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Phespirit goes to Switzerland
Zermatt     September 2003

In the humble opinion of Phespirit, this Earth has three great mountains whose shapes and forms are so distinctive as to make them immediately recognisable to anyone with a semi-educated awareness of the world around them. The three mountains are:

  1. Table Mountain in South Africa - flat-topped, often covered with a pristine cloth of white clouds;
  2. Mount Fuji in Japan - perfectly conical, often seen posing behind a Shinkansen bullet train blur;
  3. The Matterhorn in Switzerland - a rugged pyramid, often an idyllic backdrop for Alpine hiking trails.

Phespirit went to Zermatt to see the glorious Matterhorn. And to hike.

Zermatt nestles at the southern end of the valley which terminates at the Matterhorn on the Swiss-Italian border. It is a small village, free of all but electric cars, yet with sufficiently well developed tourism to no longer be considered quaint. The Matterhorn is not visible from the approach to Zermatt but it dominates the skyline from all points in the village itself and from most of the surrounding peaks and trails.

Phespirit whiled away more or less all his time out on the hiking trails. There really is nothing else to do, and neither should there be. The walking options are simplified by the extensive (and expensive) network of cable cars and mountain railways which can be used to bypass the more gruelling uphill climbs.

For hiking reports, see Going for a walk around Zermatt - Lines I, III and V & Lines II, IV and VI

By lucky hap, Phespirit's time in Switzerland coincided perfectly with a window of clear weather in which temperatures soared to unseasonable highs of 23-26°C on a daily basis. Clear skies equals spectacular mountain views all around. This is best witnessed from the summit of the Klein Matterhorn, reachable by means of two cable cars and a gondola. At 3883m, it is the highest lift station in Europe. Mont Blanc is visible over forty miles away to the west, the Jungfrau is way off to the north, and the mighty Matterhorn, more modest in the context of its peers, is a local sentinel in this churning ocean of 4000m+ peaks.

The Matterhorn is omnipresent, subtly shifting and changing with the viewer's vantage point. To the Klein Matterhorn it presents a flat, stepped summit-among-summits. To Stafelalp it presents a tapering, bitten north face. To Sunnegga it presents the classic pyramidal icon of a million pictures. To all it presents an ageless, raw, magnetic beauty.

To Phespirit it was every inch the great mountain he had hoped to find.

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