Matterhorn vs. Mont Blanc: Which one should I climb?

mountaineering
Updated:
May 3, 2024
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Guidezone

Mont Blanc (4,809m) is the highest mountain in the Alps, and Matterhorn (4,478m) is arguably the most recognizable mountain in the world due to it's pyramid shape. Deciding which one to climb can be hard, but the climbs are very different to each other. This guide offers a detailed comparison between the two. In this article, we make a comparison between the climbing seasons, skill requirements, preparation, and booking tips to help you pick the right peak for your abilities and goals.

Climbing Seasons: When to Go

Matterhorn Season

The ideal time to climb the Matterhorn is July to mid September. The mountain opens for climbing in July, and it's typically warm and dry until mid September. After that, it's more common with snow at the peak, which makes the climb harder and sometimes, undoable.

Mont Blanc Season

The ideal window to climb Mont Blanc is from June to September. During these months, the weather is generally more stable, providing safer conditions for ascent.

Skill Level and Preparation

The Matterhorn

Route

The Matterhorn is renowned for its imposing and rugged routes. Climbers must have advanced technical skills in rock climbing. The ascent involves navigating sharp ridges and steep faces, demanding excellent physical condition and strong mental resilience. Preparation should be thorough, with climbers acclimatizing to high altitudes and engaging in rigorous physical training. Navigation on this mountain can be very tough, and it's easy to get lost (and thus, off track). Knowing this route is really important.

Difficulty

  • UIAA Grade: IV+ (on the International Scale of Difficulty)
  • French Alpine Scale: AD (Assez Difficile/Quite Difficult)
  • YDS (Yosemite Decimal System): Class 5.4

The Mont Blanc

Route

Though it's a long climb at high altitude, Mont Blanc is less technical than the Matterhorn. It is preferable for those looking to tackle their first 4000-meter peak, requiring solid alpine climbing skills and good physical fitness. The routes are more forgiving than those of the Matterhorn but still require climbers to manage long stretches at high altitude. Training should include endurance workouts and practice in glacier travel.

Difficulty

  • UIAA Grade: II (on the International Scale of Difficulty)
  • French Alpine Scale: PD+ (Peu Difficile+/Slightly Difficult+)
  • YDS (Yosemite Decimal System): Class 3

Do I Need a Mountain Guide By My Side?

Mountain guides are not required by law for climbing Mont Blanc nor Matterhorn. However, for safety and success on either mountain, hiring a mountain guide is deeply recommended unless you are highly experienced in alpine terrain - especially for the Matterhorn. Guides not only enhance safety but also provide valuable insights into the mountain’s conditions and history. On the Matterhorn, guests that are accompanied by certified mountain guides get to start earlier than the other people. This is to reduce traffic on the mountain, since guests with guides typically completes the climb faster than the other climbers.

Guide-to-Guest Ratios

Matterhorn: A strict 1:1 guide-to-guest ratio is imperative due to the demanding nature of the climb. This personalized attention ensures that you can navigate the challenging terrain safely.

Mont Blanc: A 1:2 guide-to-guest ratio is typical, allowing a guide to support two climbers simultaneously. This ratio is feasible because the climbing routes can accommodate slightly larger groups without compromising safety.

Booking Your Climb

Matterhorn: In advance booking is recommended, particularly for the peak summer months. Guides are in high demand, and their availability can be limited. It’s wise to plan your climb at least several months ahead. However, if there are spaces available at the Hörnli Hut, and you have a guide - you're good to go.

Mont Blanc: Booking early is crucial, often six months in advance, to ensure a spot in the mountain huts, which are necessary for a climbing the Mont Blanc. The spots of the huts are released in December the year before. The popularity of Mont Blanc means these slots fill up quickly, particularly during the optimal climbing season.

Conclusion: Which One Should I Climb?

Deciding whether to climb the Matterhorn or Mont Blanc depends on your climbing experience, your desire for technical challenge, and what you hope to get out of the experience. Here are some considerations for each:

Matterhorn, if:

  • You Seek a Technical / Advanced Challenge: If you thrive on steep, technical ascents and have solid rock skills, the Matterhorn is the better choice.
  • You've Already Climbed 4000m peaks: If you've completed a few 4,000m peaks, and are comfortable in differnt terrain, the Matterhorn is a great challenge.

Mont Blanc, if:

  • It's Your First 4000m Peak: Mont Blanc is a fantastic option for climbers looking to summit their first 4000-meter peak due to its slightly less technical nature.
  • Prefer Longer Endurance Climbs: If you prefer endurance over technical difficulty, Mont Blanc’s routes offer long climbs that test your stamina and physical fitness.
  • You Want the Highest Peak in the Alps: It's a peak that most people know, and the highest peak in the alps (visible from many resorts). If you want to knock it off your bucketlist, it's for you

Each mountain offers a unique climbing experience tailored to different skills and preferences. Consider what aligns best with your personal climbing goals, technical proficiency, and the type of adventure you seek.

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Guidezone team

Skiing and mountaineering experts

We are a group of outdoor enthusiasts who love adventure. At Guidezone, we connect people with professional mountain guides to safely enjoy the mountains, for both skiing and mountaineering.

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