The Matterhorn from the South


The Matterhorn from the Italian Side

The wedge shaped summit of the Matterhorn exceeds even Everest and Fuji in terms of recognition with tourists and travellers. Most people view it from Zermatt in Switzerland, where the dark, serrated rock and ice mass thrusts skyward almost from the very town itself. Zermatt has done itself a great favor by banning traffic: visitors must park their cars at ...., 10 km to the north, and take a train into the center of the town. There a collection of shops, restaurants, parks and fountains await them.

Few and far between are the tourists who venture to the South and see the mountain from the city of Cervinho, from which the mountain takes its Italian name. Since the ill-fated Edward Whymper party did beat the Italians to the top over a century ago, it appears quite pedantic for the Italians to insist the mountain have an Italian, as well as German name. No one quibbles with Mt. Viso, on the French border to have a French moniker beyond its Italian one; or with Mt. Blanc (Bianco in Italian) whose name is 'white' in both tongues.

Those who do attempt to seee the mounatin from the south will see a mountain with a much different flavor than the view from the north, though admittedly not lying on its side as in this picture, which I have resolved to fix one of these days. Two things are especially noteworthy. Since this is a south face the rocks are brighter, more cheerful and inviting (to me at least). I could imagine cycling to the top of this peak if such a road could be found..mountain bike, anyone? Indeed the bluish tinge of the mountain seems to be a reflection of the sky hues around it. Second, the wedge shape so evident from the Swiss side is completely missing, although most viewers, familiar with the Matterhorn as they are, can infer a wedge shape from the way the mountain tapers rapidly at its highest elevations.

The differences do not end there. The road up to Cervinho from the Valle D'Aosta offers repeated and spectacular views of the peak almost from the outset. One does not see Matterhorn until nearly at Zermatt. The road up to Cervinho is open and green; the one up to Zermatt, steep and confined to a deep alpine valley. And yet the final destination, Cervinho, is such a disappointment compared with its Swiss cousin. Bland, largely abandoned during the summer and on a featureless rocky plain that extends north to the mountain, it is one of the alpine regions' few letdowns.

All the more reason to enjoy the mountain for its own sake, and its unique personality from its southern slopes. To boot, several kilometers south of the town of Cervinho there is a spectacular tarn in which the peak is marvellously reflected. It is a fine way to say goodbye to this mountain as you head back to valle d'aosta and its cheeses. 1