Europa Hut to Zermatt, Walker’s Haute Route Stage 14

Stage 14, the final stage to Zermatt, is the second half of the Europaweg, a high balcony track with stunning mountain views. Unfortunately not today. While the Weisshorn made a brief appearance the Matterhorn remained hidden in the clouds.

Day 14 – Europa Hut to Zermatt

Based on the Cicerone guidebook, “Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route” by Kev Reynolds

Distance : 18k

Elevation Gain: 348m

Elevation Loss: 962m

Time: 7.5 hours to Sunnegga with frequent photo stops and a short lunch break. In Sunnegga we took the funicular the last 682m down to Zermatt.

Another foggy morning. The weather report suggested we had hope of clearing skies around noon. We delayed our departure as long as we could but with a long day ahead of us we left the hut just after 8.

The day brightened straight away with an Ibex sighting. In fact 3 Ibex were grazing in the lush grass near the trail and were unconcerned with our presence.

Down to the Charles Kuonen bridge, the fog thicker than yesterday, we retraced the track we took the day before.

On the other side of the bridge we climbed up to the Europaweg – the balcony that offers stunning mountain views across the valley. The track is described as challenging because the narrow trail clings to the hillside with steep drop offs to the valley floor. Ropes bolted into the rock face aide hikers on the most precarious sections. This is not a difficult balcony trail if you are used to this type of hiking but for the unseasoned or vertigo challenged it could be unnerving.

It’s a pretty walk, alternating between exposed rocky sections and open forest.

Early on we were given hope of clearing skies with freshly snow covered peaks poking through the clouds. Even the majestic Weisshorn made a brief appearance.

The trail remains relatively level, undulating up and down except for a significant drop, 300m, and climb back up to cross under a 400 meter long avalanche protection system, a no stopping zone where a concrete ledge above your head is supposed to protect you from falling rocks. Once back up the other side there is another long balcony traverse to Taschalp.

At times the sky started to lighten only to have another cloud bank roll in. At Taschalp the trail descends a bit at the end of the valley and then climbs again on the other side of the valley.

Here begins the last long traverse to Zermatt. Now noon, the clouds were supposed to thin. We had occasional glimpses of the opposing cliff face but it never really cleared. No views of the famed Matterhorn. That will have to wait for a future trip.

Above Zermatt we continued on to Sunnegga to take the funicular the last 682 meters down to town. Through an underground tunnel the funicular whisks passengers to the town center avoiding another knee destroying descent through the forest.

Sleeping and Dining in Zermatt

Zermatt, the popular Swiss town with hotels and restaurants covered in hanging baskets of petunias and geraniums, has epic mountain views. Cars are banned so only electric mini vans transport guests through pedestrian friendly empty streets. While it has oodles of charm, it feels more like a Disney creation than a real Swiss town. For those seeking authenticity there are better choices.

During our brief stay there were few mountain views so my viewpoint is biased. If I had seen the Matterhorn I may have felt differently about the manufactured quality of the town.

Romantik Hotel Julen

We stayed at Romantik Hotel Julen in an upgraded suite with Matterhorn views. The skylight above the bed opened up to a cloud bank where the Matterhorn should be.

The room is a happy marriage of quaint Swiss decoration and modern design, equipped with high-tech amenities such as electric windows and shade openers for the skylight. The skylight window even closed automatically when it started to rain in the middle of the night.

In addition to a sitting room the suite boasts two bathrooms, one with a shower and a second with a large tub.

Although we had wanted to eat at their restaurant we had failed to make an advance reservation and on a Saturday night and they were fully booked. No tables are saved for hotel guests for same day reservations.

The breakfast buffet is befitting the high standards of this upscale establishment with a wide selection of quality offerings – various breads; cheese; cold cuts, including house made lamb salami and dried lamb; smoked salmon; fruits; cereal; museli, regular and bircher; hot food including, eggs, sausage and bacon. Coffee and hot milk is served to your table.

Spycher Flambe and Grill

Dinner at Spycher Flambe and Grill Restaurant located a short walk down the road from the Hotel Julen. This upscale restaurant specializes in flambe meat prepared tableside. Full on a Saturday evening we were lucky to get a same day reservation.

The traditional half-timber dining room is decorated with light blue accents. Service is more formal yet friendly and efficient.

We started with the mixed salad and the tuna carpaccio garnished with wasabi and pickled ginger, both nicely done.

For mains we tried the venison medallions ordered medium rare with a side of rosti – all beautifully prepared, the meat was tender and as moist as venison can be – and the veal cheeks served with risotto – a disappointment.

Although the veal cheeks were lusciously tender, the accompanying sauce and risotto were way too salty which I honestly reported to the manager when asked. He investigated my complaint and came back to the table to explain that the stock used in preparing the dish had been over reduced, concentrating the saltiness, pity. No compensation was offered for this oversight – a mistake for a restaurant in this price category.

September 7, 2019

For links to all the posts in this series see the Chamonix to Zermatt page.