A demanding ascent: Two routes, the Swiss normal route (Hörnli ridge, difficulty AD) and the Italian normal route (Lion ridge, difficulty AD) can be used to ascend Matterhorn. The low success rate on these two routes (just 60 % of climbers reach the summit of Matterhorn) is due to the main following reasons:
- an insufficient training: the ascent of Matterhorn is long (3,930 vertical feet to be climbed from Hörnli hut to the summit), tiring (many parts of the ascent are equipped with fixed ropes on which you have to pull to climb), and the altitude amplifies these difficulties. To ascend Matterhorn, you must be in very good physical condition.
- an insufficient acclimatation. The summit of Matterhorn is 14,688 feet asl, so you need to be perfectly acclimatized before this long altitude ascent.
- a lack of practice in rock climbing. Even if a few parts of the ascent look like walking, many rock climbing parts (some quite easy, some quite difficult with fixed ropes) make the ascent a AD difficulty route. You have soon climbed peaks with mountain boots (not with climbing shoes), and you can go down a easy rock-climbing route without abseiling. You know how to move in mountain terrain. The competent use of crampons is a further requirement. You need to practise two times a week rock-climbing (indoor or outdoor) during the 3 months preceding the course.
- a lack of practice in snow and ice climbing. You are used to climb ridges and easy gullies with crampons and ice-axe.
- many Matterhorn ascent programs do not include one extra day to shift one day later the ascent in case of bad weather : our program includes one extra day. Do not underestimate the ascent of Matterhorn, which was the last but one high peak in the Alps to be climbed in the 19th century, and still is one of the most difficult classic climbs in the Alps. If you lack physical condition and rock-climbing practice, you will not be able to reach its summit.
Our "Climb the Matterhorn" course: To allow you to have the best chances to reach the summit of Matterhorn, we have created a course which first day on Chamonix peaks is dedicated to "climbing at Matterhorn pace", ascending three peaks near the Aiguille du Midi, in the Mont-Blanc group, at a good pace : Pointe Lachenal, arête a Laurence, and Cosmiques ridge. You will then sleep at the Cosmiques hut (11,854 feet).
On day 2, descent to Chamonix by the Aiguille du Midi cable-car. Transfer in the guide's car to Täsch. Train Täsch - Zermatt. Cable-car up to Schwarzee. 2 hours walking up to Hörnli hut. On day 3, ascent of Matterhorn. To avoid hurrying to catch Schwarzee cable-car last cabin, we will sleep at Hörnli hut after the ascent.
On day 4, descent to Zermatt. Train Zermatt - Täsch. Transfer to Chamonix in the guide's car. Separation in Chamonix around 2.00 pm.
Day 4 can be used for the ascent of Matterhorn, in case of bad weather on day 3. In this case, separation in Chamonix around 9.00 pm. Ratio guide/clients: On the swiss route (Hörnli ridge), all mountain guides are obliged to respect the ratio one guide / one client layed down as a rule by the Zermatt mountain guides.
- Meeting Place: Chamonix, by the desks of Aiguille du Midi cable-car, by 6.00 am. End of the course: Chamonix, around 2.00 pm on day 4, if you climb Matterhorn on day 3 (and around 9.00 pm on day 4 if you climb Matterhorn on day 4).
Day 1: Meeting by the desks of Aiguille du Midi cable-car, by 6.00 am. Cable-car up to Aiguille du Midi. Ascent of three peaks near the Aiguille du Midi, at a good pace: Pointe Lachenal, arête a Laurence, and Cosmiques ridge. Night at the Cosmiques hut (11,854 feet).Duration of climbing: 5 to 7 hours. Difference of level : 1,640 vertical feet up, 2,230 vertical feet down.
Day 2: Departure from the hut at dawn. Descent by cable-car to Chamonix. Transfer, in the guide's car, to Täsch. Train Täsch - Zermatt. Schwarzee cable-car (8,474 feet). Footpath to Hörnlli hut (10,695 feet).Duration of climbing: 1 hour from Cosmiques hut to the Aiguille du Midi. Duration of walking : 2 hours from Schwarzee to Hörnl hut. Difference of level: 2,871 vertical feet up, 100 vertical feet down.
Day 3: Ascent of Matterhorn (14,688 feet) by the Hörnli ridge. Second night at Hörnli hut, in order to avoid hurrying to catch Schwarzee cable-car last cabin.Duration of climbing: 8 to 11 hours. Difference of level : 3,993 vertical feet up, 3,993 vertical feet down.
Day 4: Descent to Zermatt. Train Zermatt - Täsch. Transfer, in the guide's car, to Chamonix. Duration of walking: 1 hour and a half from Hörnli hut to Schwarzeee. Difference of level: 0 vertical feet up, 2,221 vertical feet down.
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