Thomas J. Abercrombie
During my some 40 years roaming the planet for National Geographic I enjoyed many special destinationsAfghanistan, 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 mans follies: the summit of Italy and Switzerlands 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 Europes 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, Switzerlands 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 villagesSwitzerlands Zermatt or Italy's Cerviniapromised 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.