The Matterhorn is the world's most recognized mountain. It was first climbed in 1865 and its ascent marked the last chapter in the golden age of mountaineering. This stunning mountain is also one of the most often underestimated guided mountains in the world. Our 6-day program is designed to make sure that those who join us are adequately trained and sufficiently fit and quick enough to make the climb in good style along with their IFMGA guide.
The climbing on the Matterhorn is rarely technical, but does require those who attempt its summit to be sure-footed, able to move smoothly and constantly, and comfortable in 4th and lower 5th class terrain. Prior to the climb of the Matterhorn we use of progression of climbs in the Zermatt or Saas Valleys to prepare you for the ascent. The itinerary below provides an example of the routes used to train and evaluate climbers before the Matterhorn. For climbers who prefer to see another area, or have already done some of these climbs in the Zermatt Valley we have many other options for the climbing leading up to the Matterhorn
The beauty of climbing in Switzerland is that relatively easy access utilizing trams and trains combined with widely sprinkled mountain huts allow us to adjust our itinerary as needed for group ability, changes in the weather, and individual preference. Zermatt has been hosting climbers for a very long time and the hotels, restaurants, and entertainment found here are very refined. We use Zermatt as our basecamp and rarely spend more than 2 consecutive nights in mountain huts before returning to town to enjoy clean clothes, showers, and great food. While in the huts we are provided bedding, dinner, breakfast, and beverages, allowing us to enjoy the climbing without heavy backpacks.
Day 0: Travel to Zermatt w/ evening meeting to go over plan for climb.
Day 1: Ascend to Rotenboden (2815 m) on Gornergrat train for rock climbing training on Riffelhorn (2927 m) w/ afternoon return to Zermatt.
On this day we generally climb at least one 6-7 pitch route on the back of the Riffelhorn in order to get people used to the local rock and to evaluate each members rock climbing ability and provide training to increase speed and efficiency, which will be key to climbing the Matterhorn. These climbs are a touch more difficult than the hardest moves on the Matterhorn, which are also equipped with a hand line. This training allows us to focus on the climbing without as much time pressure as we will experience as the trip progresses. We also have the opportunity to become familiar with short-rope technique during this day. In the afternoon we descend by train to Zermatt for another night in the hotel.
Day 2: Ascend to Klein Matterhorn and climb Pollux w/ night in Valle d'Ayas hut (3,425 m) in Italy.
We will get an early start and take as series of trams up to the Klein Matterhorn before traversing behind the Breithorn on glacier to reach Pollux. The climb of Pollux (4092 m) is generally undertaken by the SW Ridge (PD+/III) or if things are busy the slightly faster West Flank. This gives us some more time on rock and is our introduction to steeper snow and ice. Views from the summit of Pollux are dominated by magnificent Monte Rosa, as well as the nearby peaks of the Breithorn, Castor, and Liskamm. Evening is spent in the Valle d'Ayas hut.
Day 3: Climb Castor and return to Valle d'Ayas hut.
Today we will climb Castor (4223 m) the higher of the twin peaks of Castor and Pollux. Starting from the hut we ascend the Grand Verra Glacier to a plateau at around 3800m before starting up the steeper WNW Face. While not overly technical this climb provides further acclimatization and gives us more steep snow and ice experience. Evening is once again spent in the Valle d'Ayas hut.
Day 4: Breithorn Half-Traverse and descent to Zermatt
Today we climb the East Ridge of the Central summit of the Breithorn, also known as the Breithorn Half-Traverse. We ascend snow on the south side of the Breithorn until the col at 4022m and then begin an enjoyable stepped rock climb leading eventually to the summit of the Breithorn. We then descend the normal ascent route back to the Klein Matterhorn, where we use the tram to return to Zermatt and spend the night in a hotel.
Day 5: Ascend to Hornli Hut (3,270 m/10,700')
This day is primarily a rest day given the challenge ahead on the Matterhorn summit climb. We use the Schwarzee cable car to ascend to 2583m and then hike around 2 hours to the Hornli Hut. Once at the hut we generally relax, have an eaarly dinner, and turn in to try to get some sleep before the climb.
Day 6: Matterhorn Summit Climb
3:30 am is a typical start time for the Matterhorn. Tradition has everyone at the hut starting at the same time and once you have done it a few times, this makes some sense. If you start to early it is easy to lose the route in the dark, start to late, and the last half of the climb becomes difficult with descending parties constantly trying to pass. The climb can be challenging for American climbers as it requires continuous movement with very few breaks for the duration of the 5-6 hour ascent. The stunning scenery and exciting exposure more than make up for the hardship, and if all goes well, we are back at the hut around 10 hour after starting and we continue down to Zermatt for a well deserved celebration.
Day 7: Extra Day for groups of 2 climbers
As Swiss law forbids guided climbers from climbing the Matterhorn at a ratio greater than 1:1 (a very good law by our estimation, given the difficulty) we add a 7th day on trips with more than 1 climber so that the second climber can make the ascent with their guide while the 1st rests at the hut. If weather, route conditions, or a determination that an individual is not ready for the Matterhorn, this day can easily be used for another climb in the Zermatt region.
Participants need to be able to ascend to the summit of the Matterhorn in 5-6 hours and descend in 3-4 hours. To do this you need to be confident and agile on lower 5th class and 4th class terrain and posses a high level of fitness. You need to be comfortable wearing crampons on moderately steep snow and ice and able to climb easy rock with crampons on. Please call the office to discuss your participation in a climb of the Matterhorn. You do not need to be a super climber to climb the Matterhorn, but this is the program that we find is most often underestimated by climbers familiar with American style guided climbing.
The Ascent of Mont Blanc
Forbidden Peak Climb
Mount Torment Climb
Mount Shuksan via the Fisher Chimney Route
Ingalls Peak Climb
e-mail, or give us a call at 509-548-5823 to discuss your trip. There are many, many ways that this trip can be put together and you may want to visit other areas in France or Switzerland to prepare for this trip. We can often take two programs that by themselves would take 6 days each and combine them to form a seamless program that visits all the same spots in fewer days. Once you are certain what trip you would like to do, complete our application and return it to our office.