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Zermatt not allowed to bring over Sherpas

The iconic Matterhorn is in Zermatt
The iconic Matterhorn is in Zermatt Keystone

Officials in the mountain resort of Zermatt, famous for the Matterhorn, have reacted with disappointment after the migration authorities blocked their plans for ten Nepalese Sherpas to come and help repair a path to a mountain hut.

The Sherpas were supposed to have come over to Zermatt, in canton Valais, for two months, leaving Nepal on Tuesday, reported the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper on SundayExternal link.

They were to have repaired a path from the Schwarzsee lake (2,552 metres above sea level) to the Hörnlihutte (3,260 metres above sea level), which is used by climbers wanting to ascend Switzerland’s iconic peak.

Zermatt officials are keen to have the path, which has been damaged in places by landslips, in good condition ahead of the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 2015.External link

The project had enjoyed the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), as well as the Foreign Ministry, which had supported the Sherpas’ visa requests.

But the Federal Office for Migration told the Zermatt authorities at the beginning of July that the conditions had not been met to allow in the Sherpas. A work permit from the canton was needed because visas for development projects were only awarded for areas of work important to the country of origin or when those involved could benefit from extra training not offered at home, the NZZ am Sonntag reported.


The decision has caused disappointment and incomprehension in Zermatt, especially as the SDC had given out positive signals, the article added.

Romy Biner-Hauser, Zermatt’s deputy mayor, told the NZZ am Sonntag that the repair work, which includes building drywalls, would have involved using crafts which no longer existed in Switzerland. “They would have taught us something and would have been well paid, without depriving anyone else of work and they would have been able to have an exciting experience,” she said.

Biner-Hauser will be asking the canton for its help on Monday. The migration office did not want to comment on an individual case for the article. The SDC also did not comment.

Officials in Zermatt are now worried that the path to the hut, which is currently being renovated and modernised, will not be ready in time for next year’s celebrations. July 15, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by British climber Edward Whymper – an event that is considered to represent the birth of alpinism and the start of tourism development in the Alps.

Climbers still, however, have somewhere to stay while the hut, whose origins date back to 1880, is being renovated over the 2014 summer season. A Base Camp MatterhornExternal link, the first pop-up hotel in the Alps, has been set up.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR