The Matterhorn (from Wikimedia Commons)

A report of a hiking trip near the Matterhorn, with my brother and sister in law.

It was a great walk!

This hike near the Matterhorn was my first mountain hike since childhood.
My brother Nico, his wife Lisa and me would do some hiking in Switzerland. Lisa chose the Matterhorn, and I had never thought that such a mountain, looking exactly like the ones I used to draw as a child, would really exist.

Lisa and Nico, living in Switzerland, are rather experienced mountain walkers, so the walk had to be moderate to difficult at least (Lonely Planet rates).<.p>

They decided for the Höhenweg Höhbalmen , a 19 km walk with a height difference of more than 1100 m. Being a flatlander, I was slightly worried whether I could manage this walk, but because I am the oldest sister (and thus ought to be the strongest and toughest) I tried to wave my worries away.

We started in Zermatt, after a short train drive.

Zermatt, by the way, is one of the strangest places I have ever seen. You see very rich Japanese people in fur coats, high heels (the female ones) and the enevitable expensive video equipment, next to backpackers in terrible need of a shower. Sheep and goats walk through the same streets, guided by Swiss shepherds from the Middle Ages, and electric cars carrying the suitcases of the Japanese, make way for them.


But Zermatt was soon left behind, and I saw my first Nutcracker ever, slightly Jay-like, with a more gentle voice (somehow, the word gentle does not go along with members of the Crow family). As all Crow-ish birds, this one was almost as curious to us (maybe we were its first Dutch mountain hikers) as we were to the bird.

We met a lot of Swiss ("Grüsli mit 'nander" should be used on these occasions). Nico and Lisa warned me that I walked too fast, but I laughed at them, pointing out my superb health and strength (it is a difficult job, being the oldest sister).

The path was very steep and I was very lucky that there were no abysses next to it, because I have this fear of heights. When we reached the tree-level it grew colder.

Nico spotted a Dipper, which I missed, but he missed the Goshawk that I saw. Now and then I thought I had spotted a Rock Thrush, but Nico never believed me (what is the point of being an older sister when these brothers don't accept your authority?).
But these let's say virtual Rock Thrushes formed a nice occasion to have a little rest each time. A real Golden Eagle supplied a real rest too.

My speed slowed a bit down at this moment. The path just kept ascending: I imagined the summit behind each corner, looking very much forward to the descent, which seemed rather attractive to me. Instead, the path kept going upwards.


It became misty. We heard sheep, and some moments later we saw them. I must admit that these Swiss sheep look nice, with their brown faces, but still I could not resist making fun of them. Everything about sheep is silly (of course, sheepish is a more accurate word), especially their voice and their eyes.

The mist got thicker and thicker, and above all, it started to rain, and the wind got rather strong (and very cold). Nico and I had not brought long trousers, so we told Lisa that we Stuurman family members just have very sturdy legs, indifferent for cold rain. I had forgotten to bring along the hood of my Goretech jacket, so I had to make up a similar story about my head being cold-resistant. The rain turned into hail.

We were lucky that the path was so clear, because there was no sight at all now. We heard sheep above us, and suddenly I heard something heavy coming down very fast. It turned out to be a big stone, missing me by 10 cm at the most. The sheep must have taken revenge, and I was very grateful not to have to experience the dishonourful death of being killed by a sheep.

At this point, far above the world, without anything to see, with freezing legs and a freezing head, just escaped from a sheepish death, it occurred to me that the purpose of life was not mysterious at all: just try to get back alive to Zermatt. At the same time, nothing seemed so far away as Zermatt, and I felt very glad about that. Somehow, life high up in the mountains is very simple, and what you experience there is felt very intensely.


Not much later, the long awaited descent started. Nico appeared to have evolved a pecular downward run, and of course I had to follow with the same speed (the nails on my big toes are still blue at this very moment, four months later). I cursed myself for having longed for this descent: the ascending path was so very easy compared to this ridiculously strenous walk downward.

Eventually we arrived at the border of some artificial lake, (everything in Switzerland seems artificial, but this one was artificial for real), with the Matterhorn at the opposite side. The air cleared, the sun began to shine, my legs were strangely coloured in reds and blues with some white in between, and then the clouds around the Matterhorn drifted away, and I could admire this strange mountain in postcard quality.

We even saw a second Golden Eagle, a lot of Alpine Choughs, Crag Martins, Snow Finches and an Alpine Accentor.

My legs did carry me back to Zermatt, though I still don't know how. And strangely enough, from this trip on, I am always longing for the mountains.


© Copyright - Author: Sylvia Stuurman , Pictures: Ernst Anepool .
Copyright 1993-now.
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