Monday, 20 October 2014

Matterhorn North Face

Matterhorn is quite a spectacular mountain. It is definitely nice to look at, but climbing it is more like fighting with a pile of rubble. Well, at least most years (See here, for example). This year was different. Due to wet summer, there was plenty of ice everywhere. And the classic north face has formed into an enjoyable ice climb. With the excellent weather forecast for the weekend we had to get on it.

Frieder and I left Zurich at noon on Friday to get to the base of the Hornly ridge, where we pitched our tent as it was getting dark. Saturday morning saw us romping up the first snowfield, just to miss the turnoff to the wall proper. Some downclimbing later we traversed back into the route and started up the ice runnels.

Early start. In the dark we missed the exit of the snow ramp into the face.

Frieder on the right track now.
The parts of the route that went up were pretty secure with thick enough ice, sometimes even for some screws. They were also very fun and at times pretty steep. The ice runnels were linked by several traverses which were a bit sketchy and less generous with protection. Fortunately, they were short-lived and soon enough we would be back on the secure ice track again.

Perfect conditions. Plastic ice and neve.
Some sketchy traversing.
Frieder midway up the face.

One of the final traverses.
Final meters
Summit traverse
After the steepness receded, we soon reached the final meters of the Zmuttgrat and then got onto the summit. A few more hours later, we were having dinner in the Solvay hut. After a long day we decided to sleep in on Sunday and started the descent of the Hornly only at 10 am. In the hindsight, perhaps that was a bad choice, since the copious snow on the ridge was quite wet and insecure by then. The whole ridge malarkey took us most of the day and in the end we had to run fast down to Zermatt to catch the last train to Zurich.

Ready to run down !

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