Zermatt is at the end of a valley. The valley was gouged out by the River Vispa, starting somewhere below the Matterhorn and running down to the town of Visp where it joins something bigger. The valley is a fascinating one…
Starting from Zermatt, once you get past a large rock spur, the valley is three or four hundred yards wide, a typical U shaped glaciated valley. The walls of the valley are steep and the bottom is about three or four hundred yards wide, very flat, and good agricultural land. The area has been inhabited for a very long time, and you can see how folk could raise enough grain and hay in the summer to keep themselves and their livestock alive in the winter.
Further down the valley, though, things change, and the river has made itself a deep gorge. The railway (and road) have been built along the sides of the gorge, high up, and spanning both the Vispa and waterfalls straight off the mountains in several places. This bit is impossible to photograph, and the river is often hundreds of feet below you, straight down (and arrowed in the photos). In places there are huge boulders which have been dumped by glaciers in the past, and both river and railway have to go round them.
The gorge then opens up to a wider valley, still pretty steep sided, but noticeably gentler in tone. At this time of year, the season changes as you descend, too. In Zermatt it is definitely still winter, but down towards Visp the snows are melting and the new growth is beginning.
On these lower slopes, there are fruit trees and vineyards. And people were working in some of the vineyards….
The water of the Vispa runs fast from the mountains, and brings down plenty of small stones and gravel. So it makes sense for these to be collected and used for roads, concrete etc. The Swiss are very good at harnessing nature to do the work for them, and outside Visp there is a plant for removing this material from the river, stopping it from silting up. All that needs doing is to grade the debris – so much easier than quarrying!
Once at Visp, I felt I had to Do Something. So I wandered away from the station and found a Coop. And in there I found the chocolate I had been looking for!
The journey back was again in full sun all the way. It takes just over an hour to travel the 27 miles up to Zermatt, climbing 1,000 feet from Spring to Winter. (This link has the technical details.) When you have travelled a route before, you begin to see the details. Like this little village with its church high up on the valley rim:
And here it is with the valley floor in the pic – I have arrowed the church in case you can’t see it!!
Not far from Zermatt is a glacier. It isn’t a long one, but I think its colours are beautiful. When you look at the valley floor, you see the wedge of debris brought down:
Then you look up, to the white snow and blue ice. Says it all…!!