Glacier Paradise

Glacier Paradise

On Monday we visited paradise – the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, to be precise.

A Matterhorn a day keeps the doctor away – unless you are a climber.

The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is not, as you might have thought, on the Matterhorn. The primary route to paradise from the Matterhorn is by missing your hand-or-foot hold and falling – as the Mountaineers Cemetery so poignantly illustrates. The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise we aimed for is a commercial near the top of the Breithorn (which has sent its share of victims to that other paradise as well).

Getting to paradise involves a 3 stage gondola ride: from Zermatt to Furi, transfer to Trockener Steg, then another transfer to the 12,739 Glacier Paradise, where numerous delights await the visitor.

The day began with the usual downhill walk through the neighborhood.
Our daily sheep.
Matterhorn Glacier Paradise bahnhof.
Transfer point at Furi
Lift off to paradise at Trockener Steg
Welcome to Paradise.
The Breithorn
This bit of the Alps falls into three countries, and you can see them all from here. We are standing in Switzerland, looking down into the little Italian village/sky resort of Cervinia, which you can visit via cable car when those lifts are running.  Up high at the top of the range you can just make out Mont Blanc, located near Chamonix, France. At 15, 780 feet, it’s the highest mountain in the Alps. (Look just below the mushroom clouds – the big patch of snow with two little peaks jutting up from the middle.)

Glacier Paradise features some 15km of year-round skiing, with T-lifts hoisting people up to the top of the run.

See the little T-lifts running down the slope in the lower left?

Snowblind and clod, we decided to venture inside the Paradise tunnels to experience further delights – and get even colder.

This ice palace was pretty cool 😎.

This ice palace was carved into an existing glacial crevasse so we got to see a lot of icy variations in colors and textures. And the ice sculptures were superb!

Well, most of the ice sculptures were superb.

Ken R. bravely launched himself into the deep dark bowels of the glacier. Fortunately, the glacier spit him out on the other side.

After rescuing Ken we escaped out of the deep freeze into the merely cold.

Hot drinks and a (relatively) warm space to enjoy them.

The space age and sort of cosy cinema lounge screens five excellent short films on a continuous loop. The quality was superb – we stayed for all of them. We learned that wolves have returned to the Alps – four packs resident in Switzerland since 2014. (I will confess that the helicopter view of climbers scaling all those unforgiving peaks totally freaked me out.)

Thoroughly chilled by the long sit, we headed back to the gondola for the ride back down to Trockener Steg.

Retreating glaciers have created a moonscape around Trockener Steg (or what looks like a Superfund site for those of us with too many years looking at mining wastes). 

We separated at the gondola, with the Four heading off on a walk to Schwarzsee (and descent on the Furi gondola).  DomQ and I fought off the horde of skiers and snowboarders boarding – including some incredibly rude grown men who literally pushed us to get by. Did their mommas teach them no manners?

This is what that gondola ride felt like.

The pictures below are from the Fearless Foursome’s hike across the desolate wastes of (formerly Glacier) Paradise.

[Ken T] The hike from Trockener Steg to Schwarzsee, also known as the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, is officially 6.5 km and is supposed to take 2 hours.  At our leisurely pace and stopping for pictures it took somewhat longer.  We had to hurry along a bit however to avoid missing the last gondola of the day.

Trockener Steg (something like “Dry Footbridge” in English) is a “minor prominence”  on the mountain.  Schwarzsee is literally Black Lake.  But both have become names of stations on the gondola route.

Entering the Trockener Steg station
Rare selfie of your temporary author
Outside the station near the start of the hike
Closed bar outside the station where we ate lunch before the hike.
On our way…
This is about the closest we came to the actual Matterhorn on the trip. Here we’re at an altitude of about 9600 feet, so the top of the mountain is more than 5000 feet above us.
It was mostly downhill so far, but the next part is a …
long steep uphill…
… followed by along steep downhill. But now the Schwarzsee station is in sight.
No time left to visit the actual Schwarzsee on our left.
Boarding the gondola for the trip down to Furi and then Zermatt

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