Global Adventure - Hike the Swiss Alps of Zermatt and Saas-Fee


Global Adventure - Hike the Swiss Alps of Zermatt and Saas-Fee

Matterhorn Adventure! Day hike in the high Alps of Switzerland, one of the must-see places of Europe. See and photograph the Matterhorn, and glacier-clad Monte Rosa and the Dom; hike high above the picturesque valleys. You’ll travel through flower-filled mountain meadows, across high mountain slopes, next to glaciers and over mountain passes, and lunch at alpine huts. Spectacular scenery and views will be all about you in this fabulous region. Enjoy comfortable accommodations and tasty food in the evenings. Information sessions about the trip: see below. NOTE: The member price given below is for the deposit only. See the Leaders Notes for more info on the total trip price and payment schedule.

  • Sun, Jul 26, 2020 — Sat, Aug 8, 2020
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Backpacking, Global Adventures, Day Hiking
  • Adults
  • Moderate/Strenuous
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 66.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 16,700 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 10,180 ft

Information Sessions: Get a sneak preview of the wonderful scenery and trails in this spectacular area! Learn more about the trip at one of these sessions:
Oct. 1 (Tues.), Mountaineers Program Center, Summit Room, 7:00-8:15 p.m.
Oct. 23 (Wed.)
, Kirkland Library (308 Kirkland Ave.), 7:00-8:15 p.m.

Arrive in Zürich, Switzerland by  Sunday, July 26, 2020. We’ll transfer by train and bus to the resort town of Saas-Fee in the Valais/Wallis Canton of Switzerland. On Sunday, August 2 we’ll move by bus and train to the resort town of Zermatt. On Saturday, August 8 we will return to Zürich by train, where on Sunday participants can take flights home, or proceed on their own to other explorations.

Itinerary Highlights:    This two-week trip will offer the experience of high-elevation day-hiking on established trails in the high Alps of southwestern Switzerland. On most days we will take a cablecar or chairlift to skip the low-elevation approaches. We’ll hike in a wonderful land high above the valleys, with breathtaking views of the picturesque valley and its surrounding mountains. The trails will cross alpine meadows and rock slopes, and reach high tarns and passes. After each day we’ll return to our hotel in town for the evening.

Saas-Fee and Zermatt are located in the Pennine Alps of the Wallis / Valais Canton in southwestern Switzerland, on the Italian border. Traveling south from Visp, the valley splits, with Saas-Fee and Zermatt located in the upper ends of the branches. The mountain range rarely goes below 3000 meters and contains many four-thousand-meter peaks. The Alps were formed by the collision of the African and European plates, and the top 3,000 feet of the Matterhorn are composed of metamorphic rocks from the African plate!

Current plans include the following daily itineraries:

Our trip will begin on July 26th. After assembling in Zürich, we will travel 4 hours by train and bus to the lovely resort town of Saas-Fee in the Wallis / Valais Canton, which will be our base for the first week. From Saas-Fee we will take aerial cablecars to our starting points, from which we will hike to mountain huts, scenic viewpoints or passes in the surrounding mountains, and perhaps on one we can hike a bit into Italy.

We’ll hike along two trails high above the valley, one of which has interpretive signs for the flowers. These trails give wonderful views of the high mountains that line the other side of the valley. Another path winds around the high slopes of the cirque that contains Saas-Fee, and gives great views of the Dom (4545m). One day we’ll hike up a cleaver between two glaciers to near its top; a lift can shorten either the ascent or descent. A high cablecar will take us to our start on the slopes of the Allalinhorn, for a visit to a lofty alpine hut for lunch and a ridge traverse back. And we’ll hike over a high pass into Italy, passing a shrine and having lunch at an Italian hut.

From Saas-Fee we’ll take a bus and train to the next valley to the resort town of Zermatt. This can be a rest day, perhaps with a short hike in high meadowlands.

The next several days will be in a landscape dominated by the presence of the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. On one day we’ll travel on a high, cog-wheel railway, then hike up to a 10,000-foot overlook, with great views of the Matterhorn. We’ll hike on a trail next to glaciers, with a view to the north face of the Matterhorn. One day we will go to a high point with a 360-degree view, then down a steep ridge and onto a panorama trail to return. We’ll also take a cablecar high into the mountains, visit a high hut and traverse right beneath the face of the Matterhorn.

On Aug. 8 we’ll board a train for our return to Zürich, where we’ll have some time to tour in the old town, and stay the night. After breakfast the following day we’ll depart for home or to other adventures.

The pace is moderate, averaging 1.2-1.5 miles per hour, depending on elevation, steepness and terrain. The planned range of hikes is 4.8 – 9.0 miles (round-trip), with 1,000 – 2,500 feet gain. The average hike is 6.5 miles, with 1,670 feet of gain. Hikes are planned for 10-11 days, with a travel/rest day in the middle. (The itinerary is subject to change; see the note below.)

The trails will sometimes be in rugged terrain, including steep scree or rocky ascents/descents that may require some use of the hands, stream crossings, short sections of snow. On several trails there may be short sections of moderate exposure.  For some of these places of moderate exposure there will be short sections of cables (metal handlines) or chains to grip.

Note on Altitude:  On most days we will travel some distance at elevations of 8,000–9,500 feet, reaching as high as 10,200 feet. We will stay overnight at 5,300–5,900 feet. Trip participants will be encouraged to take the free 1-hour eLearning course, “Safe Travel at High Altitude” offered by The Mountaineers.

Note on Itinerary:  As with any extended travel, but particularly in an area with changeable mountain weather and trail conditions, our itinerary can change without notice, and individual hikes described here may be modified or substituted. The priority will always be on safety for all participants.

Time of Year:  Weather in the Alps is notoriously fickle, even in summer, so participants must be prepared for a variety of conditions at all times. We travel to Saas-Fee and Zermatt in late July-early August, during the summer high season. These months have the warmest and best weather of the year in the region. The temperatures in the high-valley towns average from the high 50s during the day (or warmer in the sun), to about 40 at night; but the temperature in the mountain areas can be considerably colder, and can fall below freezing with wind. The region receives both its greatest precipitation and its greatest number of sunny days during these summer months.

Lodging:   We’ll stay seven nights in Saas-Fee, and five nights in Zermatt, in comfortable hotels in two-person rooms with private WC and shower. Gratuities for all accommodations are included in the trip price.

Food:   Hearty breakfasts and dinners (group half-board) are included on all of our days. Participants will be responsible for two dinners in Zürich, and lunches and drinks everywhere. There will be the option to purchase sack lunches for the trail at some of our hotels, or from town shops, though we may also stop at mountain huts for a meal or coffee/tea and snack where available.

Leader’s Experience:   Richard Rutz has hiked and traveled in Europe many times, particularly in the alpine areas of Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, and Liechtenstein. He has planned and led a number of private multi-day hiking and backpacking trips in Austria and Switzerland, and in the Cascades, Olympic and Rocky mountains, and Global Adventures trips in 2018 and 2019 to the Engadine Alps in Switzerland and to western Austria. A backpacking leader for The Mountaineers, he is also a member of the Austrian Alpine Club, and has a working familiarity with German. He is familiar with the Saas-Fee and Zermatt areas and their hiking trails.

Participant Requirements:   Participants must be:

  •  current Mountaineers members with up-to-date waivers on file.
  •  in excellent aerobic condition with good balance.
  •  in good medical condition.
  •  sufficiently fit and conditioned to be able to travel at a moderate pace (up to an average of 1.5 miles per hour).
  •  able to hike at elevations of 7,000 – 10,200 feet.
  •  confident when traveling on rough, sometimes exposed trail with a daypack.
  •  able to cross short sections of snow, rock or talus; and to walk on steep trail segments.
  •  able to travel along short sections of moderately exposed trail with steel cables or chains to grip for protection.
  •  able to navigate on trails with a map and compass or gps.

Participants must have:

  •  the experience and willingness to deal with some cold or inclement weather, perhaps for up to several hours.
  •  recent experience with strenuous or multi-day backpacking or mountain hiking.
  •  a positive attitude and a demonstrated ability to get along well with groups.

Please note (see above) that the trip is a mix of moderate and strenuous hiking. On most days the hike will reach a high point or travel some distance at elevations over 8,000 feet.

A trekking pole(s) is required for all participants, and good boots with good toe and ankle protection for the rocky trails.

Note: As a Mountaineers group we will operate as inter-dependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe. Each person is responsible for his/her own safety and that of his/her fellow travelers.

Trip Price Detail:    The trip price is $3,450; note that the $1,725 listed below as the "Member Price" is the required deposit to secure a place on the trip.  The remaining $1,725 payment must be paid by May 1, 2020.  Switzerland is an expensive country, and these resorts are expensive. The cost of $3,450.00 includes all lodging, hotel gratuities, half-board meals (breakfast and dinner), and transportation (trains, buses, cablecars, funiculars, and chairlifts where part of the main itinerary) during the trip. The trip price may be adjusted slightly based on the number of participants. Your airfare (about $1,200-1,500), commuter train travel between Zürich and Zürich airport, travel insurance ($75–350), two dinners (~$60-80), maps (about $55) or GPS, and all lunches and drinks are not included. International medical and emergency evacuation insurance are required for each participant.

Registration Instructions: Registration requires prior approval by the leader. First, please complete and submit both the application form and the trip agreement, which will automatically be sent to the leader. After the leader’s approval, go to the trip listing and click the REGISTER button to pay the 50% deposit ($1,725.00) in order to hold your space on the roster. Then complete the release form.

application     trip agreement     release

Registration will close on January 10, 2020 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit. The due date for the balance of the trip payment will be announced later.

Cancellation Policy: If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Hike the Swiss Alps of Zermatt and Saas-Fee

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of emails that will provide information for participants on the trip, including recommended and required gear, detailed itinerary, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports