The final day. This section of the Europaweg was open and there were fine views of the mountains almost all day.
One of the highlights of the day was at the beginning. There was a steep 200 metre descent to the Charles Kuonen bridge. This claims to be the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world and was opened in 2013 after the previous, shorter, bridge was destroyed in a rockfall.
It is much less scary than it looks and didn’t swing or sway at all (there was no wind). It was an exhilarating experience, a bit like a theme park ride.
After the bridge I re-entered the wood and the path began to climb again, regaining the height I lost earlier. There were a lot of small flags that were marking the path that looked temporary. I wondered whether here were placed for a race. The ultramarathon race of Monta Rosa was due to start on 31 August so maybe they were placed for that.
Finally, I emerged from the forest and got my first view of the Matterhorn peeping round the side of the valley.
Now the path ran alongside the mountainside with superb views. There was a long exposed section, protected by ropes. In places there had been small rockfalls and the path had been replaced by short wooden bridges
This was a fitting climax to the trek. I could see along the valley to Zermatt with its ski area beyond it. As the Matterhorn emerged from behind the valley wall it dominated the other peaks. The ridge on the horizon marks the Swiss/Italian border. In winter there are pistes across it and you can cross an international border for lunch.
The Europaweg then had to descend to avoid a cliff and scree slope and I lost about 300 metres in height. I re-entered the forest and there was a tunnel, protecting the walker from rockfall. After the tunnel there were several concrete shelves to deflect falling boulders. At one point the reinforced concrete had been broken and a large split boulder lay just below the path.
The path climbed up through forest to turn a corner and enter the valley formed by the Taschbach torrent. This led to the hamlet of Taschalp. Above the chalets are another collection of 4000 metre peaks
I stopped at a hut in the village for lunch, fresh salad rather than the stale pumpernickel and sweaty cheese that I had been carrying for several days. I then crossed the Taschbach and turned west to rejoin the Mattertal.
The path continued up the valley, above the tree line and the Matterhorn and its glacier came into full view.
Now there was another exposed section of path. At the end of this section there was a warning sign to proceed quickly because of the risk of rockfall. There were shelters made of corrugated iron in case evasive action was necessary.
Finally I entered the Zermatt ski area with the town of Zermatt in the valley below
I now had a choice to make. I think I should have continued to stay high for more views and walk to the Sunnega underground funicular railway. Instead I felt I should walk into Zermatt. Initially the path descended steeply alongside a piste and through woodland. I then had a long, boring road to follow down into the town. My lodging for tonight was in Tasch so I took the Zermatt shuttle and said goodbye to the Mountains.
This was a tough but rewarding walk. The way marking was excellent although there are a couple of sections that might be difficult to follow in poor visibility. My training was interrupted due to my knee injury and I noticed this on the first few days, at one point I thought I would have to abandon the trek. I did have intermittent muscular pain throughout the walk and this is something I need to address before next year’s adventures.
If you want to do this walk, be aware you need to be fit, some of the climbs are steep and prolonged. The exposure on the Europaweg can be avoided by following the valley, although you would miss the last section which was particularly good. The Pas du Chevres cannot be avoided, except by crossing another pass that is said to be a steep and potentially unstable boulder and scree field, it certainly did not look inviting. All the groups I saw took the Pas Du Chevres.
If you think it is for you, I recommend Kev Reynold’s Cicerone guide. If you have not walked in the Alps before then the Tour du Mont Blanc is also a great walk and may be a better introduction to Alpine trekking. Mountain walking is not risk free and it is up to the individual to decide whether the risks are justifiable.
Any factual information is taken from the Cicerone guide, local tourist web sites or information boards placed alongside the path.