Adventures in TMR

Chapter 2 - The Swiss Side of TMR.

Next morning we wake up early, pack our rucksacks and prepare some tea. We talk with the man who operates the cable car. He is not surprised to see us. Apparently we are not the first travelers who got stuck here... We buy a cable-car ticket to "Plateau Rosa", at 3,317 m', the summer ski station. We are about to cross the border into Switzerland. Before we do it we decide to have breakfast. Worder oneglass of milk and one set breakfast. Altogether it's 8 Euro. The breakfast is discovered to be a real bargain which is enough to fill us both easily. We get one liter of hot milk, half a liter of cold milk, Museli, bread, jams, honey - everything in huge portions. It's time to go. The following 3 kilometers walk on the eternal Theodulgletcher glacier is described in our map as an Alpine route which requires an experienced guide as well as a rope and crampons. Bullshit. We simply walk carefully on the ski slope down to Trockener-Steg at 2,940 m'... We are in Switzerland now !

We put our bags near a table in a self-service restaurant. Ten seconds later, a waiter comes towards us and closes the area where we sit with a rope. It looks like he is angry about our behavior... Tali feels like having an egg for lunch. She didn't eat much proteins in our trek till now... Unfortunately, we don't find an egg here. Our next destination is Hornlihutte, the base camp of the people who want to climb the Matterhorn, the famous pyramid-shaped Swiss mountain (we wrote about it in the prologue). It is located on a small ledge, just below the starting point of the technical part of the climb. We read about the way in the Lonely Planet guide:" The Hornligrat is the craggy north-east ridge that leads up like a knife-blade to the 4,477 meter summit of the Matterhorn, giving the mountain its characteristic sharply angular appearance. The upper half of the Hornligrat is strictly mountaineer's territory, but a cut path easily good enough for fit walkers ascends from the Schwarzsee at 2'552 m' (where there is a little chapel by the lake dedicated to mountain climbers) to the Hornlihutte, a Swiss Alpine Club hut at 3,260 m'. The Hornlihutte occupies a breathtakingly impressive site overlooking straight out onto the sheer rock walls of the Matterhorn's east face - with a pair of binoculars you may even be able to follow the progress of the numerous climbing parties that tackle the Matterhorn every day". Now, after the snow storm of 4 days ago, the mountain has much snow on it and the way to the hut is partly covered by snow. Should we attempt it ? We call the hut warden and understand that the way is difficult but possible. Ok, we will go for it ! In order to save our knees from walking down, we prefer to take the cable-car down to Schwarzsee (the black lake) via Furgg. Unfortunately it is not working and we need to take another cable-car which, although it goes in the end to the same destination, passes first in Furi, some 700 meters lower than Schwarzsee. We wouldn't care about it if it cost the same price, but it doesn't. It costs triple price. And they don't accept anything but cash...

In Furi we have a break, enjoy the low altitude and high temperatures' and eat some pick-nick lunch, sitting on the green grass. Suddenly Tali gets remembered that she forgot her hat up in Trockener-Steg. She wants to go up in the cable-car in order to fetch it. She explains to the operator of the cable-car what happened but he wants her to pay again, saying that going up for free is "normally not possible". Naturally we give up on the hat... We are in Schwarzsee now. The path up to the small chapel is really good, but after the chapel it deteriorates rapidly.

The chapel.

We approach a cliff and there is fixed rope and ladders in part of the way. It's scary. Tali starts to bereave in long deep respiration of fear. We ask everyone who gets down how the way is up, in order to cheer up. But the reply is not so relaxing... The way is very narrow and steep. The fixed rope helps a lot, but it is in only part of the way. There are sections that if you fall down, nothing will stop you for hundreds of meters... We arrive to the final, and most difficult section, the "knife-blade". Not only it is terribly steep, but patches of snow cover big parts of it. Tali is terrified. She is really suffering. Me, I also start to be unquiet. I tell Tali that we can turn back. This option does not appeal to her from several reasons. First, it's quiet late to go down now. Second we've already walked most of the way, only 500 meters are left to walk. The last reason is that she is not sure whether she can go down (going down steep sections is more dangerous than walking up).

We approach a cliff.

We continue. The patches of snow become more numerous and bigger. There is no rope here, and we walk on the snow, holding hands together. If we slip it will be a long fall... In the end we reach the hut ! On one hand Tali is relieved, on the other hand she thinks about the way down, tomorrow morning. A day later, when we will be in Zermatt, on safe ground, Tali will tell me that she was considering using our evacuation insurance and order an helicopter to bring her down...

Hornli-hutte (3,260m').

We are nicely greeted in the hut and are offered tea. How lovely ! (later we discover that we need to pay for the tee... Nothing here in Switzerland is for free...) Again they don't accept credit cards. Since now we are left with very little cash (17SF) we start to "count down" our money. A 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water costs 8SF, so we ask whether we can use tap water. No, there isn't any tap here. There is some rain water from the roof which we need to boil before drinking... Interestingly, the "simple" workers in the hut are Nepalese. We enjoy talking with them about Nepal, which we visited less than a year ago... The dinner served here is delicious. Maybe thanks to the Italian cook. In this time of the year there are usually above 100 persons in Hornlihutte. Tonight we are seven. Because of last week storm there is too much snow on the mountain. No climber will climb up tomorrow. In the guest book of the hut we read all kinds of hair-raising stories about climbing parties who started the climb up and then got all kinds of problems because a big storm arrived... Not the best thing to dream about tonight...

We wake up late in the morning, and "invest" our money in a good Swiss breakfast. Excellent bread and muesli they have here. Juice and milk is unlimited. When the waiter asks us if everything is OK, we give the wrong answer and ask for some extra cheese triangles... The weather is great and we sit in the balcony, looking at the amazing view... Tali is nervous. The frightening and unavoidable descent is near now... Poor Tali, she is so much troubled that her stomach becomes upset. We start going down. In the beginning it is really difficult and slippery going down, but after we pass the biggest patch of snow successfully, we start to gain confidant. The fact that we've already walked this way also helps. We wouldn't believe how happy we are to be back in Schwarzsee... Since we don't have enough cash, we don't take the cable-car and walk down. After a coca-cola break in Stafel, we are left with 2.65SF. In zumsee we buy a one-scope ice cream for 2.5SF. We are left with 0.15SF (just the right amount for one dairy whitener...).

The restaurant in Stafel.

We arrive to Zermatt, the main tourist village in the valley, very tired, our muscles are hard and our backs hurt. We look for an hotel, a youth hostel or a camping, whatever we find first. In the first hotel we try they have vacancies but refuse to take tourists for less than 3 nights. In the youth hostel we are lucky to get the last two beds. We take a shower for the first time this trek... We give our clothes to the laundry and go to the village. First stop - the bancomat, second - a milkshake at McDonalds and third - a pizzeria where Tali gets at last an egg (on top of her pizza)...

Zermatt (1,600m').

Next morning we eat again good breakfast (the Swiss know how to make good breads) and go shopping. No, not the normal shopping "normal" tourists do. We buy a Swiss army knife and look for trekking maps. In the Coop we buy half a kg of "kirchen" (cherries) two boxes of champignons, two apricots one bottle of red Rioja Spanish wine, Tuna spread, fresh tortelini, bread, and of course - Swiss hard cheeses (Gruyere, Emmental and Appenzeller). We then take the mountain train (whose terminal is the famous Gornergrat) to Riffelalp, where we spoil ourselves with light lunch in the garden restaurant of the 5-stars Movenpick hotel. From here the famous pictures of the Matterhorn on the Swiss chocolates are taken. What can I say ? A very civilized touristic place. We continue walking a bit more, and early in the afternoon pitch our tent near the small lake of Mosjesee. Today is a kind of an anti-climax to the last three days of adventures we had...

From Riffelalp the famous pictures of the Matterhorn on the Swiss chocolates are taken.

Next morning we continue walking to Sunnegga (2,288 m') where we have a coka-cola break and then continue in the big "highway" path down to the rather ugly village of Tasch (1,450m'). Another visit in the Coop, and then a train and a bus to Saas Grund where we meet our Swiss friends Daniele and Thomas. We met for the first time in New Zealand in 1996 and keep in touch ever since. We plan to climb together the Alphubel (4,206 m'). Thomas and Daniele brought for us crampons, ice-axes and ropes. They also reserved places for next night in Langfluh hut (2,870 m'), the starting point of the climb.

A coka-cola break in Sunnegga (2,288m').

The following day when we arrive to Langfluh hut, we are not alone to arrive to the hut. A storm arrives with us. Everybody else except for us cancelled the reservation, so we have the hut for ourselves (even the hut warden went down for the night). We have a nice dinner together, and then Thomas plays the guitar and Daniele sings. At 4 a.m. the right time to start the climb, Thomas wakes up to check the weather. The storm is still here, so Thomas says to me "we say 'no' to Alphubel" and I add "we say 'yes' to sleep"...

From left to right: Daniele, Thomas, Tali and me, eating breakfast in the camping of Saas Grund (1,560m').

Half a year later, in February 2002, we meet again, in Switzerland, and are much better lucky with the weather. Lidernenhutte (1,727 m') serves us as a base for a successful ski tour up to Rosstock (2,461 m'). We also have a very nice snow walk in the "Denti della Vechia" area in Ticino, the only Italian canton in Switzerland. But that is another story.

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Last modified: Sat Mar 30th 17:05:00 IST 2001