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My Matterhorn Moment

It’s nearing 4 p.m. and I can’t stop staring at my watch. The automated female voice overhead calmly announces our next destination as a slight feeling of dread starts blossoming in my belly. The steady grinding of the cogs beneath the train provide comfort, if only momentary, as panoramic views of the Alps glide gracefully by the windows. The Chinese couple next to us keeps staring and laughing kindly – neither Matt nor I can sit still. We keep running to the windows, cameras in hand, looking out at the breathtaking expanse of snow and ice.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time – a night in an igloo. But now, as we slowly inch up the side of the mountain toward our destination, my excitement is diluted by my feelings of nervousness about what is to come. After nearly four hours traveling from Geneva to Zermatt, the Gornergrat Bahn grinds to a stop. We are 2,660 yards above sea level, awestruck as it seems we are standing at what must surely be the top of the world.

Glancing at my watch again, I realize we are in danger of being late to meet the Iglu-Dorf group. A backpack each (stuffed to the seams), Matt and I make our way down the slick ski slope on foot toward the Hotel Riffelberg dragging our suitcases behind us. When we arrive, a group of about eight others is already sitting on the patio – some already sipping foam-capped German beers – listening to the guide go over safety precautions and the night’s itinerary. Not only are we the youngest of the night’s guests – we are the only English-speaking ones, too. Philip, our 20-something guide from Zurich, comes over to introduce himself and is within minutes already enamored with Matt and his nearly 30 pounds of camera equipment.

After several minutes (in which the group has the opportunity to double check their bags and enjoy the heat of the indoors one last time), we depart for the village. Like overexcited schoolchildren, we clamored toward the cable car for the near-vertical ascent up the mountain. Only one stop and then the rest of the journey was to be on foot. In the dying light of day, the peaks of several majestic rock faces rose above the pale snow, but none so magnificent as the Matterhorn. Towering above us, just a stone’s throw away, the disarming rock face of this iconic summit stunned us all into silence.


Profile photo of Hillary Federico

Hillary grew up in a small town in eastern Connecticut, but has spent the past several years exploring the world with her notebook and pen. A former award-winning reporter, she has worked as a social media analyst, communications manager in the hospitality industry and is co-founder of Pyxis Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at encouraging leadership in students in third world countries. And she’s tweeted her journey every step of the way. Follow her on twitter @hillfed or on Instagram @hfederico.

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