Video above: 60 light sources along Hörnligrat illuminate the route up to Matterhorn peak for one evening (In German with subtitles)
July 14th, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of The Matterhorn by Edward Whymper and his team.
The Matterhorn (German), Monte Cervino (Italian) or Mont Cervin (French), is a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It derives its name from the German words Matte, meaning “meadow”, and Horn, which means “peak”. The migration of the name “meadow” from the lower part of the countryside to the peak is common in the Alps.
The Matterhorn is such an iconic mountain. It’s form and setting is picture-book and if ever a mountain symbolised what a mountain should look like, then surely The Matterhorn wins first prize.
In my early 20’s I was fortunate to visit Zermatt and attempt to climb this great mountain with some fellow British climbers. Arriving in Zermatt via the Haute Route (or ‘High Level Route’) from Chamonix, France, it was only a snow-storm that prevented our push from the Solvay Hut to the summit. Still, it was a memorable day and certainly put the achievements of the early pioneers into perspective.
Edward Whymper was an English artist and engraver who had been hired by a London publisher to make sketches of the mountains in the region of Zermatt. Although the unclimbed Matterhorn had a mixed reputation among British mountaineers, it fascinated Whymper. Whymper’s first attempt was in 1861, from the village of Breuil on the south side. He was at the beginning of the climb, with a Swiss guide, when he met Jean-Antoine Carrel and his uncle.
Carrel was an Italian guide from Breuil who had already made several attempts on the mountain. The two parties camped together at the base of the peak. Carrel and his uncle woke up early and decided to continue the ascent without Whymper and his guide. Discovering that they had been left, Whymper and his guide tried to race Carrel up the mountain, but neither party met with success.
The Matterhorn was one of the last great Alpine peaks to be climbed and its first ascent marked the end of the golden age of alpinism. That climb, made on 14th July, 1865 was led by Edward Whymper but ended disastrously when four of its members fell to their deaths on the descent. Croz, Hadow, Hudson and Douglas fell to their deaths over the north wall while still above the shoulder. Three of the bodies were recovered a few days later on the Matterhorn glacier. The body of Lord Francis Douglas has not been found yet.
The north face was not climbed until 1931, and is amongst the three great north faces of the Alps. It is estimated that over 500 alpinists have died on the Matterhorn since the first climb in 1865, making it one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps.
[More Information: The Matterhorn
| Matterhorn Zermatt
| A Climber’s Perspective
Image: Artist’s impression of the first ascent of The Matterhorn
Image: Light-show to mark the 150th anniversary
Image: At the top….
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