Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Running in Zermatt

My friends Joel and Joe came over to Switzerland and France for a few weeks. They were here to run the Matterhorn Ultraks race and for Joel to complete a block of training before he races at Tor des Geants next month. I joined them for the training in Zermatt and had an incredible week exploring the trails and learning about this spectacular area in Switzerland.

Zermatt is a beautiful town nestled in the Alps in the canton of Valais. In winter it's a skiing hot spot, in summer there are plenty of great hikes and running routes, and all year there are plenty of tourists visiting to see the amazing views of the Matterhorn. I loved the fact that the town is car-less as it seems so much more friendly, calm and peaceful (we left our car at the parking station in Tasch and took the train to Zermatt).

The town of Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background.

During the week we did plenty of running and hiking up the steep climbs. Joel and Joe had a great race and I had an awesome time supporting them and cheering on the other runners. A couple of highlights were the runs we did up to the Hörnlihütte and to Gornergrat. Here are some of the pictures and details from those two routes.

Hörnlihütte and Trockener Steg

The Hörnlihütte is situated on the north-eastern ridge of the Matterhorn at 3260m. It has recently been renovated and was closed until July 2015 so we were lucky to get a chance to go in and enjoy the new look and facilities of the hut. This is the last point that climbers go before putting on their serious climbing gear to make a summit push. It also has the best views of the Matterhorn when the weather is clear.

We set out on a cloudy day and hoped that either the clouds would clear or the hut would be above the clouds. Unfortunately neither of those happened and we climbed in thick cloud over snowy trails until we arrived at the hut. It may have been even more welcoming in those dire conditions as we were in desperate need of something hot to drink and a chance to rest and warm up.

After Schwarzsee it was serious conditions with snow and icy winds.

Some serious winter gear needed here!

Snow and steel walkways don't make for good footing...

Can you see the Matterhorn behind me??!

The renovated Hörnlihütte was very impressive and cosy.

On the return we decided to go over to Trockener Steg to follow the Matterhorn Glacier Trail and also see the glaciers. While we did get a glimpse of a glacier it was mostly fog and white out conditions for most of the run. At one point we were lost and followed a winter ski sign that almost took us over into Italy!

The trails here were fantastic and I had an amazing time. It would be one of the best trails I've ever run on if it had been clear and the views were available, but it was still enjoyable despite the poor weather.



Gornergrat

Gornergrat is the rocky ledge in the alps overlooking the Gorner Glacier. There is a hotel at the top that looks like a movie villain's lair and the viewpoints offer breath-taking vistas of the glacier. This high point above Zermatt (at 3135m) can be reached by the highest open-air railway in Europe or on foot which is obviously the way we chose to go!

Joel and Joe setting the pace in the forest at the start.

Plenty of power-hiking on this route!

More climbing and uphill!!

The trail was well marked all the way and the only real obstacle was that it was all climbing from Zermatt to the top. We made good time and while the clouds of our previous adventure to the Hörnlihütte hadn't all blown away, it was a much clearer day. The hard work was worth it when we arrived at the top as the Gorner Glacier was extremely impressive and beautiful.

The Gorner Glacier.

Tourist photo at the top :)

The Kulm hotel at the top of Gornergrat.

The descent back to Zermatt was a fast and fun run all the way with only the occasional stop to take a picture of some of the local sheep grazing.

The alpine sheep weren't enjoying the views as much as we were.

This was a great run and definitely recommended. It would also be a great trip on the train and a good stop for lunch as the restaurant in the hotel looked like it was serving amazing food (better than the gels and bars we had carried with us anyway!).


The Matterhorn is the biggest attraction to this area and is visible from Zermatt, but also from further away places like Bettmeralp near the Aletsch Glacier. It is so distinct and stunning.

Clouds on the peak are typical most of the year.

We had one day with perfect clear views of the Matterhorn.

During the trip I posted some photos on Instagram (@danielwrowland) and Joel and Joe also shared there pictures with the #TopTimesTrip tag because we were having such a good time!

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