Matterhorn, Hörnli Ridge

Difficulty


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Maximum Ratio
1 climber per guide

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See also:
Matterhorn Conditions

6-day Matterhorn Program

7-day Monte Rosa & Matterhorn program

8-day Mont Blanc & Matterhorn program

12-day Mont Blanc, Matterhorn & Eiger program

Solvay Hut

The Matterhorn (4478 meters, 14,688 feet) obviously requires no introduction. It's unique and beautiful form, its importance in the history of alpinism and the dramatic story of its first ascent, guarantee its place in the mountaineering Hall of Fame. The classic Hörnli Ridge will always be popular not only because of its history, but also for the quality of its situation, following a beautiful and exposed line between the steep East and North faces of the peak.

Strictly speaking, the climbing is moderate in technical difficulty, but because of its length (a vertical gain of 4000 feet on technical ground), altitude and exposure, requires efficiency of movement and attention to technique, as well as commitment and endurance. The fact that it is undoubtedly one of the most sought after routes in the Alps, does not diminish its qualities as a demanding and beautiful ascent.

Normally the ascent takes two days from Zermatt; one to approach the Hörnli Hut, the second to climb the route and return to Zermatt. But for a successful attempt, we strongly recommend that you spend some time acclimatizing in the area, and also doing two or three warm up climbs. This will help you to get used to the pace this long route requires, the qualities of the local rock, and generally to get used to the climbing on exposed terrain that the route entails. See our 6-day Matterhorn our 7-day Matterhorn & Monte Rosa programs–we specifically designed these trips to address these important needs.

The Matterhorn needs to be in good, relatively dry (snow free) climbing condition to be a reasonable objective. Please see our Matterhorn Conditions page for a much more detailed discussion of this.

Hörnli hut

The ascent of the Matterhorn is long and continuously exposed. On our summit day we will need to climb over 4000 of steep and semi-technical terrain. The descent is by the same route, nearly all of it down climbed. In order to maintain an adequate margin of safety and energy we will need to ascend from the hut to the summit in less than about 6 hours. Descent normally takes an additional 4 to 5 hours and requires great care and attentiveness. An ability to move continuously and comfortably on exposed rock is required. Additionally, climbers must be in excellent physical condition.

For all our ascents of the Matterhorn we climb at a ratio of one climber to one guide. We feel this low ratio is necessary for safety of the rope team and to increase chances of summit success. The local Zermatt guides also climb only at this ratio for the same reasons. While higher climber to guide ratios may be more economically profitable in the short term, we believe the added risk and decreased chance of success are unacceptable.

Difficulty

This is a challenging program for experienced climbers. The Matterhorn is primarily a rock climb, with some steep snow. The challenge on this peak is to keep to good time while climbing carefully and smoothly. In technical terms the difficulties are not extreme, being only about 5.6. But this route is very exposed and entail thousands of feet of steep 4th class rock that must be climbed quickly and surely, over 4000 feet of steep climbing from hut to summit, which must be descended as well. Climbers must be able to keep to a pace which allows an ascent in 4 to 5 hours. The descent takes about the same amount of time.

Prerequisites

Participants for all Matterhorn climbs must have previous rock and ice climbing experience and be in very good condition. You should be able to climb 5.7 rock on a top rope quickly and with little difficulty. You should have extensive experience scrambling on steep rock, such as climbing in the Sierra, Cascades or Tetons. You need to be comfortable cramponing on steep 50 degree frozen snow or soft ice, both in ascent and descent.

 


Matterhorn summit
photo info

Matterhorn summit
photo info

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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