Tour du Matterhorn Cervin
Day 1 – Arrival
This day was almost only traveling. After some problems/delays with the German train system, who would have thought, I arrived at around 16:00 in Randa Switzerland where the trek would start. I started right away to climb out of the valley. It was crazy steep, so already a good start into the trip :-). When I looked across the valley to the other side, I could spot Europa Hut, which is the start of the famous “Europaweg” to Zermatt. I did this trail last year during the WHR and it is amazing. After a few hours and around 1000m /3300 ft of climbing a found a nice little spot to set up camp.
Day 2 – A perfect start
After packing up camp, I started the first flatter section until the climb up to Wasu Pass (3114 m / 10216 ft) over Tovali hut. This little hut is quite remote and often described as an eagle’s nest, sitting enthroned on a ledge. After a short coffee break and nice chat with the host, I made my way up to the first pass of the day. I arrived there with perfect timing for lunch and decided to take a short lunch break on the pass. The descent was quite technical on very loose rock and gravel. After the descent, the trail joined with the WHR. So I could now see the trail from last year in the opposite direction. Made it up to Augstbordpass (2894 m / 9494 ft). It was crazy to see how less snow there was compared to last year. After a short descent I found a great spot near a water source and set up camp.
Day 3 – A nippy morning
In the shade of the mountains, it’s starting to get a bit chilly in the morning. The thermometer shows 4 °C / 39 °F, so let’s get walking! After a long descent down into the little mountain village of Gruben, I started to ascend back on my way to the only pass of the day: Meidpass (2790 m/ 9153 ft). It was quite cool to do this pass, since I hiked a different variant of the WHR last year. After a short descent I started to climb again to Weisshorn Hotel. Here it was quite touristy and a bit much for my taste. So I better keep going. Pretty cool too now to join the famous race course of Sierre Zinal. I followed the trail till arriving at Zinal and decided to stay at the campground there. After work beer included :-).
Day 4 – A tough one
This was a tough one. A lot of elevation gain and loss, combined with a very hot day, and it definitely showed. The views made up for it though.
Basically surrounded by glaciers all day, I started my way up to Corne de Sorbois (2880 m /9448 ft) and descending to Lac de Moiry, an impressive dam. From there up and over Col de Torrent (2919 m/ 9576 ft) to Les Haudères. A little mountain village at 1454 m/ 4770 ft. At the end, my watch shows 1841 m/ 6040 ft of ascent and 2094 m/ 6870 ft of descent. Time to finish the day.
Day 5 – Glacier crossing
This was probably my favorite day of the trip. First I started my way heading to Arolla. I had two options to choose from. The first one would have been along the valley straight to Arolla. The second one was a slight detour over Lac Bleu, which would mean a few hundred meters of extra climbing. I was already at Lac Bleu last year during my WHR trip only with poor weather and after the hard day yesterday I had already made up my mind to take the easy route. At the junction up to Lac Bleu my gut took over and took the way to Lac Bleu :-). And it was worth it. As the name suggests, this lake is crazy blue, the bluest and clearest I’ve ever seen. Perfect spot to take a break and make breakfast. I then made my way down to Arolla and started my climb up to Col Collon (3114 m/ 10216 ft). This also included a glacier crossing, which was fairly easy going. Only the route finding over large rock fields was a bit tricky. My GPS track was off there and I only had to rely on a few stone markers and my own judgment.
A short coffee break at Col Collon and a descent later, I found a great flat spot directly near the glacier stream. What a day!
Day 5 – You gotta take them as they come
After an amazing day, this one was a bit tougher again. Maybe the 2300 m/ 7545 ft of climbing had something to do with it :-). Col Collon yesterday marked the border of Switzerland and Italy, so today would mean the first full day in Italy. I first finished my descent down in the valley and then made my way up again to Pass Colle del Volculnera (3074 m/ 10085 ft). The climb was quite long and technical. The few last hundred meters of climbing were over steep rock fields, which was fun, though. Also, the way down from the pass over a few steep rope secured sections was great fun. Again up a little pass the Finestra di Cignana and then a long way trail to Breuil-Cervina, a little mountain town right at the foot of the Matterhorn. I decided to climb up a little bit out of the town, this would shorten my last climb of the trip tomorrow.
Day 6 – The perfect ending
I started early this day, since I couldn’t get too much sleep during a thunderstorm nearby. A bit too near for my liking, but what can you do :-). As I mentioned earlier, I would climb the last pass of the trip. This would mark the highest point of the whole tour at 3220 m/ 10564 ft. Then the descent down over the second glacier, Theodul, which is quite easy to manage. Only the first section to get on to the actual glacier required my micro spikes. The rest of the way is prepared by a snowcat. After the glacier, you follow “Trockener Steg” and descend quite a long way down to Zermatt. This little town amazes me every time. It is like a town out of a fairy tale. It is a car free town and everything is smaller, like the little electric cars, trucks and even little street sweeper trucks.. I stayed there one night in the youth hostel and then took a train back home. Yes, I went home then. The weather for the next few days forecast thunderstorms and also unfortunately the Saucony Xodus Ultras had some outsole durability issues, I will mention in the gear section. Therefore, I went home, picked up a resupply and then headed out again to Austria in order to go around the Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria.
Day 1 – Back at it!
This time a decided to go by car. The startpoint of the tour is a parking building and the so I only had to drive for 5 hours and use the rest of the day. Arriving at the start the route went straight up. The two goals of the day were two dams “Wasserfallboden” and “Mooserboden”. On my way to the first one I had some sections through a tunnel, which was pretty cool. Also it had rained the day before and so I could already test the Cascadia 16’s grip. Not too bad, but could be better on wet roots and rocks. After the “Mooserboden” dam, I found an amazing camp spot. The cloudy and misty mood was great. So alreay a pretty nice start to the trip.
Day 2 – Austria is different
I started my day continuing to climb up to the first goal of the day, Kapruner Törli (2636 m / 8648 ft). Arriving there, I took a break and made breakfast. During the climb, I thought time and time again how different the terrain compared to the Swiss-Alps was. The trails in Switzerland were very, very dry. In comparison, it was quite a bit wetter and damper in Austria. Also, the trails were a bit rougher. While recalling only two sections over larger rock fields in Switzerland, here I felt that most of the trail was over rock fields. It was not that bad, but I noticed it right away. So I really had to keep focus on those sections. Miss a step over a wobbly or loose rock are not fun :-).
Second goal was to climb up to pass “Karlser Törl” (2515 m/ 8251 ft). On the way I passed Rudolfshut, which is more a Hotel in the mountains than a hut. So a quite touristy area. Too much for my taste, so let’s keep going. After the pass I walked down into the valley near the little village Karls. After passing the village, I had to search a bit for a camp spot, which made for a pretty long day.
Day 3 – Großglockner all day
I started early today in order to climb up my first pass “Peischlachtörl” (2584 m/ 8477 ft) in order to make breakfast there and dry out my stuff a bit from condensation. On the way up, I found some new friends, which I could not pass on the narrow trail. So I just followed them, as you can see in the picture above.
After a break I continued on to my second goal “Margaritzen dam” and “Glocknerhaus”. Glocknerhaus is a famous hut right on the Glockner-Road, which goes up to 2567 m/ 8421 ft. From there I went further up to “Untere Pfandlscharte” (2663 m/ 8736 ft) and luckily found a small spot to camp, since it was getting pretty late already.
What was great today is that pretty much the whole day Großglockner was in sight. All in all, the best day of the trip.
Day 4 – the finale
I wanted to start at night. It was very windy at around 2000 m/ 6000 ft. And unfortunately, I forgot to put my shoes on my sit pad, which was in my tent’s vestibule. So when I got out during the night to re-tighten my guy lines, I sadly had to notice my sit-/ back pad was gone. I didn’t really care about the pad itself, but knowing it lay somewhere made me a bit upset. I’m a leave no trace advocate and it really bothered me.
Other than that, the rest of the day hiking was pretty uneventful. It was basically just a long descent town to the valley. Back at my car, I drove back home. So this marked the last day of my hiking vacation and all in all it was great. Those hiking trips really help me to relax and unplug a bit from the daily craziness.
Now for the gear I used for the trip. As you will see, I try to stay as light as possible, without sacrificing function and safety.
All the gear I used was purchased by myself and grew over the years to what it is now.
For a detailed list of all the gear I used, you can check out my lighter pack link.
Huckepacks Phoenix Lite
Over the years I had quite a few backpacks and ended up with the Huckepacks Phoenix Lite, which fits me just right. It’s an ultralight, frameless backpack made out of Dyneema composite fabric or DCF in short and weighing in at 519 g/ 18.3 oz from a little German cottage company out of Cologne.
It features a simple roll-top design with a magnetic FidLoc closure. Has all you need and nothing you don’t. Huckepacks is pretty much a one-man-operation, and releases the packs in batches. So they are hard to come by and sold-out in a few hours. But it is definitely worth it. The pack is handmade, and the craftsmanship is second to none. Out of all the packs I previously owned, I never had a pack this well-made and with this much attention to detail. The pack did great during this trip and carried very well even with 5 days worth of food in the beginning. Pack weight in the beginning was around 10 kg/22lbs with food and water. Enough said, you get the picture, I’m a fan 🙂.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pack Pods
For pack organization, I use HMG pack pods. One in large for my clothing and one in small for all smaller bits and pieces like cooking kit, hygiene kit etc. They are again made out of DCF and only weigh around 30 g/ 1.2 oz. With taped seams and waterproof zippers, they are highly water-resistant. With the addition of a pack liner, I’m all set for rainy weather. I’ve been using this combo for a few years now, and it’s still going strong with minor wear.
Shelter and Sleep System
Zpacks Plex Solo Tent
Probably the lightest single person tent you can buy right now, only weighing 383 g/ 13.5 oz without stakes. It’s actually amazing how much interior space you can get here for the weight. The tent is made out of DCF fabric and only has a single wall, which makes it a bit prone to condensation. The tent is set up with one of my trekking poles, not requiring any dedicated tent poles. It requires 6 tent stakes as a minimum. In windy conditions, you probably better want to use the additional guy lines and use 10 stakes. This is imo the only downside of it. Other than that, I’m very happy with it.
Therm-A-Rest Neoair UberLite Sleeping Pad
I use this pad only in warmer conditions. With an R-Value of 2.3 it is rated for 3 season backpacking. Reportedly, there are some durability issues floating around the web. Fortunately, I never had problems with it. At only 320g / 11.3 oz in the regular wide version, you should handle it with care, of course. Speaking of width, I would recommend going with the wide version. It is just that much more comfortable, and a good night of sleep is definitely worth the weight penalty.
Therm-A-Rest Vesper 20F Quilt
While a few years ago, you could get good ultralight quilts only from cottage manufacturers, the big companies definitely stepped up their game. The Vesper uses 900 fill power down and comes in at 582 g / 20.5 oz. My only real critique would be its pad attachment straps. They are not quite as versatile as for example Enlightened Equipment ones and a bit fiddly to attach. In terms of warmth, the 20 degree comfort rating was more than enough for my trip. The lowest temperatures I saw were in the high thirties. So I used it most of the night only as a blanket.
Clothing and Shoes
Arc’teryx Cormac Sun Hoodie
This is a new piece I picked up just before the trip and it worked out great. I usually opt for a long sleeve hoodie for my hiking trips for UV coverage. It is fairly light at 177 g/ 6.2 oz and offers UV 50+ protection. I found it to be extremely quick drying and odor resistance worked for about 2-3 days, both on the upper end from my experience. The thumb loops can be a bit fiddly. It’s basically just a small piece of band fabric sewn in parallel to the cuffs.
Patagonia Strider Pro 5’ Shorts
What can I say? These are my go-to shorts for long adventures. Never had any issues with them. They are light, extremely quick drying and I have never had any issues with chafing.
Falke TK5 Hiking Socks
These were also new for this trip. Falke also offers thicker socks with the TK 1, 2, 3 and 4. I was searching for a slightly thinner model than my usual Smartwool Light Cushion. I took those as a second pair for camp and in case I want to switch. Didn’t have any issue with the Falke and didn’t miss less cushioned socks at all. I was happy to trade that for a bit better breathability. The merino blend also did a good job with odor control. At least, I didn’t find them to do any better or worse than the Smartwool.
Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)
For the first half of the trip around the Matterhorn, I used the Xodus Ultras. I really love these shoes. The right amount of cushion, great comfort for long days and they even did fairly well in very technical and rocky terrain. Unfortunately, I had some outsole durability issues. Some of the lugs partially sheared off and the base outsole started to delaminate. If not for that, probably my favorite trail shoe of the year.
Brooks Cascadia 16 (RTR Review)
Due to the issues with the Xodus, I switched to the Cascadia 16 for the second half of my trip. With a bit less cushion and a less bouncy midsole than the Xodus they did great as well. This time without any durability issues at all. They need some break in time. The overlays, on the lateral side, were noticeable when they folded during running/walking. After the first day it was fine and it also didn’t cause any real irritation or blisters.
The grip on wet rock could have been better. Here you can really notice the harder rubber blend. On the plus side, the outsole looks new even after 100k in alpine terrain.
Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket
For insulation and primarily for camp at night, I pretty much always bring a puffy jacket. The Torrid Jacket is a lightweight synthetic insulated puffy jacket. At 244 g/ 8.4 oz it’s extremely warm for the weight. I like a synthetic Jacket more than a down jacket, just for the ease of use. It is so much easier to maintain the jacket in case you want to wash or also pack it. Down is much more prone to damage and keeps its loft over a synthetic one.
Senchi Designs Wren Hoodie
This is my mid-layer of choice and amazing as an active insulation layer, e.g. when you start hiking in the morning. It is made out of Polartec Alpha insulation and pretty new on the market, at least in this form. It has been used in the past as face fabric by a few bigger brands, but only recently a few cottage companies used it as a single layer fabric. The advantage, ultralight and breathable, which makes it a perfect active insulation layer. It only weighs 97 g/ 3.4 oz, which is kinda crazy and feels like nothing when you hold it.
Berghaus Hyper 100 Rain Jacket
As far as I know, this is the lightest 3 layer rain jacket you can get, coming in at 103 g/ 3.6 oz. It is waterproof up to 20000 mm hydrostatic head and the membrane offers up to 55000 g/m2/24h MVTR breathability.
Only Gore-Tex Shakedry jackets offer better breathability with up to 80000 g/m2/24h, but even the lightest available will weigh around 180 g/ 6.3oz. Till now, I couldn’t test it over multiple days of rain, but so far I didn’t wet out once.
OMM Halo Rain Pants
I didn’t use it once this trip. What I like though are the adjustable cuffs, which makes it easy to get on with your shoes on.
I also use them as wind pants over my shorts if it’s windy and cold. For the weight of 80 g/ 2.8 oz I always bring them to the mountains.
Garmin Forerunner 955
I used the Garmin Forerunner 955 for the trips. It did well. Battery life is quite good. It lasted my around 2.5 days with about 8 hours of full GPS tracking each day. While the hardware is great, I think the software is not quite there. I had some issues with this watch where it ended up in a boot-loop, when I pressed any button. Only a factory reset solved the issue. Luckily, this did not happen to me during the trip. But for that reason, I replaced it for the recently launched Enduro 2 (RTR Preview). If they can fix the remaining software issues and improve the support by providing them faster, this is an amazing watch with the best price to performance ratio there is.
Garmin inReach Mini
For safety reasons, I bring the Garmin inReach Mini (RTR Review). Fortunately, I never had to use it in an emergency situation. So I only use it to check in with my peeps at home if there is no cell coverage. It takes some time to find a signal to the IIridium satellite network but it does what it should well and is the lightest option out there at the moment. RTR has reviewed the inReach Mini 2 which improves on performance and battery life