Matterhorn, Swiss Alps 4477 metres

Matterhorn from Zermatt.

Classic view of The Matterhorn from Zermatt, with Hornli Ridge route shown.


The Matterhorn (or the Assiniboine of the Alps!) is Switzerland's most famous mountain and was first climbed by Edward Whymper in 1865. It is an extremely popular climb by various routes, especially Hornli Ridge. Parties come from around the world to bag it; 200 may reach the top in a day, somewhat like Rainier. Matterhorn is usually a three-day ascent.

Many parties hire a guide, which in Canadian dollars costs a fortune. ($900 or more in 1989) First day, you ride a cable car to Schwarzee, then hike a couple of hours to the Hornli Hut or Belvedere Hotel. Shelter, meals and blankets are available.

At Hornli hut. After arriving at the hut (elevation 3260 m), my partner Paul and I scouted out the beginning of the route as we would be starting by headlamp in the wee hours next morning. Guided parties were returning to the hut then, and most clients looked like the walking dead. The guides merely looked impatient. Here is the view from Hornli Hut, the route goes up the roghthand ridge and the east face (to the left of it) whenever the ridge is too steep. The weather did not look too promising at this point.

On Hornli Ridge at dawn. Just after dawn on the Hornli Ridge. We left the hut at 4:45 a.m. and simply got in line right behind a guided group. This simplifies route-finding, but the guides will hate you. Many parties were short-roped, although it is only 3rd class terrain here. The rock is way better than in our Canadian Rockies too! It was a lot like Mount Sir Donald but with more people. Temperature is about +10 Celsius which is pretty balmy for dawn at 10,000 ft above sea level, I thought.


Upper Mosely slab A slight backlog at Upper Mosely slab just past Solvay Hut emergency shelter (4000m). We roped for one pitch here and belayed off fixed pins. The biggest hazard of this climb was the likelihood of novices peeling off and knocking us down the mountain face.

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