The Matterhorn
From the snowy white hump of Mount Blanc to the grey jagged edges of the Matterhorn, a contrast between mountains could not be more vivid. Walking up various paths gave us different perspectives on this thin, pyramid-like mountain floating in the clouds. Small pipes on the path side indicated where winter batons guide skiers on their much faster trajectory. Corrie was one of those graceful two bladed gliders so she saw the mountain in yet another way.
As you first enter Zermatt, there is a buzz in the air. Various tour groups dominated by Asians take up most of the street space as they prepare for their cable car rides to the base of the Matterhorn and back. Families, couples (young and old), a few single folk, and groups of young Westerners mostly ride up while some will walk down. Few others like us will walk both ways because it’s fabulous, while determined young Europeans don’t care how they get up because they have ropes and things to tackle the unwalkablem.
I don’t know if they are attempting to reach the very top, but today there is help for modern day mountain climbers with built in cables. As a 75 year old Swiss German who reached the top 50 years ago told us, as he and his wife walked slowly past: “it’s not that hard as long as you have strong shoulders”, while his wife added: “and don’t get anxious”.
I don’t know if they suffered from anxiety years before our friend’s climb, or their shoulders did not hold out, but the local graveyard is witness to many who did not make it for various reasons. But you don’t have to reach its top to appreciate this mountain, for it has invited you, not for a single taste, but for a banquet along the way.
It appeared to have profound powers over the sky. Clouds seemed to flow from its peak. As these clouds came from one side and disappeared into its peak I was waiting for a gap to appear between the mountain and the clouds. Twenty minutes went by as we looked down on a restaurant below from our park bench with a dog and its stick. The whole time, clouds seemed to emit from the peak with no clouds feeding it from the other side – a phenomena or had I been drinking too much stream water?
Mostly small wildflowers cover fields that nestle in between the multi coloured boulders, or poke out of rocks and tree roots; azalea bushes huddle together, their pink flowers bringing a vibrant flush along the eclectic pathways – rocky, gravelly, with sharp turns, re-made paths across rockslides, quite wide to extremely narrow paths and more. The pine and fir trees shade these paths as they seem to grow out of nothing, unnerved as they balance on these steep hillsides, trying to prevent more slides.
At the top or close to it their are lakes mirroring the magnificence of the landscape, thick ice fields replacing the trees in now lighter slopes, and views that are the reward of a long climb. On the descent, a new pathway creates a new atmosphere, the downhill walk needing greater awareness, rather than the lung power of the ascent. A walk through the village at the end of our climb seemed quite surreal as we reflected on the day’s experiences.