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Tour de Alps - Switzerland

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Zermatt, Switzerland

Riffelalp and Gornergrat Sunday, September 18, 2005
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Sunday Morning at Riffelalp

Sunday Morning at the Riffelalp

The morning greeted us with an overcast day with clouds down to the ground level. It was also snowing. Temperature hovering around 9 deg. C.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Taking Cogwheel Train up Mountain

Breakfast

Breakfast Buffet

For breakfast there was a huge elegant buffet with a a-la-minute chef to prepare omelets and other egg products. The dining room has views to the Matterhorn, when it's not cloudy or foggy outside. The buffet was one of the best I've ever had with selections from cereal, to a wide variety of cheese and fruit juices. In addition there was a large assortment of breakfast rolls, croissants, and other delicious baked goods.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Cogwheel

Zermatt

Gornergrat Cogwheel

After breakfast we donned our hiking gear and headed out for the village of Zermatt below. Our SwissPass gave us a discount on the Gornergrat cogwheel, so we purchased tickets at the Riffelalp Station and proceed down. There are trails down to Zermatt, but expect a very long hike down.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Cogwheel up Gornergrat - Bend View

Zermatt

Riffelalp Station

We arrived at Zermatt, which was below the cloud deck, and it was drizzling. After looking around at a few shops we tried to buy some lunch and water, but all the stores (Coop) were closed on Sunday. Back to the Riffelalp and then we geared up again for our hiking adventure.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Cogwheel Rail Up Mountain

Cogwheel to Gornergrat Peak

At the Summit at Gornergrat

We took the cogwheel (has great service every 20-30 minutes) up to the peak. On cloudy days, the train is empty. It was still drizzling as the train slowly climbed the zigzag track up the mountain. This is big snow country, and some portions of the track are covered by avalanche shelters.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Start

At the top of Gornergrat

Pepe Ready for Hiking Down the Mountain

We arrived after 20-30 minute vertical ascent in the train around 2:00 p.m. The arrival at the top greeted us with 32 deg. F (0 deg. C) temperatures, light snow, no wind and in a cloud. At this elevation, there was just rock. We located the trailhead, and started down in the fog and snow.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Hike

Hiking

Typical Trail on the Gornergrat

I put on my rain gear to keep the snow and drizzle out. Yes, I was wearing shorts even though it was freezing out. Oddly enough, they were just fine. I did have climbing pants, but opted for something cooler for the hike. The ground was wet and sometimes muddy, but not frozen.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Matterhorn

Trail

Matterhorn Begins to Review Itself From Clouds

As we winded down the trails through the fog the rock surface (more shale like) turned into tundra - dirt and grass. The trail was empty, which was nice. You felt like it was just you and the mountain. The lumbar pack was wonderful as usual and I slowly adjust to hiking protocol. I was using, more and more, the waist belt on the lumbar pack to hold the compact binoculars and and a camera case, which worked great for access to quickly needed items.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Steep Trail

Hiking

Matterhorn

As the trail slowly came down through the clouds, we could start to see more and more of what was around us. In one segment, the steep tundra slope fell away at a very precipitous angle - at about 75-80 degrees down into a valley very far below. This is the first time on the trip I started to feel the effects of vertigo. The trail at this point was basically a cow path, and not very wide. The trekking pole was great during the descent.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Matterhorn

Trailside Snacks

Riffelalp Below Trail

The trail parallels the ridge line much of the way down and on the left side is a huge, and very deep gorge. We stopped about 3/4 of the way down for some drinks, chocolate, and to check out the view. Slowly but surely, the clouds lifted to reveal the other side of the gorge, which led to the peak of the Matterhorn. The peak slowly peeked through the clouds, as if teasing us.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Vista

Final descent to Riffelalp

Steep Trail

By this time, the clouds had lifted by it was still slightly overcast. The Matterhorn, in all her majesty, had clouds on one side (leeward) and clear on the other (windward). It was an amazing sight. This was the first time either of us had seen the world famous mountain peak in person. We continued down.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Small Stream

Trail to Riffelalp

Trail Down

The last segment of the trail is very steep, and has switchbacks down an rocky (steep) slope. We took our time navigating down. Below us in the distance was the Riffelalp Resort, perched high above Zermatt, further below in the valley.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Gornergrat Hike - Brook

Arrival

Panoramic View of Riffelalp Resort

We finally arrived at the Riffelalp after crossing several small streams. It seems there is an abundance of water here. I notice in one of the panoramic views that there is a large hydro plant slightly above Zermatt. Switzerland is unique in that it can provide more than 75 percent of it's electrical needs through hydroelectric powerplants.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Riffelalp - Sunset

Pool and Hot tub

Matterhorn at Sunset

After a long hike, there is no better way to relax than enjoying the indoor pool at the Riffelalp. It was about 90 degrees in the pool room, and it felt great (humidity was up there too). The indoor pool area is about 75 percent pool, and about 25 percent lounge area, with a nice crackling fire to take the chill of the day. There is a huge glass paneled wall which leads to the outdoor pool (large Jacuzzi) which you can access through a indoor Jacuzzi swim-level entrance so you don't freeze getting outdoors. The view is amazing - you can lounge in the Jacuzzi while seeing the peak of the Matterhorn. This was living great. The panorama view from the Riffelalp is amazing.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Riffelalp - Matterhorn Sunset

Sunset

Matterhorn at Sunset

After the pool and Jacuzzi, we headed back to prepare for dinner. Even though it was a bit overcast before, we noticed that all of a sudden, there was a beautiful sunset, and the star of the show was the Matterhorn. It was so serene and peaceful. I could only image if there were climbers spending the night somewhere on the peak.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Sunset - Another View

Casual but festive dinner

Fondue

There are two dinner restaurants at the Riffelalp, one fancy and one casual. We decided to try the downstairs casual locale this evening. As you venture downstairs, you pass by the Riffelalp bowling alley and enter a compact dining room with long tables that can seat large groups or families. It was pretty crowded, but overall very cozy. There was a wood-fired grill down there, which I just love. The flavor from any wood fire is amazing - I was really looking forward to dinner. We started with cheese fondue, which was very yummy.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Riffelalp - Fireplace

Main Entree

Emmentaler Beef

The main entree was beef - and this was like no other beef I've had before. I originally thought it was Kobe Beef from Japan, because of the incredible flavor and tender cut. When I asked, I was surprised to learn that it was Emmentaler beef. Who would have ever known that the Swiss have some of the most delicious meats in the world. For desert we had a chocolate cake that topped off and fantastic meal.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Riffelalp - Fireplace at Night

After Dinner

Lounge Fireplace

After a full dinner from downstairs, we relaxed in front of the bar-lounge fireplace as the crackling embers glowed while the evening drew to a close.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Waterfall View From Cogwheel

Moon on the Matterhorn

Gornergrat Ticket

Before we retired for the evening, we hit the remote control to open the electrically powered curtains to see how the Matterhorn was doing. As it turned out, the Moon cast its aura over the cloudless peak. Far in the valley below was a carpet of clouds, which hid Zermatt from view. A perfect ending to a long day.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Zermatt - Town View

Gornergrat info.

Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Sunset

Gornergrat info.

Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Zermatt - Town Aerial View

Gornergrat info.

Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Zermatt - Town

Photos of ticket examples for cogwheel and cable car lifts.

Movie - Swiss - Day 04 - Riffelalp Station - Cogwheel

Additional Photographs: Riffelalp and Gornergrat

(click on photos to enlarge)
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