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Hike – Beyond Gornergrat to Stockhorn

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat

    Photo: Looking back torwards Gornergrat from somewhere towards Stockhorn.

    Gornergrat is understandably a very popular spot to visit from Zermatt, but something I have never seen anyone suggest is venturing further along the ridge which is rewarded with no crowd and even better views.

    Mark Twain described an amusing absurd/satircal attempt on the Gornergrat in his ‘A Tramp Abroad’ (free on Project Gutenberg). There is a very gentle Mark Twain themed footpath around the Riffelberg Hotel.

    I did this as a day hike from Zermatt. I only set out with the intention of going up to Gornergrat and having a little hike around where seemed interesting. If I had realised how long it would end up being I probably would have picked something shorter.

    Key Information

    Route: Gornergrat – Stockhorn – Gornergrat – Zermatt.

    Length: 20km, +825mm, -2300m.

    Date: 2015-August-28.

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat

    For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.

    Practical Information

    Season: Summer to early Autumn.

    Arrival/Departure: Train to Gornergrat / Train from Zermatt.

    Supplies: Restaurants at Gornergrat, Riffelberg, Riffelalp, and more towards Zermatt.

    Alternate routes/shortcuts: There are various options to get on the Zermatt-Gornergat train (Gornergrat, Rotenboden, Riffelberg, Riffelalp) and skip all or most of the descent. Gornergrat to Stockhorn and back is 8km, +/- 775m, or even just venturing a short way along the ridge is still worth it.

    Exposure/Hazards: The last section to Stockhorn is poorly marked and often rocky – care must be taken. The ridge is over 3000m and has no shade, so the altitude might hit and the sun will be very strong.

    Notes along the route

    Train from Zermatt to Gornergrat.

    From Gornergrat walk up to the view point and then just keeping following the ridge along. The ridge to the first cable car station at Hohtälli is very easy to follow, and safe in just about any half-decent footwear.

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Remaining snow in August.
    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Looking back along the ridge torwards Gornergrat.

    The section from the Hohtälli cable car station to Stockhorn is marked as an Alpine footpath. This bit is for the more hardcore. The first part along to the small cable car station at Rote Nase isn’t any harder than the path, but after the route is much more poorly defined and less stable. You have to clamber through the station itself here: onto the walkway then through the gate and over the main concrete area. This is the only place in Switzerland where I have felt uneasy hiking due to the scree and the steep mountainside below – only go as far as you feel is safe.

    Otherwise enjoy the views with only a handful of people around, Monte Rosa and the glaciers are so close that you feel you could walk over in a few minutes. This is about as isolated as you can get by taking a train then walking for 1 hour (ignoring the odd bit of ski-infrastructure….).

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    The distant Matterhorn towering over the Gornergrat.

    Doubling back along the ridge to Gornergrat gives the option to jump back on the train or carry on down to the Riffelsee for the classic reflected Matterhorn shot.

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Approaching the Riffelsee.
    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Slightly too windy for the idea reflection.

    From here any route down is fine. The views are open and fantastic, but are never as impressive as they were along the ridge line earlier. Or if you get bored or tired just jump on the train.

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Looking down to Riffelalp.
    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    Descending down to Zermatt.

    I had all day and nothing else planned and clear skies so just kept on walking until I got down to Zermatt.

    Hike Zermatt Gornergrat
    A premature victory beer at the Chämi-Hitta.

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