September 17, 2015

Climbing The Matterhorn - Hornli Ridge

Eric L. guiding the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn in late July, 2015.

Every summer, droves of people flock to the Alps hoping to climb the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn. The peak lies above Zermatt and is even more stunning in real life then it is in post cards and photos. In the 150 years since its first ascent, the mountain has lost some of its fearsome reputation and can now be ascended by any fit climber with a guide and a decent amount of rock climbing ability. That said, the route does present certain challenges and just because someone has bobbled their way up Mont Blanc or Mount Everest, that doesn't mean that they will crest the Matterhorn. Unlike other snow plods where you can sleep walk your way to the top, the Matterhorn does require a certain deftness of foot. The route is essentially 1200 meters of exposed, 4th class scrambling with the odd bit of low 5th class climbing. If you are reading this and you don't know what 4th class scrambling and 5th class climbing is, then you are probably not ready to climb the peak.  

On the Matterhorn, most guides will have a cut-off time to make the summit. In general, a good time from the Hornli hut to the top is between 3 - 4 hours. If  a client can't make it in 5 hours, I think that most guides will turn around. The reason for this is that the route up and down are exactly the same, but the journey down generally requires more focus and often takes as long or longer then the ascent. If someone makes the top with little energy left, the descent could take a very long time and become quite unnerving.

Earlier this summer, I found myself on the Matterhorn with an extra guide and only one client. While the other guide roped the client to the summit, I had the opportunity to float around and capture most of the ascent with my camera. Here are some photos from the day.

This is what Uber looks like in Zermatt.

The new Hornli Hut with the Monte Rosa Massif in the background.

Not cheap, but very nice.

Early morning on the Hornli. Everyone leaves the Hut at 4 am so this must be after about 2 hours of climbing. 

Eric L wondering how to get around the hoards of people above.


Pulling on the boat ropes in the early morning sun.

This photo really shows the number of people on the route. Conditions were excellent and the hut was full. There were atleast 100 other climbers on the mountain this day. We managaed to get near the front of the pack and found ourselves alone for most of the descent.

Nearing the top on a rare day without crampons.

Summit Ridge after about 3.5 hours of climbing.

On the descent.

Back down and ready for the return trip to Chamonix.

But not before having a shandy on the deck of the Hornli.

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