The birthplace of mountaineering!
Most who go to Zermatt do so for 'ordinary' recreational reasons related to either hiking or skiing. A few of us, who are life-long mountaineers, go there for another reason. Zermatt, and more specifically the Hotel Monte Rosa, is the birthplace of climbing and mountaineering as we know it today.
Back in the mid-to-late 1800s, Zermatt was still largely a sleepy, if stunningly located little alpine hamlet that just happened to be nestled at the foot of that mountain of all mountains, the Swiss Matterhorn. It wasn�t long before the ever adventurous English Victorians discovered Zermatt and established the headquarters of the English Alpine Club right there in Seiler�s Hotel Monte Rosa. In the early 1860s, an English artist and engraver named Edward Whymper came to Zermatt, became entranced by the sheer majesty of the unclimbed Matterhorn, and in 1965�after a number of attempts of that allegedly �unclimbable� peak�conquered its summit in one of the most famous, yet tragic ascents ever recorded in the late 19th Century.
As a frequent visitor to Zermatt starting back in the late 70s, the village is for me like Makkah is for the Islamic faithful. On each visit I eagerly drank in the rich climbing history of the area and remain completely enthralled by its rich mountaineering history. As a climber, the historic Hotel Monte Rosa is about as good as it gets. Although you can join the Naturfreunde (TVN, or Touristenverein) and stay in their beautiful Zermatthaus in the shadow of the Matterhorn for a pittance, I�d rather pay the somewhat stiff room rates of the Hotel Monte Rosa (averaging about $370 per night for a middle-value room) any day, just to soak up more of its marvelous mountaineering ambience.
If you are unfamiliar with the history of old Zermatt or the story of Seiler�s Hotel Monte Rosa, take the trouble to look it all up. And don�t forget to visit the Zermatt Alpine Museum, where a collection of artifacts includes the original rope that tragically parted on that first successful Matterhorn ascent, back in 1965, killing 4 of the 7 members of Whymper�s team of gentlemen climbers.
The Monte Rosa is a wonderful place to stay any time of the year, but especially in the Winter season, when the invigorating climate of the Alpine snows makes you feel truly alive! The Monte Rosa dining room is a Victorian marvel, with stunning repast and a wine cellar that could easily exhaust your entire vacation budget (should you be so inclined). The Walliser Rhone region wines (particularly the Monte Rosa �Dole� house wine) are not to be missed and each evening�s menu is splendidly themed and presented with an elegance that brings back visions of Victorian England in its ascendancy!
Remember that while there are now many wonderful, comfortable, and cozy places to stay in Zermatt, only one establishment can claim to be exquisitely charming, classically hospitable, and the birthplace of English mountaineering: The Monte Rosa! Berg heil!