Before the proper snow arrived at the start of this year’s winter season, we visited Zermatt for Jo’s birthday. The autumn colours in the valley were terrific and many photos were taken. High above the valley floor, we wanted to see the famous, much-photographed view of the Matterhorn at Riffelsee before the winter took hold and froze the small lake, so we took a packed train up towards Gornergrat. Disembarking at the tiny, station-less platform at Rotenboden, we slipped along a path leading across the first snows of the season, to the views we’d come for.
Once a small group of noisy American backpackers had taken their shots and moved on, we were left completely alone in the huge landscape and the silence was complete. We took our time and enjoyed the scenery, before spontaneously choosing to walk down to the station at Riffelberg. Although there was plenty of snow about, the path was clearly defined by the footprints of those who had been before us, and the going was easy.
As many of the hotels and restaurants in the village of Zermatt were closed for Zwischensaison – a biannual period between summer and winter to allow hotels and transport companies to prepare for the coming season – we had the mountain pretty much to ourselves. A lovely change from hiking in the Alsp during high season, when the more popular paths can be over-run by walkers.
From Riffelberg, as we were having too much fun and enjoying the peace, we carried on down to the eerily empty Riffelalp: back below the snow line and into the vivid autumnal forest, where we caught the train back to Zermatt. An unanticipated and great late autumn hike.