Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter View of Zermatt, Switzerland February 24th - 26th

Every week since we have arrived in Switzerland we have checked the weather forecast for Zermatt.  We knew that unless we got a clear day we would not be able to see... the Matterhorn.  The Matterhorn, the iconic symbol of Switzerland, the coveted Disneyland "E" ticket from our youth-we could not make the trip and just see clouds. 
The forecast looked great for Saturday but not so good for Sunday, but we decided to go anyway. We left Friday night, via the train, for Zermatt, about a 3 hour trip southeast of Vevey.  We wanted to be there Saturday morning so we could see the Matterhorn at first light.  We got up at first light, and the top of the mountain as covered by clouds.  We were both sorely disappointed, but we decide to make the best of it.  We took pictures thinking we could pretend it was just not so big.

  3 hours by train with exuberant young skiers. Conveniently for them, they bring their own music, do not always sit in their seats and we got the full free concert in 2nd class. It was a long Friday evening as you might imagine. Finally arrive Friday night at the Zermatt Train Station.

We stayed at this cute little hotel.  The price of the lodging included a great buffet breakfast.  They had the traditional Swiss Muesli cereal, many different breads, awsome flaky croissants and an array of cheeses and charcuterie.  The best part was that, with the cereal, they served all the filberts you could eat (guess who wrote this part).

This hotel was directly across the street from our hotel. Had to throw this in as it is where Michael and Regina booked for this summer and where they have stayed before. 
At the end of July, Regina and Michael will be hiking in the Italian and Swiss Alps for about 11 days.  The last two days of their journey will be spend in Zermatt.  Paula and I will join them and we will take some hikes around the Zermatt area.  It was amusing to go out on the deck and see this hotel. 

Saturday morning we were determined to enjoy ourselves and set about on the Matterhorn scenic Trail. These wood carvings are found periodically along the path along with some nice benches from Zermatt to Zmutt and then to Furi (Furry).  The total hike was about 3 miles.

The town of Zermatt from the trail to Zmutt.

The village of Zmutt.  Nothing was open was open this time of year. We were looking for the "KeeP Out-That Means You" sign. 

Additional picture of Zmutt. No welcoming Vin Chaud or little goatherds or anything. Beginning to wonder if we took the wrong path at this point. 

On our way from Zmutt to Furi, we saw many frozen waterfalls, such as this.  The camera did not pick it up, but the frozen waterfall was a deep blue color.

Another frozen waterfall on the way to Furi.

The hiking trails are marked with these yellow signs, however, in most cases they don't provide the distance to each of the locations.  So many times we were wondering if we were traveling in the right direction.

Finally!!  We reached the cable car station at Furi that took us to the highest cable car station in Europe.

The cable car is labeled the Matterhorn Express.  This is what you ride in to get to the cable car station.

At the end of the trip you are officially in Italy, no passport, no fuss. You hardly know it happened if you don't read the signs. 

Paula took this picture on the trip up to the cable car station. (illegally putting arm with camera out the window just for you) 

This cable car station is about the half way point to the top.

We were walking back to our hotel, when Paula saw what she thought was a waterfall.  All of a sudden we heard what sounded like a jet engine.  We then realized it was an avalanche.  A few seconds later we saw and heard the second one pictured above.  The sound was absolutely amazing. Roared like a plane!  In the picture above you can see the barriers, that when avalanches occur, will stop the snow from reaching Zermatt.  We saw many of these such barriers around Zermatt.

The main street of Zermatt. Its a touristy little town but that's what is fun about being a tourist...we like all that cheesy stuff. 

 This plaque is on the side of the Monte Rosa Hotel in Zermatt.  We will provide additional information about Edward Whymper later in this blog.

We ate at this restaurant Saturday night. It is located in the basement of the Monte Rosa Hotel and is named in honor of Edward Whymper.

This is an interior shot of the Whymper restaurant.

On our way to dinner Saturday night dinner, it had started to rain.  It was still raining when we left the restaurant.

Imagine our surprise when . . . .

TAADAA!!! We woke up at first light and the Matterhorn was totally clear of any clouds.

A little Matterhorn History:
The mountain derives its name from the German words Matte meaning “meadow” and Horn meaning “peak”.  The mountain is 14,690 feet tall and it occupies the border between Switzerland and Italy.

In the years between 1861-1865 Edward Whymper, an Englishman and Jean-Antoine Carrel, an Italian guide, both had ambitions to be the first to reach the summit of the Matterhorn. Together they had made several attempts to climb the mountain. After each unsuccessful attempt, they progressively became bitter rivals.  Carrel patriotically believing that a native Italian like himself and not an Englishman like Whymper should be the first to set foot on the summit

On the evening of July 13, 1865, Edward Whymper, Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow, Michel Croz and two guides from Zermatt, Peter Taugwalder Sr. and Peter Taugwalder Jr. started their trek from the Monte Rosa Hotel, Zermatt.   They spent the night near the base of the Matterhorn.  On the morning of the 14th they started their attempt to reach the summit.

On July 11th, Carrel and his climbing party left from Breuil, Italy, in order to reach the summit from the Italian side.  However, they experienced bad weather on the 11th, 12th and 13th, which delayed their summit attempt. They eventually begin their attempt, also on the morning of the 14th.

Whymper and Croz reached the summit at around 2:00pm on July 14th. The rest of their party soon reached the summit.

After having checked that no footprints were present, on the Italian side of the summit, that would have indicated that Carrel had reached the summit first, they were sure they were the first.

Whymper, peered over the cliff, saw Carrel and his party about 700 feet below, still ascending and dealing with the most difficult parts of the climb. Whymper and Croz yelled and threw stones down the cliffs to attract Carrel’s attention. When seeing his rival on the summit, Carrel and his party were deeply disappointed, gave up on their attempt and went back to Breuil.  However, on July 17th, Carrel became the first person to successfully reached the summit from the Italian side.

Whymper and his party stayed an the summit for about an hour. Then they began their decent all roped together.   Croz descended first, then Hadow, Hudson, Douglas, Taugwalder Sr., Whymper with Taugwalder Jr. coming last. 

They had descended for about an hour, when Hadow slipped and pulled Croz, Hudson and Douglas with him down the north face. On hearing Croz's shouts, Whymper and the two Taugwalder’s grabbed a hold of some rocks in an attempt to stop the fall of the four climbers, however, the rope broke, sending all four to their death.  Whymper and the two Taugwalder’s were later accused of having cut the rope to ensure that they were not dragged down with the others, but a subsequent inquiry found no proof of this and they were acquitted.

Even through the mountain is only 14,690 feet tall, since the 1865 tragic accident, over 500 people have died climbing the mountain.  Most occur on the descent. On average, 12 people a year die attempting to climb the mountain.

When the weather is clear, the best view of the Matterhorn is from Rothorn peak.  So off we went to discover it.
 You reach the peak by taking a underground funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga.  Pictured above is the tunnel from Zermatt to the funicular station.  Once you reach Sunnegga, you take a gondola to Blauherd and finally a cable car to Rothorn peak.

Paula took this picture once we reached the station at Sunnegge.

This picture was taken from Rothorn peak.

In every language this sign says the same thing about the Matterhorn. I am the creation of God's hands alone, and merely His footstool. 

The restaurant at Rothorn peak.

While we were at Rothorn, we heard many Swiss Rescue helicopters flying around the peak.  In the picture above they had just loaded an injured skier into the helicopter.

We had a little time before we needed to head back to Vevy, so we took a 40 minute hike to a restaurant near Rothorn peak.

We were hiking to this restaurant.

On the way to the restaurant, we had to cross a ski trail.  A magnificent view of the Matterhorn behind the skiers.  The weather was terrific and there were 100's of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. They can hardly focus on their skiing for all the gawking at the mountain as you can see. 

A picture from the restaurant on Rothorn peak.  The British man that took it was chortling that everyone would say this was photo-shopped!
Note the absence of the down coats-never needed them on this day. 
We then hiked back to the cable car station at Rothorn so we could go back to Zermatt and catch the train to Vevey.

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