The small village of Randa is well known amongst hikers and climbers in the Matterhorn/Zermatt area with a host of 4,000 metre peaks that are within easy reach of this pretty village. Familiar names such as the Breithorn, Dent Blanche, Dufourspitze, and of course the impressive Matterhorn can all be reached from the Randa valley. But now there is another way to head for the heights and see Randa from a viewpoint that is unique and spectacular – the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge.
This single span pedestrian suspension bridge reaches a height of 85m (279 feet) and measures 494m (1621 feet) in length to make it the longest of its kind in the World. It may not be for everyone but if you can handle the fact that you can see the distant valley floor far below through the slatted walkway and don’t mind having what could be described as an open sided wire mesh framework, well you will be just fine. Even the Zermatt Travel website explains that users of the bridge require a certain ‘lack of fear’ and ‘it is an advantage not to be afraid of heights’. Not something you hear from a tourist promotional site very often.
With a width of only 64cm, the Charles Kuonen Hangebrucke, which also goes by the name of the Europe Bridge, will not readily allow groups of travellers to pass each other or chat side by side, but this is part of the fun factor. Travelling in single file with your arms outstretched to grasp the thin 53mm high tensile metal cables that span the full length of the valley, your mouth is dry as you watch each footstep traverse the small gaps in the walkway. Small gaps that are large enough for you to see the full 85m down to the Grabengufer valley floor beneath. Your palms begin to sweat and your breathing starts to come a little faster…and you are only 20m across…just another 474m to go. What a way to spend a weekend.
The bridge has been sponsored by private investors and was named in honour of its main investor. The company, Swissrope, completed this marvellous technological marvel in just 10 weeks and was opened officially on 29 July 2017. The requirement for the bridge came about due to a major rock-fall in 2010 that destroyed the previous 250m long and 25m in height footbridge that was used to link the Europaweg hiking trail across the valley. To avoid a similar catastrophe the designers decided a much taller and longer bridge was required to raise it above the troubled areas.
Offering spectacular Alpine views for this with a head for heights, the Charles Kuonen Bridge can be reached by a six hour walk up from Zermatt, or a brief two hour stroll from Randa. What is even more amazing than the technology behind the structure is the fact that the investors have decided not to charge for anyone wishing to use the bridge. That’s right, if you want to enjoy a spectacular walk surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountain scenery that Europe and the World has to offer on the World’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, then you won’t have to pay a cent to do it. It is also open all year round but it is advised not to use the crossing during storms due to the risk of lightning strikes on such a large metal structure.
For more information on the bridge, hiking maps and places to stay in the region head over to the Zermatt Travel website at https://www.zermatt.ch/en
Credits: Zermatt Tourismus