I quote Lord of the Rings a lot as it is, but if you throw me in a mountain town, you better be ready for a full movie recital. Ever since we booked our trip to Switzerland, Zermatt has been the place I have looked forward to the most. I love ski areas anyway, but if there is one mountain in the world I wanted to see in person, it was the Matterhorn.
Well, after going there, I can understand why it’s the most photographed mountain in the world. We arrived in Zermatt on a cloudy afternoon and the mountain couldn’t be seen from the town. But soon after our arrival, the skies began to clear up and suddenly the Matterhorn appeared. The first time seeing it in person was quite the awe-inspiring moment. Never had I seen a mountain that beautiful—its unique shape, towering height, the snow-covered peak… it was definitely one of the coolest sights of my life.
We spent the evening strolling around town and scavenging for food. As usual, the local market became our go-to, where I got a hummus sandwich. You may remember from my last blog that I ran out of hummus on the train the next day. Anyway, we headed back to the hostel (with a perfect view of the Matterhorn) and got ready for our big hike to the base camp.
The next morning we woke up with a somewhat clouded view of the Horn. Still, in a month that had seen rain or snow almost every day in Zermatt, we were just thankful to be dry. We headed off to the cable car station and took a nice, scenic ride up to Schwarsee, where the hike to the base camp started. I’ve gone on a good number of hikes in my life. But hiking through the towering hills of Chardon is slightly different than going to the Matterhorn base camp.
“An impossible labyrinth of razor sharp rocks! And after that, it gets even better!” –Gimli
The trek began with a steep incline up the first of many hills. It was quite rocky, hence the title of this section. Of course, the trail was pretty well-marked, so the whole “impossible labyrinth” portion doesn’t really apply. But I can’t control what Gimli says. If you don’t like Lord of the Rings then you have no idea what I’m talking about, so back to the hike!
Following a couple of hills, we were faced with a more mentally challenging section. If you don’t have a head for heights, this hike isn’t for you. This section of the trail was mostly along cliff edges—I know you are worried at home, but it was really quite safe. There were always a few meters of track before you would reach the cliff, but the view could still get a bit freaky if you let it get to you.
“Up, up, up the stairs we go!” –Gollum
One particularly scary section of the trail was a staircase over the cliff. Don’t worry, there were railings and ropes to hold on to, and it gets less scary when you see other people make it to the other side alive. Of course, before we went up the stairs, I had to take a picture for you, just to freak you out a bit. Fortunately for me, Courtny was quite adamant on doing it, so we made it through the stairs (admittedly without ever looking down).
“But he was destroyed. Sauron was destroyed!” –Frodo
I don’t know how to make that quote work yet. Anyway, after the stairs, we continued our little climb along the mountain. As we got higher, it inevitably got a bit chillier, so we took a small break on a bench to eat protein bars and get a bit of H2O in our systems. We stood up rejuvenated and ready to finish our climb. To the camp!
The path got a bit snowier as we went on, but we were no longer along the cliff edges. The rest of the trek went rather smoothly as we came ever closer to the base camp. As we made our final ascent, we could see the cloud-covered Matterhorn suddenly much closer to us than it had been down in Zermatt. The base camp was covered in fresh snow and more was on the way as we stopped for a break. We went a little bit beyond the camp toward the Hornli Hut (the last place you can go without mountaineering equipment) but the conditions ahead were foggy and icy, so we decided to just stop and relax for a bit. I wish we could have seen more of the Matterhorn during our time up there, but the fog was so intense that we rarely got a great glimpse of the summit. At one point it cleared enough to see the peak (and it was incredible) but unfortunately that was right after I had put all of my camera equipment away.
“Gandalf! We must get off the mountain!”—Boromir (RIP)
Ah, Boromir. What a tragic character. All he wanted was to secure the future of his people. But his ego, like so many men, led to his downfall… for more on Boromir, read the books.
As we turned around to head back, the fog was getting a bit thicker around the Matterhorn. We figured it probably wouldn’t clear up in time for us to see the mountain clearly again, so we began our descent.
“I always liked going south. It feels like you’re walking downhill.” –Treebeard
For the most part, the descent was quite easy. It’s also much quicker when you aren’t stopping for pictures and such. Obviously, we still had to be quite careful on the portions near the cliffs, but we made it down pretty quickly. We then began the long (and painful) hike back down to Zermatt.
“We should just take a cable car.” –Courtny and me
As we descended, Courtny and I quickly fell behind mostly due to her hiking shoes. They had been giving her blisters over the past couple of days, but she toughed out the Matterhorn hike. However, there was no way she could make it all the way down the mountain to town. So instead, we purposely (not really) took a wrong turn, setting us back a solid 45 minutes. From there, we strolled to the nearest cable car and rode it on down to town. Of course, we had no food and no water at this point with 30 minutes to run to the hostel and get to the train station. I went to the hostel and got our stuff, Courtny ran to the market and got us sandwiches (mine was hummus again), and the three of us ran to the train station and caught our train just in time. And that is why I was in such an exhausted (yet triumphant) state when I wrote my previous blog. Probably the same way Frodo felt after destroying the one ring. Exhausted, yet triumphant.