How The Matterhorn Created Modern Mountaineering 150 Years Ago


Zermatt, Switzerland – Matterhorn peaks through the sky like a medieval spear. Standing on its top, your crampon point bites into a blue ribbon, you feel as if I have been swallowed by the sky. Emptiness descended to make up for almost endless scenes from Switzerland in the north and Italy in the south.

The actual climb to the top of this symbol is very difficult and difficult, 5,000 meters (1,500 meters) of ruined towers, protruding walls, and steep edges, sloping down scattered with piles crumbling, it’s hard to imagine that the mountain was first climbed exactly 150 years ago.

A long time before the world became tired of Everest, mountain lovers were obsessed with the Matterhorn. Just 14,690 feet (4,477 meters), it has a change from the high peaks of the Himalayas (only half as tall as Everest). It is even close to asserting the title as Europe’s highest mountain, a title requested by Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus at an altitude of 18,510 feet (5,642 meters).

Matterhorn History

A long time before the world became tired of Everest, mountain lovers were obsessed with the Matterhorn

It is even the Alp – Mont Blanc, the highest of nearly a thousand feet and climbed from the beginning of 1786, due to its gentle slope, which does not require sophisticated technical climbing skills.

In contrast, Matterhorn emerged as an unforgiving steep pyramid with four ridges and four walls. To climb it, you really have to climb up to grasp the small ripples with your fingers, place your feet on the thinnest edges and pull your body straight up.

The stone is a crumbling gneiss, combined with a serious tilt, forcing you to constantly maintain the perfect balance, preparing for a hand or a place to give way at any time. It is a mountain that requires climbing capacity, courage and mental endurance.

Matterhorn History

Matterhorn is a mountain that requires climbing capacity, courage and mental endurance

Because of these factors, climbers historians regard the Matterhorn’s first ascendancy as the beginning of modern climbing. And like Everest, its first ascension story is a dense story with ego and ambition, passion and betrayal, courage and death.

Race to the Summit

In the mid – 1800s, two capable, deeply ambitious men were desperate to become the first person to stand on the top of Matterhorn: Jean-Antoine Carrel and Edward Whymper.

Carrel grew up in Valtournenche, a French-speaking town on the base of Italy’s Matterhorn. Like his father, Carrel is a professional hunter of chamois (the goat-like antelope) and has spent his youth exploring every valley and loop of rugged terrain, including the flank of Matterhorn. In 1860, after serving in his regional army during Italy’s second independent war against Austria, Carrel returned to his home and mountain with patriotic enthusiasm and determination to climb. peak. He made his first serious attempt that summer, reaching a height of 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) on what is today called the Italian Ridge.

Matterhorn History

Jean-Antoine Carrel and Edward Whymper were the first to climb the Matterhorn 

Whymper, an Englishman, also followed his father professionally and became an artist and wood carver. In the summer of 1860, when he was 20 years old, Whymper was commissioned by a London publisher to make a sketch of the great peaks of the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, and France. It was during this trip when he started studying climbing. He created some of the first shareholders, and he followed the Matterhorn’s mantra. From that summer onwards, he was also determined to become the first person to climb that inspirational peak.

The following summer, in 1861, Whymper tried to hire Carrel as a guide to climb the Matterhorn. “Jean – Antoine is the best climber I’ve ever seen,” Whymper wrote later. “He is the only person who persistently refuses to accept defeat, and continues to believe, despite all the frustrations, that the great mountain is inaccessible”.

Matterhorn History

Whymper tried to hire Carrel as a guide to climb the Matterhorn

But Carrel is not interested in sharing a certain reputation that will be given to the first person to reach the famous peak. As Gaston Rebuffat wrote in the book Men and the Matterhorn, “Carrel saw Matterhorn as his own and other people’s efforts to take it as an invasion of his territory”. “This monstrous jealousy,” Rebuffat wrote, made the English “want the conquest just for him”.

Whymper finds another guide and sets off to Italy Ridge, only to discover that Carrel is watching him. No man reached the top of that year, but their race to the top began seriously.

In the following years, Whymper made eight unsuccessful attempts to climb Matterhorn, and on many occasions tried to hire Carrel as a guide. Finally, in the second week of July 1865, Whymper met Carrel on the trail and once again asked him to be a guide. Carrel refused. Unaware of Whymper, Carrel is quietly making his effort on the Matterhorn with an Italian team. When Whymper knew that Carrel was trying to steal a march on him, he wrote that he felt the bamboo twitch and hugged.

Matterhorn History

Whymper used to make eight unsuccessful attempts to climb Matterhorn

Determined not to lose the climax to his opponent, Whymper managed to create a team of seven different experienced men: the mountain guide Zermatt Peter Taugwalder and his son Peter Peter. Hudson, who has a lot of experience in mountains, and two newcomers, the 18-year-old Lord Francis Douglas and Douglas Hadow, a 19-year-old Londoner.

Instead of trying to reach the Italian Ridge, they chose a route from the village of Zermatt in Switzerland, following Hörnli Ridge. They camped at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) in Schwarzsee on July 13 and were climbing before dawn the next morning. At 9:55, they were nearly 14,000 feet high, but then a layer of snow filled the gaps and the thin ice formed on the rock.

Matterhorn History

Whymper never succumbed to this beautiful mountain

Croz, who is most capable and confident in dangerous high mountain conditions, took the lead. After four careful hours, climbing the technique, the team was close to the top and back on relatively easy terrain. Excited, Croz and Whymper separated from the rope, leaving the others. After that, Croz and I, rushing, ran an ancient race, ending with a deadly heat, wrote Whymper. At 1:40 pm, the world is under our feet and the Matterhorn has been conquered. Cheering!”

But the Matterhorn has two peaks: the Swiss peak to the east is 14,690 feet, and the Italian peak, to the west, is only four feet lower, at 14,686. So just to make sure they were really the first to climb, the two of them crossed the Italian peak. When they look down at the edge, 600 feet below, they discover Carrel and his team and shout to their opponents. Carrel was distraught, he immediately turned around and started to go down. (He will return three days later to make the first trip of the Italian Ridge).

Matterhorn History

The Matterhorn has two peaks: the Swiss peak to the east is 14,690 feet, and the Italian peak, to the west, is only four feet lower, at 14,686

At that time, standing at the top of the most difficult peak ever climbed, Whymper wrote Carrel’s thoughtfully afterward: “He was a man, among all those who tried to reach the top of the Matterhorn, the one who deserved was The first person on the top”.

A Tragic Fall

The Whymper team is still on top for an hour and Whymper has used the time to sketch the panorama of the surrounding peaks. Later, the team worked together, and the tour guide Michel Croz led the lineage. At some point, the least experienced climber, Douglas Hadow, who was in second place, slipped and hit Croz from his feet. Suddenly both men were rolling in the air. Hudson and then Lord Francis Douglas was immediately pulled out of the mountain. Four men are falling. Whymper and two Taugwalder clung to the mountain with all their strength, hoping to catch their teammates, but the rope broke. Four men fell to their deaths.

Matterhorn History

From the beginning, the Matterhorn has killed many people

The three survivors were so injured that they could not move for more than half an hour. The Taugwalder cried in despair, the younger people sobbed, “We have died! We have died.” In the end, they began to descend, careful and frightened. Somehow they managed to keep moving until after dark, eventually bivouacking on a thin ledge.

Casually returning to Zermatt the next day, the men told their tragic story, but the shock was too great for the small mountain community. Rumors started and Taugwalder Sr. and Whymper is accused of cutting strings. The Swiss government began a three-day investigation. Each man is interviewed long. In the end, Whymper and Taugwalder were excused, but the controversy continued.

Matterhorn History

But there are still many people who want to conquer it

The Times of London denounced the rise and defeated the “total uselessness” of mountain climbing. Queen Victoria considers outlaws to be climbing. European newspapers have published accusatory editorials by writers who have never set foot on any mountain, let alone the Matterhorn.

However, for some, the spectacular deaths of a supposedly heroic nature seem to have bizarre properties – thinking that Everest – especially for those who have never witnessed the horrors of those Such events. In Whymper’s awakening, people from all over Europe suddenly wanted to climb the Matterhorn. In 1871, an English explorer named Lucy Walker became the first woman to climb the mountain. In 1881, Teddy Roosevelt, 23, climbed on it. In 1911, the last unconquered ridge of the Matterhorn, Furggen, was crowned, and 20 years later, the north and south sides were climbed.

Matterhorn History

The last unconquered ridge of the Matterhorn, Furggen, was crowned, and 20 years later, the north and south sides were climbed

And the climbers continue to pour into the Matterhorn, constantly finding new challenges. In May, the Swiss climber, Dani Arnold, broke the six-year speed record on the dangerous north face, racing for an hour 46 minutes, scrapping 10 minutes off the previous record.

In the Footsteps of Whymper

Denis Burdet, a professional guide of Swiss equipment company Mammut, and you like a much more deliberate pace when we regain Whymper’s legendary steps. In Hörnli’s six hours of going up and down, you couldn’t help thinking about a great achievement that it had achieved when climbing this route 150 years ago.

Both the Italian and Hörnli ridges offer much more challenging rock climbing and climbing challenges than the commercially guided routes used to bring customers to Denali, Rainier and Everest (albeit at a higher altitude and thinner air on those peaks creates other dangers and challenges. And Whymper and Carrel completed the feat by using hemp rope and leather shoes and tweed.

Matterhorn History

The next time people continue to follow Whymper’s desire to climb

As we climbed up, Burdet explained that for nine years, he was a micro-engineer designing Swiss watches, earning a good living, when he gave it all to the mountain. “I was on the left side of the window,” Burdet said. “Alpinism is my first passion, and I decided I must turn my passion into work”.

Since then, he has guided hundreds of peaks and descriptions of his work mainly managing a wide range of risks, especially for weak or incompetent customers, always calculating, always planning Plan for the worst. However, he still believes in simple old luck. “You must be lucky. If you are a climber with no luck, you have to stop”.

But the misfortune has haunted Matterhorn since Croz, Hadow, Douglas, and Hudson plunged into their deaths. Today, exactly 150 years after their death and since the first throne, tens of thousands of people have climbed the Matterhorn and more than 500 people have died trying more than Everest, Denali, and Rainier plus again.

Matterhorn History

Today, many people die unprepared when climbing the Matterhorn

After climbing up with Burdet, you walk through the Zermatt cemetery, which served as the Matterhorn’s graveyard. There are tombstones with ice axes and ropes carved into stone, tombstones with axes and crampons are actually mounted on stone, even a tombstone in which a crucified Christ is decorated like a mountain climber, axes and ropes hung on him.

Here, the tombs of arrogant and unprepared climbers lie side by side with seasoned guides who have also died in the mountains. Matterhorn, like all mountains, is indiscriminate. Jean-Antoine Carrel was killed in a snowstorm on the Matterhorn in 1890 but notable absences. His final resting place is Valtournenche, on the Italian slopes.

Matterhorn History

So if you want to conquer it, you need to be professional

The Birth of Mountain Culture

As much as the first rise of the Matterhorn has changed mountain climbing, it also changes mountain culture. The book Whymper flanking about his first ascension, Scrambled Amongst the Alps, published in 1871, became the world’s best-selling book and tourists began flocking to Switzerland in the summer. The vast majority are not climbers, they simply want to go up the valleys to see these extraordinary peaks and often hire local shepherds and hunters to guide them. With the advent of alpine skiing in the early 20th century, tourists began traveling to Switzerland in the winter, bringing the tourism industry year-round.

Matterhorn History

As much as the first rise of the Matterhorn has changed mountain climbing, it also changes mountain culture

As a result, climbing, at least in part, helped convert Swiss mountains from impoverished rural waters into major tourist destinations. Later, this successful formula was implanted in the western United States, starting Sun Valley, Vail, Jackson Hole, as well as many other mountain towns in the world, from Nepal to Peru, Pakistan to Patagonia.

To mark Whymper’s daring climb in the Matterhorn, Zermatt will host a series of events, including a subsequent play of climbing and tragedy, a team of speakers of mountain and climbing culture. Mountains and many parties will attend the Night Festival and for good reason. The first enthronement of the Matterhorn not only changed the climb but also changed the mountains themselves.

Matterhorn History

Matterhorn not only changed the climb but also changed the mountains themselves

By: Love The World

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