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Friday August 26: Zermatt Switzerland

Sunday August 28: Zermatt to Chamonix

Saturday August 27: Zermatt Switzerland

Glacier Paradise

Today was sort of the opposite of yesterday. The forecast called for cloudy weather with rain showing up early afternoon. Instead, it was mostly sunny and dry.

We got up at the normal time, and to our surprise, the skies seemed clear. There was a cloud around the top of the Matterhorn, but we hoped that would burn off later in the day. (Unfortunately, it never did. It looked like it would blow away from the Matterhorn, but it kept reforming, so the top was never really visible.)

Small Clouds Around Matterhorn
Small Cloud That Never Left Matterhorn

We had breakfast as in the previous day. For some reason, I seem to wake up feeling extremely stressed. I'm not sure why. I think it might be that I don't know what the day has in store for us. In particular, we were going to take a cable car up to the highest station in the Alps, and I wasn't sure how the ride would be, and I had no idea how cold and/or exposed it would be at the top.

At first Sam wasn't going to join us and said that she would just spend the day in the hotel waiting for us to return, but Amy convinced her to join us. I think that Sam was glad that she did.

It was fairly cool when we left our apartment. That was probably an unheeded warning for me. I wore a tee-shirt, fleece shirt, and my red fleece jacket. The fact that I was wearing it down here (granted that it was still before the sun reached the town) should have given me pause. I should have thrown my down vest inside my pack, but I didn't. I could also have worn my down sweater, but I didn't.

We hiked to the other end of town to where the base of the tram system was for Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. That was slightly uphill, so it winded Amy a bit.

The first leg was in small gondolas. I think each one would hold 6-8 people, but we had one to ourselves. It was interesting in that we traveled on several different cables, but all in the same gondola.  I think it went up to Furi, got peeled off that cable (while a voice prompt told us to remain seated for Glacier Paradise), turned a corner, and then got put on a cable for (I think) Trockener Steg. I think there were actually two or three such transfers while we remained in the gondola. At the endpoint, we had to get out and transfer to a larger aerial tram for the trip up to Glacier Paradise.

I was not a happy camper. My stress level was already very high, and hanging high up in the air in a small gondola did not improve my spirits. A gondola was much better than a chair lift--I don't think I could have managed a chair at that point, but I was still very stressed by the ride. For the second leg, in the larger tram, I just sat in one of the center seats (there were seats along the edges and in the center), closed my eyes, and practiced my breathing.

The good news about the top was that there wasn't too much exposure. The bad news is that it was freezing. The tram dropped us off into a tunnel system, which felt literally like a freezer. I was certainly under-dressed and rather chilled.

One side passage went to an observation platform. There seemed to be a crowd at the end of the passage. I figured it would be a small balcony in the cliff face, so while Amy and Sam went there, I continued on to the restaurant, where I could try to warm up. It was warmer than the tunnel, but not very warm at all. I waited there for rather some time, but Amy and Sam never appeared. So I went back to the viewing platform, and I found that the crowd I had seen was apparently waiting for an elevator. I took that up and came out on top. Some steps led up to the actual viewing platform.

I think that with the sun shining, it was actually warmer than the tunnel. I was beginning to de-stress at this point, and I could enjoy the views. Unfortunately, the top section of the Matterhorn was still in its perpetual cloud. We had some really good views of the glaciers around us, along with lots of crevasses.

View From Glacier Paradise
Panaorama From Glacier Paradise

Eventually, we went down to the restaurant to warm up again. Amy's blood sugar was tanking, so she needed something to eat. We ended up each getting a bowl of soup, and Amy also got a piece of cheesecake.

That helped warm us up. I think that the inside of the restaurant was also slowly warming up.

After eating and warming up, Sam and I went down to a snow/ice field where it was safe to walk on the glacier. There were signs warning us not to leave the marked area due to the danger of crevasses. Sam thought it was completely strange to be walking on snow/ice and making a snowball in the middle of August. There were apparently other people up there skiing, although I don't know the details.

Safe Area on Glacier
Sam Walking on Glacier
Large Crevasses
Hikers on Glacier

After we returned to Amy, we checked out the "Glacier Palace". I didn't know what this was, but I got a hint when we took an elevator down. As I expected, we popped out into a tunnel system cut within the glacier. Sam again marveled at walking through an ice tunnel in the middle of the summer. The neatest thing was that it took us through the bottom of a crevasse, so you would look sideways and up and see what a crevasse would look like if you fell into one, and it happened to be lit up. The tunnels continued into some galleries containing ice sculptures. It was interesting in that everything was made of ice (except for the mat on the floor so that you could walk without slipping). There were some steps up to the crevasse viewing platform, and the railing was made of ice blocks.

Glacier Palace Tunnel
Bottom of Crevasse
Ice Sculptures
Flowers Frozen in Clear Ice

There was a dark tunnel where kids could sit on mats and slide down to the other side. Sam tried it, but apparently the mats didn't slide that well, and the experience was underwhelming. It was of course at or below freezing inside the glacier tunnel system, and I was getting cold. So I went back up to the restaurant. It cost two franks to use toilet. I paid that, but then inside I read that I got a receipt going in, and I could use that to be reimbursed if I bought food. Of course, it was too late for that now, but after I came out, I bought a coffee, because it was essentially 40% off with my receipt.

The last thing to check out on our way out was the "video lounge". There was a large screen running through a series of 5 short videos. Instead of chairs or benches, they had seat pods. Imagine a large water droplet shape, hollowed out on the inside and along one side, and thus made into a seat. They came in singles and doubles (two side by side). They were actually quite cozy. The downside is that they limited the number of viewers (or at least the number not standing) to about a dozen or so.

We then went back down the mountain. For whatever reason, this was *much* less stressful for me as compared to when I went up. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I wasn't starting off very stressed? Perhaps because I was going down to something known, instead of up to something unknown? In any event, I could actually look around, stand up, and take pictures. Even the smaller gondolas didn't bother me like in the morning.

View of Glacier on Way Down
Bottom of Glacier
Trestle from Tram

When we got down, we found that it was significantly warmer in Zermatt. It was shirt weather rather than heavy jacket weather. The plan was to take the funicular up to Sunnegga and see what was up there. Sam wasn't interested, so I took Sam back to the apartment while Amy went straight to the funicular site.

I dropped off the jacket at the hotel, and then met up with Amy. After getting our tickets, we went through a long tunnel into the hillside. Eventually we came to the funicular. Interestingly, this one went up through a very long tunnel and never came out on the surface.

I thought that Sunnegga was a small hamlet, but it was much smaller. There was the funicular station down, and aerial tram station going further up, a restaurant, and a place to rent scooters to go down the gravel road to the bottom.

We took a tiny one car funicular down to a small pond where there was a recreation area for kids. Amy stayed there, but I wanted to check out a "5 lakes" hike. I thought that there were five lakes in that general area, and that it was fairly level. Ha! That was a foolish thought. The trail dropped down the side of the valley, and then made a sharp right turn to go down the valley. I did find a cluster of very old looking houses, with one of them being a dining establishment. I continued past these buildings to find that the trail dropped more steeply and then entered another cluster of buildings. I didn't want to have to climb up any further, so I retraced my steps.

Wolli Park and Leisee
Matterhorn and Leisee
Small Village
Small Eatery
Trail Keeps Going Down
Valley and Matterhorn

At this point, it was warm enough that I was just hiking in my tee-shirt.

At the point where I had made the right turn to go further down the valley, I went the other way, up the valley. I wanted to get to the next rise to see what was above me. When I got there, I found that the trail just continued going up.

Trail Continuing Up

I ran across a woman who was also heading up, and we chatted. This was her one day in Zermatt, and her plan was to hike up to Riffelalp and take the train down. I thought that she had quite a ways to go, but looking at the quasi-maps that we got for free, it looks like it wouldn't be that terrible of hike. Since I saw nothing particularly interesting further up, I turned and descended, and then went up the side of the valley back to that lake. My impression now is that the "5 lakes" hike starts further up the valley, and that it passes the five lakes as you descend back to Zermatt, taking a couple of hours for the total hike.

Panorama from Sunnegga

I met up with Amy, and we retraced our previous route back to Zermatt and then to our apartment. Amy was feeling that her sugar was still low, so she got a small tub of gelato (ice cream) from a place that we were passing. When we got to the apartment, Amy rested while I went out to find this other hotel, where we had to pay the room tax. For some reason, the tax has to be paid separately from the online payment.

Matterhorn Almost Clear

I went out but screwed up the address and couldn't find the place. On my way back to the apartment, however, I got myself some of that very yummy mango sorbet that Amy had gotten the previous night. Back at the apartment, I tried putting the other hotel in google maps, and it found it right away. I followed the directions on my phone, and I found it without too much difficulty. After I returned again to the apartment, I checked the address and found my mistake.

I took a shower before dinner. The shower setup in this place is brain dead. They have one of those hand-held shower sprays that you can attach to a holder in the wall. The problem is that the holder is in the middle of the long side of the tub, and the angle is fixed to about 45 degrees. If you have the sprayer pointing away from the wall, then it shoots straight into the shower curtain. If you aim it up or down the tub, it sprays into the side wall. In either case, you end up with a lot of water on the floor outside. What works, although it is a pain, is to start up the sprayer while holding it in your hand. After wetting yourself down, you turn off the water and soap up. You turn the water back on, and run the sprayer over your body to rinse off the soap. You then repeat turning the water on and off, so that you always have one hand free while the water is running to hold the sprayer. What a pain.

I started writing the day's events up, but then it was decided that it was time for dinner. We went out looking for a viable restaurant. We found one place that looked pretty reasonable, but they were filled and were only taking people with reservations. We found another reasonable place near the church, and they had available seats. About this time, the bells in the church started ringing semi-continuously. We couldn't figure out why, because it was about 6:45 or so, so it wasn't even the top of the hour. We asked the waitress about it. Apparently the Saturday vigil service starts at 7, and about 15 minutes before hand, they ring the bells to let people know that they should start heading to church.

After dinner, we found that the Matterhorn was the clearest it had been during the day. The cloud around the summit was mostly gone. Unfortunately, the light was terrible to get a good picture of the mountain. We had good timing, however. About 10-15 minutes later, the big cloud was back again.

Tomorrow we head out for Chamonix. This should be interesting. We are taking 4 trains, so there are 3 transfers. Some of them are about 4 minutes long. It will be a miracle if we get there on time.

Up to Danube/Alps: Sabbatical Trip, 2022 main page

Friday August 26: Zermatt Switzerland

Sunday August 28: Zermatt to Chamonix