One of the most surreal experiences I had while I was living in Geneva was being able to take a weekend trip to see the Matterhorn.
The best way to get up and close with this beautiful mountain is to stay in the town of Zermatt. We arrived late at night on Friday and woke up early Saturday morning to this ridiculous view of the mountain, framed by the gorgeous quaint town of Zermatt. Picture perfect right?
The town is pretty small and although there are tons of amazing (read: expensive) resorts to stay at the selection of lower cost options are pretty small. If you are on a budget then I would suggest you book early. Food is also pretty expensive in town so paying a bit extra to stay at a place with a kitchen is definitely worth it.
Early Saturday morning, we took the Gornergrat Bahn (bahn means train in german) up to the top of a neighboring mountain. The views on the way up were quite spectacular, and totally worth the (very) expensive ticket price.
Once you reach the last stop of the train, the very top has a small restaurant, a church and a lookout point. From there you can take tons of hiking trails down the mountain, or take the train back down.
There are 5 stops between the lookout point at the top and Zermatt station at the bottom. We choose to walk from the lookout point to the first stop down and then take the train back down.
Everything started out really well, the beginning of the trail was extremely easy and well groomed. We had people all around us so we knew which way we were going. We then reached a point which offers the perfect view for pictures. So we stopped and took quite a few. Once we were done our small group we had been following was no longer all around us.
We tried to read the signs and head the right way but being 2 floridians on a Swiss mountain all alone we inevitably got lost. At one point we saw the station we were suppose to catch the train from and decided it wasn't too far away, and maybe cutting across was the best option. We realized that about 200 meters back we had missed the turn on the trail to head towards the station. 200 meters isn't too far to walk back but unfortunately it was a very steep walk up. I (Tessa) convinced Matt to cut across. In my defense it didn't look to far and I thought we could make it easily.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
We started to walk across and before we knew it the snow was up to our shins and then quickly rose up to our knees. The incline had also gotten incredibly steep. We both lost our footing a couple of times and instead of falling we sort of slid down a small portion of the mountain. That was scary in of itself but also as we walked small bits of snow started to roll down the hill and form snowballs due to how steep the incline was. We had messed up and messed up very badly.
We got about half way before I started vocalizing what an awful idea this had been. I began to freak out, thinking we were going to die and Matt being the rational and collected one did his best to calm me down. We had two options, push forward and hope that it didn't get steeper or slowly turn around and walk back.
While I was having a meltdown, Matt was calming taking pictures (and checking the liverpool score) to try and show me that nothing was wrong. Just for some perspective on how high up we were and how much of a steep drop down it was take a look at the panoramic below. Matt took this picture when we stopped at the halfway point. If you look to the right of the Matterhorn, in the snow is a wavy sort of line, that is a very large river that was completely frozen over. We were standing right above that river with only lots of snow and rocks below us.
We decided to turn around and VERY slowly walked back the steep incline in knee high snow to the groomed trail. Once we got to the trail Matt took his jacket off and I realized he had sweated straight through both of his sweaters. That is how scared he actually was. He had completely fooled me into thinking that we were fine with his calm attitude, when internally he had been freaking out just as much as I had.
I'm telling you this story because if you ever find yourself on a trail in the mountains and think going off trail is a good idea I hope you remember this post. We could have been seriously hurt, or worse. One wrong stop and we could have gone tumbling down the mountain all because we didn't want to walk 200 meters back up a mountain. Learn from our mistakes; respect the mountain, enjoy the views and for the love of god DON'T go off trail!
What was suppose to be a 45 minute short hike to the first train station below the top ended up being a 4 hour hike to the second station below the top.
At least we had a beautiful mountain to look at the whole way down.