Five Star Alpine Tourism
The Swiss town of Zermatt, home to the world famous Matterhorn, might be the most touristy mountain town in the world. We arrived on train and walked through downtown with $10,000 watches on display, designer clothing stores, and fancy restaurants. Alpine tourism is the industry, with images of the Matterhorn plastered on every wall and trains, gondolas, and every means of transportation leading up into the mountains for views of the iconic peak. For our first day in town, we decided to take the train up to climb an easy multi pitch rock route, The Egg, on the Riffelhorn.
We took the Gornergratbahn (a train) up to the Riffelalp station. From here, we actually walked downhill towards the Riffelhorn. We emerged just as a flock of the famous black nosed sheep migrated towards the lake for water. They are so incredibly fluffy and cute. They are a tourist attraction in itself.
Somehow, I got one of the touristy sheep to pose right in front of the lake.
Although it is a small peak, there are a bunch of quality looking sport routes on the south face of the Riffelhorn. They are access via a long traverse across slabs and ledges from the east shoulder. The routes even have signs at the start with the name and grade.
For the approach, most of it has a trail but there are a few slabby 4th class sections with bolts for protection. We took our time, letting some other parties pass us. Unsurprisingly, we were the only party not shortroping through this section. We also were probably the only unguided party all day, out of a half dozen parties we would see.
We started climbing behind an American and his Swiss guide. It was his first time lead belaying or even climbing outdoors. He was very stressed out, but I helped him out with the belaying and rope work and made sure he got a few pictures before climbing. What a first climbing experience!
For a 4b (5.5) climb, the climbing is pretty real and steep. The rock is similar to serpentine (Teanaway) or olivine (Twin Sisters). It is very positive but slick, steep and juggy. There was not a loose rock on the entire route. The setting was absolutely beautiful, overlooking the massive Gornergletscher (Gorner Glacier) and countless 4000m peaks.
The climb was a total of six pitches. We reached the top around noon and enjoyed the perfect temperatures, views, and flat summit.
The descent down the east ridge was real easy and beginner friendly. It was easy class 2-3 walking with no exposure interrupted by three short rappels. Just everything about this experience is so cruiser!
We took the train back down to town in time for an afternoon nap. The Egg on the Riffelhorn was “five star alpine tourism” – relaxed, easy, and high quality. It was a true Swiss experience, taking the trains, clipping bolts, and gawking at the iconic Matterhorn. I would highly recommend to people of various ability levels!