Walking from Zermatt, Switzerland

21-27 June 2014

The view of Zermatt and the Matterhorn from our apartment - glorious.


Our first walk of the holiday did not start full of promise: first, owing to a misunderstanding in our host's directions, we took the wrong route to the funicular station so adding a bit to our walk; second, the intention was to take the funicular inside the mountain up to Sunnegga (which worked well) and then the gondola to Blauherd, which didn't work out as the timetable was confusing and the gondola wasn't open for another couple of weeks.

So the real start to our walk was the ascent from Sunnegga at 2288m to Blauherd at 2571m, largely following the route of the gondola towers and cables. The going is quite hard at this altitude, and so we took our time, but there were rewarding views back across the valleys including to the Matterhorn seen here with its head in the cloud

Our walk today was the "Five Lakes Walk" and this is Stellisee, first of the lakes. Later in the week we will descend that slope from Gornergrat into the valley between the lake and the mountain

Crossing the valley

An impressive waterfall slides across the rock face as we make a zigzagging descent

The walk is quite a mixture of almost desolate bare rock and soil, and trees, grass and flowers

Grindjesee, second of five lakes on today's walk, with the cloud-topped Matterhorn in the background

Having gained a little height on the other side of the valley, we reach Grueensee, third of five lakes on today's walk

A fresh descent back into the valley and we reach Mosjesee, fourth of five lakes on Sunday's walk, after which it is all up back to Sunnegga, with Dad seen here climbing away from the lake

Leisee, the fifth of the five lakes on today's walk, as thunder rolls around the high mountains. The conveniently located little funicular takes us back up to Sunnegga

After the thunder, the skies clear very rapidly, and we stop for a drink at the café with some wonderful views before descending to Zermatt in the main funicular

Walking across the Gornergratbahn on the way back up to our apartment


Our second walk of the holiday was a largely downhill walk, taking the Gornergratbahn cog railway from Zermatt at 1620 metres to Gornergrat station at 3089 metres, and then taking a looping route to walk down to the Riffelalp station at about 2220 metres. Although we expected some snow at the top of the walk, we thought it wouldn't be problematic.

The Gornergletscher, the second-longest glacier system in Europe, from the Gornergrat at the top of the Gornergratbahn

Before beginning the walk proper, we had a little exploration of the facilities at the Gornergrat. This photo was for Lucy - people were paying to have their photo taken with the St Bernard dog, but I was too stingy.

Exploring the busy top of the Gornergrat

Looking the other way from the glacier - the area in the middle distance on the right includes where we were on Sunday. We will cross this area later in the week

From Gornergrat we walked down, with views of the Gornetgletscher

Heading for the Riffelhorn (on the left), with the railway descending. We're nearing Rotenboden station and have crossed the majority of the snow we encountered - less than expected

The mountains around the Zmutt valley, from the Matterhorn on the left. We will explore the Zmutt valley later in the week.

The foot of the Gornergletscher. Since I first came to Switzerland, this glacier has retreated 800 metres, and the surface is much lower too - within living memory, the surface was halfway up the valley walls. We've passed the Rifferhorn (on the left) and continue to walk more or less on the edge of the valley as it starts to curve around towards Zermatt.

We thought we'd done all the awkward footwork and had only a level walk back to the railway, but we'd reckoned without the removed bridge. The plank was rather slippery so it was time to put the spikes back on our boots to make sure of our footing.

The Riffelalp Resort hotel is the only one I know of that has its own branch line and its own service to shuttle residents from the main line, complete with its own turning circle and engine shed. The platform (these two blocks to stand on) is understated, though. From here it is a short walk along the branch line to the main Riffelalp station, our timing being almost perfect as the afternoon rains arrived.


Our third walk began with a short ride on the Gornergratbahn to Findelbach station, to gain a little height. I spent a little while seeing if I could get into a position to photograph the waterfall which is an impressive sight from the train as it crosses the high bridge below the station, but without an unpermitted straying onto the line, it didn't seem possible. (The Zermatt website has a good photo - if I ever go back I will look to visit the north bank of the side valley.)

After that, we made our way up the main valley, past the Furi gondola and cable-car station. A view looking down the valley towards Zermatt

The "Glacier Garden" with the holes created by strong flows underneath the glacier we saw yesterday

The suspension bridge that is our next objective

The bridge is 90 metres above the water below

Looking down the valley from the bridge, past the gondola station buildings at Furi (about 1860 metres) to Zermatt (about 1620 metres).

The bridge is an open grid

When walking, the bridge sets up an interesting rhythm, twisting and swaying. Its official capacity is 125 people.

We walked down the west side of the valley past Furi, and descended from Furi towards Zermatt

Our final objective of this walk was to explore the impressive Gorner Gorge

More galleries providing the walkway along the side of the gorge, high above the foaming water. The walk then continued along the river down to Zermatt.


Our fourth outing began with a journey to the "Matterhorn Glacier Paradise" which is the marketing name for the Klein Matternhorn. The journey is a long gondola ride to Trockener Steg, and then a cable car to the top. The cable car terminus is at 3820 metres, the highest in Europe, after which there is an elevator up inside the mountain and then a short flight of stairs to the viewing platform with its spectacular views over the mountains of Switzerland and Italy.

Breithorn (4164m) on the right from Klein Matterhorn at 3883 metres

On the platform at the top

After the excursion to Klein Matterhorn, we returned by cable car to Trockener Steg, and set off on our walk, feeling slightly out of place as the cable car station is set up for skiers and stationary sightseers, not walkers, and it was a bit of a challenge to get away from it. We managed, however, and soon were in the midst of a mix of snowy and rocky desolation. This is the reflection of Breithorn and Klein Matterhorn (where the cable car goes to) in the semi-frozen Theodulgletschersee

Having made our way around the Theodulgletschersee at around 2860 metres, we gained a little height and then began a long gentle descent across the Oberer Theodulgletscher

The official route, marked by flags, goes through that glacier meltwater so we found a safe alternative

Heading across the foot of the Furgggletscher - possibly the first time I've had occasion to use a word with three consecutive Gs in it (unless you count "argggh")

The Matterhorn kept its head in the clouds as we continued across the foot of the glaciers towards the Furgg valley hidden in the middle distance

Heading down into the Furgg valley

Having crossed the Furgg valley and river from the left of picture (from behind the dark cliff) at about 2690 metres , we are now climbing out the other side to a minor col at 2760 metres.

From that col, a look down to the gondola station at Schwarzsee, with Zermatt in the valley on the left. Centre-right is the massif we explored on Monday, with the rounded dome of the Riffelhorn, with part of the Gorner glacier to its right. Just to the left of centre is the side valley whose five lakes we explored on Sunday.

There then followed an easy descent to the lake of Schwarzee and the iconic chapel at Schwarzsee, dedicated to Mary of the Snows. A gondola ride should have taken us down via Furi to Zermatt, but the section from Schwarzsee to Furi was temporarily closed, so they sent us up to Trockener Steg again, to get the cable car back to Furi, but while we were waiting at Trockener Steg, we were told that the gondola was reopened and thus that the cable car downwards, which doesn't normally run at this time of year, had been closed again, so it was back on the gondola to Schwarzsee and then via Furi to Zermatt. Not really a problem as the ride on the gondola is beautiful in its own right, but it was a good job we weren't in a hurry.


Our fifth walk took us once again to the top of the Gornergratbahn cog railway, from where we would descend northwards to the Findel valley.

The Gornergletscher from Gornergrat - same view as Monday but a better photo and better weather. (You can just see a train on the far right, too.)

The start of our walk is past the unfrozen and frozen lakes and crossing Kelle, eventually down into the Findel valley hidden in the middle distance

An experiment that hasn't worked wonderfully - that is a reflection of a Gornergratbahn train in the lake

The Matterhorn reflected in what appears to be an unnamed lake in the Kelle area

There was, predictably, more snow on today's walk on the north-facing slopes from Gornergrat than on the west-facing slopes we travelled on Monday, and it gave us a little difficulty in places. But now, having left most of the snow behind, the way ahead is down into the valley, with one of the five lakes clearly visible.

From open mountain-sides, the character changes for a little while as we descend through the forest towards the river

Climbing back up after crossing the river, with the Matterhorn in the background.

A well-earned cup of coffee at Sunnegga before we take the funicular down inside the mountain to Zermatt.


Our final walk of the holiday was an exploration of the Zmutt valley

Looking up the Zmutt valley, with the north face of the Matterhorn on the left

Down the Zmutt valley towards some of our earlier walks

Having walked up the south side of the valley (left of picture), we are now descending the north side, albeit that at this point "descending" involves a stiff climb to circumvent a rockfall on the original path

Looking down on the green reservoir in the Zmutt valley, which is part of the major water pumping and transfer systems that move a lot of water westwards

A somewhat precarious looking hut, and the Matterhorn

The Breithorn (4164m) is in the centre, with the Klein Matterhorn (3883m) which we visited just peeking out to its right

Descending towards Zermatt

The Gornergratbahn mountain railway at Findelbach

As we continue our descent towards Zermatt, on our last mountain walk of the holiday, there is a good view of the town. Our apartment is the top floor of the marked building. It's a tiring little climb from the river after dinner!


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson