I have a crush on the Matterhorn. Ever since my Grandmother visited Switzerland 30 years ago and bought me back a small music box with a picture of the Matterhorn on top I have been smitten. So I was pretty excited to finally be seeing her 'in the flesh'.
The mountain is 4478 metres high, and while not the highest peak in the Alps, it is the most distinctive and well known. It is located on the border of Switzerland and Italy. It has four faces, and these are so steep that only small patches of snow and ice can cling to them. There is a glacier at the base of each face.
The first successful ascent of the mountain was in 1865, and people have been climbing it every since, some more successfully than others. Each year several climbers will die in their attempt to conquer the Matterhorn. You can read about them in Zermatt's cemetery. Not sure what happened to that music box my Grandmother bought me, but while I was in Zermatt I saw the exact same one! Of course I had to buy it, and now I can once more listen to the tune of Edelweiss and admire the mighty Matterhorn.
Hiking around Zermatt
Zermatt is a hikers paradise, particularly in the summer months. The surrounding hills and mountains are covered in walking trails, of differing difficulty, taking adventurers through ice and snow, across alpine meadows and through idyllic forests.
Check out the information on the website below, or pick up the "Adventure in the Mountains" booklet from the tourist office (by the train station) or your hotel. This gives you information on all the hikes in the region, advising on level of difficultly, length of hike and probable time they will take. Some hikes can only be undertaken a couple of months a year, due to snow.
Not being the athletic types (and having my mother-in-law in tow), we opted to do one of the easier hikes, from Sunnegga Paradise down to Zermatt. This is a 4km hike with a descent of 650 metres. The walk took us through alpine meadows and forests, and within 90 minutes we were back at our hotel in Zermatt. The downhill walk was more difficult than we were expecting as it was quite steep the whole time. We were a little sore the next day!
Dream Peak at the Klein Matterhorn
New 4000-metre peak in Zermatt...
Zermatt Bergbahnen want to realise the well known local artist Heinz Julen’s project. The summit of the Klein Matterhorn, at 3883 m above sea level already the highest observation platform in the Alps, is to be raised. The plan is to construct a 90m high pyramid with two platforms reached by lift. One of the platforms will be located right above the glacier, the other at an altitude of 4000 metres. The lifts go up the north-east face of the peak. Besides the lifts and observation platforms, there is also a restaurant. Zermatt Bergbahnen plans to start construction as early as this summer (first stage: laying of water and power lines, cafeteria, climbing lodge, underground access to the glacial grotto).
The "Dream Peak", as the landmark project has been dubbed, will be a steel and glass pyramid topped by a tower rising to 4,000 metres above sea level. Building begins: summer 2006. As visionary as it may sound, the project by local artist and designer Heinz Julen has won the backing of Zermatt's ski lift company, which solicited bids to upgrade and expand the existing infrastructure on the Kleine Matterhorn. Currently, the 3,883-metre-high mountain is reached from Zermatt by cable car and is used by skiers in winter and sightseers in summer, the latter spending a few minutes on top enjoying the views of the Matterhorn and the many other surrounding peaks.
In 1896 the construction of...
In 1896 the construction of the huge excursion railway, the GGB Gornergrat-Monte Rosa-Bahnen, got underway. Because the Gornergrat lies at an elevation of 3089 meters, construction work was possible only during a short period of time, from the melting of the snow until the onset of winter. More than 1000 workers were employed, a majority of them Italians. Over the entire two-year duration of the construction, altogether 2400 workers were involved.
This is an ideal visit if the weather is bad or if you are taking a break from a nice day of hiking. The museum focuses on several aspects of life in the mountains. It takes into account the geological composition, plant life (especially the wildflowers), some of the native animals, and the stories of some of the famous mountain climbers as they went after the big peaks. Among the exhibits is the ice axe of the first person to climb the Matterhorn. There is an admission charge, although it is free to those with a valid Swiss Pass.