A week after the comment that there were too many people in the Zermatt area, I ended up going again. That’s a third time in a month: of the five weekends in October, I went to Switzerland for three of them and worked the other two. I left work and headed west, catching the sunset from my favorite mountain pass along the way.
This time, even though the weather was arguably even better than on the prior two trips, the trails were just about deserted.
Knowing that Riffelsee lay beyond my desires for a sunrise hike this weekend — it would have been a 2 AM wakeup due to daylight saving time ending the previous weekend — I decided to head to Stellisee, a second lake that can reflect the mountain, instead. Too tired the first morning, I settled on a more “normal” alarm and awoke well into the morning. The conditions were perfect. The Riffelsee hike from the previous week might have been technically achievable this week; warm temperatures rendered the trails up to about 2,500 m completely clear. Even so, I was alone on the trail practically the whole way up from Zermatt. When I arrived at Sunnegga, there was a lone hiker maybe 200 m ahead of me. At the lake there was a student from Colorado, a Swiss couple, and two other couples that arrived later (apparently the hordes do seek other locales for at least part of the year). The view, though not quite as majestic as that from Riffelsee, is still majestic and a delightful location for lunch. I contemplated staying for sunset but with the choppiness of the water figured I’d try again next summer.
The larches had started to turn yellow weeks before, but with so few clouds the color contrast this week made the hike back to town exceptionally delightful.
The new moon was that week, and as it rose it cast a faint red glow on the Matterhorn. Milky Way – Matterhorn shot done, this time, but not quite the composition I had in mind. (After all, the Earth does spin!) The list of photos I want to take for next summer is growing…
Two weeks after my last visit to Zermatt, the weather turned, bringing the hiking season to an unceremonious end. It’s been an incredible spell of awesome weather. Since July we’ve had sunshine on most weekends; to have had five consecutive weekends of good weather in October is even rarer. It did, of course, give me the opportunity to head to Switzerland three times. Even when I lived within 60 miles of Mt. Rainier I didn’t visit three weekends in a month, and while in 2011 I came close to it with Switzerland I didn’t think I’d be doing that again. Turns out I was wrong, and gladly so, as there’s hardly a more magnificent mountain in the Alps. While the high mountains, and Zermatt in particular, are sometimes overcrowded by those seeking a simple snapshot of a famous chunk of rock, in the high plateaus beyond the ski lifts and trains there is always serenity waiting to be discovered.