Zermatt & Gornergrat, Switzerland

We got on the road in Bremgarten at 11 o’clock after saying good bye to our friends and to the kids. Our navigation system estimated the drive to Taesch to 4 hours and we chose to cross the Alps over the Furka pass instead of taking the tunnel. The drive was beautiful and exciting, the road was narrow and it took us up and down and in zig-zags. It was exhausting for the driver but awesome for me! 😉

We stopped half way in a small restaurant which I definitely underestimated Baschi. I had the filet steak with potatoes and it was sooo good! The steak was sprinkled with cheese during/after grilling and it had a nice crust on top.

We arrived finally to Taesch after 5.5 hours (it never takes as much as the navi estimates, does it? :() and parked the car in a garage and took the Zermatt shuttle to (obviously) Zermatt. This city is amazing! No cars are allowed so the only way in or out is with the shuttle and public transportation with cabs or bus is with small electric cars.

Our hotel was 5 minutes walking distance from the train station so we decided to walk with all our luggage instead of taking a cab or calling our hotel to send a car. The signs in Zermatt are somewhat lacking so we had some difficulty to find our hotel. Pulling big bags and carrying backpacks uphill was not fun, let me tell you. I was so happy when we were finally there and checked in to our lovely double room on the fourth floor with a side view to Matterhorn.

The hotel

I chose the Hotel Phoenix in Zermatt for our 3-night stay. The reviews on Tripadvisor were good and the hotel has a very cool gym (which I didn’t get a change to try yet :(). The superior double room on the fourth floor is somewhat small but nicely arranged. The view to Matterhorn from the balcony is pretty cool.

The breakfast is pretty basic but quite good and enough for a good start of the day. There is WIFI in the lobby but only internet with cable in the room so I can’t use the internet in the room with any of my gadgets. I carried all my iPad, Surface, Kindle and Nokia Lumia smartphone and I can’t use any of them. WIFI in a hotel room should be mandatory, right??? 😦

The hike: Gornergrat – Zermatt

I planned on getting up early to go to the hotel gym. I am in week 10 of the Jamie Eason Live Fit Trainer program and I don’t want to take a too long break and lose all my gains. My last workout was 5 days ago and I thought I could continue here. The plan was good but I didn’t expect that I will sleep this bad as I did last night, I always need one or two days to adjust to a new bed and room. My alarm went off at 7 this morning and after some consideration I decided to skip the gym and try to rest for the big hike!

After breakfast we took the shuttle train to Gornergrat. We bought a one way ticket going up and planned to walk down. We thought it would be easy. Oh boy, we were wrong!

Aussichtsweg

Gornergrat – Rotenboden

We walked around in Gornergrat and took so many pictures. It is so impressive, seeing the high mountains full with snow in August.

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We walked down from Gornergrat to Rotenboden enjoying the scenery and stopping to take pictures very often. This high alpine trail is 1.8 km with low difficulty level and it took us about 45 minutes downhill. The trail was ok but the highlight is definitely the view to the snowy mountains.

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Riffelseeweg

Rotenboden – Riffelsee – Riffelberg

We headed from Rotenboden to Riffelsee and I was somewhat disappointed that the Matterhorn was still partially covered by the clouds/fog. Otherwise I would’ve taken a picture of the Matterhorn over the Riffelsee lake, this is a very popular picture because the mountain is mirrored in the lake. It is very beautiful if you get a chance to catch Matterhorn in clear blue sunny sky! Some hikers were waiting there for hours today!

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This high alpine trail is 3.2 km long with low difficulty level and it takes about 1 hour downhill.

From Riffelsee we continued to Riffelberg but we took a detour to the next trail because it was shorter to our destination, 20 minutes instead of 40, and most of the other hikers took the other trail so we decided to follow them. We guessed that they probably know something that we don’t!?

Swiss Top Walk

Gornergrat – Riffelsee – Riffelberg – Riffelalp

This hiking trail goes from all the way up from Gornergrat till Riffelalp and it is 4.9 km long. It usually takes about 2 hours downhill.

We took this trail only partially from Riffelsee till Riffelberg. This section was nice but I think the Riffelseeweg is probably nicer because it goes along the edge and there is a nice view of the valley. I guess I should’ve stuck to the plan and go on the trail that we picked from the start.

Mark Twain Weg

Riffelberg – Riffelalp

We decided to take the Mark Twain trail from Riffelberg to Riffelalp, instead of continuing on the the Swiss Top Walk, where all the other hikers went. We thought that everybody went on the other because it was quicker but as it turns out it was probably easier, much much easier!

This trail is famous from Mark Twain’s “Climbing the Riffelberg” and it is about 2.2 km long. It is supposed to take 50 minutes downhill but it took us 1.5 hours!!!

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The trail started nicely along a field filled with flowers, water flowing, going only slightly downhill but it quickly took us on the steep mountain with a very narrow trail where I got really dizzy from looking in front of my feet because it was going so steeply down on the side.

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I stayed strong and kept going further and slowly got used to the steep trail but I was once again surprised by a very steep rocky trail where it was very difficult to go down. I had to sometimes crawl down from one rock to the next and very often hold myself on the rocks.

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(We actually climbed down these rocks!!!)

I was so happy when we entered the forest for the last short part and really grateful for making it down in one piece.

This trail is still high alpine but this is where the snowy mountains seemed already far away and the vegetation was more accentuated. This was probably my favorite of all the trails, it was scary especially because it was so steep and narrow and the rocky trail but it was definitely a nice adventure to get down.

A little warning about the high difficulty would have been nice because the book showed low difficulty and I was caught by surprise.

Arvenweg

Riffelalp – Findelbach – Zermatt

By the time we got to Riffelalp, it was already pretty late, about 5 in the afternoon, and we were hiking for 5-6 hours with only short breaks. Riffelalp is beautiful and there is a great hotel there. The tram on Riffelalp is famous for being the only tram on this high altitude in Europe.

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We passed the train station for the shuttle back to Zermatt and after a short consideration decided to walk on this last trail down to Zermatt. The mountain trail is 4.2 km and it should take about 1.5 hours downhiill going through the forrest and passing the waterfalls in Findelbach. That fresh air and the smell of the pine trees was amazing!

We were walking for about 20 minutes on the trail going down, unfortunately the trail was wet because of the rain from last night and it didn’t get dry because of the high trees. I saw hikers climbing upwards and I even saw one guy running up and then down. I was already pretty tired but I didn’t want to give up, especially when seeing that some people can run up and down this trail. I expected low difficulty but it started to get very steep and dangerous (for me).

We kept going but I soon realized that I won’t make all 4.2 km because I was already too tired from hiking for 6-7 hours and my legs were hurting so much. The trail got so so steep and narrow that I was feeling very dizzy and scared, this was when I chickened out (it was pretty scary) and decided to return to get the train in Riffelalp. It took us about 20 minutes to climb back up (it’s easier to climb up than down, I always thought and now I am sure) but I was oh so happy to be sitting in the train being carried down and not having to walk anymore, especially on this dreadful trail.

The trail seemed pretty difficult from Raffelalp to Findelbach, but then it got very easy because the terraine got so flat. I would’ve walked from Findelbach to Zermatt but decided against it because I was tired and starving, I ate only an apple and a Questbar during hiking because I can’t eat much when I am active.

If I would have more time here, I would probably give this trail another try but only early in the morning with full power and energy. Walking down this trail after 6-7 hours of hiking is most probably not a good idea and taking the train was a smart decision. Better safe than sorry, right? After today I completely understand this saying.

Safety first!

My hiking shoes are a great investment, I saw lots of hikers in running shoes but it is too slippery and dangerous. I think hiking here with a couple of hiking/nordic-walking sticks would make it even easier. A wind jacket is definitely a must, there is a slight breeze on the mountain and it sometimes got really chilly, especially up high where it was 5-6 degrees Celsius but luckily it felt warmer because of the sun. Packing water and snacks (apples, Questies, energy bars) is highly recommended even though there are restaurants along the trails.

Also we notified a friend about our hike and the trails which we were planning to take and we agreed that we will check back in the evening. If something goes wrong, our friend could have notified the authorities and they would have known where to look for us. Luckily nothing happened but being prepared is important.

The evening

We got to Zermatt at 6:30 and had a nice walk in the village and took some more pictures. After a small break at the hotel we set out on a search for burgers and found this awesome restaurant-bar called Snowboat.

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A mojito, a spicy gourmet burger with salsa and guacamole and a homemade chocolate ice cream later, I was happily limping back (my legs hurt sooo much! no weight training or running can prepare me for this mountain) to the hotel for a good night rest.

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My FitBit shows 27,324 steps for today, 76 floors and almost 19 kms. I think I will sleep well tonight! 😉

Pictures coming soon… (My Surface works with micro SD cards and I stupidly used a normal SD cards in my camera today so I can’t upload the pics here. Sorry! :()

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