Mountain Monday – Schwarzsee, Zermatt




Ask any child to draw a mountain and you can bet it will be the triangle with snow on top… 

Ok, so lots of mountains are pointy with snow on top, but one more than others stands out to most.

The Matterhorn.

When I was a child, I would rope up and ascend this mighty peak (the stairs) with my climbing partners – Barbie, Ken and Action Man. Never appropriately dressed for the occasion, Ken would usually succumb to dying of exposure, slipping, all sorts… I put this down to the fact he chose to climb in a black sparkly tuxedo. Barbie had stilettos (basically crampons) and Action Man was in full jungle gear, but he was Action Man so he survived anything!

The Matterhorn is still on my bucket list of peaks to climb, and so when I was in Zermatt recently, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get up close and personal with this beautiful mountain.

I had initially planned to walk to the The Hörnli Hut, often referred to as Base Camp Matterhorn, after a friend told me about the walk. He sold it to me by saying you could walk up and touch the mountain. I was decided.

Alpinists from all over the world spend the night here before scaling the Matterhorn. The first refuge at 3260m opened in 1880: The Hörnli Hut, with 17 beds. In 1911, they built the Belvédère mountain guest house and in 2014 an annex was added. Early in the morning, well before dawn, the line of mountaineers snakes up the Hörnligrat ridge, head torches on, in what is known as the “Head Lamp Parade”- visible through binoculars from Zermatt.

On days with good weather in July and August, up to 200 climbers and mountain guides can scale the Matterhorn, but by no means is it an easy feat.

Unfortunately, whilst on the Saturday we were blessed with clear blue skies and sunshine, it had snowed for 2 days beforehand. I was chatting to a guide in the bar of my hostel, who said that the conditions on the path to The Hörnli Hut were very bad, and the fact it was warming up meant the snow that had fallen (and there was a lot of it) would be unstable, there was a risk of avalanches and nobody should walk up there.

I trust guides.
If they say something is dangerous, it usually is.

I headed up in the lift to Schwarzsee to start my walk to The Hörnli Hut, being ever the optimistic Brit, but was soon greeted by 5-6 people on their way back down, who it turned out were all very experienced, saying that it was dangerous.
​So my plans had to change…

Instead of walking to The Hörnli Hut, I decided to have a wander down to Schwarzsee Lake and the chapel of Maria Zum Schnee, which was beautiful and stepped in mountaineering history.

After taking a LOT of photos of the Matterhorn, the weather turned once more and it started to cloud over.

​I decided to try and make the most of my day and followed the trail of people beginning the walk back down to Furi via Stafelalp.

This route is one of the easiest down the mountains, and well marked. People had obviously taken it before I reached Schwarzsee as the path was well travelled.

It took a couple of hours, with the walk down being much faster below the snow line. Unfortunately, my camera battery chose that exact moment to die.

I was thankful to have managed to get the Matterhorn photos before it did!

Including the cliche tourist shot…

This was a beautiful walk down and one I can wholly recommend to anyone looking for a way to spend a morning or afternoon in Zermatt. It can of course also be walked in the opposite direction, instead of taking the lift up, but I wanted to make sure I was up there early enough to beat the groups of people (that as it turned out did not exist).
The lift to Schwarzsee as an Adult is 32CHF one way and 50CHF return. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass whilst in Switzerland (something I stupidly forgot to get) it will only be 16CHF one way and 25CHF return

As for the Matterhorn, it is still on my list, perhaps more than ever and I’m aiming to summit in 2019, all going well.

Time to get training!