EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
We drove to Tasch, below Zermatt, to start our walk; a long car journey of fifteen hours. We pick up Nicky and Theo, exhausted after doing the west way through the Black Forest. After a slow start, we walked from Zermatt to St Niclaus. All downhill, but still a six-hour walk and we arrived very tired at 9 pm. Dark, with the lights of the village twinkling below us and an immediate offer of a spaghetti carbonara to the exhausted travellers.
Nicky and Tamara walked the 900 metres up to Jungen. I took the cable lift. There is a small chapel up here and I prayed on my iPhone alone in the small alpine chapel, the door open behind me. Coming out there is an incomparable view like no other of the Mattertal valley below a deep cleft. At our level of sight, the huge mass of the Dom, the highest mountain entirely in Switzerland at 4,545 metres.
The others arrived breathless from the valley as I sat alone in the garden of the small restaurant and we made the long exhausting ascent to Augsbordpass at 28,94 metres through a stony valley with no water but still ploughing through a patch of hardened old snow.
And then a long descent to Guben, through quiet pastures and then steep climbs, drinking thirstily from mountain streams.
We arrive at Gruben (1,822m) again exhausted and wondering how we can do another twelve-hour walk the following day.
We decided to do a detour to the Hotel Weisshorn. Another fine day as we climb up and over the Meidpass (2,790m). This is a less tiring day. I am slow but so too is Tamara. And arriving at the hotel at 6:30 is a relief. I flop down with a cup of tea. I look for Mont Blanc in the distance but it is in a haze. We can see the Weisshorn mountain. The pass is the linguistic frontier of Switzerland: German to the east, French to the west.
Everyone has been very polite but from now on I feel happier, able to talk to the locals. In this wilderness you can hear nothing of the busy world and sitting on top of the lovely pass I can talk quietly to Tamara.
The Hotel Weisshorn built in 1882 is full of character: bowls for washing outside every room, creaking wooden floors, and small wooden rooms with windows opening out over a precipice. But the Hotel Schwarzhorn also is a world apart: the road leads nowhere. You feel this is a hotel out of the late nineteenth century.
A lovely walk before a very steep knee-crunching descent. I found a lovely stick coming down through the forest at Zermatt.
At Zermatt after supper I go to look at the church. To my amazement it is open. All dark inside, its doors wide open to the village street. It proclaims a wonderful truth, the openness of God. Why can’t the doors of all churches be left permanently open? I sit peacefully in the gloom for a moment, the interior lit gently by the lights of the village outside.
We cheat a little by taking the chair lift half way up the Sorebois at 2,847 metres. There were great thunderstorms in the night and as we descend from the pass light clouds and then heavy mist obscure the bright blue Lac de Moiry. An exhausting climb, utterly dreadful evening at the Cabane de Moiry (2,825m), an austere modern place above the glacier.
It has taken us the best part of a week to do what Theodore did in two days, running. My walk is very slow but at age 65 I have an excuse climbing up to my overnight stay over boulders at nearly 8,000 feet altitude.
This is a bleak Mordor type landscape – a vast expanse of void of glacier. Something out of the Ice Age.
As I write this I am in a very different landscape in the shade looking at a Tuscan lake, cypress trees and warm yellow stove, and red houses – a bit like Pitt Cottages, although a little warmer.
SATURDAY – Feast of the Assumption
I sleep badly, worried about waking up early as I always do. I feel ill at 6:30 in the morning and worried about the steep walk down over those slippery rocks. But it is fine.
We set off at 7.20 and get to the car park in good time at the bottom of the glacier for the bus at 9.16. As the bus glides down so easily to Grimnetz I remember it is the Assumption.
Luckily and beautifully we arrive in time for Mass. The priest is drummed and piped in and lovely to have Mary arrive half way through the Mass. At the elevation of the Host, the drums and pipes start again – amazing. The priest is retiring. He has a strong local accent and I only catch bits. He goes on a pilgrimage up a mountain and is taking an eraser with him to wipe away the past and the future. It is cold but we feel pleasantly tired and fulfilled after our six-day walk.
A long drive then up through the mist over the St Bernard Pass or rather through the tunnel and then down into a very different world on the Italian coast at Sestri Levante.