Haute Route Day 14 – not yet Täschalp to Zermatt – the Matterhorn is real camp to Dog Poop Terrace Camp
Kilometers hiked: 9.5-ish
Total Kilometers: 324.5
Haute Kilometers: 183
Dance parties: 2.5
McDonald’s soft serves: 0
Was last night actually uncomfortable? Physically? Or is it my mind that’s uncomfortable? Uncomfortable with the thought of all this ending. Probably a mixture. The ground was not flat and my pad is not an easy place to remain planted. Not that it helps much, deflating in a few hours after picking up a puncture or two somewhere in the last week. Uncomfortable? Yeah, who cares? Today provided a fitting end to this incredible trail. Trails. Weeks. Warm, friendly, beautiful, epic, silly, sad, vibrant, fun, casual, baby.
The 6am alarm did its thing one more time. I shook awake, crumpled a little to the left of my deflated neoair. Sad pad. Some cloud had returned in the night and, unsurprisingly, everything was covered in heavy condensation. Can’t believe it’s the last day. The Matterhorn was gone. It has retreated within once more. Did it ever actually exist? Like the shaded valley before me, I was slow to wake up, waiting for the clouds to clear, for the sun to hit. We only had a few hours of hiking to Zermatt today so there was no need to rush. Our need was to not rush. Granola, the last of the bag cake, and coffee La Croix for breakfast. The sun hit and the clouds cleared out for the most part. Welcome back to the party, Mr. Matterhorn.
The others stirred, probably snoozing until the sun hit as I did. We hung out, not doing a whole lot, but admiring the views and taking silly photos. Someone finally remembered that it was Saturday so we had the dance party we’d all been waiting for, doing the twist and shaking it to Sir Elton’s, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” A pure moment. More hanging out and moment savoring. All too soon it was 11:15am(!) and we were shouldering our packs to finally get our last bit of hiking crushed out. But before we even made it back to the trail, Gryllz managed to take the most extreme tumble of the whole trip by a long shot. It was so short-lived that my moment of terror was fleeting, but she full on rag-dolled for a couple of rolls down the steep grass coming down from our ridge. I was in her fall line, and so was pleased when she came to rest, a couple scrapes and bruises richer. No harm done. Everyone laughing. Oh boy.
Back on the belvedere, I rushed ahead in an attempt to find a toilet in Täschalp, but the picture pickings were too good, so I never got far ahead of the others as the trail cut into a side valley full of green and purple. I had misgivings about blowing up the small restaurant so we filled our bottles from the glacial torrent pouring from somewhere then got out in casual haste. More excellent walking followed, requiring a low level of effort on a level trail through trees and things. Views of the Matterhorn came and went as did packs of day hikers out from Zermatt enjoying the day. The trees all but disappeared as we traversed another wide slope of unstable scree. The trail was good and wide, a road really, but there were small rockfall shelters spaced at 5 minute intervals just in case. The weather was perfect, the Matterhorn prominent though it was turning into a bit of a cloud factory. We pulled up at a grassy point to eat our final trail lunch and enjoy the views a bit longer before the final drop to Zermatt. We sat grouped above the trail as day hikers and day bikers wandered into and out of our world. High cloud turned the sky from blue to streaky whiteblue, Zermatt bustled below, and Toblerone disappeared. The Toblerone is within.
After finishing the business I couldn’t in Täschalp and a shaky encore rendition of the sangeet dance Alamo and I choreographed, the crew saddled up and hit the trail one more time. Now it finally made sense when we cheered, “No sleep ‘til Zermatt!” We had an easy descent to Sunnegga, savoring the last Chupa Chups, then dropped steeply back into the trees, ducking under ski lifts and darting across bike trails. We started as a group, pretending to race these last miles to town, but then split into our own thoughts as each of us considered whatever was worth considering. The pine needle trail was easy cruising. I let my poles drag behind me, dangling at the ends of limp arms. Does this ending feel like ending the PCT? Nah, this is a completely different trip. Well, maybe a little. Melancholy.
The perfect Swiss dollhouse chalets of Zermatt marched closer at every viewpoint. Spice’s bell dongleongdonged sporadically behind me as the distance between us shrank and grew with small investigations into trailside curiosities. Is the music mournful or filled with cheer? I honestly didn’t know. The group slowly conglomerated on the outskirts of town. Together we strolled down some stairs, a side street, passed a garbage compactor, by some fancy hotels, and into Zermatt. 3:15pm.
As city trash does, we drifted aimlessly through the beautiful pedestrian streets, too happy to care that we were way dirtier than all the fancy people. We found the tourist office and then the campsite where we dropped our packs and set up on a small grassy terrace that smells like dog poop. Dank. To the nearby Denner for beets and bananas, then to the park for chilling and cards. Doughnuts, ice cream, and crepes along the way. Weird, end-of-trip vibes split the group once more before we came back together to share chips and salsa as the church bells went absolutely crazy and light faded from the sky. A concert of okay german pop/rock was good fun, then we strolled back down the main drag back to camp as competing traditional Swiss dance crews showed their stuff. Showers. Quiet campsite. Good trip. Around Mont Blanc. Chamonix to Zermatt. I made it. We made it. Cool.