I did a quick preview of our trip on the Gornergrat Bahn in last week’s post (see here). Like so many other things in Switzerland the little cogwheel railway is another masterpiece of engineering in a difficult terrain.
Obviously we were going up a mountain but in comparison with other railways we’d been on, this one was especially steep. There are several little stations en route some of which were being renovated in time for the summer season and you can always get off and hike along any of the trails if you so wish. We decided the train was the way to go!
In late spring (May) most of the snow was long gone down in the valley but as we chugged uphill, melting slush and scraggy rock gave way to a brilliant white sea of snow. By the time we reached the higher passes we were almost dazzled by the clear blue sky and sunshine reflected in the powder white of the snow.
As we emerged from one of the tunnels, we unexpectedly encountered several marmots scampering around in the snow by the side of the train. In all our trip to the Alps, we’d never managed to see one of these little creatures in the wild so this was a real treat. However I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so you’ll have to take my word for it. If you look closely at the photo, the dark specks in the distance are actually marmots and you can see the paw trails crisscrossing the fresh snow. More information on marmots here from our trip to the Marmot Paradis at Rochers-de-Naye.
Our journey took just over half an hour and we arrived at Gornergrat Station, the highest open air railway station in Europe at 3,089 metres above sea level.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day – brilliant sunshine and views all round to the high mountain peaks. There are 29 peaks rising above 4000 metres in the Matterhorn region, which straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy.
Initially we stepped over to the small viewing area to take in the scenery. There is a much larger viewing area higher up – just as well as it was very crowded down by the station. The Kulm Hotel and Observatory is a little further up the mountainside and is a 5 to 10 minute walk away or a quick lift ride up from the station.
Just a note that you are over 3000 metres above sea level at this point and you do notice the thinner air (or at least we did). Nothing major but for instance I ran up and down some stairs inside the hotel and just noticed I felt slightly breathless, which I would never normally do and Mlle for some reason felt a bit off and giddy going up in the train and none too good at the summit. It’s nothing to do with age or fitness – some people get affected by altitude a bit more than others. Best advice is to take it a bit more leisurely than normal, drink plenty of water and if you do feel ill head back down the mountain on the next train.
We decided to relax a bit and enjoyed a cup of tea out on the sundeck before setting off to walk the last couple of hundred meters up to the viewing platform at the top of Gornergrat. Too many photos for this week’s post, despite heavy editing, so I will save the rest for next week!
Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved