With a elevation of 4'478m (14'692 ft), Matterhorn is the most famous mountain in Europe. Situated in the European Alps, at the border between Switzerland and Italy, it has in fact two names. To the north (Switzerland) and the most part of the world is known as Matterhorn, while on the south slopes (Italy) is referred to it as Mount Cervino. However, Matterhorn is quite far from being highest in Europe or in the European Alps. The north and east faces oriented towards Switzerland are the most dramatic, and they form the most popular image of the mountain, being found on many Swiss souvenirs and chocolate covers.
I have visited two times already the surroundings of this landmark. Although far from covering all the possible viewing points, I would like to comment on them through this blog entry.
The peak itself is deep inside the European Alps, being surrounded by other high peaks and steep valleys. Although is probably possible to find nice views from many of the surrounding peaks, the transportation networks in the surrounding are converging to two points of access: Zermatt in Switzerland and Bretuil-Cervinia in Italy. The village of Zermatt which can only be reach by train (cars are not allowed further than Tasch for ecological reasons) and is the best developed point to explore the Matterhorn area, providing plenty of accommodation and transport facilities to higher points.
From Zermatt there are three main routes to reach higher observation points: Gonergrat, Sunnegga and Schwarzsee.
Gonergrat (3089m) is the most popular one, as the connection is made by a cogs train and can transport large number of tourists. The end of the line is marked by the famous Kulm Hotel (3135m) which hosts in its north tower the Gonergrat Infrared Telescope (TIRGO). Countless hikes are possible from this starting point or other lower level stations. However, from a photographer point of view, an important stop is Riffelsee (Lake - right image). The view from this line makes visible only the eastern face of the mountain.
Sunnegga Paradise is probably the best route to take for a photographer. There are 5 lakes on this route and 3 out of these set to amazingly reflect the mighty mountain with its most famous faces (north and east) blending together.
Stelisee lake (left image) offers the best view of Matterhorn, located in the vicinity of the Funalp Hotel. It offers an unobstructed view. Slightly at a lower altitude is the Gridjisee Lake (right image). The pine trees surrounding this lake offer an extra touch to the landscapes taken from this view point. Moosjiesee Lake is an artificial lake with glacier water (not clear). However, in the last hike, I reached this lake late in the afternoon when the peak was already in the shadow, and my pictures from this viewing point were not-stock-worthy. The other two lakes do not offer direct view towards Matterhorn.
I should also note that these two points should better be approached in the early part of the day. The sunrise must be magnificent from the Stellisee (Funalp Hotel).
The Schwarzsee route is the route taken by the people attempting to climb Matterhorn. Being at the base of the peak, the views offered are not suitable for photographing Matterhorn, although the Schwarzsee lake still offers stunning views.
I have not yet explored the Italian resort Bretuil-Cervinia, but I am planning to do it in the near future. In the meanwhile, here are some pictures from some fellow photographers who did...