Known as the lit­tle brother of the ever pop­u­lar Mat­ter­hornKlein Mat­ter­horn (Klein mean small in Ger­man) offers a breath tak­ing view of the Mat­ter­horn and Mont Blanc on a clear day. With the ease of reach­ing to the top via a Gon­dola and being perched at a height of 12,740 ft (3,883 m) , it is the clos­est to expe­ri­enc­ing higher alti­tude with­out break­ing a sweat.

As as IAESTE trainee, I got to know about the week­end trip for theZer­matt well in advance. Hav­ing reg­is­tered early and this being my first trip to the alps, I was totally look­ing for­ward to it.

The jour­ney started from Win­terthur on a early morn­ing 4:30 train to Visp. Its a lit­tle town in the midst of a river and sur­rounded by huge moun­tains. The town itself is perched in the mid­dle of the val­ley and is part of the famous Glac­ier Express route.

The train from Visp starts slowly ascend­ing and tra­verses through the deep­est cleft val­ley in Switzer­land, the Niko­lai Val­ley. On one side of the track is the deep val­ley and on the other are the tall rocky peaks. Its here that one real­izes the true engi­neer­ing mar­vel, this train route is. With this route being build about a 100 years ago, one can only imag­ine the inge­nu­ity with which this was con­structed albeit the mod­ern gadgets.

After about an hour jour­ney and through few tun­nels, we reached the vil­lage of Zer­matt. The Haupt­bahn­hof is the start­ing point of the city cen­ter. It leads the road towards the hotels, hos­tels and the begin­ning of the Cable car. The streets are stud­ded with shops sell­ing lux­ury watches. Its just a eerie reminder of the class of peo­ple the city sees espe­cially dur­ing win­ter sea­son. With the famous ski­ing resorts and the Mat­ter­horn being the star attrac­tion, its the place of win­ter retreat for the bil­lion­aires from Rus­sia to far East.  Its also the start­ing point for Gorner­grat rail­way, the 2nd high­est moun­tain rail in the world at about 11,000 ft.

We dropped our bags at the Inter­na­tional Youth Hos­tels and walked towards the base of the cable car. This cable car starts at the vil­lage of Zer­matt which is at a height of about 5,300 ft and goes through the ham­let of Furi before reach­ing the sum­mit of Klein Mat­ter­horn. Dur­ing the jour­ney, we crossed the glac­ier and ascended about 5000 ft to reach the peak. With the glac­ier below and sur­rounded by Alps, the views offered dur­ing the jour­ney is breathtaking.

Zermatt from the Gondola

The cable car boasts of being sup­ported by one of the best heli­copter res­cue teams in the world. As the cable ascends the final 1000 ft, its heav­ily exposed to the winds. There has been cou­ple of occa­sions dur­ing win­ter when the cable had devel­oped tech­ni­cal snags and the pas­sen­gers had to be air lifted the res­cue team!

As we reached the peak, we could feel the breath becom­ing heavy. The air is thin and the tem­per­a­ture drops rapidly. With the wind, it feels even colder than what the ther­mome­ter reads. From the cable car plat­form, we take a lift by which we ascend about 100 ft inside the moun­tain to reach the steps of the obser­va­tory deck. Another few meters of steps and then we hit the sum­mit deck. Its a 360° open air deck which on a clear day gives a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Mat­ter­horn. Mont Blanc, the high­est moun­tain in the Europe could also be seen from here. This is also the Ital­ian bor­der and the start of Ital­ian alps.

From the deck, we could observe the Mat­ter­horn glac­ier, the famous Ski area and many peaks which were above 3500 m. It is the high­est obser­va­tion deck in the world and once again is an engi­neer­ing mar­vel.  The sum­mit also has a restau­rant and is used as a start­ing point to reach the ski­ing area.

As in most of the moun­tain­ous regions, weather is quiet erratic. So we set our descent  early. At the foot of the moun­tain there is a gorge made out lime­stone due to the streams flow­ing for hun­dreds of years. The scenes are straight out of “127 hours” movie.

Alto­gether the famous Zer­matt and its moun­tains are a class apart, made pos­si­ble by the intrigu­ing tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs by the Swiss in the loco­mo­tives and high alti­tude construction.

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