My first Alpine 4000er. Sounds good, perhaps, but this was the easiest, and most expensive, day of the trip.
Jagged Globe sign off this course with the offer of taking participants up the Breithorn. Although the weather this morning was iffy - mizzly with no view of the Matterhorn since before we arrived in Zermatt yesterday afternoon - four of us took up the offer, leaving Michael and Tony to relax in the fleshpots of Zermatt.
We knew the cablecar would be expensive. £82! Ouch! Everything is expensive here. For example, a book about La Haute Route is SF79 and a 1:25000 map of the Zermatt area is SF25. Neither have been purchased. I'm relying on my 1:50000 Mischabel map, revised in 1968 and purchased by me for a trip in 1984 when the SF5.50 price tag probably equated to a couple of quid.
But we couldn't have achieved our objective today without using the cablecar system that whisked us up from 1600 metres in Zermatt to over 3700 metres at the top station on Kleine Matterhorn.
The five of us roped up as one unit, with Dave leading and me in my usual position at the back. Crampons were fastened and ice axes readied. Then we left the 190 metre tunnel that passes through the mountain from the top station.
Today's views were limited. I did my best with the camera but there's a limit to what can be achieved snap wise in a cloud. The picture taken on the summit, featuring, from left to right, Don, Grant, Andy, and Dave could be anywhere, I suppose.
But it was a 4000er, and very satisfying to be there. The route started off fairly level (even downhill!) and soft, but the gradient gradually steepened. Being acclimatised we swept past numerous 'ropes' toiling up the 400 or so metre ascent, pausing occasionally to snap snatched glimpses of distant mountains and trying to capture the ambience on film, with countless trails of connected ants winding their ways up and down the steep snow slopes.
There were no rocky gullies to shimmy or knock rocks down today, and we reached the busy summit - a large snowy platform - in an hour and twenty minutes. The weather looked ok, and standing on the summit was certainly not unpleasant, so we waited for fifteen minutes or so to see if it would clear. It wouldn't. So after Don had constructed Breithorn Bob (a Snowman) we came down and enjoyed coffees etc in the 'Restaurant At The End Of The Tunnel'.
A crowded cablecar full of arrogant children from some country or other's national elite training scheme took us a little way down before we could transfer to our own little 'bubble' car for the long flight back through the cloud that was trying its best to hide the vast amounts of ski paraphanalia that desecrate the mountain slopes above Zermatt.
Dave wandered off, his job complete for the time being, and the rest of us enjoyed a sunny afternoon in Zermatt. I visited the Matterhorn Museum for a couple of hours. Exhibits range from Edward Whymper's broken rope to some fascinating displays about a new 'space age' mountain hut on nearby Monte Rosa.
Our intrepid guide has a day off tomorrow before his next assignment, and his family is in town. He and Sophie still found time to join us for a beer and say cheerio before the rest of us tucked into our final evening meal at the expense of Jagged Globe. The Aristella Hotel provided that (excellent food btw), though a spate of rich Japanese tourists has filled all their rooms, leaving the six of us in some rather nice apartments nearby, and Dave (if he wasn't with his family) in a room near the station that Jagged Globe rent for the season.
A 'pub crawl' with The Boys culminated with a walk around town. Window shopping - the only sort of shopping we can afford. There's a bottle of champagne for SF600; the cowbells are cheaper, but fortunately for my five single companions who aspire to purchase them for their loved ones they are still outside the budget for presents.
So ends the Haute Route Trek.
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