This is the first of my alpine tour reports with an English translation. I thought that
the Matterhorn, being one of the most famous mountains in the world, should be the first
to draw your attention to.
Matterhorn (Hörnligrat; 4478 m)
Mont Cervin / Monte Cervino
August 3 - 5, 1996
So, some day we couldn't stand this shame any more. So we will attack this hillock, too.
Seen precisely, this is the second attempt - last time there was still too much snow.
We only take the railroad from Täsch to Zermatt and enjoy all the complete ascent
via Zum See ("at the lake", where since several centuries there's no more lake) and
Schwarzsee (which still exists) to Hörnli hut (3260 m) - 1600 height meters.
The weather is still a bit strange: As we spent the night at Furka pass, there still was
a bit of snow; the whole day it remained quite cloudy, only in the evening it opens up.
The 'classical' view from Hörnli hut
Some day it must be. Every mountaineer will understand me: Whenever you touch the
topic of mountaineering in a discussion with the (so-to-say average) non-mountaineer, you end up in
the question "Well, if you're a mountaineer, did you make the Matterhorn ?" Further in the east it might be
Watzmann or Grossglockner, but in the end everything will reduce to Matterhorn.
On Sunday, we leave the hut at 4:20. Five hours later we have reached Solvay hut
(4003 m). A really complete route description would surely blow up my homepage. The way up, however,
is mostly quite easy to find. The Moseley plates below and above Solvay hut are a bit of
fun in terms of climbing technique (III-), if there's no snow. Further up the rock becomes more compact.
After a bit jumping around at a narrow, we soon reach the fixed ropes stretching from the shoulder to the
summit slope. One spot - the very last steep step - demands a lot of force.
The way on is a rather easy, mostly snowy slope with about 40° gradient.
During ascent completely without problems, we just wonder seeing from above, how we could go up
something steep like that slope completely unsecured.
Having escaped from all the traffic jams, it is already six o'clock in the afternoon
at Solvay hut. Since probably some people would come down from above (filling the hut),
we decide to continue our descent and try to get to Hörnli hut. At the Abseil spots
below, everything goes on quite slowly.
Beyond the securing poles, the route is hard to find from above, so we work on downwards
on some abseil hooks (not necessarily put by people on the right route) and along traces of
a trail (fools like we are?). Time elapses quickly; at half past nine the trail is practically no more visible.
and continuing would be too dangerous. Therefore we establish for an overnight stay
in this uniquely nice scenery. That's no joke: Although we are not too well equipped for an overnigth stay
outside (i.e. bivouac sack and warm jacket), the position on a small band, 1 1/2 by 4 meters in a
45° steep scree flank guarantees for the exclusivity of this spot. An unhindered view down to
Zermatt, situated more than 2000 m below us, and to Hörnli hut, where on time at 22:00 the lights
go off. At least I can offer one can of beer, an unexpected luxury in this slightly sparse environment. (I had forgotten it
in the rucksack yesterday and carried it all the way up and down.)
The summit ridge is quite spectacularly narrow and surely unique for the views down in
all directions - really dreadful abysses everywhere. We are content with the Swiss summit (4478 m),
although the Italian summit (1 m lower) carries the summit cross. |
The descent along Hörnli ridge takes about as long as the ascent. Theoretically.
In fact, even in the afternoon there are people ascending, who - as to compensate for complete lack of
alpine abilities - efficiently block the strategically important spots of the mountain.
The night is more or less cold (-10°C), but except for cold feet it is easy to endure.
Just the position changes are a bit annoying, when one has remained in one position at the rock for too long.
A thunderstorm threatening in the morning doesn't take place in the end - at about five o'clock a
cloudless sky greets us, and some mountain guides ascending five meters above us, along the route.
In the darkness of last evening we never would have found found the way.
The area between Solvay hut and the
end of the second couloir always looks quite the same, and one easily looses orientation when
not taking attention for just a second. After the second couloir, everything is clear again, there are even some
trail traces, and in between those there are only some steep steps to climb down.
The weather today is not as nice as it was yesterday. After some sun during the ascent clouds begin to close from Italy, and
a biting wind comes up. At the shoulder and above, it's probably by far less comfortable than yesterday.
But we don't need to care about that, since we were on top yesterday. Now finally
we can answer "YES" to the question of all questions. Not without the hint that especially the
most famous mountain is an extraordinary scree heap.
way to the hut
From Zermatt via Schwarzsee to Hörnlihütte about 5 hours, 1600 height meters. Who
doesn't like it that tough, can cheat to Schwarzsee, then it's only 700 meters.
Just generally: a very, very complicated route. Best (for German speakers) to read in the SAC guide.
There, the description is about two pages. Everything below that is over-simplyfying.
Most of the way to Solvay hut is rubble. The terrain is not difficult, but very loose. You mostly
recognize the right way as there the very loose stuff is already removed.
Hooks that you might eventually find ONLY say that either this is the route, OR somebody very desperate had
found no other solution than putting in a hook for Abseil to whereever he might come out...
Up to Solvay hut, one more or less stays left of the ridge. Below Solvay, there's lower Moseley plate
with some securing pins.
After Solvay one goes five meters to the left and then directly upwards to upper Moseley plate.
From there, follow the crest, sometimes avoiding to the left. One spot with a fixed rope
(normally traffic jam there); then you follow the plated crest upwards (good, big Abseil hooks) to the
shoulder. Here the crest usually becomes icy but the continuous fixed ropes begin here. Follow these ropes to the
beginning of the "roof". From here either in a steep snow slope or with a trail (as conditions are)
to the summit.
Don't underestimate - it takes about the same time as the ascent. In the upper area one can easily abseil;
that is a bit difficult in the lower regions (more scree, not so steep). The whole way is, however,
dangerous - every mistake could possibly be the last.
From above, the route is by far harder to see than from below. So, try to remember everything already
during the ascent. Otherwise you will find a thousand possibilities to come out in the nowhere.
Telephone Hörnlihütte: +41 27 967 2769 (in the valley: 967 5468)
Map and guide
Guidebook (in German):
- SAC, "Hochtouren im Wallis" (CD-ROM, 1998), Routes 318a,b (way to the hut), 341 (ascent), 342 (descent)
- SAC, "Walliser Alpen 3" (1993), Routes 16 (way to the hut), 1106 (ascent), 1107 (descent)
- 1:50000 LKS 283S "Arolla", 284S "Mischabel" (way to the hut)
- 1:25000 LKS 1347 "Matterhorn", 1328 "Monte Rosa" (way to the hut)
© 1997 Hartmut Bielefeldt
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Last updated August 09, 2002 by Hartmut Bielefeldt