Zermatt: Summiteers on the Matterhorn

It was a big moment for mountaineers Matt Anderson and Jeremy Allyn. After a six-hour ascent they were standing, crampons strapped on, at 4,478 metres above sea level. Emotions were high: following serious foot injuries, the ‘Team Mended Foot’ had finally climbed the Horu.

“How can anybody not want to climb the Matterhorn?” Matt answers my question with a smile. “The Matterhorn symbolises the experience of mountaineering like no other mountain can. Its form is complete; it is famous across the world. No mountaineer can ignore the Matterhorn – nor can any non-mountaineer!”

It was 4.15 a.m. on a chilly summer’s morning when the friends stood, waiting, at the Hörnli Hut. That day, around 100 people wanted to try for the summit of the mountain of all mountains – more than half in guided parties under the care of the Zermatt Mountain Guides. It had snowed overnight: nervous tension was in the air.

“Along the classic route, the stone is as if polished due to the amount of people that have walked on it, and is therefore slippery even without snow,” explains Matt, who spent many years working as a mountain guide in his native America. Many of the some 60 people who set out before him returned prematurely due to the weather conditions – which was good news for ‘Team Mended Foot’, because there would be less of an onslaught of people on the mountain.  

“For experienced mountaineers, the other people on the Matterhorn are the greatest obstacle to completing the ascent and descent safely and in good time. The Matterhorn is technically not extremely difficult, because the infrastructure is so good,” says Matt. “All exposed passages are well prepared. Along the most difficult section, there is a bivouac for emergencies.”

Matt and Jeremy eventually left – helmets, ropes, karabiners and crampons in tow – to climb the 1,220 metres from the hut to the narrow summit. It was a beautiful day by the time the friends reached the summit at midday, the snow melted by the sun. “The Matterhorn is a big mountain – when you are at the top, you definitely feel proud!” And especially when it is the first big climb following a serious foot injury.