Tuesday 30 October 2018

Zermatt and the Matterhorn

Back in August I spent a few days in Zermatt with some of my university mates. It had been a shocking 20 years since we graduated. I did a four year course, which means it is nearly a quarter of a century since I started. Some poor people don't even live that long. The choice of the Swiss Alps had absolutely nothing to with what or where we studied, it is just where one of the guys really really likes going and he wanted to share it with us. And who am I to argue? The setting is magnificent, immense views at every turn, and we lucked out with the weather in a big way. The only downside was the incredulous cost of everything, the Swiss really take the piss in places like this. But whatever, we were on together for the first time in a while and on holiday, and so if a G&T cost £20 then so be it. Gah!

The plan was to gaze upon the Matterhorn and go hiking in the clear mountain air. And for me at least, to find, see and appreciate Lammergeirs. The plan was comprehensively actioned with Lammergeir on the first day and everyday thereafter, and the Matterhorn was also seen daily - not necessarily always a given! Here is an atmospheric shot of a small portion of the mountain for instance, and I'm led to understand that we could have gone a whole week and not even seen this much.

Somehow my terrible fitness levels did not hold the team back - my fellow fatty Andy (sorry Andy...) and I were able to keep our own pace whilst Charlie and the others went a little faster. This is always hard as by the time I caught up they had had a rest and were ready to crack on! For the most part we all stuck together, barring one day where Andy and I took a direct route to a beer rather than schlep halfway towards the Matterhorn base camp.

What a mountain, it has to be said. It is simply glorious. Iconic and engrained in the psyche in many ways. Even if you have never been there you know it, or know of it. Caran d'ache pencils, Toblerone bars, Disneyland.... Our hotel rooms faced it (by design, naturally) and so each morning we awoke to its immense presence. One morning it was completely clear, and fortunately I had set my alarm. Other times it had a bank of cloud on one side. Different each time you looked it.

The ridge to the right of the cloud is the typical ascent. We didn't attempt it...

We spent the four days hiking, eating, drinking and being alternately silly and having grown-up conversations. The five of us had six kids with another on the way, and all in our early forties with all of the things that age brings meant we had a lot to discuss. If our carefree days at Royal Holloway seemed a long time ago it is because they were!

Anyway, wonderful hiking, great company, and stupendous views were the order of the day. Nutcrackers were everywhere, and on one day I picked out a pair of Golden Eagles high up along a ridge. The scent of pine, mile upon mile of visibility and blue skies, birds calling and weissbier. I have been on few holidays quite as enjoyable.


  1. I've never seen, nor even envisioned, The Matterhorn in summer plumage, so thanks for that awakening if nothing else. You do lead an enviable life (at least the "not at work" part that you share!)