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Zermatt Matterhorn Tour and the Great Dessert Challenge

Simon Conroy
Guided by Simon Conroy
We ran trails up to 7600 feet, through talus and over the moraines of the Wildstrubel glacier on a crisp clear morning. We ran under the iconic Matterhorn past centuries old chalets above Zermatt - and then several of us raced in one of the Alps’ best known trail races, Matterhorn Ultraks.

“Wake up and smell the coffee! It’s trail running time!”

(On the first morning of a Run the Alps trip, it’s not uncommon to have a few travelers a bit travel-weary. But, I find, a little call to action seems to get them moving!)

This year’s Matterhorn Ultraks trip for Run the Alps was once again a resounding success with guests participating in 3 different races. Ultraks, for those of you not familiar with the race series, is one of those “tick-off” events here in the Alps. The 19k Active, 32k Mountain and the 49k Sky races were all tackled by our guests, with more than satisfactory results – and everyone completed with big smiles, t-shirts and medals, to boot.

The build-up to the event day started with some trail running in the stunning Alpine village of Leukerbad in the Valais region of Switzerland, where I met up with Mike and Heather, Lori and Jerry.

The first day saw us running over the historic Gemmi pass trails,  up to the Wildstrubel Glacier, then making a brief visit to the Lämmeranhutte for a well-deserved coffee and lunch break. After that hut time-out, some decided to embrace their younger selves and played on the water slides of Leukerbad’s world famous thermal spas, while others opted for a more active afternoon. No matter the choice, fun was had by all.

The next day we travelled to one of the Alps’ great Meccas, Zermatt in Switzerland – under the iconic Matterhorn. Here, we spent our first afternoon and the next few days “trotting” and “trundling” up, down and around the superb trails. Our travels, great trail running in itself, were a reconnaissance of all three routes of the Ultraks event. There were plenty of cafes en route, with stops at the Hansel and Gretel hamlets of Zmutt and Blatten, the odd opportune photo stop, plus the truly scrumptious soup at the Edelwiess hut, perched high above Zermatt.

Our biggest debate of the week? The correct way to carry trail running poles, when to cache them on the packs or carry them extended (or collapsed), and in which direction to have the pointy ends aimed, so as best to protect you from Lions, Tigers and Bears, and… Oh my!

Okay, maybe it was just the second best discussion of the week. Because, well, it was surpassed by the competition of who had the best dessert courtesy of our Zermatt residence, the Europe Hotel. The choices where amazing, from apple crumble with vanilla ice cream to lemon sorbets with wafer – but I believe Jerry scored a win over Lori’s choice of fresh fruit salad. Jerry’s selection? Three ‘boules’ of ice cream that was, apparently, “Undoubtably better!”

My thanks goes out to Mike, Heather, Lori and Jerry for being such fun guests! I am so happy to see them achieve their goals of a successful Ultraks result, and I wish them safe travels and trails and – of course – I hope to see them, along with new guests, soon on another Run the Alps trip!