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Mountain guide and client

Matterhorn’s summit ridge


The name speaks for itself! The incredible Matterhorn or Monte Cervino (in Italian) sits in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Its summit is 4,478 meters high (14,692 ft), making the Matterhorn one of the highest peaks in the Alps. The beautiful long sweeping walls and it’s stand alone appearance make this peak one of the most stunning sights in Europe. Because of these steep and imposing walls, the Matterhorn was the last “great” alpine peak to be climbed in the Alps. See story below…

Hornli Ridge

We base in the beautiful Swiss village of Zermatt to attempt the famous Hornli Ridge.  Here we acclimatize by climbing smaller alpine objectives like: Pollux, Zinal Rothorn, or the Breithorn Half Traverse to prepare for the Matterhorn. These mixed (snow and rock) climbs involve similar terrain to the Matterhorn and are ideal warm ups before tacking the Hornli Ridge. The route up the Hornli is not hard, but it involves 4,000 feet of continuous exposed climbing!  There’s loads of 3rd/4th class climbing, about 600′ of hand-over-hand climbing up big fixed ropes, and the last 500 feet to the summit is steep snow up the North Face. With aid from lots of fix protection, modern gear, and years of experience guiding the Matterhorn, we are able to safely guide up and down the Hornli in 8 to 12 hours from the hut. Timing depends a lot on current conditions, fitness, and individuals experience moving through similar terrain.

Climbing the Matterhorn requires deft foot work, excellent endurance and a tolerance for exposure. Climbers should be capable of climbing 5.5 in mountain boots and comfortable on 60 degree snow and ice. The peak is only guided 1 to 1 to provide maximum security. On our programs with two people, we bring a second guide in during our summit attempts.

The tragic fall

Edward Whymper’s first ascent

In 1865 Edward Whymper led an expedition up the Hörnli ridge, which ended tragically when four of its members fell to their deaths on the descent. Here is the account of their historic trip.

Best time to Climb the Matterhorn:

The Matterhorn requires relatively dry conditions to climb. Quite commonly the most reliable period to catch good conditions on the mountain is mid-July to the first week in September.

Matterhorn Photos

Matterhorn Itinerary:

Day 0 Arrive in Zermatt no later than today. Meet for dinner, equipment check, and go over itinerary.
Day 1 Ride the Gornergrat train from Zermatt and we head to the Riffelhorn.  Local guides have used the Riffelhorn as Matterhorn training for decades.  It’s a great piece of rock with many easy to moderate multi-pitch climbs.  We climb in our mountain boots and work on good footwork and efficient movement.  At the end of the day, we take the train back to Zermatt for the evening.
Day 2 Depending on conditions we will either climb Pollux, the Breithorn Half Traverse, Zinal Rothorn, or one of the glacier peaks south of the Schoenbuehel Hut. These classic alpine mixed routes are perfect training for the Hornli Ridge and offer beautiful views of the surrounding Swiss Alps. That evening we will spent the night at one of the high alpine huts in preparation for another summit, which also helps us acclimatize to the higher altitudes.
Day 3 We take an early start to climb another one of the peaks mentioned above or potentially another objective nearby.  There is lots to choose from, but it will ultimately depends on the weather and everyone’s fitness.  Afterwards we head back to Zermatt for the night.
Day 4 Today we get to sleep in.  Then around 12pm we take the gondola to Schwarzsee Paradise.  From there, it’s about two and a half hours of easy hiking to the Hornli Hut at 10,696 feet.  We get situated in the hut, have a nice dinner and try and get as much rest as possible before the big climb.
Day 5 With a pre-dawn start (usually around 3:30 to 4:30 am), we ascend the original Whymper route up the Hornli Ridge.  There is dramatic photo opportunities abound as we ascend the exposed ridge that involves a 3rd and 4th class rock scramble and some belayed 5th class steps. After negotiating a section of snow and ice, we reach the summit at 14,687 feet. We will descend back to Zermatt via telepherique after our descent.

Getting To and From Zermatt:

The three closest international airports are Geneva, Zurich and Milan. Below are the road distances and times (if you rent a car), duration by train (if you choose public transportation) and what you can expect for fares:

Geneva: Car: 235 km taking 2.30 hrs., Train: 3.45 hrs and costs 90 SFR / person, hourly departures.
Zurich: Car: 350 km taking 3.30 hrs., Train: 4.5 hrs and costs 120 SFR / person, hourly departures
Milan: Car: 230 km taking 3 hrs., Train: 4 hrs and costs 80 Euro / person, around two hour departures

Find your exact departures times at the Swiss Rail website.

Forest McBrian with Hornli hut below

Price Includes:

  • – IFMGA guide for 5 days
  • – All guide expenses; travel, lift tickets, lodging, and food
  • – Technical equipment

Price Excludes:

  • – Travel to and from Zermatt
  • – Hotel and Hut fees
  • – All Meals
  • – Rescue insurance
  • – Travel insurance
  • – Gratuities

Pertinent Info:

Alpine Trips

IFMGA & AMGA certified guides