When you come to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn, you must have a plan B just in case. The iconic pyramid shaped peak (it also resembles the Harry Potter sorting hat!) is often hidden behind clouds throughout most of the day.
If we awoke to views of this beauty from our hotel room, our plan A was to be at the train station by 8:15 and up the mountain by 9:00 am before the crowds. If we awoke to a cloudy day, plan B included crawling back into bed and sleeping in.
Mark opened the blinds and immediately gasped – we couldn’t have ordered a more perfect, unobstructed view on a backdrop of gorgeous blue sky! Plan A it is!
We rode the cogwheel train up to the Gornergrat summit. This is Europe’s highest open-air cog railway (and the first fully electronic one built). The ride takes 33 minutes and includes a vertical climb of 1,469 meters.
Neither pictures nor words can truly do this justice. There are breathtaking and awe-inspiring sights in every direction. The views include the Monte Rosa massif with Dufourspitze, Switzerland’s highest peak at 4,634 meters (15,203 feet) and the Gorner Glacier, the Alps’ second largest glacier. There are a total of 14 glaciers and 29 mountains all above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) – including the Matterhorn, which peaks at nearly 15,000 feet!
We met the nicest local on our trip up to the summit. He owns Matterhorn Distillers (whiskey and gin) and has a shop in the hotel at the top of the summit. We stopped by for a tasting and ended up with several small bottles that will be accompanying us back to the states. The Beltza strawberry cello (think limoncello only strawberries!) was especially good!
It’s estimated that more than 500 people have died attempting to climb the Matterhorn. The first ascent to the top occurred on July 14, 1865, by a seven-member team tied together with ropes. However, as they descended the mountain’s shoulder, one of the climbers slipped and pulled three others down with him. And this is where the story gets interesting!
The three climbers above anchored themselves to absorb the stress on the rope line when the rope snapped. However, one of the survivors claimed that an old and weaker rope, intended only as a reserve, had been used to connect the three survivors to the others. Another theory was that the rope wasn’t severed by the rock, but by the other survivor to save himself.
Since a few of the climbers were British, Queen Victoria considered banning mountaineering altogether. This garnered a ton of publicity following the tragedy and is ultimately what turned this quiet Alpine village of Zermatt into a popular tourist destination.
After being rewarded with picture-perfect weather, we spent the afternoon walking around this charming town. Suffice it to say we’ve added another place to our ever-growing “must return to” list!
When we made it back to our hotel, I retook the same pic of the Matterhorn from our balcony – just to show how quickly it can disappear.
7:00 am from our hotel room balcony
3:30 pm from the same spot!
Similar to St. Moritz, many of the restaurants and hotels are closed for a short off-season period before the summer months. However, we completely lucked out and got a reservation at Schäferstube for dinner. Fantastic traditional Swiss food (including a portion of Raclette and local lamb) in a great, cozy atmosphere.
Tomorrow, we venture on to Interlaken and the Berner Oberland region. Guten nacht!