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#1152189 - 10/15/16 09:39 PM [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016
Hunter Lee Offline

Registered: 06/24/12
Posts: 16
TRs: 7 Photos: 213
Trip: Matterhorn (Solo) Via Hornli Ridge, Zermatt- Switzerland

Date: 9/9/2016

Trip Report:
Returning to Zermatt to climb the Matterhorn had been in the back of my mind since my first trip to Europe in 2010. On that occasion we had good luck in France and Italy, but unfortunately when we rolled into Zermatt the Matterhorn had just received a sizeable dumping of snow- thus a side trip up the Briethorn and a couple nights of drinking ensued in Zermatt before leaving town with thoughts of what could have been.

After that first trip to Europe I'll admit my desires to go back and climb there were mixed- the terrain and views are great, as is the selection of classic climbs, but the crowded routes and sometimes overstepping guides on them didn't cast a friendly vibe in the alpine. Knowing full well that this route was busy I mentally prepared myself for what might be a gong show once the door opened up at 5:20AM at the Horlni hut.

This trip was a family trip- a couple friends were getting married in Germany, and a climb in Switzerland was the second leg of our trip. With good weather forecasted for the week following the wedding, myself, my wife and our 2 1/2 year old son jumped on a few trains and rolled in Zermatt. Ironically, just as my previous trip in 2010, the Matterhorn had just received a dumping of snow and at the time of our arrival and the route was out.

With solid stable weather we made good use of the first few days we were there. A trip up to the Gornergrat Bahn observatory and some sightseeing along the way. As well the following day we went up the Klien Matterhorn and spent some time acclimatizing at 12,740.

With a couple days of acclimatizing above 10,000' I left Kim and Spencer behind in Zermatt and headed up to the famous Hornli Hut. I'm not a soloist, so this climb had me thinking a lot before hand- a nervous trepidation was rolling thru my mind. I knew exactly what the climbing difficulty was, and what altitude it was at, and felt comfortable about soloing it in principle. It wasn't until I got to the hut and scoped out the first hour or so of the route did a feeling of comfort and confidence come back to me.

I was fortunate to enjoy a meal with an English guide and his client as well as a swiss climber- together we talked about the route, and our plans the following day. The guide filled me in on the chaos in the morning- the local guides will go first, but if you're on the ball and ready you might as well get yourself close to that door, as there isn't really a set pecking order when going out, just who's there and ready. The swiss guides are all over this and prep their clients to eat fast and be ready. I was dressed and ready to go @ 5:10, looking back I should have been more aggressive in the line when the hoard of people left the breakfast table. As it happened I left the hut in the middle of the pack (70 climbers or so).

You'll find the fist bottle neck 10 minutes from he hut- a steep vertical section with ropes and a few steps here and there. I probably waited for 25 minutes before zipping up this section. Because I was soloing I was able to pass slower teams a lot easier than those that had ropes between them. There were a few guides who had stronger clients that simply waited in the hut till the bottle neck was clear and started climbing around 6AM. Most everyone else was out the door ASAP. After an hour or so there was a degree of separation between most teams. I was able to keep up to a few of the guided teams, and simply followed them up the ridge. Route finding is paramount on the Hornli ridge- there are NO carins up there, the guides must knock them down as carins would make it too easy for people to climb the route without them. There are numerous dead end side spurs one will be drawn onto. When the guides scooted ahead I didn't find the route finding too difficult, though my speed did decrease significantly in places. For the majority of the climb up and down I followed guides and their partners.

Once leaving the hut a good indicator of how long it will take to climb the route is the time you arrive at the Slovay hut- it's about halfway. I was pleased to arrive there 2 hours after leaving the Hornli hut. The crux of the climb is below the hut, a short section of 5.4 climbing know as the lower Mosley Slabs. There's bolts scattered about the route, as are ropes. The route would definitely have a different feel to it if these aids were not in place. Just above the shoulder is another section that has ropes and is vertical in nature, by the time you're up there the altitude will be affecting you as well- this upper section felt the most physically challenging while lower down had the stiffest climbing moves.

Once above the shoulder you'll experience some exposure and au chaval style moves across ridges- the views are spectacular. Higher up on the route my pace slowed, the limited acclimatization was showing its face; I found myself being passed more often as I rested and caught my breath- though I wasn't the only one slowing down up there...With clean skies and sun shining all around I found myself atop the Matterhorn a little before 10AM. The views down into Italy and the paranamic view of the Swiss alps are a sight to see.

After resting and taking some pictures thoughts of the descent and hopes of making it back to Zermatt that night were front and centre. Shortly after 10 I started the descent down. All in all it took 4.5 hours to climb up and about 5 hours to descend down. I carried a 30 meter rope with me and had 6/7 rappels on the way down, while the rest was down climbed. There are a couple spots were a 40 meter rope would have speed up the process. If I was with another climber I probably would pack a 40, otherwise the 30 was just fine. Once back down at the Hornli hut I quickly grabbed my items in the storage room, bought a chocolate bar and a coke, slammed them back and bolted for the last cable car to Zermatt. With 25 minutes to spare I reached the Schwarsee Paradise station at 4:20 and was back in Zermatt pulling the boots off shortly after 5.

Here's a view of the Matterhorn 5 days after we rolled into town- the snow had melted off the East face a lot in the week we were there.

All in all the climb was great. The gong show that takes place while leaving the hut doesn't detract from the climb, it's just part of the experience. The guides on the hill were definitely focused on their clients, but also accommodating when they realized they were about to be passed. The price to stay at the Hornli hut is steep, as is everything in Switzerland. If given the option I'd climb the route again in a flash- though that North face line would be the first option, if there's ever a next time in Zermatt.

Hope this TR helps anyone who's looking to climb the Matterhorn!

Gear Notes:
30 meter rope
A few draws
Crampons/Ice Axe
Climbed in Bartura 2.0's, would climb the route in Approach shoes next time.

Approach Notes:
From Zermatt take the cable car up to Schwarzsee Paradise and then hike to the Hornli hut.

Edited by Hunter Lee (10/18/16 05:28 PM)

#1152190 - 10/16/16 10:19 AM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Hunter Lee]
Eric T Offline

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 195
TRs: 14 Photos: 344
Loc: Mountlake Terrace, Wa
Sweet send in an ultra classic Alpine setting. I climbed the Matterhorn way back in 94. My buddy and I got back to the hut at dinner time and decided we would rather walk the 12+ miles back to Zermatt than pay 65 swiss franc to sleep with a crowd.
A full moon came out and we had an amazing moon lit hike that ended at the bench in front of the church at day break. Everything in Zermatt looks like it was built in the 1500's; so we were a little surprised when a door came swing open at 5 am and had the golden arches stenciled on it.
All the Way....

#1152198 - 10/16/16 02:46 PM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Hunter Lee]
ivan Offline
Sick Spray Bird

Registered: 03/12/02
Posts: 17493
TRs: 118 Photos: 1803
Loc: Oceania
gawdamn, that looks like some good fashioned fun rawk
Ignorance is Strength
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery

#1152199 - 10/16/16 03:08 PM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Hunter Lee]
Bigtree Offline
addicted to

Registered: 10/12/05
Posts: 456
TRs: 10 Photos: 12
Great TR Hunter. Way to get after it with family in tow. I'll have to try that strategy.

#1152225 - 10/17/16 08:14 PM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Bigtree]
JasonG Online   sleepy

Registered: 10/12/00
Posts: 2794
TRs: 107 Photos: 1811
Loc: Mount Vernon
Impressive, especially with the family in tow!

The Matterhorn has long been on my list, but a Swiss guide I met in the Bugs said to not even bother with the Hornli and head to Lion's Ridge on the Italian side. Thoughts?

#1152229 - 10/18/16 01:16 PM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Hunter Lee]
Bronco Offline

Registered: 02/16/01
Posts: 3555
TRs: 15 Photos: 131
Loc: Port Gardner, WA
Thanks for the TR, I spent several days in Zermatt on a family vacation in July 2015 waiting for a weather break that never came. Glad to see it worked out for you on the second go round, it's kind of expensive place to wait for good weather.

#1152276 - 10/22/16 09:10 AM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: JasonG]
Hunter Lee Offline

Registered: 06/24/12
Posts: 16
TRs: 7 Photos: 213
Originally Posted By: JasonG
Impressive, especially with the family in tow!

The Matterhorn has long been on my list, but a Swiss guide I met in the Bugs said to not even bother with the Hornli and head to Lion's Ridge on the Italian side. Thoughts?

Thanks! Was a great trip with the family, the climb just added to the whole trip and made it that much more memorable...will probably do more like this in the future.

We were told the same thing when we were in Zermatt in 2010. Not sure how many climb from the Italian side, won't be as many that's for sure. I'd say most of the teams on the Hornli Ridge were guided- my guess would be that the Italian side would not be as guided. It's a grade or two stiffer from Italy, think it's a 5.7 line. Not sure if there's much beta out there from the Italian side- definitely worth digging around for though!

Edited by Hunter Lee (10/22/16 09:13 AM)

#1152371 - 10/31/16 04:46 PM Re: [TR] Matterhorn, Zermatt- Switzerland - Matterhorn (Solo)-Hornli Ridge 9/9/2016 [Re: Hunter Lee]
Bronco Offline

Registered: 02/16/01
Posts: 3555
TRs: 15 Photos: 131
Loc: Port Gardner, WA
Here's what it looked like outside the Klien Station when we visited.


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