A Memorable Birthday at the Matterhorn

Day two, we headed to Zermatt near the Italian border. From Zermatt, there are cable car-gondola-funicular combinations that take you up to various peaks and views of one of the Alps’ most famous mountains, the Matterhorn.

View from Zermatt

A few details on planning this trip. The Swiss Pass is a convenient deal, especially if you’re traveling with someone. As long as two people are traveling together at all times, you get a 15% discount on the cost, which is pretty pricey. But it’s still a good deal, giving you access to the rails, buses, trams, boats, museums pretty much throughout the country.

I also loved the precision of the transport system SBB. I try to be pretty organized when traveling, and SBB makes it easy with online timetables accurate to the minute, even telling you in advance at which platforms you’ll need to make your transfers. For each day, I prepared minute-by-minute itineraries. It sounds intense, and I wasn’t trying to be a drill sergeant. Quite the opposite–being able to jot down the transport schedules and connection times in advance allowed me to relax once we were at the destination, since I knew I wouldn’t have to scramble or worry later to figure out where to catch this train or that bus.

Of the three most popular viewpoints reachable from Zermatt, we chose to go up to Rothorn. It’s farther from the Matterhorn than the Klein Matterhorn and not as high up as the Gornergrat, but it’s got great hiking trails and postcard-classic views of the famous four-faced peak.

We took the underground funicular to the first stop (Sunnega), and the gondola to the second stop (Blauherd), where we got off for a bit of hiking. The trail took us past trickling streams and wistful wildflowers on our way to a small lake called Stillersee.

Our picnic spot along the hiking trail to Stillersee.

I should add that some of the photos I’m using in these posts, like the one above, were taken by Mom.

We got my old Canon fixed, and digital photography became an instant hobby for her! She’s a natural.

After a few hours of hiking and picnicking, we took the cable car up to the summit of Rothorn, from where we could see the surrounding mountains.

And glaciers.

In a bit of visual trickery, the Matterhorn looks like the tallest peak around because it stands alone. However, the actual highest point in Switzerland is the peak pictured above, the Monte Rosa, at 15,203 feet. By comparison, the Matterhorn reaches 14,692 feet. But because the Monte Rosa is clustered among other mountains, it’s hard to tell with the naked eye.

A happy-birthday cup of hot chocolate! Mom turned 60 the day we went to the Matterhorn, and it was a pretty memorable way to spend the day, if I say so myself. The only thing lacking was the rest of our family. Wish Dad and Bro could have been there too!

I wanted to get an apple strudel, but the premium prices at the summit were a little above my pay grade. Especially considering that my pay grade is zero at present.

After we came back down from the summit, we spent the rest of the afternoon souvenir shopping for family and friends before taking the train back. We were fascinated by the color of the water, which must pick up sediment or minerals as it rushes down the mountainsides. Never seen anything quite like this chalky gray-green color in running water before, and not sure I’d feel great about drinking the local water round here…

We came back to the town just in time to catch the goats being herded back home at the end of the day! Mom was quicker on the draw getting the camera back out, so photo credit again goes to Mom here.

The scenic train ride out of the valley.

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4 thoughts on “A Memorable Birthday at the Matterhorn

  1. Glad you had a good time there – just got back from the valley myself. One of the great things about Switzerland are the water taps. They are everywhere, and its all pure drinking water, unless explicitly otherwise mentioned. So wherever you are in Switzerland and you see running water, whether a fountain or otherwise, and no label “KEIN TRINKWASSER” – don’t hesitarte to drink from it.

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