UK Mountains Walking, Mountaineering and Equipment Reviews
The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn

In 1997, I again went to the Alps, but this time it was to prepare for an ascent of the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

At the Hornli Hut

The Matterhorn is a truly impressive mountain, but on approach through Zermatt, only comes into view at the very last minute. Zermatt itself is a wonderful little town, there are no cars allowed, other than the electric taxis, which, due to having no engine, sneak up on you without warning. The walk through the town is well trodden from the railway station to the cable car and must have been done hundreds, if not thousands of times by budding summitteers.

The cable car takes a lot of the strain out, but still leaves you a good two hours walk from the Hornli Hut, the traditional overnight stay for those doing the touristy Hornli Ridge - which we were.

The hut is much like any other, overcrowded, full of foreigners and buzzing with excitement.

The summit day was due to start at about 2:00am, and it seemed that everyone was going for it. Sadly, the word came up that the weather had turned and the attempt was off. Two hours later, there was total confusion, the hut guardians had laid out breakfast - a sure sign that an attempt was on the cards.

We got dressed as quickly as we could and sat at the breakfast table in full gear including harnesses. 4:30am we were outside, waiting for the Zermatt guides to set off - they were the unwilling leaders, taking their clients up the mountain. The best way to go is to follow them, they do it every day and know it better than anyone else.

It is a tough, relentless climb, some areas have fixed rope, others are a case of VDiff grade climbing and the rest a steep walk. Either way, it is up, up, up. We reached the Solvay Hut at 4000m in good time, but the weather turned and it began to snow. Many climbers were turning back and we had no choice but to abandon the attempt.

We were back in the hut by 10:30am, feeling disappointed, but knew we had taken the safest option, it would always be there another year.

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