Matterhorn

Climbers have more magnetic attraction to the Matterhorn than any other peak in the world. Not because of it's height; five summits are higher in the Alps. And not because it's difficulty; thousands are more technical in the world. But because the Matterhorn has the iconic shape. It's a cleaver of rock that every climber who's seen it feels a butterfly go up their spine. 

The most common route up the Matterhorn is the Hornli Ridge, which rises above Zermatt, Switzerland. From the start of the climbing it is four thousand feet of continuous fourth-class. For guiding, that means eight thousand feet of non-stop short-roping and short-pitching to the summit. "You'll be sweating. Don't wear much clothing," Seth told me. "Physical," said Dale. I wanted the experience, really bad. The chance came with Garry Menzel from Denver. Garry is fit, fast and stoked; the key ingredients for the Matterhorn.  

The Matterhorn above Zermatt. It was first climbed in 1865 by a party of seven led by the legendary Edward Whymper. 

 

Kyle Bunting, Joe, Steve Banks and Garry on the approach hike. This was Kyle and Garry's annual climbing trip. Steve is a Crested Butte-based IFMGA guide. The legal guiding ratio on the Matterhorn is one to one. To acclimatize and prep for the Matterhorn we climbed rocky peaks just over the Italian border. 

 

To climb the Matterhorn we stayed at the Hornli Hut at the base of the Hornli Ridge. 

 

The Hornli Hut is perhaps the most non-relaxing and heavily used refuge in the Alps. Next year it will be closed for a rebuild. 

 

Steve training with a plate of rosti at the Hornli Hut. Rosti is the all-American breakfast, but the Swiss won't serve it for breakfast. 

 

Steve relaxing after his workout. Steve and I also finished Garry and Kyle's rosti when they bogged down. 

 

Kyle previewing the lower portion of the route so it's easier in the dark the next morning. Some of the route is equipped with fat gym ropes. 

 

Steve swilling bad coffee and white bread at 4am in the Hornli Hut.  

 

The Hornli Ridge at first sunlight. 

 

Garry climbing like mad on fourth-class slabs. Much of the route is equipped with steel stanchions for quick belays. Despite the stanchions, fixed lines and heavily trodden rock, the Hornli is notoriously difficult to follow. Lucky for me, a friendly, non-Zermatt Swiss guide gave me direction at the crux route choices. 

 

A non-Zermatt Swiss guide and client nearing the Solvay Hut at 4,000 meters, halfway up the route. 

 

Short-roping the summit icefield.

 

Summit ridge. Monte Rosa, the highest summit in Switzerland, is in the right distance. 

 

Halfway at 4,478 meters! Now we just have to get down. 

 

Look Ma! No Hands! 8,000 feet above the floor! 

 

Red Bull and Ibuprofen for the hike down from the Hornli Hut. 

 

Great to share the world's most iconic climb with you Garry!