July 13, 2016
Today we were moving on again, but the good news was that now we were back on our original schedule: heading for three days in Zermatt. Although our hiking may be cut back somewhat. So after breakfast we packed our bags, checked out of the YHA, and headed across the street to the station. The trip to Zermatt would take about two hours, but we weren’t in any hurry, and the trains went every 30 minutes.
It didn’t take long for our train to reach Visp, where we transferred to the Matterhorn Line. This part of the trip was much slower because it was a cog railway and we had to wait several times to cross with trains coming downhill from Zermatt. The clouds were down on the mountains but we had good views of the orchards and vineyards, very orderly and neat as they stretched up the hillsides. We climbed high on the slope, looking down on villages below.
We arrived at the end of the line in Zermatt by noon, and it was easy to find our hotel. It was the Hotel Bahnhof and of course it was directly across the street from the station. We were early, so we stored our bags in their ski room and went out to buy food for lunch and other meals. The hotel has a beautiful kitchen and eating area, well organized with modern furnishings, so it was going to be a lot easier to prepare our own meals. The Coop grocery store was large and well-stocked, and we bought salad fixings, breakfast food, eggs, and pasta and sauce for our dinners. Total cost CHF 33.75, which would cover us for almost all of our meals.
Back at the hotel we made our lunch and then put away all of our food in the appropriate places. Paul was still feeling unwell so he slept for a while and Rosemary went out for an exploratory walk. The sun was shining and the Matterhorn was partially visible so she walked to the other end of town to get a better view. While up there she checked out the YHA—we had considered staying there while booking places to stay, but it was far from the town centre and the Hotel Bahnhof’s price was similar so the Bahnhof was definitely the better choice.
On the way back she stopped and listened to an alphorn quintet and then heard bells ringing and encountered a herd of goats being led up the main street by a young boy dressed in costume. What a lovely sight to see!
By now it was dinnertime, so we went down to the kitchen. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded, so we found a pot to boil water for pasta. We had salad followed by pasta with sauce, which with the addition of some sliced salami made a very good meal. We sat at a table with a lady from England and a man from Germany. He was staying at the hotel to do some climbing, which mainly involved waiting for better weather. We had a good time chatting to them.
After doing our dishes we decided to go out for a short walk. It started to rain a bit, but it felt good to be back in the mountains again and the weather looked like it would be good for the next couple of days.
July 14, 2016
Last night was too warm for the duvet and too cold without it, so sleeping wasn’t that great. We both agreed that neither of us had slept well. For breakfast we had granola with yogurt and bananas along with some tea. After organizing our lunch we packed our packs and set off up the main street of Zermatt. For the last week we had just been riding on trains and puttering around in towns, so we were looking forward to getting out on the trail again.
Our plan was to take the gondola to Schwarzsee (“Black Lake”), walk around there for a bit, and then hike down the Matterhorn Trail back to Zermatt. The latter would be 1,000 metres of elevation loss but Rosemary felt that her knee could handle that. It didn’t take too long to get to the gondola terminal, where we bought our one-way tickets. There was no lineup so we went through the turnstile and straight into a gondola car. It was an interesting ride, zooming over the edge of Zermatt and up the hillside.
Soon we came to a station, so we got out of the gondola car. But we soon realized we weren’t at Schwarzsee and that the gondola didn’t end here, so we hopped back into another car and carried on. It was quite evident when we did arrive at Schwarzsee because there was a restaurant there with that word in large letters on its side!
The weather was very chilly at this elevation, probably close to freezing, and it was windy, so we put on our sweaters. We looked around a bit and then decided to head up a trail to the ridge we could see above us. The Matterhorn was playing peekaboo, with clouds rolling over and around it, and there were a few snowflakes falling. As we climbed it got colder and soon we arrived at the top of another ski lift. There was a bitter wind but we found a rock cairn nearby which gave us shelter to eat our lunch.
The trail we were on would have taken us to the Hörnli hut, which we could see up at the base of the Matterhorn, but the next section involved metal stairs and ramps and the ridge it was on looked a bit sketchy. No big deal for climbers, though, but the route up from the hut looked more like climbing!
So we headed down, stopping at the Climbers’ Chapel at the lake. The chapel is dedicated to “Maria zum Schnee” – Our Lady of the Snows. It’s very lovely inside with a beautifully painted nave, and it is thought that it was built in the early 18th century.
After spending some time at the chapel we decided to go down the trail back to Zermatt. It followed a service road for a while and then we came to a pair of signs which both pointed to the Stafelalp Café. One of them said “Schneller Weg” (faster way) so we followed that sign, but it had us plunging down the hillside. The café, when we got to it, was full of people who didn’t look like hikers.
From here most of our hiking was on trails. After a while we plunged down to a small lake, where a sign told us it was part of the Grand Dixence hydro-electric system which spans three Alpine valleys and has many kilometres of tunnels to move water between the valleys. We went on and on, passing through a few hamlets en route. The hamlet of Z’mutt is over 500 years old and the wooden buildings are huddled very closely together, and the trail winds through the village.
Finally after about another hour we were back in Zermatt and we could take off our boots. It was getting close to 5 pm so we decided to have an early dinner. There was nobody in the kitchen so we could make dinner without bumping into other cooks. After dinner Paul went up to the Coop to get a few more food items and then we had showers (no lineup there either) before settling down to relax for the next evening. It was raining outside, which wasn’t in the forecast, and we had been lucky not to have to walk in a lot of rain. But hopefully it will go away by tomorrow.
July 15, 2016
We woke up to a cloudy day, but after checking the webcams at the ski stations we could see that the mountains were clear. So we assumed that the valley fog would clear up shortly. For breakfast we had eggs on toast, using up the last of our eggs, which was nice for a change.
By the time we finished breakfast the clouds were already clearing. We organized our lunch and our packs and headed over to the Sunnegga funicular station for today’s outing. The trip from Zermatt to Sunnegga took only three minutes in the funicular, and then we transferred to a gondola to be whisked farther up the hill, to Blauherd. The views of the Matterhorn and the surrounding mountains were fantastic!
We had decided to walk down the 5-Seenweg trail which (as its German name says) would have us going past five different lakes on the way back to Sunnegga. At Blauherd it was still cold, not much above freezing, so we put our jackets on. But unlike yesterday it got a lot warmer rather quickly. The first lake we came to was Stellisee, which is very often photographed showing the Matterhorn reflected on its smooth surface. But today the wind wasn’t calm when we got there. So we sat on a bench having a snack while watching a herd of beautiful black and white goats. (“Valais Blackneck” is the name of the breed.) And then Rosemary noticed there were very few ripples on the lake and managed to get the famous reflection shot before the wind picked up again.
We continued down the service road—most of the trail was on unpaved roads—to the next lake, Grindjisee. It was in a lovely depression surrounded by meadows and larch trees, with sedges growing at one end. It was a nice place to eat lunch and there were a lot of people doing that, so we found a comfy rock and joined them.
The next lake down the road was Grünsee; it was just off the road in a wildlife protection area, although how useful it is to have a tiny wildlife protection area amid ski runs and service roads and hydroelectric installations and hundreds of visitors daily, it’s hard to say.
To get to our fourth lake, Moosjisee, we followed a proper trail which had us dropping steeply down to a river then climbing up the other side. This lake was actually formed by damming the river, so it wasn’t as picturesque as the others. The trail carried on high above a narrow canyon, leading into a village before climbing uphill to Sunnegga, where our fifth and final lake, Leisee, was located. It was also not the most picturesque of lakes but it did have a manmade beach and a children’s play area, so if the weather had been warmer than probably there would have been some people swimming in it.
Sunnegga of course had a café so we went in for tea and cake. The cake was a really nice carrot cake with marzipan carrots as decorations. We started to walk up the hill to find the marmot area, but Rosemary was tired and we didn’t know how far up the marmots might be so we turned around and took the funicular back to Zermatt.
Back at the hotel we changed out of our hiking boots and decided to go out and do some souvenir shopping; we were limited as to what we could fit into our bags but we did have a bit of space. For us we bought a tea towel and a small bell to be used as a Christmas ornament, and then we bought some cute backpacks to give to some of our great-nieces as Christmas gifts. Luckily once again the kitchen wasn’t too busy so we were able to prepare our dinner in relative quiet, using up most of our remaining food because we were leaving tomorrow.