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Thomas J. Abercrombie
The Matterhorn

During my some 40 years roaming the planet for National Geographic I enjoyed many “special destinations”—Afghanistan, Easter Island, Beirut. Sadly, many have suffered from war and revolution and tourist buses. One idyllic spot still stands out in my reveries, one that will likely remain relatively unscathed by man’s follies: the summit of Italy and Switzerland’s Matterhorn. Not a difficult climb by today's daredevil mountaineering standards, the scramble up 5,000 feet [1,525 meters] of vertical rock and ice is nevertheless a stimulating morning's work for the amateur.

Straddling the knife-edge summit, 14,690 feet [4,481 meters] up, one boot in Switzerland the other in Italy, I inhaled the view from Europe’s rooftop. On this cloudless September day I could see 50 miles [81 kilometers] around, Mount Viso to the south, snowy Mont Blanc to the west, as well as the multipeaked Monte Rosa, Switzerland’s highest, just next door. This was an alien, arctic world I had entered. Yet clinging in tiny clusters to the steep green valleys far below, cozy Alpine villages—Switzerland’s Zermatt or Italy's Cervinia—promised a tasty dinner and a soft feather bed by evening's end.

All too soon I was driven downward by a gathering squall through scenic splendor amplified by the gray, gothic light of the storm. By the time I stepped onto the flat trails again, gale-force winds stretched a bridal veil of vapor and snow from the sharp, frozen peak I had just left. It was still summery in picturesque Zermatt. A beautiful day to admire the best works of God and man.

Thomas J. Abercrombie is a writer and photographer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

  50 Places of a Lifetime
 Personal Places
December 13, 1999
Sheila F.
Buckmaster

David Burneston
Erin Monroney
John J. Putman
Bryce Walker
Jayne Wise

December 6, 1999
Suzanne Francis
Raphael
Kadushin

Jake Page
Joanna Pineo
Jerry Sealy
Sarah Sparks

November 29, 1999
Sy Fishbein
Catherine
Karnow

Aileen Mehle
Carrie Miller
Richard T.
Nowitz

Chaney Rankin
James Wamsley

November 22, 1999
Victor Boswell
Kathie Gartrell
Nathan Harris
Paul Martin
Leigh Marjamaa
Jeff Rennicke

November 15, 1999
Tom Allen
Macduff Everton
Steve Fuller
Jonathan Halling
Joan Li
Mark Miller
Elie Rogers

November 8, 1999
Sam Abell
Dawn Drew
Carol Enquist
John Loring
Scott S. Stuckey
Brooks Walker

November 1, 1999
K.M. Kostyal
Gail Mooney
Charlie
Musselwhite

Susan O’Keefe
Medford Taylor
Jonathan
Tourtellot

October 25, 1999
Riccardo
Bertocci

Leigh
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Geena Davis
Tom Dunkel
R. Ian Lloyd
Sonia Rykiel

October 18, 1999
Thomas J.
Abercrombie

Ben Affleck
Norie Quintos
Danyliw

Kathy Douglass
Raymond
Gehman

Robert Pinsky
Primo Ventello

October 8, 1999
Keith Bellows
Jim Blair
George Christy
Robert Rubin
Theo
Westenberger

Dan Westergren

October 1, 1999
Brian Boitano
John Dawson
Denyce Graves
Loren McIntyre
Linda
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George W. Stone

 
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