Switzerland 2017 – Day 6 (part 2)

Day 6: Nachster Halt – Gornergrat

Similar to the Rothorn, the Gornergrat is another peak in Zermatt that is accessible by public transportation; you don’t need to hike to the top. Its 10,285 ft / 3,135 meters above sea level. Instead of cable cars, it’s a nice train ride to the top.

DSCF3680

The Gornergrat is closer to the mountains and glaciers than the Rothorn. There is a hotel in the last station and so hiking paths to last you a week. Once at the top, you’ll have the view of the Grenz and Gorner glaciers without wearing any crampons.

DSCF3633

Hey, see that highest peak in the photo below… I was just there! Feels great to say that haha. Breithorn. And the little “spike” to the right is the Klein Matterhorn station. So you know that trekking from there and back is about 4 hours. Now you have an idea of this piece of Earth in the photo.

DSCF3634

At the top station, there is a restaurant, hotel, and gift shops. It is here that I spotted the largest Matterhorn chocolate in the world.

DSCF3673

You can just explore for hours and enjoy the cool weather and views. The Matterhorn is still in view and always makes a good background for photos.

DSCF3637DSCF3639DSCF3653DSCF3657

One station before the Gornergrat station is called Rotenboden. Whether you walk there or take the train back one stop is up to you. But I think it is here where you can find the best lake Matterhorn photo. This lake is called Riffelsee.

DSCF3682DSCF3683

And you know it had to be done…

S0053695_GIF

There are trails all around. From time to time, you’ll come across benches. I think that the Swiss strategically placed benches throughout the trails to inform the hiker to sit down, rest, eat a chocolate, and enjoy the views.

DSCF3679DSCF3709

I wish that I was in Zermatt for at least a week. There is so much more than the touristy spots and a few trails. This will be the last time I see you Matterhorn. Thanks for not being shy and hiding in clouds all day.

DSCF3713_filtered

Once back down from Gornergrat to Zermatt village, after a long day and relaxing at the hotel pool and hot tub, we dined at the Bubble Bar & Restaurant; perhaps the best food we’ve had in Zermatt thus far. Then we packed our bags and went to sleep early.

Goodbye Zermatt, and hello Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Grindelwald, Shilthorn, and Jungfrau! Stay tuned for Day 7, 8, and 9.

 

Switzerland 2017 – Day 6 (part 1)

Day 6: Nachster Halt – Breithorn summit

I thought about climbing the Matterhorn, but I’m on vacation. I figured, maybe one of the Matterhorn’s neighbors. Ah yes, the Breithorn. 13,661 feet / 4,164 meters above sea level (that rock/ice monster behind me).

DSCF3469

The coolest thing about this mountain peak is that it is more of a glacier hike and less of climb. And the fact that the trail head is at the Klein Matterhorn cable car station is an extra bonus; just one Empire State building worth of stairs to ascend. So it’s a round trip of about 3-4 hours. Totally doable with very minimal training and a perfect mountain for your first 4000+ meter ice mountain. If you’re a good hiker and want to try on some crampons and walk up a glacier peak, this one is for you.

The day starts with a power breakfast, equipment check, and mountain forecast check. I packed some extra top layers, gloves, warm hat, glacier glasses, crampons, harness, food, 2 liters water, camera, cell phone, and sunscreen. Guess which one was most important that day…. sunscreen. Clear skies meant some serious sun. Temps are in the low 30s toward the top, so its going to be a really hot day.

I met up with the guide and mountaineering mates at the Zermatt Matterhorn paradise cable car station. We had a good chat about mountains, glaciers, and other things during our 30 minute cable car ride to Klein Matterhorn. Once we arrived, it was time to put on harnesses and rope up. The first goal is to cross the snow field. The walk is longer than it seems. Switzerland to your left, Italy to your right, snow, ice, and rock everywhere. Niiice.

By time we were close enough and the incline got steep enough, we took a break and put on the crampons. It’s quite the popular mountain around here. Numerous teams were already making their way to the peak that morning.

DSCF3582DSCF3583

From here on, it’s a non-stop uphill march with only sounds of the wind, hard breathing, and ice crunching. Every part of me was wishing for a break but the team marched relentlessly. How the hell did I reach Mt Rainier’s peak 3 years ago when this 1 hour uphill was tiring me out, ugh. Maybe I’m out of shape lol. Well anyway, before you know it, you’re standing on the peak and on the Swiss-Italian border with Monte Rosa massif in front of you and the Matterhorn behind you. Pretty epic view and totally worth the morning workout.

DSCF3593DSCF3599DSCF3610DSCF3611

So put your bag down and celebrate with your mountain team!

DSCF3612DSCF3607DSCF3594_filteredDSCF3619_filtered

After 15 minutes, we started our descent. It’s all fun going downhill. Then we crossed over the snow-field again and boom, back to the Klein Matterhorn station and hungry for lunch. One more after picture of the mountain team before going our ways (why am I always the short one in these group photos).

DSCF3627

On the way down the cable car to Zermatt, I was just gazing at the Breithorn mountain peak one last time. Is it just me or is it for all who experience a mountain summit? You just look for the peak and say to yourself, “yea mountain, I just trekked all over you and stood on your head not too long ago, and it was awesome, thank you”. And the other thought in my head is “so, which mountain is next?!”.

Whenever I’m on vacation, for some reason, there is little time to actually rest like its vacation. Back in Zermatt, after some quick McDonalds (yea I know but there was no time), we headed to the Gornergrat train…

Stay tuned for part 2 of Day 6.

 

Switzerland 2017 – Day 5

Day 5: Nachster Halt – Klein Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

As usual, you gotta start early to beat the crowds. So try to be at the Matterhorn Express cable cars before 8:30am. From Zermatt station, it’s about 30 minutes to the Klein Matterhorn (12,740 feet / 3,883 meters above sea level).

DSCF3392

There are multiple station stops along the way starting with Furi, Schwarzee, and Trockner Steg. These stations have multiple hiking paths branching from them that can easily take up a week to explore them all. But I think you should start high and work your way down. From my experience, the weather at the peaks are better in the morning.

So once at the top station, don’t forget to layer up. It’ll be a bit chilly, and of course throw on the sunscreen and shades since everything is bright especially because of all the ice reflecting the sun. Check out the viewing platform for ultimate views and to get real close to the Breithorn (I’ll stand on you tomorrow Breithorn).

Since its freezing all year here, you’ll notice many people bringing their skis for some winter fun. And what is a winter world without a Glacier Palace. This one is a bit like the one in Mt Titlis except that there are way more ice sculptures and an ice throne which has some props for photo time.

DSCF3432DSCF3433DSCF3438DSCF3446DSCF3447

The snow-tubing area was small so we skipped that part. Just because you’re done at the top doesn’t mean that you’re done at all. In fact, the fun just begins. Back into the cable car, one stop down to the Trockener Steg station and into a lunar-ish landscape.

DSCF3464DSCF3466

You’ll immediately see a large lake and the pyramidal face of the Matterhorn. You can explore as far as you like via the Matterhorn glacier trail or just stop at the lake for photo time.

When you’re done here, you can take the cable car down to the next station called Schwarzee. If you wanted, you can hike the path all the way down to Zermatt, or you can walk to the Hornli hut (Matterhorn base camp) from here. Wherever you decide to go, the views surround you.

DSCF3529DSCF3532DSCF3533DSCF3535

DSCF3547DSCF3551

I came across a ski flag pole and couldn’t help myself, I’m a kung-fu junkie.

DSCF3537DSCF3540_GIF

The Hotel Restaurant Schwarzee is a good spot to eat after a long walk under the sun. You can find it right next to Schwarzee station.

Well not everyday can be a perfect day. On our way down from Schwarzee, the cable cars malfunctioned and we were stuck in the cable car for over an hour. Even with a view, you kinda get pissed off about your situation. Good thing we used the bathroom (WC) before getting on the cable car.

Well, after all that, we eventually were back in Zermatt village and headed back to the hotel. We decided to head to the pool and hot tub, get some dinner, and sleep. The next day is my big day, Breithorn summit day!

Switzerland 2017 – Day 4

Day 4: Nachster Halt – Zermatt and Rothorn

Long travel day. Since we ascended Pilatus using the train, we decided to descend by completing the typical Pilatus loop via scenic cable car ride to Kreins.

DSCF3282DSCF3286DSCF3288

From Kreins, you have to walk 10 minutes to the Luzern bus.

From Lucerne to Zermatt, you have to take 3 trains for about an hour each. Transferring trains is no joke in Switzerland. Occasionally, the schedule is such that you have about 5 minutes to navigate through a new station, identify your next train, and transport yourself and your luggage on it. The trains run on schedule and if you miss your train, it can cost you a 30-60 minute wait for the next one. Luckily, we always made it to the next train with a minute to spare at least. So from Lucerne, the trains to get you to Zermatt are the following:
– Geneve-Aeroport bound train to Bern (~1 hr)
– Brig bound train to Visp (~1 hr)
– Zermatt bound train to Zermatt (~1 hr); scenic train ride

Zermatt finally. It may not seem like it, but you’ll be 5,276 feet / 1,608 meters above sea level. I confirmed it when I tried to jog a mile and had to stop to take a breather. Although Zermatt is a no-car village, you’ll still see vehicles around but they are mostly taxis or some truck transporting something, so be mindful of your surroundings when walking on the main road.

DSCF3378

_6

We checked into the Parkhotel Beau Site hotel. Pricey but the pool and 2 hot tubs were worth it after walking/hiking around all day under the sun. Speaking of which, Zermatt can get hot in the summer, like 80s Fahrenheit. Since Zermatt is a winter ski village, there are no air conditions in most (or perhaps all) hotels.

So here we are in Zermatt. What’s in Zermatt. Just look up and you’ll see it. The most popular mountain in Switzerland and perhaps Europe… the Matterhorn.

DSCF3386

The mountain of the Toblerone chocolate. No matter where you go in Zermatt, the Matterhorn is there looking down at you (unless of course you climbed to the top of it). So let’s go to the clouds and get a better view shall we.

From the edge of town, you can take a funicular to Sunnegga, then the gondola to Blauherd, and then a cable car to the Rothorn (10,184 feet / 3,104 meters above sea level). There are plenty of trails to nearby peaks with great views everywhere. On a clear day, you have the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains all around you, and the glaciers too.

_4DSCF3325DSCF3332DSCF3340DSCF3347DSCF3365

DSCF3368

There are some popular hikes to take such as the Peak Collection trail around the Rothorn, the hike to OberRothorn, and the 5 Seenweg (Lake) trail but we did not have time since the travel took up our whole morning. But I heard that these hikes are awesome and give great views for epic photos. You can look up Google Images of the OberRothorn, lake Stellisee and lake Mosjesee hikes. If it’s hot enough outside, you can even go for a swim in these lakes.

Once back at Zermatt village, on the main avenue, we stumbled across the goat parade which I found out happens multiple times per day.

DSCF3373

And as always there are restaurants, gift shops, and chocolate shops to try. There is also a small mountaineer cemetery in Zermatt. So many Matterhorn climbers who died climbing.

DSCF3380

I came across a tombstone with an ice axe. What? A climber from NYC, died on the Breithorn (stay tuned for the Day 6 post of my Breithorn climb). Strangely, I thought to myself that it’s the coolest tombstone I’ve ever seen.

DSCF3379

Well it was time to eat and get some rest. Tomorrow we would get up close with the mother mountain; the Matterhorn.