Zermatt : Meeting the Matterhorn.

Zermatt Travel Blog

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Clear views across Zermatt.

“Holy shitake mushrooms!”*  The things I have seen with these eyes of mine today.

 

Start it easy Stevie.  An early breakfast and I shoot the breeze a bit with my Canadian pal Thomas.  Nice guy.  Has a great habit of exclaiming "O-o-oh MAN!" in a really life-affirming, infectious way before and/or after almost everything you or he say.  It's fab :)  He’s leaving for Bern in a bit.  Today I will be taking up a recommendation by a nice English couple I had a chat with at St.Moritz station yesterday morning, and that is to ascend the mountain on the Gornergratbahn for some the best possible panoramic views of this show-stopping part of the Swiss Alps… if the weather’s good for it.

The Gornergratbahn railway.
  They’ve been to Switzerland 43 times in 35 years (!!!), so I’m gonna take ‘em firmly at their word.

 

Still quite early morning and the mist and fog are hanging languidly about.  Whilst there are promising patches of blue the Matterhorn remains entirely obscured from view.  Like some showbiz prima-dona, teasing her eager audience; her fans, she remains steadfastly draped in an exquisite, impenetrable white robe of finest mountain mist and fog.  She knows how to play to the gallery.  Fear not.  Have patience people of Zermatt.  The Sunshine Kid is in town today.

 

The Gornergratbahn is a rack and pinion train that leaves directly opposite from Zermatt main train station and ascends via about 3-4 intermediate stop-off stations up to 3,088 metres at the Gornergrat viewing station.  To the top’ll cost ya about CHF38.00 (£19) for one way and double (no concessions) if you wanna come back down on it too.  Do NOT balk at the price my friends.  If you get a day like I did you will NOT regret a penny!  You can descend back into Zermatt from any stop off point on the way up, and likewise from the Gornergrat summit there are a myriad hiking routes safely back down the mountain into the valley within which Zermatt sits with the Matterhorn glaring imperiously down upon it.  Trust me, although I can only vouch for one of these many routes, they are safe and manageable and not scary at all.

Looking down at one of the Gorner glacier viewing platforms.
  Trust me.  I’m not great with heights and this one was very easy on the nerves about 97% of the way! 

 

There is snow at the top (as you’d expect) and once there at Gornergrat don’t just turn and start to rush  straight back down.  Slow down.  Take your time.  Walk up the well paved paths that lead up to a kind of retail/ restaurant viewing point building and a little beyond, behind it.  Here you juuust tip over 3,100 metres and the panoramic view is just…is juuustsh*t! Hyperboles fail me… fails ME and all m'words?!! ...and I’ve used too much of it (hyperbole that is) in this blog already anyways… but I have never had views like this in my life! "O-o-oh MAN!" Snow-capped mountains AAAALL around, blue skies (not a cloud in sight …again!) and grounding the whole magnificent, breathtaking composition, the rock that will now hold you hypnotised for the next many hours, the Matterhorn stood proudly in the distance, her misty robes now evaporated to nothingness.

  Snow slews across your field of vision in every direction.  The Klein (small) Matterhorn (3,885m) also visible, the Monte Rosa (4,681m high and so named ‘cos of the beautiful rose-red sunset cloak that sweeps across her in the evening on the right summers nights) and many other mountains of which I'll note but not pretend I knew their names at the time (Google to the rescue!:) ; Liskamm (4,527m); Castor (4,228m) ; Polux (4,092m) and Breithorn (4,164m) amongst others.  Bold black birds fly and glide all about, and you stare at the rumpled, craggy edifices of the glaciers that reside up here seemingly slumbering but slowly we know slipping through the eons.

 

Once I have had my fill of the views I decide to start to head down.  First I stop and have a chat with a great guy who’s sat up there with his sketch board on his knees drafting out his next watercolour masterpiece of the Alpine view.

(More Matterhorn) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
  Matthew Fletcher from East Yorkshire (aka Fletcher The Sketcher) has apparently been in and around Zermatt now for 17 years so thoroughly in love with the scenery is he.  He sits and sketches and chats happily to people with a row, an array of his limited edition watercolour prints for sale… and they ARE gooood believe me!  Not your run of the mill 'street' pseudo-artist.  A real talent!  We shoot the breeze for a bit and bemoan our mutual longing for a pint of Real Ale in Britain.  He gives me some great travel tips for the future chapters of my journey.

 

I start to head down now.  By the time I am back at the Youth Hostel it will have taken me 6 and a half hours(ish) to descend but in reality the walk back to Zermatt (depending on your route) can be clocked in about 4.

  But on a day like today you are gonna take your time as the views do not cease to enrapture you all the way to the bottom.  Truly incredible.  As I start my descent I bump into 4 middle-age Italians who were in the same carriage as me on the Glacier Express yesterday and they teach me that the Matterhorn is called “Cervino” or some such in Italian.  Ya learn something everyday etc, etc….

 

If I’m gonna force one further recommendation on you, if you ever find yourself here on a similarly blue-sky afternoon, make sure you head first in the direction of the Riffelsee (Riffel Lake).  Two modestly sized little mountain lakes (water pools really) that are perfectly positioned to reflect the magnificence of the Matterhorn and craft compositions that are an Alpine photographer’s wet dream.

Yeah, yeah predictable I know but NOT a bad effort (this was only take number 2 on the 10 second timer ;)
  They form part of the mountain that I believe comprises a tiny informal nature reserve.  It’s juuuust staggeringly beautiful beyond the power of my words to express (hopefully the photos help a little?).

 

Moving onwards and slightly downwards, a turn in the path to a very soft, pastoral green’n’ gold sweeping grass section of the path I spy ahead a small group of people sat resting upon the shrubby slopes.  They sit and watch and down the steepish green slope, about 100 feet down or so below a man sleeps within the balmy green embrace of the grasses whilst friends sit around him watching, as if tending gently to his slumber.

 

The man is not asleep and unfortunately the men gathered around are not his friends.

:D With love from Me!
  They are mountain paramedics.  Called to the scene by the four hikers who sit now before me watching and explaining.  Somehow, not long ago, whilst strolling along this sedate, most would say calm and easy part of the walk the poor man has managed somehow to go over the edge and tumble harshly all the way down to where he now lies prone (maybe paralysed?) on his back.  The emergency med-evac helicopter stationed in Zermatt is apparently on its way already to the rescue.

 

Tomorrow the man will awaken in hospital (I fervently hope) and his friends - if they be here - will tell him what a lucky man he is.  This despite the fact that maybe he is paralysed or has an innumerable number of bones smashed within his frame.

The Matterhorn & Co reflected in the Riffelsee (number 2,154 probably! :)
  And lucky he is.  I will never know, but I bet he slipped after being lured just ooone step too far by the hypnotic vision in the distance of the Matterhorn.  One step too far for that one perfect camera shot.  For I can testify that throughout the day this mountainous vision retains a siren-like hold upon the viewer's attentions, and I am convinced that this man will not have been the first that her terrifying beauty will have lured to mortal danger through distraction, even without the victim having set one foot upon her.  You cannot take your eyes off of her!  Yes, lucky he may well prove to be, because as I move hesitatingly, even more sure-footedly now away from the scene it is clear that had he done the same just 100 yards further along the path he would have had a whole lot further to roll.  To fall.  Maybe 1,500 feet or more into a rocky ravine.
  The helicopter would have been entirely superfluous to requirements. 

 

I hope this man survives and is well by the time you read this.  But that may not be the case.  I will probably never know myself.  As I have been sat here not 10 minutes from the scene writing this now I realise a loud clatter-clatter-clatter has been growing in my ears and as I look up over the grassy mountain edge the bright red med-evac helicopter blasts up over the hill lip not more than 50 metres from where I sit the downdraft from the rotor-blades almost ripping my notebook out of my hands.  I hope their work is not in vain.  A cautionary note my friends.

Another mountain lake. Another irresistable photo-op! ;D
  The walks down from Gornergrat ARE serene and beautiful and easy even for the most amateur of walkers if you have the time, but DO take your time here and in similar such situations.  Watch those precious footsteps as well as all that is glorious that fills your longing field of vision… or your camera lens.

 

There are many more moments of awe and wonder on the way down.  The occasional mountain flower.  More scenic, reflective bodies of water.  An amazing moment where a small group group of Chamois (large horned mountain deer) at first only one, then three, then six, then everywhere a spread across the near mountainside are spotted sat majestically.  Some upon the mountain ridge, some descending the craggy cliffs to join their compadres who are munching the grasses before our eyes.

The chopper heads back to the incident site on a second sortie that nearly blew my notebook outta me hands! "Yelp!"
  Ice-trapped blades of grass, mountain birds and butterflies, rustic wooden buildings perched on the hillsides amidst green swathes of grasses and waaaay down below, but slowly getting closer the huddled vision of Zermatt distracting you, but only momentarily, from the incredible alpine vistas that surround you ever step of the way.  And again the Matterhorn of course.

 

"O-o-oh MAN!"  What more can be said other than the things in nature I have witnessed today comprise one of the richest visual experiences of my life to date and I guess there’s not an awful lot more even for an over-enthusiastic wordsmith like myself to say after such a statement so I shall now go and peruse the 250 odd photos I shot off today… and you think I’m kiddin’?!   ... "O-o-oh MAN!"  :D lol  (<-- told you it was infectious!)

 

* A quotation oft uttered by the protagonist of ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer the kid being a firm believer that whilst swearing is bad, it is necessary and the offence can be softened if you incorporate the expletive within an everyday phrase or object.

 E.g. SHITake mushrooms.  Whenever I see wonders (predominantly in nature) that just take my breath away it is this phrase that will involuntarily always spring forth to the edges of my lips.  An unconcious habit.  I love it.  It’s right up there with Holden Caulfield’s “horsing around” and “shooting the bull”.

Stevie_Wes says:
@ Yournepali : thanks so much for the kind words. In two years travelling I experienced many wonderful days, but only very few of them became what I remember as 'perfect moment' days and this day in Zermatt was definitely one of them! So, with Pokhara in beautiful Nepal noted as your hometown on TB what great story has brought you all the way to our European mountains?
Posted on: May 21, 2012
yournepali says:
What a complete piece of information with eye--catching picture.Thank you.This will be mine next trip in a month.
Posted on: May 18, 2012
Stevie_Wes says:
Liquid, thank you SO much for your lovely comment. It's come at just the right time! My journey ground to a halt around the same time my pen did about 14 months ago...currently trying to jump-start my creative mojo but having it crushed by being back working 9-til-5 in an office in England LOL...thank you for reminding me of this wonderful day by drawing my attention back to it. I hope all your journeys are full of joy and inspiration!
Posted on: Nov 28, 2011
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Clear views across Zermatt.
Clear views across Zermatt.
The Gornergratbahn railway.
The Gornergratbahn railway.
Looking down at one of the Gorner …
Looking down at one of the Gorner…
(More Matterhorn) Muju [www.mujuwo…
(More Matterhorn) Muju [www.mujuw…
Yeah, yeah predictable I know but …
Yeah, yeah predictable I know but…
:D  With love from Me!
:D With love from Me!
The Matterhorn & Co reflected in t…
The Matterhorn & Co reflected in …
Another mountain lake.  Another ir…
Another mountain lake. Another i…
The chopper heads back to the inci…
The chopper heads back to the inc…
In Zermatts car-free environs it …
In Zermatt's car-free environs it…
Zermatt scene.
Zermatt scene.
Zermatt hut (abstract)
Zermatt hut (abstract)
The Zermatt cemetary.  I was told …
The Zermatt cemetary. I was told…
Early morning and the Matterhorn d…
Early morning and the Matterhorn …
The Matterhorn seen from the Gorne…
The Matterhorn seen from the Gorn…
Alps seen ascending on the Gornerg…
Alps seen ascending on the Gorner…
Hikers on their way down lower fro…
Hikers on their way down lower fr…
There are plenty of St.Bernards at…
There are plenty of St.Bernards a…
Fletcher The Sketcher and his wo…
'Fletcher The Sketcher' and his w…
Gornergrat.
Gornergrat.
Small church atop Gornergrat.
Small church atop Gornergrat.
These black birds sweep around the…
These black birds sweep around th…
Part of the Gorner Glacier (I thin…
Part of the Gorner Glacier (I thi…
(Matterhorn) Muju [www.mujuworld.c…
(Matterhorn) Muju [www.mujuworld.…
The terminus at 3,088 metres of th…
The terminus at 3,088 metres of t…
View from 3,100 metres on top of G…
View from 3,100 metres on top of …
(Alpine) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
(Alpine) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
(Mountain Range) Muju [www.mujuwor…
(Mountain Range) Muju [www.mujuwo…
Stevie and The Matterhorn :)
Stevie and The Matterhorn :)
Stone cairns on the way down from …
Stone cairns on the way down from…
Woof!  (<- dog expression of imp…
"Woof!" (<- dog expression of im…
Matterhorn reflected within the Ri…
Matterhorn reflected within the R…
Matterhorn reflected in the Riffel…
Matterhorn reflected in the Riffe…
The beautiful little Riffelsee (Ri…
The beautiful little Riffelsee (R…
Matterhorn reflection in Riffelsee…
Matterhorn reflection in Riffelse…
Reflections in the Riffelsee Natur…
Reflections in the Riffelsee Natu…
Riffelsee (abstract)
Riffelsee (abstract)
Up close and personal with The Mat…
Up close and personal with The Ma…
The rescue helicopter blades acros…
The rescue helicopter blades acro…
In the mountain shadows some grass…
In the mountain shadows some gras…
Its Alpine shadow-shot time! ;)  …
It's Alpine shadow-shot time! ;) …
A Nuthatch (Im told).
A Nuthatch (I'm told).
Me Meet Matterhorn! :))
Me Meet Matterhorn! :))
2 Chamois sit upon the distant mou…
2 Chamois sit upon the distant mo…
Mountain Chamois from afar.
Mountain Chamois from afar.
Zermatt
photo by: Stevie_Wes