Climbing The Matterhorn: What You Need to Know

mountaineering
Updated:
April 29, 2024
Image:
The Matterhorn

The Mountain

The Matterhorn (4478 m.a.s.l), known for it's pyramidical shape, attracts climbers from all over the world. It's one of the most (if not the most) recognized mountains in the world, making it a bucket list climb for many. This climb can be challenging and requires preparation. This article covers the route selection, what you need to know before your climb, and how to handle the route's challenges.

The Most Common Route: The Hörnli Ridge

Though the Matterhorn can be climbed from all four ridges, the Hörnli ridge is the most common. It begins at the Hörnli hut at 3,260 meters. This route is renowned for its breathtaking views and historic significance, having been the first successful path to the summit in 1865. The climb is direct and challenging, involving rocky terrain and steep inclines.

The Hörnli hut. Image: Zermatt Tourism

What to Know Before Booking

Physical Fitness and Difficulty

Climbing the Matterhorn via the Hörnli Ridge demands excellent physical condition and technical climbing skills. Climbers should have experience in high-altitude mountaineering and be comfortable with exposed, steep rock climbing. The Hörnli route is rated AD (Assez Difficile, or fairly difficult), which involves extensive scrambling and climbing. Some parts of the climb feature steep rock sections, reaching up to grade 4+ on the UIAA scale. This corresponds to about 5.4 on the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) and roughly F4 on the British grading system.

Best Time to Climb The Matterhorn

The best time to climb the Matterhorn via the Hörnli Ridge is from July to mid-September. During these months, the weather is most stable, and the conditions are safest for climbers. The mountain opens for climbers on July 1st. Weekends are typically busier, with huts often fully booked weeks in advance.

Essential Gear and Equipment

To climb the Matterhorn, you need specialized equipment such as a climbing helmet, harness, ropes, carabiners, and suitable boots for mixed climbing. Warm, layered clothing is essential due to the cold temperatures and variable weather conditions. Sometimes crampons and ice axes are needed. Best here is to check with your guide what you need to bring, as it can be dependent on the conditions.

Climbing gear

Acclimatization

Acclimatization is crucial for a successful ascent of the Matterhorn, particularly given its high altitude and the physical demands of the climb. To prepare your body for the elevation, spending several days at altitude and engaging in shorter climbs before attempting the Matterhorn is highly recommended. Breithorn (4164 m), Pollux (4092 m), or Riffelhorn (2929 m) are all good options for this.

Navigating the Climb

Key Challenges

Navigating the Matterhorn presents unique challenges, as the mountain features multiple routes, each with varying levels of difficulty and terrain complexity. The overlapping paths and the similarity in the rocky landscape can make it easy to stray off course. Some sections of the mountain are particularly deceptive, requiring a sharp sense of direction and familiarity with the specific route nuances. It's crucial to discuss your chosen path in detail with your guide before setting out and pay close attention to their advice during the climb.

Going with a Mountain Guide

Climbing the Matterhorn with a guide is crucial for safety, efficiency, and success. Guides bring vital knowledge of the mountain’s terrain and weather, which is crusial for safe navigation. They manage technical sections that require advanced climbing skills, ensuring you tackle these challenges securely. Moreover, guides handle all logistics like permits and hut reservations, allowing you to focus solely on the climb. With a strict guide-to-climber ratio of 1:1, you get personalized attention that significantly boosts your chances of a successful and safe summit. Going with a guide, you also get to start earlier from the Hörnli hut, which makes the experience more unique.

What to Expect During the Climb

During your ascent of the Matterhorn via the Hörnli Ridge, expect a variety of climbing experiences. The route starts with large boulders and rocky paths that gently introduce you to the mountain’s terrain. As you move higher, the path becomes more vertical, requiring the use of fixed ropes to aid your climb through steeper sections.

Further along, the climb involves some scrambling over compact rocks and moving across narrow ledges that test your balance and technique. The final stretch to the summit is the most exhilarating, as you navigate sharp, high ridges with breathtaking views all around.

Conclusion

Climbing the Matterhorn both challenging and rewarding. It requires good fitness, the right equipment, and experience in climbing - along with some good preparation. Make sure to spend a few days getting used to the high altitude before you start, and consider practicing on nearby peaks like Breithorn or Pollux. It's also important to climb with a guide who knows the mountain well. Starting early in the day helps you use the stable morning weather to reach the summit and come back safely.

Do you want to climb the Matterhorn? Reach out to us here for availability and more info!

Guidezone favicon. A red zone icon.

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.

More postsOur adventures