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Report on Zermatt hikes in September

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16 posts
new member
Oct 7, 2018 - 10:17 PM

We have recently returned from our first trip to Zermatt. We very much appreciate the information gleaned from the conversations on this forum. Other members' questions were frequently more informative than our own, and there were several discussions that were valuable and which anticipated our own.
The patience shown in attempting to answer some of the members' questions was remarkable.

As briefly as possible, the following points are those that might have the most benefit to the general readership. They are not in any particular order....

-taking a train from Zermatt to Firenze makes for a VERY long day (Rail Europe arranged everything to perfection).

-the difference between first and second class train travel for tired travelers is is negligible

- Zermatt really is VERY expensive; conversations with people who worked there revealed that they typically went to outlying towns to "shop". The things we bought were of very good quality (a few odds and ends for hiking and wool base-layer tops), and the MontBell (super quality gear) store prices were in line with those in the West. We rented trekking poles (23 CHF for 4 days - excellent service and reliability).

-unless you have an unlimited budget, the COOP market (excellent quality) will enable you to exist (it kept us alive until we left for Italy). Pizza was in the 24-28 CHF range.

-Zermatt IS very clean, quiet, and somewhat 'reserved'; efficiency seemed to be the prominent feature

-service provided by personnel at train stations and at the lifts/gondolas was excellent; informed, professional, motivated and articulate. In most other places it was always efficient but not particularly 'warm'. The multilingual proficiency on the part of virtually every Swiss we spoke with was outstanding, enviable, and consistent with our experience of Europe.

-We arranged all train travel through Switzerland and Italy through Rail Europe by phone (800-848-7245) from California and received all tickets via UPS and email with zero problems. They were SUPERB to work with; they will call you when the wait time is long - often 80 minutes! - and they will patiently work with you to make sure that your 1/2 Fare Card is worth purchasing. We cannot say enough about Rail Europe, especially after trying to negotiate the travel spreadsheet that is intended to help with the various passes, offers, discounts, etc. For the 1/2 Fare Card, Happy Rail was perfect in every regard; we were able to download the passes within 5 minutes of placing the order on line.

-The walk to the Hornlihutte is classified as 'difficult', though it seemed that the iron catwalk, stairs and ladders along the way may contribute more to that definition than the route itself (this is not a good place to be if you have vertigo, as we witnessed one hiker needing to turn back); we found it to be more of a grind (we are 67 and 58, fit, and we do a lot of trail hiking and running in the Marin Headlands, but still we were considerably slower than some of the others).

The weather - Sept 4 - was perfect and the route amazingly free of the 'crowds' we were told we might encounter. The trail itself is in very good condition, easy to follow, and much easier, for example, than the Mist Trail in Yosemite. We completed the trek to the hut and back in about 30 minutes or so slower than the posted estimates. We took many pictures and did not try to move especially fast. We were surprised at how easy this hike was. Trail etiquette was pretty decent (many knew the "right of way" courtesy to extend to fellow hikers when going up/down in tight spaces), many passed us without a word, and most responded to German and French; "buona giornata" received only an occasional response.

-We went off the trail for over an hour en route to Trockner Steg; the trail was very indistinct in a few places....It looks like Trockner Steg to Schwarzsee might be easier to follow given a better view of where you need to go.

- You can rent everything you need for hiking around Zermatt, including boots. I used Brooks Pure Grit trail running shoes that were approaching their shelf life; my wife used a more current pair of Salomon trail running shoes. In OUR opinion/experience, this is all you need (IF you are not carrying a heavy pack AND the weather/trail is good. We had a max of 12 lbs. in one pack which covered all essentials, food and water, and emergency gear).

-Finally, the weather reports do change very quickly; don't abandon your plans to hike too prematurely.

Thank you again for all the valuable questions and information. It's the Italian Alps for us next year....Bob and Elley

10495 posts
top member
Oct 8, 2018 - 8:51 AM in reply to dalcubo

Thanks Bob and Elley for the report!

Some great hiking tips for Zermatt - very useful. :)
All the best on your next adventure!


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