This morning I had planned to wake up early and get some pictures of the Materhorn from our room, but I was too tired and ended up hitting snooze a few too many times. But once I dragged myself out of bed and got ready we found a wonderful breakfast awaiting us upstairs in the hotel restaurant. Their croissants were SO good and they had a cheese plate with fresh brie and a fruit salad with nectarines, peaches, pears, oranges, apples, pineapple and grapes in it. YUM!
After breakfast we ran down to the cog-rail for a train ride up to the Garnergraut. This was a long trip up to about 10,000 feet and a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains. When we got up to the top we took our group photo, as well as family and couple pictures with a couple of Saint Bernard's named Bennie and Minnie. They were so cute! I think we might have a Christmas card picture already!
The weather was cold up there, but it was crystal clear. We have been so lucky with the weather on this trip so far. Terry and I decided that we would hike back to Zermatt from the top of the Garnergraut. We had to be back into town by 3 but we knew that we could get on the train to go down at any of the stops.
The hike was amazing… I have never seen so many perfect views! The Materhorn was right in front of us almost the whole way, and there was still snow everywhere. Well, we got on a roll and actually ended up hiking down the whole thing. All in all it was only about a 5 mile hike, but it was a rather steep trek so it certainly felt like we went at least 10 miles.
When we got back into town we quickly freshened up, went to an ATM to get some Swiss Franks (they are not on the Euro like the other countries) and grabbed a couple of warm open-faced sandwiches. Terry got pineapple, tomato and cheese and I just got tuna, tomato and cheese, but they were both very good (and very different from the way we would serve them in the US!)
After our fast lunch we ran over to meet a small group of us who wanted to go on a helicopter ride through the Alps and around the Materhorn. It was a little expensive, but hey, it was my birthday and when else would I get this opportunity? Mom, Dad, Terry and I all hopped into this little chopper (which had Plexiglas all the way around it) and were off. I had never been in one before so I was a little nervous, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Our pilots name was Gerry (which he pronounced Cherry) and he was extremely good at his profession. He first took us through the valley and then up into the mountains to show us some of the melting glaciers. Up until this time we were staying fairly close to the sides and edges and then we came over the top of this ridge where we were suddenly thousands and thousands of feet off of the ground. WHOA… my tummy was in my throat and I was clenching the small leather strap which was attached to the Plexiglas on my right side (like that was going to do anything if we were to go down).
From here we were heading straight towards the Materhorn. Gerry showed us the "paths" that people hiked when going up the Materhorn. They were insane… I can't believe that roughly 200 people climb this mountain every day!! It was so steep and rocky and icy… I was scared just looking at it! Gerry continued toward the mountain until we were only a few meters from it. From here he just began to follow the ridge up to the top before making a right turn to go around the peak counter-clockwise. I had no clue we would be this close! After flying around it he went over the top of it very closely… apparently a couple days prior he had to place a news person on the top of it for a story… he said the guy was so nervous he couldn't stand up. I could understand that! It didn't even look like there was enough room for someone to stand on the peak… it was like a knife blade.
Gerry said that they make about 1500 helicopter rescues every year, and that they have had several deaths as well from people trying to climb the mountain. He said that they were not able to locate the bodies of 20 people because they have either been buried in an avalanche or fallen into a crevice. CRAZY… he said they have several interventions every year from skiers and snowboarders who go off the paths and fall into crevices… though unfortunately many of the crevices are hundreds of feet deep and the people are never found. Anyhow, on to happier things! The helicopter ride was a wee bit nerve racking for me at times, but it was so incredible. I am definitely glad that I did it! What a birthday huh??
After the helicopter ride we had a few minutes to freshen up before dinner. The six of us met on the patio of our hotel for a quick beer before heading over to the other hotel for dinner. Tonight we had spring rolls, some cream of vegetable soup, and veal stew over rice. For desert we all got this melon sorbet over fresh fruit, and I got a special apricot cake for my bday. YAY!
After dinner Terry and I played a couple games of pool with Kelly and Mark. Kelly made a bet with us that he wouldn't be able to make a certain shot. So of course he made it and Terry and I had to hold hands and hop 5 times on one foot. Hehehe… so then the next game of pool we said double or nothing! Terry and I ended up winning that time and so Kelly and Mark had to hold hands and jumped on one foot ten times! Quite the site to see in a Swiss bar I'm tellin' you!
When we got to the hotel we didn't even have the energy to soak in the Jacuzzi like we wanted to. Instead we just crashed out.