The Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps, straddling the main watershed and border between Switzerland and Italy. Due to its unique pyramid appearance and difficult to climb structure, the Matterhorn has become an iconic emblem of the Alps in general. Since the end of the 19th century, when railways were built in the area, the mountain has attracted increasing numbers of visitors and climbers. Each year, numerous mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn from the Hörnli Hut via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit.
The Matterhorn is a large, near-symmetric pyramidal peak in the extended Monte Rosa area of the Pennine Alps, whose summit is 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) high, making it one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe. The four steep faces, rising above the surrounding glaciers, face the four compass points and are split by the Hörnli, Furggen, Leone/Lion, and Zmutt ridges.
The mountain overlooks the Swiss town of Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, to the north-east and the Italian town of Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the south. Just east of the Matterhorn is Theodul Pass, the main passage between the two valleys on its north and south sides, which has been a trade route since the Roman Era.
Although it is possible to climb Matterhorn on the southern route in Italy, it is too steep for inexperienced climbers. Therefore, most tourists’ Matterhorn trips start from Zermatt on the Northern Line. Zermatt is located in the Alps, at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most beautiful mountain in the world, so it is also an outpost for climbing the Matterhorn. Zermatt is one of the most famous mountain resorts in Switzerland, the town caters mostly towards skiing, hiking and mountaineering.
Zermatt is a world-renowned tourist resort and the starting (terminal) station of Switzerland’s famous scenic train, the Glacier Express,. the air here is fresh and pure. The mountain village is surrounded by towering mountains and magnificent glaciers. Skiing can be done all year round. Here you can admire 38 majestic peaks over 4,000 meters above sea level. Tourists can easily reach the scenic spot above 3,000 meters by cable car and climbing train, enjoying the continuous snow-capped mountain scenery and the beautiful figure of the Matterhorn.
Zermatt is a starting point for hikes into the mountains, including the Haute Route that leads to Chamonix in France and the Patrouille des Glaciers. Cable cars and chair lifts carry skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer; the highest of them leads to the Klein Matterhorn at 3,883 m (12,740 ft), a peak on the ridge between Breithorn and Matterhorn that offers extensive views in all directions. It is possible to cross into Italy via the Cervinia cable car station. A rack railway line (the Gornergratbahn, the highest open-air railway in Europe) runs up to the summit of the Gornergrat at 3,089 m (10,135 ft).
Most visitors reach Zermatt by the rack-assisted railway train from the nearby town of Täsch (Zermatt shuttle). Trains also depart for Zermatt from farther down the valley at Visp and Brig, which are on the main Swiss rail network. To prevent air pollution that could obscure the town’s view of the Matterhorn, the entire town is a combustion-engine car-free zone. Passenger vehicles operating within Zermatt include tiny electric shuttles provided by hotels to carry visitors from the main train station to the hotel properties, electro taxis and electro buses. Horse-drawn carriages can also be found; some are operated by hotels and others are available for hire.
There are also many shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and hotels in the mountain village, mainly concentrated on Bahnhofstrasse (Bahnhofstrasse) in front of the train station, where you can enjoy food and shopping on foot. The local economy is based on tourism, with about half of the jobs in town in hotels or restaurants and just under half of all apartments are vacation apartments.
The world of Zermatt’s hotels is among the best anywhere. Zermatt’s accommodation are legendary. Hotels with chic and charm, tradition and hospitality. And chalets and holiday flats, spacious rooms, dream-world spas and world-class gastronomy. And the hospitality of the Zermatt hosts leaves nothing to be desired. Whether you want a luxurious 5-star hotel, a snug 4-star house, a cosy family hotel or a spacious apartment, there is a wide choice of accommodation in Zermatt, with something for all holidaymakers.
Zermatt is also just a great place to shop. Watches and jewellery sparkle in the shop windows, enticing fragrances waft from the bakeries. Zermatt offers a top-class shopping experience. A stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse reveals an amazing variety. The best possible equipment is available including knowledgeable tips from local experts, also souvenir from Zermatt.
The Sunnegga Paradise is accessed via the SunneggaExpress funicular railway, followed by a gondola to Blauherd and finally a cable car onwards to the Rothorn (3,103 m) above. The topography of the mountain and the valley tends to keep the Rothorn clear and sunny, even when Zermatt is submerged in cloud.
From Blauherd there is a gondola down to Gant, and from there a connecting cablecar goes to Hohtälli. This cable car and the newer 4-seat chairlift Sunnegga-Findeln-Breitboden provide connections between Sunnegga and Gornergrat. With few steep slopes, this mountain is often used to train younger skiers.
The Gornergrat is served by the Gornergrat railway, a 29-minute ride to the Gornergrat peak (3,089 m), via Riffelalp, Rotenboden and Riffelberg, (with limited stops at Findelbach and Landtunnel just above Zermatt). At the summit, the hotel and restaurant have been refurbished and accommodate a shopping centre. Riffelalp station is linked to Riffelalp Resort by a short tramway line named Riffelalptram.
Klein Matterhorn / Schwarzsee
Near the southern end of Zermatt, the Matterhorn Express gondola transports passengers up to the interchange station at Furi. From here there is access to Schwarzsee via a gondola to the right, a cable car that leads on to the Trockener Steg midstation (and then on to the Klein Matterhorn); and a new gondola, opened on 18 December 2006, links Furi to Riffelberg on the Gornergrat mountain.
Testa Grigia at the top of the Theodul Pass serves as a connection to the Italian ski-resorts of Cervinia and Valtournenche. From the Swiss side it is reachable by skilift only, but from the Italian side by a chairlift and by a cablecar. In March 2019 it was announced that a new lift – the ‘Alpine Crossing’ – will connect Testa Grigia and Klein Matterhorn from spring 2021. There are customs offices here as well as a small alpine museum.
Since the eighteenth century, the Alps have attracted more and more people and fascinated generations of explorers and climbers. Rail and cable-car facilities have been built to make some of the summits in the area more accessible. The Gornergrat railway, reaching a record altitude of 3,100 metres, was inaugurated in 1898. Areas served by cable car are the Unterrothorn and the Klein Matterhorn (Little Matterhorn) (3,883 m, highest transportation system in Europe). The Hörnli Hut (3,260 m), which is the start of the normal route via the Hörnli ridge, is easily accessible from Schwarzsee (2,600 m) and is also frequented by hikers.
The Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia resorts function as separate ski resort all year round and are connected by skilifts over the Theodul Pass. In 2015 it was expected that there would be constructed a cable car link between Testa Grigia (or Tête grise) and Klein Matterhorn. It will finally provide a link between the Swiss and Italian side of the Matterhorn.
The Matterhorn Museum (Zermatt) relates the general history of the region from alpinism to tourism. In the museum, which is in the form of a reconstituted mountain village, the visitors can relive the first and tragic ascent of the Matterhorn and see the objects that belonged to the protagonists.
Zermatt and the surrounding area is full of things to do. For sporty people, there are many activities such as hiking, skiing and mountain biking for you to enjoy. For the more laid-back tourist, there are many easy walks, spas, scenic train and cable car trips, a museum and much more to enjoy. For social people, there are also pubs and clubs in the village centre.
As Europe’s highest ski resort, Zermatt is a winter fairy tale. skiing enthusiasts from all over the world congregate in Zermatt, with unlimited fun on snow: skiing on 360 km of pistes. Guests come to experience perfect skiing with miles of pistes, fantastic slopes, sun and snow. The winter landscape offers lots of sun. In the sun-drenched mountain area, the white-covered peaks lure visitors to sledge or visit the igloo village.
Zermatt is known throughout the world for its skiing, especially Triftji for its moguls. The high altitude results in consistent skiing continuously throughout the summer. Skiing in Zermatt is split up into four areas: Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarzsee. There is also a connection to Cervinia and Valtournenche in Italy through the Plateau Rosa glacier.
Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche Zermatt ski area (200 km in winter, 26.5 km in summer, 53 lifts). Zermatt has a huge ski area, which connects to the Italian ski resort of Cervinia. A part of the ski area is on the Theodul glacier and the highest point is at the Klein Matterhorn at 3880 metres altitude.
Klein Matterhorn area. This is the access to the biggest part of the ski area. There are two parallel cable cars leading up to Furi from where you can pick your onward destination. If you want to access the Italian area, the fastest way goes by this route. A rack railway leads up to the Gornergrat area, another rather small skiing area. The Sunnega-Rothorn area is an almost totally separated area which can be accessed via a funicular.
The Matterhorn remained relatively little known until 1865, but the successful ascent followed by the tragic accident of the expedition led by Edward Whymper caused a rush on the mountains surrounding Zermatt. Tourists need to be in good physical condition to climb Matterhorn, and they can climb the mountain under the guidance of experienced guides after passing preliminary climbing skills training.
Today, all ridges and faces of the Matterhorn have been ascended in all seasons, and mountain guides take a large number of people up the northeast Hörnli route each summer. In total, up to 150 climbers attempt the Matterhorn each day during summer. By modern standards, the climb is fairly difficult (AD Difficulty rating), but not hard for skilled mountaineers according to French climbing grades. There are fixed ropes on parts of the route to help.
The usual pattern of ascent is to take the Schwarzsee cable car up from Zermatt, hike up to the Hörnli Hut elev. 3,260 m (10,700 ft), a large stone building at the base of the main ridge, and spend the night. The next day, climbers rise at 3:30 am so as to reach the summit and descend before the regular afternoon clouds and storms come in. The Solvay Hut located on the ridge at 4,003 m (13,133 ft) can be used only in a case of emergency.
Other popular routes on the mountain include the Italian (Lion) ridge (AD+ Difficulty rating) and the Zmutt ridge (D Difficulty rating). The four faces, as well as the Furggen ridge, constitute the most challenging routes to the summit. The north face is amongst the six most difficult faces of the Alps, as well as ‘The Trilogy’, the three hardest of the six, along with the north faces of the Eiger and the Grandes Jorasses (TD+ Difficulty rating).
The “Breithorn” (4150 m) is the easiest 4000er of the Alps. Using the lifts “Furri” (1700 m), “Trockener Steg”(2800 m), “kleines Matterhorn” (3883 m) you reach the top of the little Matterhorn. Go down to the “Theodul-Gletscher” and follow the trail to left on the Breithorn. The top of the Breithorn can be reached after two hours of walking. A rope is necessary and a mountain guide is recommended. The Glacier Paradise (Klein Matterhorn) ski area is at 3850m (3899m when the additional summer season drag lift is open).
“Monte Rosa” (Dufourspitze) (4634 m) is the culminating point of Switzerland. The starting point is Monte Rosa hut at 2795m. The climb requires excellent physical condition, experience in climbing with crampons and prior acclimatisation to the altitude.
The “Matterhorn” (4478 m) can be climbed by experienced mountaineers. The usual pattern of ascent is to take the Schwarzsee cable car up from Zermatt, hike up to the Hörnli Hut elev. 3,260 m (10,700 ft), a large stone building at the base of the main ridge, and spend the night. The next day, climbers rise at 03:30 to reach the summit and descend before the regular afternoon clouds and storms come in.
The Tour of the Matterhorn can be effected by trekkers in about 10 days. Considered by some as one of the most beautiful treks in the Alps, it follows many ancient trails that have linked the Swiss and Italian valleys for centuries. The circuit includes alpine meadows, balcony trails, larch forests and glacial crossings. It connects six valleys embracing three different cultures: the German-speaking high Valais, the French-speaking central Valais and the bilingual French/Italian-speaking Aosta Valley.
Good conditions are necessary to circumnavigate the peak. After reaching Zinal from Zermatt by the Augstbord and Meiden passes, the trekker crosses the Col de Sorebois and the Col de Torrent before arriving at Arolla. Then the Arolla Glacier and the Col Collon must be crossed on the way to Prarayer, followed by the Col de Valcournera to Breuil-Cervinia. In the last and highest section, the Theodul Pass must be crossed before returning to Zermatt. In total, seven passes between 2,800 and 3,300 metres must be crossed on relatively difficult terrain.