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   The Walking Guide
   Walking Guide Map

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Photos from this walk:

The Matterhorn from Schwarzsee - 99 KB

Climbers approach the Matterhorn - 116 KB

The trail approaches a moody Matterhorn - 100 KB

Matterhorn - up close and personal - 106 KB

A shear thousand foot drop off the trail - 185 KB

Looking back down the upper trail - 135 KB

Looking back down over the trail to Zermatt (in shade) - 85 KB

The Hornli hut - 111 KB

One can't get much closer to the Matterhorn (without ropes) - 83 KB

Beautiful Monte Rosa and Liskamm from the hut

The Dent Blanche - 4357m

The moon sets behind the Matterhorn - 80 KB

The Gabelhorn, Zinal Rothorn and Weisshorn

Dawn breaks on the Matterhorn - 73 KB

A magic Monte Rosa sunrise from near the Hornli hut - 82 KB

Stormy dawn over the Strahlhorn - 37 KB

Moody Monte Rosa - 52 KB

The spires of Zinal Rothorn and Weisshorn

Heavens light shines over Zermatt - 47 KB



The Walking Guide
Schwarzsee to the Hörnli Hut

Description: This is the classic high mountain trail to the climbers'  hut at the very base of the Matterhorn. This hike features unrivalled close-up views to the majestic north-east face. There are also excellent views to Zermatt's other big mountains, and the impressive glaciers at the Matterhorn's base. This is a 'must' hike for Matterhorn lovers. This hike is also remarkable in that of all the hikes to the high climbers' huts, this one features constant superb views to the very mountain the trail ascends.

Time required
: About four
hours (2½ hours uphill at start / 1½ hour downhill)
Difficulty: ****  A rocky mountain ascent            Popularity: *** 
Begins at:
Schwarzsee (2575m altitude)                 Ends at: Schwarzsee                 Goes via: Hirli (2775m - 50 mins walk from Schwarzsee),  Hörnli (or Matterhorn) hut (3260m - 2½ hours)

Track Notes: Good hiking shoes with excellent grip are required for this rocky walk.  There is the possibility of encountering patches of snow and ice towards the hut. Be prepared for cold and breezy conditions, even on the best of summer days. Of all the hikes in the area, the Hörnli hut is the most exposed to very strong winds. Equally sunscreen is normally a necessity.

Schwarzsee lift costs - return trip: Adults: sFr.50  
Children 9-15: 50% off. Children up to 8: free. ID for children's prices required.

Variants: Stay at the newly rennovated Hörnli Hut  - 'Matterhorn base camp' - for a memorable night with the climbers (170 beds, up to six beds per room - sFr.150 per person, including breakfast and dinner. Plenty of blankets provided. Also a few quad, triple and double rooms. Double rooms: 450 per person. Reservations highly recommended. Phone 027 - 967 2264). 

The walk begins and ends in the mountains at the Schwarzsee lift station and hotel/restaurant (2575m altitude).  To get up to Schwarzsee from Zermatt you can walk (3 hours uphill), but for this hike we recommend taking the lifts. You can find the lower lift station in Zermatt at the southern (Matterhorn) end of town. Look for one of a multitude of signs pointing  towards the gondolas of the "Matterhorn Bahnen" (Matterhorn lifts). Alternatively just follow Zermatt's main river upstream until the gondola lifts come into view. The gondolas are on the east side of the river, but there is a foot bridge just before the lifts and various signs point the way. You can buy tickets just outside the lift station.

In recent glossy brochures the most popular lift-accessible peaks above Zermatt have their names complicated with the marketing department's idea of 'paradise'. These days Schwarzsee, Sunnegga and Unter Rothorn are also promoted as Schwarzsee Paradise, Sunnegga Paradise, and Rothorn Paradise. While the views from these areas are spectacular, the blight of nearby machinery  and earthworks in summer is far from my own idea of paradise. Presumably it won't be too long before these places are known by their ancient humble names again. The Walking Guide uses the simpler original 'Schwarzsee, Sunnegga and Unter Rothorn'

Buy your ticket and board the gondola lift for the first stage up to Furi. Pleasant views out the Gondola are a feature over pastures and the mountain hamlets of Blatten and Zum See.  After a few minutes arrive at the massive lift station of Furi (1850m). Here one continues on the gondola directly to Schwarzsee (2575m).

Exit the Schwarzsee cable car station and enjoy the beautiful panorama and superb view to the Matterhorn.  Follow the obvious path down to the pretty "Black Lake" (Schwarzsee) with its ancient chapel. Continue from there directly up the steep grassy hill south west in the direction of the Matterhorn. A multitude of choices offer different zigzagging routes up the grassy knoll behind the lake, and then on over rocky slopes to the top of a winter ski lift known as Hirli (2775m). By now vegetation is scarce and you are entering the rocky scree of the high mountains. The Matterhorn looms ever closer and the trail leaves no doubt as to its final destination.

The trail ascends up and across to the left of the massive rocky outcrop - a great flank of the Matterhorn - known as Hirli. Shortly a metal staircase and gangway skirt the shear east face of  Hirli, before a zigzag takes one to its crest (2870m). Follow this pleasant easy track across slopes of rubble directly towards the Matterhorn. After about 15 minutes the trail reaches the final steep ascent to the hut. 

This is the only difficult and dangerous section of the track. It requires fine weather and a reasonable head for heights. The path ascends the very steep base of the Matterhorn by a series of zigzags, taking another 40 minutes to the hut (3260m). These steep slopes face north and receive little sun, consequently it will be cold on the warmest summer's day. Beware of ice and snow on the path at any time of year, although there are some fixed ropes for handholds should the path be slippery. Beware also of dislodging loose stones, since they will likely tumble downhill, endangering anyone on the path below.

One of the most exciting sections of the walk is a very short two yard/metre wide section of path with a shear drop of a thousand feet (300 metres) on both sides (and no rope handholds). Needless to say some people with a fear of heights might have difficulties here. It is certainly not a section I would want to cross in high winds or icy conditions!  Not long after this the hut comes into view above and the final walk up the slopes of rubble passes quickly.

From the Hörnli hut are brilliant views in all directions to all of Zermatt's great mountains. The Matterhorn itself towers over the hut, and interestingly,  this climber's hut is the only one in the area with a clear view of the mountain on whose flanks it rests.

Drinks and simple meals are available at the hut, but they are not cheap (sFr.8+ for a 500ml Coke). Everything has to be brought in by helicopter.

It is worth the easy walk five minutes beyond the hut to the very beginning of the climb proper. A series of fixed vertical ropes and various plaques in the cliff face mark the start of this most famous of climbs. 

Click for the 340 degree panorama from the Hörnli hut.
 Available in Half Size - 101kb or Full size - 305kb

Although quite a few hikers make it up to the hut, not many stay the night with the climbers. It can be quite an experience to stay at the hut and chat with the brave mountain men. Sunrises and sunsets are quite spectacular from the Hörnli hut. But be sure to bring extra warm clothes for the evenings. As soon as the sun disappears temperatures drop to freezing. Mountain huts may have no running hot water and only the common dining rooms are heated.

Due to the very high altitude, many people do not experience a perfect night's sleep. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. It is very easy to get dehydrated at this altitude, even if the temperature is cold.

The descent from the hut is quite fast. It is easy to return to Schwarzsee in just over an hour, and even walk back to Zermatt in two and a half hours if one hurries.  

Still fascinated by the Matterhorn?  Join the climbers on our special photo tour which continues from the Hörnli hut up to the very  summit of the Matterhorn.

Climb the Matterhorn photo tour

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