One all-year round sport in the Swiss Alps is mountaineering in its various forms, including ski mountaineering with the most famous ski mountaineering race in the world, Patrouille des Glaciers, beginning in Zermant every April. Zermatt is also home to a Mountaineers’ Cemetery, a poignant reminder of how cruel the mountains can be to those who seek to tame them. It makes an absorbing outing in Zermatt to visit the cemetery in front of the parish church of St Mauritius on Kirchstrasse.
The graves are usually stark, simply listing the name of the victim and the year and mountain they died on. Some provide even less detail, some more. We learn that Donald Stephen Williams, a teenager from New York, “chose to climb” and died on the Breithorn pursuing his choice. 24 year old Freda Currant “passed into fuller life from the Matterhorn at dawn August 6th 1936”. The young newlyweds, Herbert & Anni Braum, have a headstone which neglects the young doctor’s wife in proclaiming, in German, the line from Hamlet “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!” alongside fulsome praise for his lost talent. The poignant positioning of the headstones of Irmgard Schiess & Victor de Beauclair suggests these too were lovers. There are also friends buried together here, a couple of pals from Cambridge, a trio from Oxford, and alongside the latter – found in the search for their bodies – the body of an unknown climber.
For more details go visit http://www.swisswintersports.co.uk/cemetery.php.