Climbing the Matterhorn is not easy, not even via the Hornli Ridge. The mountain needs to be in good shape (read in good condition, without snow below 4000 meters), but above all you have to be ready, up to a big day of 8-9 hours in high altitude where you can count the minutes break on your two hnads fingers. Helen trained hard for this project, climbing in Snowdonia, long mountain hikes, and two weeks before our meeting when she climbed the Pollux and missed the top of Dufourspitze for a tiny bit. Upon his arrival at Chamonix, conditions on the Matterhorn were far from being perfect, but the high pressure was on its way back and some forecasted sunny and warm days made us hoping to give it a go in the latter part of the week. We started our training on the classic Cosmiques Arete, followed by the Crochues traverse on the Aiguilles Rouges, the traverse of the Entreves, and finally the real testpiece, Dent du Geant, where the wind and the cold made our climb epic. For me it was important to see how she was handling the fixed ropes, so we preferred to say Hi to Virgin Mary on the very top from Punta Sella and started abseiling down as soon as possible.
The news from Zermatt were getting better, the snow was melting on the Hornli Ridge but the good weather would not last long. So we decided not to have our day off as planned and jump straight in the car, direction Zermatt and try to summit on our sixth day, supposedly the last sunny day of the week.
The Hornli Hut was crowded but not too much, I like the pushing crowd at 4.50 in the morning, it reminds me those good old days when I was going to heavy metal concerts, trying to squeeze in and pushed myself into the crowd to be as closest possible to the front stage. Here fortunately the “squeeze” lasts just those few meters to the front door of the hut, once you and your partner are outside, then that’s your position in the line, no chance to overtake anymore. At the first fixed rope, the adrenaline is high, the guides pull it and climb fast as hungry wolves, and among the clients there are those who get it done easy and who start to puff hard and struggle with it.
Once you’re off the first fixed ropes you can catch your breath, but only for a little bit, as you get accross the first couloir the climb starts back again, there’s no time for a break, “You need to take control of your body again,” I always tell my rope mate, and I repeat it to Helen as she was a bit stressed by the brutal pace of the start. We got just below the Solvay Shelter with the first rays of light, we were on schedule, I swallowed a Twix bar and passed the other to Helen, a sip of tea and off we went, as here is the perfect spot to get the rid of some slower teams just before the Upper Moseley slabs. The summit gets closer, we got quick over the Shoulder and put the crampons just before the beginning of the summit fixed ropes. The first guides were already on their way down, and you pull like the last steep fixed ropes like a tractor to get into the flow of things up there.
High above the Second Roof, there is the last steep snow slope, a good track on the hard snow took us shortly to St. Bernard Statue, in two hours sharp from the Solvay we got our feet on top of the Matterhorn. Well done Helen! Just the time to snap some photos, to realize that her dream had come true, but remember you’re only 50% done once you’re on the top, maybe 48% I say. Now you have to get down this mountain, and it’s going to be tough as you’ll need at least the same time you took on the way up. You generally feel tired before the Solvay, we had a good break there, and then kept going down. Lowering, downclimbing, “keep going Helen” was by far my quote of the day. The Hornli Hut is down there, but it looks always so far away! Only once you are walking on the path before the first fixed ropes then you know you really made it, you sent the Matterhorn.
This is climbing the Matterhorn via Hornli Ridge, in my opinion. Gratuliere Helen!