Having just returned from Zermatt from a ski trip I never expected to be writing a walking blog this week. But I discovered ‘Wander Weg’ and Winter Walking trails. It transpires that Zermatt has over 70k of winter trails, none of them, if our experience was anything to go by, particularly arduous.
So on Thursday we abandoned our skis, returned to our walking boots and took ourselves up the mountain on foot, with ski poles working perfectly well for walking. Like everything Swiss the trails are superbly marked and organised. Winter walking trails are marked, just as ski runs, with poles. Pink in this case. Winter walks on cross road signs have a neat little snowman on them, no point in trying the summer trails with out snowshoes.
We managed to cover three trails in a day: 112, Zermatt-Findeln-Sunnegga; 110, Blauherd-Fluhalp; 111, Sunnegga – Tuftern. A total of 16.4k (10.25m) with the return to Zermatt.
Leaving our chalet on the south of the village we went straight up the hill behind to the village of Findeln. My first surprise. More used to OS maps, I struggle with piste maps to get any sense perspective of where things are or how far I am travelling. It is only now, checking Google Earth, that I find we were walking east up the hill. I was under the total misapprehension that that all maps, piste or otherwise, must have north at the top. Now I realise that is a little ridiculous. Mountains don’t all behave that conveniently.
The path to Findeln was cut into the hillside and had been efficiently ‘bashed’. It wanders up through trees and over the Gornergrat railway line. The Matterhorn was behind us and hence there were numerous stops. It really is the most photogenic of rocks, and it was far easier to take ‘photo breaks’ on foot than on skis. Aside from ‘that mountain’ the trees hid all but the gorge which we were following. We emerged, in what seamed quite a short time, at the village of Findeln and a Gluhwein stop, which had, on a previous day, taken over two hours to ski to.
On to Sunnegga and we had to negotiate crossing a piste. Waiting for a gap in the skiers coming down and thinking how ridiculous we must look in all our ski kit, apart from skis. Being on foot gave us a chance to take a more leisurely look at the wooden buildings. Many with interestingly carved doors and shutters.
We left Findeln via a ladder of neatly cut snow steps. Interestingly we were the only people going up. We met quite a few going down, having opted for the sedate option of a cable car ascent. From Sunnegga to Blauherd there is no Wander Wag, so we had to take the cable car to route 111. From Blauherd to Fluhalp was the only part of the day which was in anyway challenging.
The weather here was a tad blowy with clouds sat on the glacier just behind Fluhalp. For a change we were pounded by horizontal snow, rather than the horizontal rain of wintery Lake District. But Fluhalp brought lunch. Good carbohydrate, restorative rosti, complete with ham and two fried eggs. We just managed to grab the last unreserved table, not realising that Fluhalp was the place to be on a Thursday afternoon, with a live band playing.
Suitably replenished we stepped out into the snow bowl of swirling cloud and retraced our steps back to Blauherd. Much easier with the wind behind us.
Back at Sunnegga we diverted along 111 to Tuftern. 2.1k there and 2.1k back. Unfortunately no loop available. But we had noticed Tuftern when skiing past and it was an opportunity to have a more relaxed look. The diversion was justified by the sun terrace like stroll. Though tree lined, the afternoon sun filtered through sharpening the trees against the white and blue.
Our plan was to take another route from Findeln to Zermatt but by the time we were back to the little village the ski trails were closed and the piste bashers were on the move. A close encounter with a piste bashers proved quite an unnerving experience. At Findeln the sun was just about to dodge behind the all pervasive Matterhorn, so we hung around and waited for it to disappear. For a few moments, the valley dipped into hazy half light.
From then on it was all downhill. Literally but not metaphorically. We thought we might slip and slide down but typically Swiss, the path had been spread with pine chips to add grip, with an added aroma therapy effect. The only hazard was the restaurant staff returning to the Zermatt by sledge. Silent and no brakes.
So, never having taken a ‘day off’ on a ski trip before I can highly recommend it, at least in Zermatt. In fact Zermatt was the most wonderful Alpine experience with its pretty buildings, good food, lively bars and great skiing. Just a shame about the exchange rate.
More pictures here (soon!)
More walks in the area in this book.