|On the first Monday after we arrived I took a two hour ski lesson with
Erika at the Trockner Stegg gondola landing on the Klien Matterhorn. I
enjoyed my lesson and learned quite a bit about the design and dynamics
of modern ski equipment as well as how to snow plow downhill, ride a tow
rope uphill, and traverse across a hill.
After the lesson was over I left my skis and poles in the ski rack at the Ski School and started exploring. Even though I was quite tired and had had enough skiing I decided not to waste my lift ticket. I rode the gondola up the Klien Matterhorn, across the glaciers, to the top. After stepping out of the gondola I discovered we were in a tunnel at the very top of the mountain. I followed the crowd of skiers to the exit on the Italian side of the mountain and, two thirds of the way through, was excited to discover an elevator to the observation platform at the very tip top of the Klien Matterhorn.
I am not a person who deals well with extreme heights (just ask my Husband
and his family how I did on the gondola in Telluride - it wasn’t pretty)
and the wind conditions were not conducive to high altitude sight seeing
but I was willing to try it out. So with a small flock of butterflies dancing
in my stomach, I rode the elevator to the top and stepped out into the
hardest wind I have ever been in. I live in Windy South Texas so I am use
to 35 -45 mile per hour winds but I have to admit I was not prepared for
the gusts that almost blew me over the railing mere seconds after I stepped
out of the elevator alcove. In fact, the attendant said the winds were
close to 80 kilometers at that altitude and the observation platform would
have to be closed if they got any higher. Since we had to wait for the
rest of the brave climbers to return to the elevator, I stood in the alcove
in relative shelter and stitched a couple of cross stitches of the
kit I began working on when we started this trip. I was on the highest
observation deck in Europe , according to one of the signs, and I thought
it would be fun to commemorate it by stitching. Okay, I had the kit in
my pocket and I hate to wait without something to do. Once the rest of
the people had literally crawled their way back to the elevator we
descended to the gondola tunnel.
This time I walked all the way through the tunnel to the Italian side of the Klien Matterhorn and was able to look out at all the skiers fighting the rising winds. Then I spotted the sign for the Glettergrotte (Glacier Grotto or Ice Cave) just down the hill from the Gondola tunnel and decided to take a look.
Since I was still in ski boots I had to very carefully walk downhill to the opening of the corrugated steel tunnel down into the glacier cave. At the entrance to the tunnel there were several benches lined up along the wall and the floor was lined with the rubber mats used in the gondola stations. Along the tunnel down into the cave ropes were attached to the walls for railings and every so often along the walls a small grotto had been carved out and a blue light was inserted to light the cave in a soft blue light.
Two thirds of the way down I came across a small room with ice block walls and a statue of a Saint. It was very small with a bench against the wall across from the statue and several people had left little gifts but I was unable to read the inscription on the base of the statue itself. The alcove was very small and comfortable and made a nice place to sit and rest a bit from the long trek down hill. Once again, I added a few stitches to my well traveled cross stitch kit. It took several minutes to walk down the tunnel to the main cavern; the rubber mat was bumpy and uneven and, in places, very difficult to walk on especially when several people tried to pass in different directions at the same time. Once I was in the main cavern though, the floor was smooth and easy to walk on .
The main cavern is quite large and is subdivided into smaller rooms
that have ice sculptures arranged in them. On the right after entering
the main cavern were several different holiday scenes. There was
a barn complete with animals, a sleigh with Santa and his reindeer, and
a manger scene complete with angels and a Christmas tree. There was
even Santa’s or Father Time’s face carved into the wall next to the Santa
and sleigh. It was very striking and was hard to see with out the flash
of the camera.
To the left were more general sculptures. Pirelli was represented by a car and truck out of ice in one of the small grottos at the entrance. Then I turned the corner and discovered Cinderella’s coach and horses. The artist had draped burgundy satin behind the ice so it would show up better for pictures.
All around were ice shapes with flowers frozen inside them and in several alcoves there were birds, owls, and eagles. I enjoyed the Matterhorn made up of ice blocks and the rescue vignette that was the focal point of the left side of the grotto.
Since the wind was blowing so hard outside, the air was constantly filled with ice crystals that were blowing off the ceiling. The shimmer in the air was magical. Looking up you can see all the large fan shaped crystals that have grown since the cave was made. It is these crystals that are blown apart and spread around throughout the room.
There is also a set of steel stairs that lead up to the only natural
crevasse visible inside the glacier. The steps are treacherous but there
is a rope railing that helps you pull yourself up the slippery steps in
ski boots. It would be a much easier climb in walking shoes. The walk from
the stairs is very short but the natural stalactites and stalagmites of
ice are well worth the work navigating the stairs.
I highly recommend carrying regular shoes in your backpack if you plan to visit the Glettergrotte or at least be sure to take your ski poles to help with balance while walking on the uneven sections of the tunnel. I had to stop several times to rest on the way back up the tunnel and sat on one of the benches at the entrance for several minutes before gathering the energy to climb back up to the gondola station. A less windy day would make for a much better sightseeing tour of the observation platform and the Glacier Grotto but I would not have missed either sight for the world.