Matterhorn: King of Mountains
MANILA, Philippines — Long before I saw the majestic snow-capped Swiss Alps from the plane window and before I actually rode the aerial tramway to the ski resort of Zermatt in southern Switzerland to see the iconic Matterhorn, I had already seen the silhouette of the famed mountain dozens of times.
The Matterhorn, after all, is on every box of the Toblerone bar, Switzerland’s most famous confectionery. The pyramid shaped chocolate itself is shaped after the mountain, say the Swiss.
A charming rooster weathervane lords it over the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise observation deck.
But seeing Matterhorn up close, standing on a wooden bridge and gazing at the majestic peak in front of me, I realized that no Toblerone box can ever prepare you for the real thing.
Because when that moment comes and Matterhorn appears before you, the magic just takes over – time stops and the world freezes and there is nothing but you and the mountain. It’s true what the Swiss say about Matterhorn – the king of mountains, marvelous and majestic, mountain of mountains.
You can’t escape its grandeur. The Matterhorn is found at the border of the western Swiss canton of Valais between Zermatt and the Italian resort of Breuil-Cervinia. At more than 14,400 feet high, it is touted as the most famous mountain in Europe and it stands out perfectly in the Alpine-lined horizon.
Zermatt is a favorite of professional skiers. DAVE GOMEZ
It is imperfectly perfect – a triangular and jagged giant that ranges into the heavens out on the horizon, surrounded by a sea of puffy clouds and backlighted by the setting sun. On golden hours, light from the nearby Stellisee Lake paints the Matterhorn landscape and the result is a spectacle of snow, earth and sun.
It is a Mecca for Alpinists, mountain enthusiasts and nature-lovers, locals and visitors alike. To see it, our group had to take the aerial tramway to the mountain resort of Zermatt, a few hours drive from Geneva. All over the luxurious ski resort, there’s no lack of spots from which one can get a grand view of the Matterhorn. Mine was the center of a wooden bridge which hangs over a river filled with ice-cold water that flows endlessly.
I rode a cable car to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, touted as the world’s highest cable car station which gives an imposing view of the highest summer ski region in Europe. Standing on the observation platform is perhaps the closest one can get to experiencing heaven on earth.
Zermatt is a charming resort town with log cabins and many interesting attractions.
There is nothing but 360 degrees of the Swiss, Italian and French Alps, all covered with a blanket of pristine white snow. The cable car ride to the observation deck is also quite an adventure and the view from the top is overwhelming. One will see the vast expanse of snow down below, dotted with skiers in ski suits of varied colors – pastel, blue, yellow, black and what-have-you – gliding effortlessly along the slopes.?
Matterhorn, which means “peak in the meadows” in German, is also touted as a mystical mountain, full of stories and secrets.
According to an article on Smithsonian.com, on July 14, 1865, a seven-member team of climbers made the first ascent to the top of the Matterhorn using ropes woven out of our very own Manila hemp, more commonly known as abaca.
Take a cable car to the higher slopes.
However, only three lived to tell. As the group descended, one of the climbers slipped, pulling three others down with him. As the climbers above anchored themselves to absorb the shock on the lifeline, the rope snapped between the fourth and fifth man and climbers Michel Croz, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow and Lord Francis Douglas fell to their deaths.
Another secret, also according to the Smithsonian, is that the foot of Matterhorn is home to the world’s largest snow igloo. The igloo resort includes more than a half-dozen individual igloos or hotel rooms interconnected by a series of tunnels, as well as a bar and restaurant.
Two women waged a battle to be the first female to climb the Matterhorn summit. “On July 22, 1871, Englishwoman named Lucy Walker became the first woman to reach the top of the Matterhorn – and she did it while wearing a long flannel skirt,” according to the Smithsonian. She beat rival Meta Brevoort, a fellow climber who failed to summit a few years earlier due to bad weather.Another untold story about the Matterhorn is that for one night in 2015, the mountain glowed red as mountain guides retraced the steps of the first climbers – 150 years later – by placing hundreds of glowing red lights along the mountain’s ridge. “The result was a temporary light installation meant to recognize the mountaineers who made that original ascent and the lives lost during that incredible journey,” the Smithsonian article said.
Indeed, there is so much more to Matterhorn than just being the mountain on every Toblerone box. Seeing it for a day is not enough, what with its mystical beauty, rugged charm and heavenly secrets. But then again, with Matterhorn, as with everything majestic and magical, even a lifetime is not enough.