Day 1 – Tuesday 14th January 2014
Well it is 6an on a rainy Tuesday Morning and I am heading off to Manchester Airport for my flight to Zurich. All my luggage is ready and packed that is
1 Ski bag complete with new Skis, ski pants and jacket.
1 boot bag complete with new Ski Boots and a pair of light walking boots
1 large wheelie bag complete with all my clothes and needs. Including netbook and various plugs and chargers.
Lastly my Camera Rucksack complete with all my needs. That is 1 Canon DSLR + lenses and a Canon G12 compact camera.
I have a transfer arranged to take me to Manchester Airport and traffic is light so it only takes 40 minutes. I check in at the Swissair desk for my flight to Zurich which is very quick. One good thing about Swissair is that Skis and boots go free so no excess baggage which would apply with budget airlines. I also use the Swiss Flyrail system which allows you send luggage direct to your resort. This way you do not have to struggle getting all your luggage on to the train. The only things I take my self on to the train is my main bag and my rucksack. Obviously it makes sense to take your main luggage just in case there are any delays but this is very rare it has happened to me once in 25 years and then my luggage arrived by 7am the following morning.
The flight was uneventful; it departed on time and arrived on time which is great as I am able to get the train that I want. As Zurich airport is a massive place it seems as if you have to walk miles to get to the baggage reclaim. Once I arrive the bags start to come off the conveyor belt so no delay in waiting for bags which can be a pain like at Manchester. So now I take my wheelie bag and my rucksack which I have on my back down one level and I am in the railway station.
I am getting the 1240 intercity express to Brig, I am sounding a little like Michael Portaloo and his Bradshaw’s guide to railway travel. The weather is misty and raining and I expect as we climb higher the rain will turn to snow. The journey will take 3.5 hours to reach Zermatt with one change at Visp. So as we pass Kandasteg it starts to snow and everywhere takes on a white appearance.
The Swiss rail network is extremely efficient and it is very rare for trains to be late. At Visp I change trains for the remainder of my journey. I am now travelling on the Matterhorn Bahn Railway which climbs from the valley floor up to Zermatt at 1620m which in English money is 5,345 ft. This journey takes 1 hour and because of the steep gradients the trains are assisted by a cog system. As we are getting higher all the time the snow is getting deeper and all the trees look as if they have been dusted with icing sugar, everywhere else is solid white. The snow is covering the track and rails and still the trains run on time. At home elf and safety would close down the whole network!
My hotel the Hotel Gornergrat Dorf is just 100 yds walk across the station square. I am welcomed by the hotel manager Mark who is also the local Fire Chief. So here we are again in Zermatt the Jewell in the crown of Swiss Ski resorts. My Skis and boots arrive 2 hours after my arrival. When I leave Zermatt I will again use the Flyrail system checking them in at the rail station and the next time I will see them will be at Manchester.
So I have now unpacked and had a quick walk around with my camera and so I have attached a few images some taken from the train and the remainder taken in Zermatt one image is of the sausage man, although I think some of you will make up your own title!!
Day 2 – Wednesday
As you probably realise I am a little behind so I am now catching up. Well Wednesday started as a very clear and sunny day and later cloud closing in. So I got the 8:45 train up to Gornergrat which is at 3000m. My intention is to come to terms with the characteristics of the new skis as well as the new boots. As there is a lot of new snow about it is very easy to visit the white stuff which I did on a couple of occasions.
The new skis are shorter and seem a little less forgiving than my old longer skis. The boots are comfortable although one boot I managed to get two blisters on my calf which I have administered first aid and applied a couple of compede plaster. I will make adjustments to my boots to rectify this problem. As a consequence of my skiing on the Gornergrat sector I decided for the first day to finish early in the afternoon. I am a little sore so a hot bath is in order.
I later go for a walk, so all of the images are of Zermatt itself. All the images are as they came out of the camera so no adjustments have been made.
Day 3 – Thursday
Today there is low cloud and visibility is very poor on the slopes above so I have decided to have a day off from skiing also it will give chance for my muscles to recover. Therefore I will take a couple of walks during the day.
There are lots of opportunities for photographs with the snow covered buildings, also today is the start of the Horu Trophy which is the largest outdoor curling competition in Europe which sees a large Scottish contingent participating. Zermatt is a car free resort though you have to be careful that you don’t get run over by the silent electric taxis. In addition there are two horse drawn stage coaches which belong to the two 5 star hotels (The Mont Cervin and the Zermatterhof) However to be able to use them you have to stay at one of these hotels. As a consequence the rich and famous are carried from the station to these hotels. These stage coaches wait at the station for the hourly express train to arrive.
The weather has warmed a little today so there is a little thaw of the snow under foot in the village as a consequence it is not as slippery walking around. The images attached show my Hotel, Curling, Choc shop, Zermatt electric taxis (milk floats), eagle wood carving, chalets, Horses and berries.
Day 4 – Friday
I awake at 7am to see from my balcony that it was snowing and that it looked as if it had been snowing all night. There is a pictured attached showing the view from the balcony and about 9” of snow on top of the guard rail.
So I decided to go back to bed only to be awakened by explosion’s reverberating of the mountains, this being the piste workers using grenades to bring down snow that could otherwise avalanche on to the ski runs. Well I have had breakfast and it is still snowing in the village and with the aid of webcams the conditions higher up the mountain is very poor with heavy snow and poor visibility. It is not much fun skiing in such conditions and with a lot of new snow that has not been pisted can make skiing even more hazardous. This increases the risk of an accident or going of the piste and ending up in very deep soft snow which can be very difficult to extract yourself from.
So being sensible I have been walking again around the village going in various directions and climbing up above the village just being led by my curiosity and looking for photographs. What is evident that there is a lot of snow moving going on. What happens is the municipal workers use their various machines to gather up all the snow from the main thoroughfares and then deposit it in to the river.
The weather forecast for the next week is not very good with a lot more snow forecast. If the forecast is correct tomorrow morning should be clear with snow expected in the afternoon, so fingers crossed I will get out tomorrow morning.
So the supporting images show village scenes, a large fondue pan, the entrance tunnel to the Sunnega funicular railway, my hotel lounge, blue shutters, sausage man again (note his coat) and a picture of the poster for Zermatt Unplugged which is the end of season bash.
Day 5 – Saturday
Well as the weather forecast was to be clear this morning I ventured out on to the mountain for just after 9, the light was not very good in fact it was very flat which makes it hard to read and see the undulations of the snow. So I did several runs and as a consequence of not many runs being open everyone was in the same place and you really need eyes in the back of your head to see where people are coming from, some ski far too fast for the conditions and are obviously oblivious to the potential danger of accidents.
As the morning progressed the weather deteriorated with the wind getting up whipping up the snow and again vision was becoming a problem. At midday the wind was becoming hostile so I decided to retreat back to the warmth of my hotel.
This afternoon there have been a number of heavy snow showers so I have spent the afternoon watching the famous Lauberhorn downhill ski race from Wengen in Switzerland, they had problems there with all the new snow so had to start the race lower than usual.
So after dinner I managed to see the end of the Liverpool game at Potters Bar this is the local English bar. Well this evening I am packing up my things as I am moving to a new hotel by way of a treat, high up in the mountains being the highest hotel in Switzerland anyway more about that tomorrow.
As a consequence there are only a few images today as the weather was not favourable for photography. These pictures were taken at 3100m looking over the glaciers with the Matterhorn in the background.
Day 6 – Sunday
This morning was again overcast with intermittent snow flurries. The cloud base was very low basically obscuring the mountains and it is as if someone has moved the Matterhorn. I did a two hour walk taking pictures as I went along, I decided to walk alongside the river heading towards the entrance to Zermatt passing the heliport where Air Zermatt the world renowned helicopter rescue service operate from. As you walk along you pass some fantastic luxury chalets and apartments they must cost a fortune.
As I mentioned yesterday I am moving to a new hotel for 3 nights this being the famous 3100 Kulmhotel – Gornergrat. To reach the hotel you have to take the Gornergrat Mountain Railway where at its summit at 3100m is the Kulmhotel. If you go to this website link below you will see some excellent video footage of this hotel and its location. Also below is a brief history of the hotel
STAY AT A FAMOUS HOTEL WITH A TRADITION!
The Kulmhotel Gornergrat is situated at 10,000 feet above sea level – making it the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps. The Commune of Zermatt constructed the first hotel (known as Hotel Belvédère) on the Gornergrat as early as 1896. Two years later the famous rack railroad was extended to Gornergrat. Stimulated by the new accessibility of Gornergrat, tourist traffic quickly increased over the next few years. It was not long before the Commune of Zermatt began to recognize the significance of Gornergrat as a tourist destination. As a result, the Kulmhotel Gornergrat was constructed between 1897 and 1907.
In 1996, a dome was built on each of the two towers of the stone building. The domes provided a vantage point from which Italian and German scientists could look out into space using infrared and radio telescopes. The clean air and optimum light conditions at this location allow an exceptional view of the galaxies. Today only the observatory in the South is used for observations of the University of Cologne.
So at 2:30 I took the Gornergrat Mountain Train up to Gornergrat this journey takes 35 minutes climbing ever higher and eventually reaching the end of the line at 3100m / 10,000ft from this location you have a 360 degree view of all the surrounding mountains that is if the clouds ever lift and move away. The whole idea of staying here was to be able to photograph some dramatic sun rises and sun sets. At the moment that is not looking likely and the other reason was to be able to get on the piste before the Germans!!
The rooms in the hotel are lovely and spacious and are named after one of the surrounding mountains. I chose a room with a view of the Matterhorn for which you pay extra. You may say what’s the point; Well we can live in hope for 3 nights any way.
I have had dinner and well it is not really practical to go for a walk, we are in effect cut off from the rest of the world that is until 7:30 in the morning when the first train comes up from Zermatt, so I will have a lazy evening reading and watching TV. As I look out of my window in to the darkness you can see the lights of the piste machines preparing the runs for tomorrow, what a lonely job. It must be very eerie and potentially very dangerous.
In respect of the weather, I have been coming to Zermatt for over 25 years and this is by far the worst weather I have ever had.
Lastly I must point out that all the jpeg images attached to the daily bulletin have been taken on my compact camera and no editing or corrections have taken place. When I get home I will be able to process the raw files and improve the images. As of yet I have not had the need to use my DSLR but I am hoping.
Day 7 – Monday
Day 7 Early Morning taster
Just a taster from this morning’s sunrise, these were on my compact, but the best images will be on my DSLR.
Well the last 24 hrs has seen a change in fortune, and the early rise for the sunrise was well worth it, photographically these are the best images so far. As sun’s rays struck the tops of the mountains there was a golden light that created a fringe of colour which grew and gently as the time pasted by. The main issue was at -10 being all fingers & thumbs even though I was wearing thin gloves it was difficult to make changes to my camera..
So after breakfast I donned my skiing gear and headed out, the Matterhorn had partially disappeared so in deciding where to go, I headed in the direction of the best light and that was towards the Sunnega, Blauherd and Rothorn areas. This entails taking an enjoyable run but steep in parts, which was in good condition being early in the day. The snow conditions changed from soft and fluffy to icy this being when I dropped down in to the cloud layer.
This was my first proper day skiing with my new skis and boots, skis are working fine as are the boots which is just a case of getting the comfort settings right so that after 8 hours that your feet don’t feel as if they have been placed in a vice. So in the morning I did a circuit taking in various runs via Findeln, Patrullarve, Blauhard, Rothorn, Flualp, Gant and Hohtalli which brings you back in to the Gornergrat area.
As the weather was reasonable not brilliant but the light was good for skiing I decided the head for what is called the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. No time for lunch so I skied down to Riffleberg and then down a dreaded run that runs parallel to a gallery that protects the railway from avalanche. I say dreaded as it can be icy and badly cut up and also many years ago I got a little close to the edge and the snow pack broke away and I went with it over the edge in to the deep snow, this can’t be done now as there are safety nets to prevent you going over the edge. Well when I emerged I was like a snowman lucky for me there was a ski instructor who had seen what had happened and he gave me instructions on how to get back on the piste which I did by traversing across the off piste snow until it met the piste again. So getting back to today I skied down to Furi where I get the gondola which takes you to Trockener Steg, Here I get one of the giant cable cars which hold some 150 people all crammed in, it’s funny but there always seems to be a strong smell of garlic and a few people making animal noises a reference to how everyone is crammed in. ski tips sticking up your nose etc. Well this ride is not for the faint hearted as it swoops down over crevasses and ceracs of the Theodulglacier and then it climbs near vertical to reach the cable car station which is perched on the edge of the mountain. There are great views of the Breithorn from the cable car which is good considering the ice forming on the inside of the windows. When you disembark you go through a tunnel in the mountain which has windows looking out on to the Breithorn. Further along the tunnel there is a lift that takes you up to a viewing platform this is the highest point you can get to at 3883m which is 12,814ft. When you get out of the lift you have you are now outside on the edge of the mountain and you have to climb up several flights of a metal stair way to reach the viewing platform. This is when you realise that at this height the air is very thin. On the viewing platform everything is encrusted in snow and ice. The views are stunning so I spend about 10 minutes taking pictures before I take the lift back down. I have to keep my eye on the time so as to ensure that I am able to get to all the lifts that I need to get back before they close. At the end of the tunnel you come out on to the Theodulglacier itself which can be extremely cold today was not bad in the past I have noted it being -26. So it is now a reasonably easy ski down the glacier back to Trockener Steg. I recall in the past watching a small plane landing and taking off from the glacier, anyway the weather has changed very rapidly and I am now in a raging blizzard as I take two gondolas to get me back to Riffleberg where I can get on the Mountain Railway to take me back up to the Kulmhotel arriving at 5pm. My legs are tired but it was a good day. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Day 8 – Tuesday
Well rose this morning for the sunrise but could not see anything out of my window, so decided to have a lie in. had breakfast at 9:30 and the conditions had not improved much so taking in to account the heavy day yesterday I decided to give my legs a rest and go and visit the shops.
Later I survey the scene outside 75% of the Matterhorn and other mountains are obscured by a band of cloud. So I decided to get togged up and go for a walk visiting the actual viewpoint. It had started to brighten up and eventually all the cloud evaporated to give good views of all the 29 over 4,000m high mountains.
As the weather had improved so much I decided to don my skiing gear and spend the afternoon cruising the slopes. The conditions were excellent for both skiing and photography what more could you want? As a consequence of the clear weather I decided to stay out longer so to capture the various effects as the sun went down. When I got back to the hotel there were a number of rooms who had their windows open and cameras set up to capture the sunset. I have a number of good images but most are on my big camera which I don’t have a compact flash card reader with me so these images are from my compact. In addition I have been playing around with the panorama setting where the camera takes a number of images as you move the camera across the landscape and it stitches them all together just like magic.
Can I thank everyone for their positive responses it is very much appreciated. Tomorrow is my last day and subject to the weather, but the forecast looks good anyway so I intend to ski in the morning and then transfer back to my headquarters down in the village for the night before travelling across Switzerland on Thursday for my flight home from Zurich.
Enjoy the images.
Day 9 – Wednesday
More adventures “On the Piste” !!
Photos like paintings are for sharing and it has been my privilege to share my experiences and images with you on a day by day exploits of a photographer come skier.
The last 3 days at 3100m the weather has been phenomenal and especially today from sunrise to sunset. Today followed on from last night’s sunset, even in darkness the mighty Matterhorn still stands out only illuminated by moonlight. Well my cameras started work at 7:30 am watching and recording the sun’s rays picking out the ridge lines and summits first and gradually illuminating more of the mountains as time passed by.
As I was having breakfast gazing out over a snow covered mountain panorama which I could have looked at this sublime view all day , but no there are far more opportunities to be had.
One of our group Peter must think my skiing is a figment of my imagination as he wants to see proof of me on my new skis. I think it is rather difficult to photograph yourself skiing does he not remember the Milk Tray adverts which is about his era. So to please Peter I asked an obliging Dutchman if he would take a couple of images which he did and I also took some shots for him. So there are a couple of images to dispel the myth. I was just thinking when did I ask to see proof of Peter playing golf with his new clubs!!
So while talking about the new skis, on the first day /I think I was going where the skis wanted to go, anyway I am pleased to say they are now going where I want them to go, well most of the time.
One thing you may not appreciate that when you are going skiing you are entering a hostile environment, so you have to be properly prepared. So getting kitted up is a major job everyday ensuring that you have everything you need and spares where appropriate, such as gloves, hats and goggles/glasses. The loss of a glove without a spare puts you in danger of frostbite etc. Anyway I was just about to push off for the first run of the day when my phone rings, so I remove my ski poles, take off two pairs of gloves and then step out of my skis. Then I have find which pocket my phone is actually in. It was a message from my wife Barbara updating me on my dear old Mum, who’s health has been up and down during the last week. Some things are more important and take priority so that you are aware how your family are.
So I did some of the runs that I enjoy, but the snow conditions were even better than the day before. Because of the bad weather earlier in my holiday it was disappointing that I was unable to ski in to Italy even though I paid a premium to do so but that another story. The Swiss certainly know how to make money. One thing that is not obvious that with the beauty and grandeur of the snow covered Swiss Alps there is a feeling of a deafening silence, as if you are the only person who is witnessing such stunning scenery. As I was going back down the mountain later today and changing back to my original hotel, I gave myself until 1pm for skiing so that I could get the 2pm train down the mountain in to Zermatt.
I could have skied all day, however I am glad that I have come away from this holiday without any serious injury there may be a few strains which my long time Osteopath Paddy will work on having kept me going for too many years to mention.
Look out for the big furry friend I met on the train.
Well tomorrow I leave on the Glacier Express at 8:40 precisely; This is Switzerland the country of precision. I will break for lunch in the beautiful town of Thun which sits on the lake of the same name. This is a great location for exploring the delights of the Bernese Oberland. I will re-join my train for the remainder of my journey to Zurich Airport with my flight at 1715 back to Manchester and arriving home for 8pm.
Day 10 – Thursday “Homeward bound”.
I am sure many of you are saying thank god for that.
Well at 8:40 on the dot my train gently glides out of Zermatt Station on its journey heading down the steep Matter valley down to Visp. Over the years this valley has seen many avalanches, landslides and rock falls which as a consequence has closed both the road and rail links to the head of the valley – Zermatt. There is evidence everywhere you look of past calamities with enormous boulder’s having come to rest in small hamlets, the natural erosion and the reduction of the permafrost has seen entire cliff faces come cascading down the steep mountain slopes. The river runs down and through some extremely steep gorges. As we gently glide down the valley the amount of snow gently reduces.
At Visp I change my train for the intercity express bound for Zurich Airport, all goes like clockwork which is to be expected and is the norm. At 1034 I reach Thun pronounced Tune just remember the Tunes advert. The weather is a little overcast and damp. I walk partly across alongside the end of the lake which has a very old bridge which is actually a sluice to control the amount of water flowing in to the river. This facility helps to prevent flooding in Thun and controls the water levels within the lake. I then make the steep climb up the cobble stoned steps and roadway up to the Schloss (castle). The views from the Schloss Thun look out over the City of Thun and its lake with a backdrop of the snow covered mountains of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch. It is just after midday so it is time for lunch so I visit the China Town Restaurant which I have used over many years, the food is excellent. I am spoilt for choice and decide upon Prawn toast starter followed by a Thai Green Prawn Curry, it was that good that it is making me feel hungry again. I would suggest it as a good place for the codgers group to try!!
I am now back on the train going direct to Zurich Flughafen this journey will take just 2 hours. The weather is dull and damp the complete opposite from yesterday. I arrive at the airport and go straight to check in to deposit my last bag. I am also trying out my electronic boarding pass which is on my iphone, what will they do next? Well you just place your phone over an optical reader and it is as simple as that, just like magic. The whole process only took 3 minutes if that. I have a browse around the duty free shops but I am not tempted. The gate is about a 10 minute walk away so I ensure I am there in plenty of time. Boarding is on time.
I had managed to book the same seat 11C as on my outward journey knowing it is one of the exit rows which affords more leg room which I need to be comfortable. Well here is where it all goes wrong, the aircraft was different and had a different seating configuration which meant that my seat 11C was not a seat with extra legroom. It was in fact row 10 which had the extra leg room, I was disappointed and to make it worst they were occupied by what I could say as being shortest people. It got worse when the women in the seat immediately in front of me started to recline her seat which impacted on my sore knees. I said do you mind which I don’t think was appreciated anyway surely these seats should be made available to those able tall persons who need a little bit more leg room to be comfortable.
So that is it, I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings over the last 10 days. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks for listening and viewing my images.
Finally at Manchester Airport as I have a new E Passport, I thought I would give it a go and use the auto scan system, big mistake, it just like being at Tesco and using the self-scan checkout it doesn’t work. Saying wait for assistance, so there is one official running backwards and forwards resetting the system 4 four machines. Sounds like another failed IT system costing £ Millions.
And really finally when I get to the baggage reclaim the machine for the trolleys only takes pound coins which I did not have. After walking up and down I finally found someone of an official capacity who informed that there are a few machines that take notes, problem solved well nearly. I get my trolley which has rear wheel steering and it does not go where you want it to go bearing in mind it contains a large wheelie bag, a large boot bag and a 2m long ski bag and my rucksack. So as I steer towards the green chanel there are bollards in front of the way out, trying to get between these bollards with only half an inch clearance each side but only if you can make a straight approach, which is not easy with these trolleys. Who thinks up these schemes which are not customer friendly?
One other thing has comes to mind that when I paid the bill for my stay at the 3100 Kulmhotel, the assistant gets my bill and neatly folds it up and then places it in a pristine white A5 envelope and then presented it to me. It looked as if the bill and envelope had been neatly put together and them ironed. Do we really need this?
So I was home just after 7:30 which enabled me to unpack my bag and present a few presents to Barbara. I was then able to walk down to my Camera Club to meet up with friends and have a relaxing drink
Well that really is it honest!
Well I have been home for a few days now and I have had the opportunity to review the images taken on my DSLR Canon 7D and I have selected a small selection of images that cover sunrise to sunset from Zermatt to 3100 Kulmhotel – Gornergrat
That really is all now, UNLESS of course he finds some superb images taken on his iPhone!!! Thank you Martin for this wonderfully informative blog and fabulous images – you obviously didn’t leave much time for the apres ski!