertrude Bell. Vol. 1. Project Gutenberg

Matterhorn
Zermatt
July 2015.
Zermatt

 

In July 2015 we came back - it was the 150th anniversary of the first successful ascent and the town was celebrating.

Zermatt

The most wonderful manifestation of the celebrations was the lighting of the route (three times a night) that the first climbers took along the Hörnligrat. Mountain guides had placed 50 lamps which were successively switched on from bottom to top. 49 were white lights, one was red to mark the spot of the fatal accident.

matterhorn
matterhorn
matterhorn

 

Stockhorn

stockhorn
stockhorn
Monte Rosa and the Gornergletscher 1991.
stockhorn
Liskamm

Stockhorn is reached by a little electric train to Gornergrat then onward via cable car. At 3534m it has spectacular views of the mountains.

stockhorn
stockhorn
Liskamm 1991
stockhorn
Monte Rosa, Liskamm and me, 1991.
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Weisshorn in August, 1991.
stockhorn
On Stockhorn 1991.
stockhorn
Pollux and the ridge of Breithorn.

stockhorn

stockhorn
Monte Rosa August 1991.
stockhorn
Castor, Pollux, Breithorn and in the foreground the ridged surface of the Gornergletscher. 1991

stockhorn
stockhorn
stockhorn
Me and my trusty Bronica.
zermatt

 

 

The scenery is, of course, quite different in winter and summer. I prefer it all covered with snow but in summer the structure of the glaciers is much easier to see.

stockhorn
1991
stockhorn
Brummies on the move.

When we were here in April 1991 we came across a great bunch of skiers/climbers from Birmingham who were on their way to Saas Fee having come from Chamonix - very impressive!

stockhorn

Gornergrat

riffelberg
Gornergrat, August 1991.
riffelberg
The Gornergrat Railway 1991

 

This used to be our favourite location in Zermatt for  lunch, but it had changed in 2015. The view is still incredible but there used to be a narrow terrace in the sun with the most fantastic landscape spread in front of you, a glass of wine and the prospect of food - bliss! That has gone and there is a bigger area for eating.

riffelberg
Gornergletscher, Monte Rosa, Grenzgletscher and Liskamm from Gornergrat, July 2015.
riffelberg
Monte Rosa Glacier July 2015.
Nordend 4612 & Dufourspitze 4638m.
view from gornergrat
Grenzgletscher, Liskamm, Zwillingsgletscher, Castor and Pollux, Schwärzegletscher. The huge black rock in the middle is Schwärze. July 2015.

 

 

riffelberg
On the walk down to Zermatt April 1991.
view from gornergrat
Castor and Pollux, Schwärzegletscher, Breithorngletscher. The highest peak, to the right, is Breithorn. On the extreme right is Klein Matterhorn. July, 2015.

view from gornergrat
Klein Matterhorn 3883m, the highest peak on the left, July 2015.

In April 1991 we took the train down as far as Findelbach with the intention of walking back to Zermatt. We were very soon defeated by the snow, however. We must have missed the start of the track. Andrew got talking to a railway man and he escorted us over a huge railway bridge (closed to pedestrians!) to the start of the walk proper. We eventually reached Findeln, accompanied by magnificent views of the Matterhorn, to a welcome beer.

riffelberg
Hotel Riffelberg between Gornergrat and Zermatt, 1991.
view from gornergrat

 

view from gornergrat

In July 2015 we were back again!


view from gornergrat
Weisshorn 4512m & Mettelhorn, July 2015.

view from gornergrat
Rimpfischhorn 4202m. 3410m, July 2015.
view from gornergrat
Castor 4230m and Pollux 4094m, July 2015.

 

Riffelsee

Riffelsee
Riffelsee 1991
Riffelsee
Riffelsee 2015

 

In August 1991 we had no trouble with snow fields and, going back down from Gornergrat, we left the train at Rotenboden and made the detour to Riffelsee before walking on down. Though smothered in sun screen we both got burnt.

In July 2015 we again passed by Riffelsee and again the cloud just refused to clear the top of the Matterhorn.

Gornergletscher
Klein Matterhorngletscher, August 1991.
riffelberg
Gornergletscher, Monte Rosa, Grenzgletscher, Liskamm on the walk near Riffelsee, 1991.

 

 

Klein Matterhorn

from klein matterhorn
Klein Matterhorn, July 2015.
from klein matterhorn
Klein Matterhorn on the left. Taken from Gornergrat, July 2015.

 

Klein Matterhorn is much closer to the Matterhorn than Stockhorn, and also much higher at 3886mm. It has the highest cable car in Europe and also the highest skiing. The lookout is reached by cable car, then a lift and finally steps.

 

from klein matterhorn
The southern aspect of the Matterhorn from Klein Matterhorn.



from klein matterhorn

from klein matterhorn
from klein matterhorn
Breithorn from Klein Matterhorn.

The views are incredible, especially on a clear day which we were very lucky to have in April 1991, but it was bitterly cold and I didn't last long outside before retreating into the relative warmth of the station.

The skiing in Zermatt is wonderful. There is a huge number of runs to choose from with the incomparable mountain scenery as a backdrop. In 1991 I skied from Trockenersteg on the way down from Klein Matterhorn. In the shadow of the Matterhorn this was a fantastic experience.

from trockenersteg
Matterhorn from Trockenersteg.
view from Klein Matterhorn

Schwarzsee

Schwarzsee

 

Schwarzsee lies below Trockenersteg and is a great place for photography. The reflections in the lake are beautiful, though you have to go to Riffelsee for reflections of the Matterhorn.

Schwarzsee

Rothorn

Findelengletscher
Findelgletscher from Rothorn.
from sunnegga
Lunch at Sunnegga, 2015.

 

 

In June 2008 we came back to Zermatt and visited some places we'd not been to before. Rothorn is reached by a great little rack railway in a steep tunnel to Sunnegga and then cable car. We'd planned on a walk but there was still far too much snow around!

 

Monte Rosa, Liskamm, Castor, Pollux and Breithorn
Monte Rosa, Liskamm, Castor, Pollux and Breithorn - slightly obscured by cloud; ridge of Stockhorn and Gornergrat in foreground. From Rothorn.from sunnegga
In 2015 we went back in July and had lunch at Sunnegga.
from rothorn

Gorner Gorge

gorner gorge
gorner gorge
meadow flowers
meadow flowers
gorner gorge
gorner gorge
meadow flowers
meadow flowers

This is a terrific walk. It takes a good couple of hours if starting from Zermatt and follows the gorge of the River Gorner on a path which, for quite a stretch, is on wooden walkways bolted to the sheer gorge wall - not for the faint-hearted!

In June 2008 the meadows on the way back into Zermatt were filled with flowers.

gorner gorge
meadow flowers
meadow flowers
meadow flowers
meadow flowers