The Matterhorn is one of the most famous mountains in the world. Climbers and non-climbers alike dream of reaching its summit. An ascent of the Matterhorn is possible for any reasonably fit person providing the following criteria are met:
Weather must be good and the mountain in a safe condition for the climb. Snow must have cleared from the ridge and the rocks must be free of ice and verglas. The most suitable time of the year to attempt an ascent is between the middle of July and the middle of September. Nevertheless during some seasons the correct conditions just do not materialise for a safe ascent. In this case you should be prepared to change your aspirations to another mountain. Do not contemplate the Matterhorn unless you are prepared to accept this possibility of disappointment. You must have a good head for heights. Parts of the climb especially in the top two-thirds are very exposed. It most definitely is not the place to find yourself if you suffer from vertigo.
The day we climb the Matterhorn will be a long one. The ascent will take around five hours. One’s feeling of elation on the summit may well be influenced by the realisation that we have to descend by exactly the same route. This always seems to take longer!
Paradoxically, the best place to train and acclimatize for the Matterhorn is not Zermatt, but Chamonix. This is because the climbs around Chamonix mimic the type of climbing on the Hörnli ridge, and there are more options.
Outlined below is an example of a six day itinerary which would be good training for an attempt on the Matterhorn. However, in reality there is a considerable amount of discussion between the the guide and the client prior to meeting so that the training can match the client’s exact needs and take into consideration the prevailing climbing conditions.
- Day 1: the most effective way of becoming acclimatised is to sleep in mountain huts, so, we will climb to a mountain hut high above Chamonix.
- Day 2: Traverse of the Aiguille de Crochue. This is an ideal place to start the acclimatization process and come to grips with the basic techniques.
- Day 3: Traverse of the Entreves. This is a fantastic climb in its own right, and it will condition you to some of the vertiginous exposure found on the Matterhorn. We’ll spend the night in the Torino Hut.
- Day 4: we’ll climb up and down the east ridge of the Tour Ronde to mimic the descent of the Hörnli Ridge.
- Day 5: drive to Zermatt and hike up to the Hörnli Hut.
- Day 6: climb and descend the Matterhorn.
- Day 7: sometimes it’s not possible to get all the way down to Zermatt in one day!