OK, getting up at 3.30am to get the 4am Sunnegga Express is not my idea of a good time, but I had been promised an experience of a life time. Doubtful, in the dark, and more worryingly still, in a rainy fog, we made our way to the lift. The Sunnegga Express has just completed a 12 million franc refit.
The new funicular train is longer and faster than the original, and is a pretty pale blue, something I can be forgiven for not noticing that early in the morning. At the top of Sunnegga it is even more gloomy. The Blauherd bubbles emerge from the wet mist, open their doors, allow us to enter, and plunge back up into the miserable zero visibility. Inside, protected from the inhospitable elements, the dark and clouds still press in upon us.
As we draw our rain coats closer to us and trudge sleepy eyed to the enormous Rothorn cable car, even the most enthusiastic of us are starting to have second thoughts. The other excited tourists, many of them from Japan and all over the world, coming to Zermatt for two days with the hope of seeing the Matterhorn through this unseasonal rain, start to think that maybe their lazier colleagues, still snoring in bed had the better idea.
We have ascended nearly 1400 metres through thick, damp, zero visibility fog to see a sunrise. Below in Zermatt town it is raining as it has been for two days. What were we thinking? Suddenly, 100 metres below the top of Rothorn (3100m), the cable car rises out of the mist. Above the cloud is a clear sky, and even in the pre dawn dark, the Matterhorn directly in front of us is an unbelievable, majestic sight.
Everyone in the cable car cheers! Above 3000m is always a bit chilly, but the view from Rothorn is always breathtaking. Even as the darkness disappears and the dawn sky begins to lighten, the panorama of mountain peaks has to be the best in the world. Though our gaze is directed towards the most distinct Matterhorn, the pink dawn starts behind us.
Rosy tints light one peak after another, left to right of us, hitting the Monte Rosa peaks, the Liskamm, Pollux, Castor one after the other, creeping the pink glow towards the Matterhorn. And finally, just the tip of the Matterhorn is struck by a rosy glint, which quickly washes down as a glorious pink glow covering half the mountain.
No cheering this time. Everyone is quite literally speechless. The most uncivilised beginnings can bear promising fruit. After one of the most spectacular light shows nature can offer, breakfast is laid on for us in the Rothorn Paradise restaurant. We munch on scrambled eggs and bacon, sip warm, reviving coffee, still watching as the whole sky becomes an artist’s palette of reds, pinks and purples.
The fluffy, cotton wool like clouds below us indicate that the weather in town is still bad and we will have to glide back through it on the cable car, but after this experience, no one minds.