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Sunday
Aug162015

Dale Guiding the Matterhorn

Dale Remsberg is a Boulder-based IFMGA Mountain Guide. I was lucky to work with Dale at the Colorado Mountain School in 2008 and 2009. I found him to be a talented guide, with high standards, and an unusual ability for mentoring guides. That's why he's now the technical director of the American Mountain Guides Association.

This summer I joined Dale for the summit portion of a six-day Matterhorn trip. On summit day, my client felt ill, so I returned to the Hornli Hut with her, then headed back up to catch Dale and his client Janet. I spent the day floating around them, taking photos, and feeling guilty about Dale working so hard. Although Dale is a super-efficient guide, it appeared he was working twice as hard as me who wasn't guiding. 

Most climbers stay at the Hornli Hut at the base of the Hornli Ridge. Last year the Hornli Hut was rebuilt. It went from being crammed and stinky, to wifi and roomy beds.  


I caught up with Dale and Janet above the Solvay Hut. Here is Dale shortroping Janet, using a fixed line for security. Getting up and down the 4,000 feet of the Matterhorn requires speed on third and fourth class terrain. Recreational groups often don't make it because they try slow, full-length pitches. 

 

Dale short-pitching with the rope wrapped around an iron stanchion. The box behind Dale is a light—see last photo. 

 

An old-school Austrian guide giving Dale and I the hairy eyeball. "So how come you can guide here and I can't guide in the US?" We tell him "You can guide in the US, but it's difficult for you, and difficult for us." The permits and insurance obstacles encountered in the US are beyond comprehension for most European guides. 

 

Cluster! The Zermatt guides passing Dale on their way down. Nobody gets ahead of the Zermatt guides. Swiss rules you know....

 

Dale, Janet and I on the summit.

 

Dale lowering Janet on the descent. Notice how the rope is wrapped upward to the guide. 

 

After lowering Janet, Dale downclimbs a fixed rope.  

 

Dale downclimbs to the Solvay Hut after belaying Janet down. Dale is protecting himself by looping his rope over a massive bolt head. Once down by Janet, Dale will flip the rope off the bolt. 

 

Looking toward the Monte Rosa massif from the Solvay Hut. The glaciers in the Alps are hurting. 

 

Dale using a Munter hitch on a locker draw to lower Janet down the Moseley slabs below the Solvay Hut. He has the rope pre-rigged through a bolt so he's ready to rappel. I jumped on Dale's rope for this rap, thus botching my chance for fame and glory from a ropeless Matterhorn ascent. 

 

Dale short-roping third class terrain. Facing outward while guiding third and fourth class terrain takes practice but it's important for moving fast and watching the clients' feet. If she slips, Dale is ready to stop the fall.


Back in Zermatt that evening we drank this wine with our pizza. It was really good. Probably the best wine I'll drink in my life, or so says the label. 

 

Zermatt put lights up the Hornli ridge to mark the 150th anniversary of the Matterhorn's first ascent.