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[TR] Matterhorn - Hornli Ridge 07/27/2023

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Trip: Matterhorn - Hornli Ridge

Trip Date: 07/27/2023

Trip Report:

When I was a kid my parents received a large Toblerone chocolate bar from friends returning from Switzerland.  In rural Maine, this was special; a foreign, fancy treat from a far off exotic place.  My sisters and I were NOT allowed to touch it.  I forget when or if it was ever opened and consumed, but I never forgot the fascination with the wrapping and the wicked looking mountain adorning it.


Fast forward to 2018 and I got to see the actual mountain with my own eyes.  I had taken a week long trip to the Alps with grand plans to climb the Matterhorn.  But it was intimidating.  Tall, steep, piercing the sky with no apparent easy was up.  Fresh snow on the mountain gave me a convenient excuse to chicken out and set my sights on easier peaks.  I never even made it up to the Hornli Hut at the base of the route.  Back in Seattle, I kept thinking about it.  I knew I chickened out, and eventually made plans to head back.


Last week I got my shot. I acclimatized for a couple days over the weekend in Italy on Gran Paradiso, a beautiful and relaxed mountain that is a worthy destination all its own. Then I drove over to Tasch, Switzerland, just outside Zermatt and crashed in a hostel as thunderstorms crashed outside dumping snow on the Matterhorn.  

Tuesday 7/25 I took an early cable car up to Schwarzsee and made the two hour hike up to the Hornli hut where I would spend the next three nights.  The storm had chased off most climbers at the hut, and there were only a dozen or so folks planning to climb.  The anxiety amongst then was palpable.  I was glad to have a couple days to time the weather and conditions better.


The view from Schwarzsee:


View from the near the hut:


The hut.  Helicopters make a regular appearance dropping off supplies (1L of water for 10CHF!) and picking up waste:



Luxurious accommodations at 10,000':



Wednesday I had a leisurely morning and around noontime took several hours and scouted the lower portion of the route which I’d be climbing in the dark the following day.  The weather was good and it gave a chance for some of the snow up high to melt and settle.  Low on the route:


Thursday began at 4:00am with breakfast in the hut.  At 4:20 they open the doors and let the Swiss guided parties out first, followed by foreign guided parties, then the independents and soloists like me.  With the subpar route conditions, it was relatively uncrowded and more relaxed than I anticipated.  4:19:IMG_0487.JPG.dac3f5e10698e05a30169bee7d1eb63c.JPG


I was glad to have scouted the route the day before, but in the end it was easy to follow headlamps of the guided parties ahead of me.  IMG_0489.JPG.b64273ac2d7519634d5ddc3346193d64.JPG


The first half was mostly easy 4th class terrain and snow free.  A few hundred feet before the emergency Solvay hut the snow started and I donned crampons that would stay on for the rest of the day.  I made it to the Solvay hut in 2.5 hours and took a short rest waiting for a few climbers to pass the technical crux of the Upper Moseley Slab immediately outside the door to the hut:



Above this point I slowed down dramatically.  Gone was the carefree snow-free scrambling.  Now it was relentless exposed 4th class with crampons and big consequences.  Thankfully the more difficult sections had big fixed ropes that I could tether to and batman my way up:IMG_0506.JPG.aad08167ddeda1397a2f3c4c47b2f83c.JPG

3 hours of focused scrambling later I was on top!IMG_0516.JPG.342d0fd5d9945fcd573dd10e25d27d86.JPG



The way down was significantly slower.  I was tired and the exposure was never ending.IMG_0529.JPG.fa3bd24157928169e7c83888e0c4852e.JPG



Thankfully I had another night booked at the Hornli hut so I could take my time and not worry about cable car schedules.  I eventually made it down late afternoon (~13 hours round trip) and after 40 years got to enjoy that Toblerone bar.



Overall the Matterhorn was much more challenging than I expected.  Although the movements are never hard, the shear length of the climb and relentless exposure is way more taxing than I could have imagined.  Glad to say I've done it.  The Alps are beautiful, I'd go back in a heartbeat.








Gear Notes:
40m rope worked well for rappels. I used a PA with large locking biner to clip off to some of the fixed sailing ropes (at least I'd end up in a hospital instead of a morgue if I biffed some of the harder moves where the fixed ropes are).

Approach Notes:
Cable Car to Schwarzsee, then 2 hour hike to the hut. Climbing in the Alps is so civilized!
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  • olyclimber featured, unfeatured and featured this topic

Man, good on ya for getting this done. This is a worthy mountain. A full on adventure solo. It's funny how some hills just stick in your craw.. Mt Rainier was like that for me way back in '81.

The Matterhorn was on my list too for a while, and in 2012 my wife and I spent a week at the Bonhoff hostel in Zermatt, hiking, riding funiculars and staring it down. Couldn't even get to the Hornli Hut to scope out the route due to high winds. Out of curiosity (mostly) visited the guide shack and found out the price was 1100 Euro back then... Had thoughts about getting back to it after but never did. I'm good with knowing that at one time I was good enough...

Thanks for sharing your story. Brings back good memories.


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