Thursday, 15 October 2015

Zermatt September 2015 - Day 8

Around the head of the valley

18.17km / 875m Ascent / 1531m Descent

After a couple of quite tough days, we opted for something a little easier on the face of it, although we still racked up a few decent stats along the way.

Matterhorn from Sunnegga

A quick ride on the Rothornbahn to Sunnegga kicked the day off. Our plan was to contour round the head of the valley, keeping roughly on a level as far as possible. It's not always easy given the nature of the terrain, but it was a plan of sorts, and we were happy to give it a go.

Resting at Leisee after all of 200 yards

From Sunnegga, we passed the Leisee and headed for Grindjisee on a path staying part way up the hillside. It was coolish, but clear and bright (sunscreen was a must) with potentially excellent views all day in prospect.

Looking up the valley towards the Adlerhorn

Erosion on the lateral moraine

From Grindjisee, we joined the track and followed part of the 5 Lakes Walk as far as Grunsee, where we had a coffee break at the Berghaus nearby.

Beside the seeside: Grunsee

For the next section we followed the lower of two options towards Riffelalp - a good choice, as it's a beautiful forest path with fantastic views to the Matterhorn and across the whole valley. Because of this – and the fact it is fairly level, easily reached from the station at Riffelalp on a sunny Sunday and the end of the summer season – it was very busy! Not to worry - it was worth it.

Path from Grunsee to Riffelalp

Shady woods

Across the valley: Chez Vrony


Matterhorn through the trees

We passed through Riffelalp and began to descend towards Furi when a convenient bench tempted us to stop and eat lunch - much quieter than the tourist trap village only five minutes away, even though the birds were making a racket we christened the Nutcracker Suite!

Continuing down, we reached the village of Furi. It was a glorious day, and we had spare time, so we opted for a ride up to the Klein Matterhorn on the gondola system. The lift system takes you in three stages to the highest easily available spot in the area, for great views on a clear day and summer skiing and other icy fun on the glacier outside.

Looking from the Klein Matterhorn across Italy to Mont Blanc

A different view of the Matterhorn

Looking north over the Mattertal and beyond

|Twin peaks


We spent a while up there. Even though it was cold, it was such a clear day that we could see for miles. From the Breithorn and the Matterhorn next door either side to some of the key alpine peaks - Weisshorn, Grand Combin, Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc, to name but a few - away in the distance.

After a detour of around 90 minutes, it was back down to Furi where a quick shedding of layers ensued (it was about 20 degrees warmer!). At this point, we could just have headed for home - either by taking the easy walking route back or even hopping on the gondola - but it was a beautiful afternoon, and after all the poorer weather earlier in the week, we wanted to make the most of it.

So we took the long route back via Zmutt and Hubel, dropping into town by the main Church and popping into the shops for food on the way back to the flat.

After a clear day, a clear evening beckoned, and one of the things we had wanted to do was see the Matterhorn at night. 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent by Edward Whymper and his team, and to mark the occasion a series of lights has been placed following the line that the team took.

Hornli ridge to the summit: lights showing the
route taken by Edward Whymper and team
during the first ascent in 1865

The lights come on for 11 minutes three times each night. We timed our evening stroll (3.70km) to coincide with the 9.15pm lighting-up time. We were in luck: after a couple of failed attempts, we finally got to see them, and it was quite emotional to see them clearly following the line up from the Hornli ridge to the summit – success before disaster all those years ago.

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