Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sebastian's Website

Sebastian was the poor unfortunate who guided James, George and myself during our Mt.Blanc week. His superb website is as good as his guiding and is well worth a look. The video may make your mind up for you.

Sebastian's Matterhorn page

I have dropped him a note to get his views on how feasible it might be or otherwise.

Friday, 2 May 2008

All very interesting Mr Barlow, assume you have factored in Mrs B's housing plans....

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Some Very Initial Research

From Wikipedia Article

"...mountain guides take a large number of people up the Hörnli route each summer. By modern standards, the climb is fairly difficult (AD Difficulty rating), but not hard for skilled mountaineers. There are fixed ropes on parts of the route to help. Still, because of the scale of the climb and inherent dangers, inexperience, falling rocks, and overcrowded routes, several climbers die each year. The usual pattern is to take the Schwarzsee cable car up from Zermatt, hike up to the Hörnli-hütte (elev. 3,260 m/10,695 ft), a large stone building at the base of the main ridge, and spend the night. The next day the climber rises at 3:30 am, so as to reach the summit and descend before the regular afternoon clouds and storms come in."

From Mountain Vision

"What is the level of previous experience required? You need to expect to be on your feet for at least 10 hours. Some experience of scrambling would be useful - but you do not need to be a rock - climber for the Hornli ridge. The most important factor in a successful ascent is adequate acclimatisation - the mountain is approaching 4500m. We would recommend ascending to at least 4000m a few days before."

From the Climb the Matterhorn section of Ski Zermatt site.

"The ascent is no longer considered 'difficult', but be aware that more fatal mountaineering accidents have occurred on the Matterhorn than on any other Alpine peak."

Its also worth looking at the photo that this quote was found on as it gives an insight into the sort of terrain that we will be climbing/scrambling on. I am not sure whether this is the hut we would stay in, or the one where we get to stop for a cuppa half way up. In fact look at all the photos, it tells a certain story!

Alpine Guides is full of moments that give me encouragement and others that suggest we give this idea up! The recommended fitness level required (level 3) is the same as Mt.Blanc yet they indicate that Mt.Blanc is beginner stuff whilst the Matterhorn is categorised as a Advanced along with their Eiger trip (thankfully south face route!).

"A long and difficult climb by any route, the mountain requires good levels of fitness, alpine experience and favourable conditions for success."

The International School of Mountaineering rates the climb as Difficulty 3, Fitness 5. The same as their Mt.Blanc climb.

"Perhaps the most famous peak in the world after Everest, the Matterhorn is a superb summit demanding fitness, determination and a level of competence on both rock and ice."

"The traditional 'high season' for the Matterhorn is mid-July till the end of August. Recent hot summers have extended this and at the same time made weather patterns generally less predictable. We accept bookings for the Matterhorn from early July into September."

"Some scrambling or lower grade rock climbing experience is essential, with the ability to climb at grade III (British Very Difficult, USA 5.4) in mountain boots as a minimum. "

(I am pretty sure that British Very Difficult is actually considered to be ridiculously easy but don't quote me on that)

Mt Blanc Guides state the following:

"The mountain's popularity however can sometimes cause people to underestimate the skill and fitness levels required to make a safe ascent. The ability to move quickly and confidently over long sections of technical ground is absolutely essential, and timescales must always be rigidly adhered to. Descending the Matterhorn often takes considerably longer than climbing it, and getting caught in bad weather high on the route must be avoided at all costs. "

"you should be aware that success rates on the Matterhorn are considerably lower than on less technical mountains like Mont Blanc for example"

Alps Adventure provides some encouragement for those of us who don't like exercise as they suggest only level 2 fitness described as "You run/cycle (or equivalent) 2-3 sessions per week. ie you climb/bike/walk or run regularly at the weekends, plus once or twice during the week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 4-5 hr hillwalk, cycling 30 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exausted". However the level of alpine skill sounds a bit more scary: "You already did some climbs (ice or rock) you’re aiming at more serious route or some famous summits such as Matterhorn. You need to improve your skills."

My Impression
  • Fitness levels similar to Mt.Blanc so definitely do-able from that point of view
  • With a bit of time on the climbing wall, the "technical" level is very achievable
  • The key challenge is the exposed nature of the climb (think more sustained and at times more demanding than the ridge up to Guiter Hut) that will require a good head for heights and the ability to deal with brown trouser moments on a sustained basis
  • Likely to be expensive as 1 to 1 guiding is required.
  • We are also going to have to subject ourselves to a longer build up and a bigger summiting window (three days as opposed to one) so may be a 10-14 day trip.

In summary - I am not put off yet!