The previous night at the Old Zermatt restaurant, we got chatting to a group of Americans that had just arrived after spending 6 hours on a train from Italy. When we had arrived in Zermatt, we could barely see the Matterhorn, and apparently, they had seen T-shirts that read, “I went all the way to Zermatt and didn’t see the Matterhorn.” Seeing as it was our last full day in Zermatt, were we going to see the beast or were we going to have to buy the shirts?
We woke up and sprinted the 2 metres to the window. The curtains got whipped open and there it was. There were blue skies and scattered clouds but it was visible. The wind blew the clouds all around – sometimes covering it up. But it was enormous. Standing over 4400m high, it towered over the town…well, it towered over EVERYTHING! Stef rushed to get her phone and before you could say “Cheese”, the photo was on Instagram! Stef’s problem is that she’s impatient. As an amateur photographer, I know that patience is the key. I took many photos of the Matterhorn in the space of about 10 minutes, but the final shots were amazing as I waited for it’s clearest moment. It was the best we were going to get. I was happy. Happy in that I didn’t have to buy that poxy shirt!
The Hotel Ambience came with breakfast included and it had everything you could think of. Cereals, pastries, hot food and fruit. Me being me, had to have everything. I had to fill the stomach as today we were going on an 8-hour trek around the mountains at a total distance of 18km. Yikes!
We left the hotel about 9ish and made our way through the town to the small footpath leading to the hills. Looking up, you could see a cross in the distance that was high up and a small lodge even further back that seemed like it was in the clouds. There was no way we were going up that high? Was there? Within minutes, the footpath got extremely steep and I was knackered already!
Having trekked around America, we had learnt a thing or two. As a result, we had bought some hiking sticks. These were no ordinary hiking sticks; they were the Manfrotto Off Road Walking Sticks. They looked like normal sticks but a flip of the handle, revealed a camera mount to hold the GoPro or the Canon! Within about 30 minutes of an extremely steep ascent, we made it to one of many waterfalls. This is when Stef decided that the fear of heights would get the better of her – we had only just started! So being the caring husband I am, I left her having a rest and walked over the small ridge to get a better shot of the falls. After a few minutes, she had calmed down and joined me.
After some more winding paths, we made it to the first stop; it was the small lodge we had seen earlier, the Pension Edelwiss! It was perched on the edge of the mountain, at an altitude of 1961m, overlooking the town. After a quick couple of photos, we were off again. We were still nowhere near the top.
It was non-stop hill for hours. It was crazy. We were absolutely knackered but we knew that we had so far to travel so we pushed on. There were more waterfalls along this route than I have ever seen before. The snow-topped mountains were melting all over the place. It made for some great shots and gave us the motivation to carry on. We even saw some mountain goats jumping about the cliff face. I don’t know how they manage to be so nimble.
My legs were killing me and I needed a rest, but instead of seeming like a wuss, I decided to try out my new toy – the drone. It was only about £90 and had a camera on board. No matter what I did, it just wouldn’t level. It was really annoying and insisted on the front blades spinning faster than the back. This caused it to crash before it had even taken off. My patience was running out and I gave it one last shot. It managed to take off, but as it was not working properly, it was extremely difficult to control. So up in the air it went, higher… higher…and further away. All of a sudden, the controls went dead and it dropped out of the sky! We never saw where it went or where it landed as it did so over a ridge. Great. We spent the next 20 minutes searching the long grass for an object no bigger than my hand. There was a stream that ran right near where it could have landed and I knew, sod’s law, it would have taken a bath, never to be seen again. But the amazing Stef and her robotic eyes soon found it! The rear blades had remained on and got stuck which had melted it! The memory card survived…not that the footage was any good though! If you have a look at the bottom right of the photo you can just about make out the landing spot.
We eventually made it to another small residence, the Hotel Du Trift, which was sat on a mountaintop, 2337 metres above sea level. This hotel was closed however, and unluckily for us, it had started to rain. It was only spitting but we didn’t know how bad it was going to get. We’d been walking for 3 hours now and it was lunchtime, our stomachs were growling. The Hotel Ambience made us a small lunch package that we ate squashed under a small doorway trying to get out of the rain.
The view from the hotel was spectacular. You could see for miles. In one direction you could see the town, another a massive waterfall, and another a glacier. With no one else around, it was a perfect place to have a wee. It was the most scenic urination I have ever taken.
After crossing a few small streams, we made it to a huge section of snow. A speed walker had previously passed us earlier on the trek but he returned within an hour. We’d wondered why and now it was apparent. We contemplated whether or not to cross it. It was a tough one. A small river ran under it so was it safe to cross? We could see the path continue on the other side of the snow but should we risk it? Hell yeah! Stef just wanted to get across as quick as possible but I had other plans – I had to take photos. We made it across. No one had fallen to their deaths. We had survived.
The views along the way were fantastic. You could see for miles and behind the hills were massive snow capped mountains and glaciers. It really was breath-taking.
After that came more paths that zig-zagged up the cliff face, gradually getting us higher and higher. But then it came…Stef’s fear of heights. Looking out, you could see that we were high up. The path was small and on the left hand side was a drop of 1000s of metres – this is what pushed her over the edge so to speak. She had done me proud though getting where we had. She couldn’t go anymore. We still had about another 5 hours to go but I was exhausted as well so was quite relieved. I could see a bend about 15 minutes away. It was called the Höhbalmenstaffel. Would this have given us a perfect view of the great Matterhorn? I made sure Stef was all right and left her taking a rest while I carried on to the bend. Metres away from the vantage point, I got a message from Stef on my phone. Yes we were 1000s of metres in the mountains, but we still had better reception than if we were sitting in our front room back in London! Reminded me of the time we were in the jungle in Thailand and our guide started Skyping a tribe up ahead telling them to get lunch ready! Stef was freaking out and wanted me back ASAP. Really? I was so close! But thinking of my loving wife, I turned around and got to her as quick as I could.
Here is the route we took along with the altitude and mileage to get to theHöhbalmenstaffel. This included the quick visit to the local Co-op to get some trekking snacks!
Seeing as the trek had been uphill pretty much all of the way, now was the easy part – going back down. The views were still spectacular as before and the clouds in the distance had semi cleared allowing for some amazing shots.
We made it back down to the first lodge and had a well-deserved pint of beer each. Stef also had a carrot cake. I just don’t understand them – who puts carrot in a cake? What’s next? A sprout doughnut? A Lettuce cheesecake? As we were sitting there, chilling out, we both rung our parents to see how they were and just because I could, I rung my work to see how they were getting along without me. Ashley, the woman who sits next to me answered. When I told her where I was and what I was doing, she said she hoped I choked on it! How rude! So obviously, I sent them a photo as proof. The replies cannot be repeated!
We finally made it back to the hotel where we crashed out for a few hours. Our bodies were aching all over. Here’s the route we took on the way back – you can see that it took a LOT less time to do it as a result of it nearly being all down hill – AND we had stopped for beer! In total, we’d walked about 10 miles. When we got back to the hotel, I sat in their sauna and enjoyed sweating out in the 70 degree heat!
Later that night, we ate at Molino, an Italian restaurant. I had a pizza and Stef had the smallest plate of pasta ever. To show how expensive Switzerland is, the meal came to 77fr about £55. For a can of Fanta it cost £4. £4!!!!!! It may be expensive…but the petrol is still cheaper than in the UK!
It had been a very tough yet rewarding day. So much so, that we have decided that we would come here again but in the Summer when the weather is a lot nicer.