Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

Matterhorn at sunrise

Marty’s photo of the day #2452: While in Switzerland, Deb and I met up with Emad, our Swiss-Egyptian friend, and we stayed at a hotel at the base of the Matterhorn. The only way to get to the hotel was via gondola. Here’s a short excerpt from my first book, Cool Creatures: Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, explaining the shot:

Saturday morning at six, I knocked on Emad’s door. We had decided to get up before sunrise to photograph the Matterhorn—Deb, of course, wanted no part of our early rising. Emad tossed on his coat and followed me downstairs. When we reached the main-floor landing, the door to the dining room was locked. Since the hotel’s entrance was on the far side of the room, we couldn’t get out.

“We’re prisoners!” I whispered. “If the hotel started on fire, we’d burn to a crisp.”

The only main floor room we could get into was the sitting room. While Emad looked for another exit, I stepped inside and began checking the line of windows facing the Matterhorn. The first few were sealed shut. Then I located one I could open. I called to Emad, and the two of us—feeling like mischievous high-school kids—crawled through the window and escaped to the patio.

The Matterhorn at sunrise wasn’t as picturesque as Emad and I had hoped it would be, yet we were still glad to be up early. The mountain stretches for the sky as if giving nature a “thumbs up,” and if we watched carefully, we could see the flash of headlamps worn by climbers who were already partway up its face. Despite the Matterhorn’s imposing steepness and height, the climb from the Hörnlihütte to the summit and back is a one-day event.

We were immersed in our photography when a shrill voice cried out from behind! We spun toward the sound and froze at a sight more terrifying than a high school principal. The hotel manager was leaning halfway out the open window, screaming in rapid-fire sentences. I couldn’t understand her Schwyzertutsch (a Swiss-German dialect), but the tone of her voice made it clear—we had been very bad boys.

Apparently, the hotel did have another exit. We just hadn’t found it. Emad spoke with the manager to smooth things over. I’m not sure what he said, but the woman’s anger soon dissipated, and she ducked back into the sitting room.

Emad and I stayed outside and captured some more images of the Matterhorn. Once we had our shots, we slipped through the window and returned to our rooms.

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