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Matterhorn trail running

Matterhorn Ultraks: Dream Trails

Becki Penrose
Guided by Becki Penrose
Our group of six spent two days in Leukerbad, Switzerland ascending the cliffs of the Gemmi-pass. Then we headed across the Rhône valley to Zermatt to continue our tour. At the end of the week of trail running, we supported the Matterhorn Ultraks racers in our group.

First, in Leukerbad, while staying at the lovely Hotel Waldhaus, we ran in the high pastures above town and beneath the Wildstrubel glacier. We took on the dramatically winding climb of the Gemmi-pass challenge, and from the chapel in the rock at Flüealp, we had stunning views all the way out to Mont Blanc. Next up, in Zermatt, we ran a traverse from the high hamlets of Sunnegga to Riffelalp and back into town, and also explored the head of the valley with the impressive Hangbrücke suspension bridge above Furi.


Highlight of the group’s time out on the trail

We experienced a fantastic mix of “dream trails” over the course of the tour. 

One of the best highlights was having the trails almost entirely to ourselves on our first day in Zermatt. Even the often busy section of the Five Lakes Trail was quiet due to a poor forecast, but we beat the weather and enjoyed a wild run down the moraines. This section treated us to a stunning view of the Matterhorn as the clouds amassed. Thankfully the storm cleared out prior to the Matterhorn Ultraks events over the coming weekend.

Other moments which stood out were the two race days when our team provided the loudest and most enthusiastic support on the mountain. First, we cheered for Steve at Riffelalp aid station in the 32km “Mountain” race, and then for Kat and Gayle in the “Active” race at the Sunnegga aid station.  All of our competitors finished strongly! Bravo, Team Run the Alps!


Low point

We were all saddened when one of our group had to separate from the team due to a positive Covid test. Thankfully, careful behavior avoided any further illness for other group members, but having gelled as a group it was tough to not complete the whole week running together. We did manage to stay in touch through social media and share experiences that way, however, and are glad it was not worse. Such is life these days, right?


Most memorable non-trail moment

Tasting treats from the huts, farms, and restaurants in the mountain alpages. Here’s the culinary rundown of the most memorable moments: delicious blueberry cheesecake, apricot cake, and molke, a drink freshly made from the whey protein residue from the cheese-making process, directly from the family-run farm.


Best meal of the tour

We were thoroughly spoiled with great menus and delicious food at both the Hotel Waldhaus in Leukerbad and Hotel Europe in Zermatt. One of our favorite meals of the tour was at the Alphitta restaurant at Riffelalp above Zermatt, where we enjoyed soup, a colorful cheese board and amazing bruschetta with fresh cheese straight from the cows grazing the nearby alpage and garnished with figs and walnuts. This meal was made even better by the welcome company of Pepper and Marley, the restaurant’s dogs, who were certainly keen to join us once a plate of their favorite treats was also delivered to our table! 


Unexpected moment

We managed to spot a great variety of plants, flowers and wildlife including edelweiss and autumn crocuses popping up all over the meadows. We also had sightings of kites, chamois and – we think – even a golden eagle. Although I had seen bearded vultures, called lammergeiers, the day prior to the tour and there was certainly a nesting pair somewhere in the cliffs of the Gemmi-pass, we didn’t spot them. However, we regularly heard the quintessential warning shriek of the marmots. I managed to conjure up my now-refined imitation, which caused some confusion to one young marmot, and gave us a great view as he popped up and craned his neck to see the foreign-accented marmot! We were also taken by the endearing Valais Blacknose sheep grazing above Zermatt and were amused that we could track them by name and follow their movements by GPS using the “Meet the Sheep” app. I loved Suzy’s description of these cuddly and comical creatures as “the pandas of the sheep world.”


Sweet single track in Flüealp (Leukerbad). (Photo: Becki Penrose)

Matterhorn group

In Zermatt and ready to run! Photo: Becki Penrose.


Which way to Zermatt? (Photo: Gayle Lindsay)

Matterhorn heart frame

We heart Zermatt. (Photo: Becki Penrose)

blackness sheep Zermatt

One of those cute “pandas of the sheep world.” Photo: Gayle Lindsay.


Racing the rain on the moraine above Zermatt. Photo: Lindsay Wozney.

restaurant dogs Rifflealp

Lunch with Pepper and Marley at the Alphitta restaurant at Riffelalp above Zermatt. Photo: Lindsay Wozney.

cheese board

A very tasty cheese platter with walnuts and figs at Alphitta, Riffelalp. Photo: Gayle Lindsay.

Matterhorn Ultraks start

Start of the Matterhorn Ultraks “Active” 19km race. (Photo: Becki Penrose)

beers at Matterhorn Ultraks

Cheers and beers after our guest Steve finished theMatterhorn Ultraks “Mountain” 32km race. Photo: Becki Penrose.