Day 48 / St Niklaus-Gandegghütte

I made it! Well, nearly. My goal for the day was to reach the high Theodulpass, the border with Italy, in order to cross the main chain of the Alps before the nasty weather forecasted for this weekend hits. Instead, I’ve ended today’s hike at the Gandegghütte (3030m), from where I have only to walk one hour over a glacier to reach the border tomorrow morning – don’t worry, the glacier is a ski area in the winter (no crevasses) ,and I’ve been told there is a good set of footprints leading over it.

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View up the Mattertal in the morning; in the distance Breithorn (4164m)

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Reaching Zermatt; the iconic Matterhorn (4476m) barely visible at right

This is the highest point I’ve reached on the trek (so far) and I have to say: I’ve done enough for one day. 33km of distance and 2500m of ascent; if the weather wasn’t forcing me to make haste, I would not have wanted to do so much in one day. I’m tired, and my left knee has been hurting since yesterday, probably a casualty of Wednesday’s long descent.

If I’d been a bit luckier with the weather, I could have seen…

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… Zinalrothorn (4221m) and Weisshorn (4506)…

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…and the Monte Rosa massif (4634m).

Today’s hike led me up the valley from St Niklaus to Zermatt, and then up the mountains to the south of Zermatt. Without a doubt this is some of the most spectacular mountain scenery on the world; above all with the Matterhorn, which is more an icon than just a mountain. Sadly, the sky (as so often) filled up with clouds in the afternoon, and all I ever got were partial glimpses of the Matterhorn; most of the other 4000ers also kept their peaks hidden in the clouds.

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The pretty, quaint Gandegghütte (with a cold shower in an outhouse, not for the squeamish!)

Two negative impressions I got of Zermatt: 1. There is a McDonalds, full of foreign tourists, who apparently miss the taste of home. 2. All of the outdoor taps from which I tried to refill my water bottle had had their handles removed; as if a bit of water would make the people who own a house in Zermatt poor. It seems it’s the same way everywhere in the world: the richer the people, the stingier they are. Oh well; I found a public fountain in the end, to quench my thirst.

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Adé Switzerland tomorrow, ciao Italia!
Phil

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