A long, tough and brilliant day’s alpine mountaineering on the world’s most iconic mountain.
This is…The Matterhorn…
There can be few alpine climbers (or even armchair climbers!) who have not dreamed of scaling this strikingly beautiful peak. The classic route starts from the picture postcard Swiss alpine village of Zermatt and ascends the long and sustained (but not as steep as it looks!) ‘Hornli Ridge’. We spend 3 days preparing for the ascent in the equally famous alpine resort of Chamonix before moving east to Switzerland for the climb itself. We hope you can get in touch with plenty of time to plan, train and prepare for a safe & stylish ascent with us…
Our six day Matterhorn course begins in Chamonix which is easily reached from Geneva airport via a simple one hour transfer.
Climb the Matterhorn Aims
- Climb the Matterhorn, the worlds most iconic mountain
- Complete 3 high quality alpine training climbs based in the Chamonnix Valley. These will include rock, snow and mixed terrain to best prepare you for the styles of climbing on the Matterhorn
- Complete another classic alpine climb over Zermatt or Chamonix if weather and energy levels allow.
- Spend an enjoyable week in the high Alps and a sociable time during the 3 nights spent in mountain huts / hotel.
Climb The Matterhorn Facts & Figures
- Elevation: 4478m
- Position: Lat/Long Reference, 45.97980°N / 7.66020°E, Swiss – Italian Alpine Border
- First Ascent: E. Whympher, F. Douglas, DR Hadow, C Hudson, M Croz, P Taugwalder (Father & Son), 14 July 1865
- Hornli Ridge: Vertical height gain of 1220m from the Hornli Hut (3260m)
- Italian Ridge: Vertical Height Gain of 650m from Carrel Hut (3835m), and another 1000m from the Abruzzi Hut (2802m)
- Classic ‘High season’: Early July – early September
- The worlds 2nd most famous mountain!?
When To Climb the Matterhorn
The main season for climbing the Matterhorn is high summer (late June / early June to early mid September). This is when the summit ridges clear of snow and allow easier and swifter progress.
6 Day Matterhorn Itinerary
This is a suggested itinerary based on good weather. It may be necessary to change the programme to make best use of local mountain conditions.
Pre-Course fitness training and, if you have the time, training and acclimatisation training in the hills above Chamonix for a few days before the course starts. We can offer advice on how to get the most out of these pre-course elements as well as discussing appropriate equipment for the trip.
Days 1-3: Three quality training and acclimatisation days around the Mont Blanc Range & based in the Chamonix Valley. The exact climbs will be decided close to the time according to weather & conditions and based on your experience and aspirations. These climbs will include steep rock, ice and snow in ascent & descent to prepare for the terrain on the Matterhorn. Examples are the Aiguille du Peigne (3009m) in the Chamonix Aiguilles, Traverse of Les Perrons above Vallorcine, Traverse of the Petite Charmoz, Left Edge Route on Mont Blanc du Tacul, The Dent du Geant and many other Chamonix classics. Check our Chamonix Mountaineering Gallery for more information.
We usually spend the second night of this 3 day training period in a mountain hut to facilitate your acclimatisation for climbing high on the Matterhorn. This will give you a sleeping height of around 3000m+ in preparation for the night at 3260m in the Hörnli Hut.
Day 4-6: The Ascent of the Matterhorn. A deliberately leisurely day allows you to relax and let the training and acclimatisation soak in. After driving to Tasch we take the train to Zermatt, lift to Schwarzsee and an easy 2 hour walk to the hut. The Guide will often go and do an afternoon recce on the first part of the climb which is done in the dark next morning. Here you can relax and enjoy the magnificent position of the hut at the base of the Hornli Ridge. Breakfast is taken at 0400 and then a long but brilliant day of constant scrambling begins. We aim to climb and descend the mountain and are normally back to the Hornli Hut for lunch – Rösti is traditional!
Our preferred course plan then is descend to Schwarzsee for a night in the famous Hotel there. This offers a superb post climb ambiance and takes the time pressure of the descent as the last lift back to Zermatt is not required. This also gives us a potential spare summit day, for very fit guests, to climb on the last day of the course. There is also the option to climb the Breithorn or Pollux on the last day of the course although most of our guests are happy to have a relaxing evening and morning after the ascent of the Matterhorn!
If folk prefer, it is also easily possible to make the summit climb and descent to Zermatt that day and return to Chamonix. This is a slightly cheaper option generally as it does not require a mountain hotel night for guest & guide to be paid for.
Helen Harris, Matterhorn Summit Climb, August 2017
With thanks to ‘High Mountain Guides’ I have achieved my dream and climbed the Matterhorn! The Snowdonia training weekend proved so useful and I was pointed in the right direction with regard to my training programme. The summit day was definitely tough, just under 9 hours in total and certainly requires great stamina and endurance but it was a fantastic feeling when we arrived back at the Hornli hut for a celebratory drink! Thanks again!
FAQ’s about climbing The Matterhorn
How hard is the climbing (what grade is it?)
The technical grade for the Hornli Ridge (Normal route from Zermatt) is UIAA III which equates roughly to British V.Diff or U.S. 5.4. There would be a few sections harder than this without the considerable aid from the fixed ropes put in place by the Zermatt Guides. This grade is based on perfect conditions of dry, ice free rock on the steep sections. For those not familiar with these numbers the Hornli Ridge includes very sustained scrambling and a few short (less than 25m) pitches (rope lengths) of the lowest grades of rock climbing. These may feel fairly straightforward on a warm day with sticky rock climbing shoes but can feel a lot harder in the cold / dark / with bigger alpine boots and a rucksack on.
The more relevant grade is the overall Alpine Grade of Assez Difficile (AD). The technical difficulties of the Hornli Ridge are not great. The real challenge lies in the the length and commitment of this magnificent sustained major alpine route. All the hallmarks of a big ‘mixed’ alpine day will be encountered in abundance. A pre-dawn start; intricate route finding; sustained scrambling; short rock pitches; using fixed ropes; loose rock; snow and ice; descending, traversing, abseiling / lowering in descent. A long day on the hill.
What training & acclimatisation should I do?
LOTS! Unless you are an experienced mountaineer you will need to prepare for the physical and mental challenges of the Matterhorn well in advance. Rock climbing, scrambling and big days hill walking will all contribute to this in terms of your fitness, agility, sure footedness, ‘head for heights’ and ability to know and manage your own kit efficiently. Training in the gym or in other cardio sports is better than nothing as supplement but in no sense as an alternative to mountaineering based training.
The hills and crags of Snowdonia in North Wales and the North West Scottish Highlands provide superb opportunities for sustained days scrambling which will be excellent initial preperation once combined with some alpine and higher altitude training in the week or 2 prior to the ascent. There are many alpine areas which give excellent mountaineering training suitable for preparing for the mountain. The most obvious two in terms of the volume, quality and accessibility of high altitude rocky alpine routes are the Swiss Valais and the Chamonix Valley.
Acclimatisation (and preparation) to try a technical four and a half thousand metre peak should be taken over at least a 5-6 day period, ideally with at least one other high 3000m or 4000m peak climbed and a night spent sleeping at around 3000m.
How long does it take?
With a 0400 breakfast at the Hornli Hut and allowing for good conditions, a well prepared party and an average amount of time waiting for other parties the ascent will take 4-6 hours and the descent 5-6 hours. Longer than this and the team risk getting stuck high on the mountain, moving slowly in bad weather or just running out of steam descending in the heat of the afternoon.
What equipment will I need?
Go light! Please check our Summer Alpine Mountaineering Kit list for more information. Brief summary given here:
Quality pair of summer alpine mountaineering boots (e.g Scarpa Freney XT GTX, Sportiva Trango Extreme,) crampons, mountaineering ice-axe (c.50cm), harness with Screw gate karabiner and 8ft sling, helmet, rucksack (30-45L), head torch with fresh batteries, warm and windproof top and bottom layers, waterproof top and bottom layers, warm hat, thin gloves, medium gloves, 1-2.5 Litres of liquid, variety of snacks, sun glasses, very small tube sun cream, Insurance details, Cash (Swiss francs) for hut, Mobile phone…ear plugs for the hut!
What hazards are there?
Route finding is one of the major challenges of the Hornli Ridge as the actual crest is rarely followed , especially in the lower half. Getting off route means the rock is not well travelled and will be of poor quality (re-trace your steps back to where it was solid and try again). There is a narrow ‘strip’ which is the normal route and where the rock is well used, slightly paler, scratched by crampons and generally more solid than the rest of the mountain! Sticking to this can be difficult in anything other than perfect conditions. Snow / ice / dark / cloud / rain can all add to the difficulty of finding the right line. Other parties off-route present a considerable stone fall hazard to other teams on the mountain.
Due to the length and sustained nature of the route and despite it’s popularity the Hornli Ridge is a committing undertaking requiring both good conditions and good weather. With too much snow and ice on the lower sections the climbing will be much more time consuming and only very fast parties could successfully complete the climb in a day. To be caught out high on the mountain in an afternoon thunderstorm would be an ‘adventurous’ experience at best. Terrain that can be swiftly negotiated when dry can become painstakingly slow and difficult in a storm. The Matterhorn is no place to be caught out in bad weather. With this in mind parties attempting the ridge should be fit and acclimatised, practised at moving on similar rocky, mixed and icy terrain in ascent and descent and should wait for good conditions and good weather. These are most often found in the traditional alpine ‘high summer’ , July, August and the start of September.
What are the other expenses apart from hiring a Guide?
Welcome, to Zermatt, an amazing place, but get your wallet ready! Here is a brief summary of some expenses relevant to a short ‘summit’ visit to Zermatt to climb the Matterhorn. We usually park in Tasch and take the train to the village before taking the lift to Schwarzee and spending nights at Hornli Hut and Schwarzee Hotel, so these expenses are detailed below, 2017 prices…
- Tasch – Zermatt Train fare C. 33 CHF return.
- Parking in Tasch, C. 15 CHF / day
- Zermatt – Schwarzsee return lift costs: Adults: 33 Chf Plus the cost of your Guide at approx half price. Discounts for holders of SwissRail Pass (25% off) and Half Fare cards (50% off)
- Overnight stay at the Hörnli Hut: sFr.150. Small discounts for members of national alpine associations e.g. Alpine Club, BMC A.A.C, C.A.F. Plus the cost of your Guide at the same price. Prices for half-board (overnight accommodation, dinner and breakfast) are c. 150 CHF and 450 CHF for a double room. Check out the huts reservation page via the link here: http://www.hoernlihuette.ch/reservation_46.html
- Accommodation at Schwarzee can be checked out on their Schwarzee Hotel booking.com page.
You can pay with Euros in all the Swiss huts used. Some, not all, also accept credit cards and REKA cheques but cash is generally best. If you need to spend a night in Zermatt we can book good quality and value accomodation to suit a variety of budgets. We often use the Bahnoff Hotel which has a mixture of rooms including dormitory style accomodation from 40 CHF. Again you will need to cover the cost of your Guides overnight stay in Zermatt.
What can I say…I’m still in shock. 1 that I made it up and 2 that plan a came good after such a strange weather week. I can’t thank your enough. Mike has been amazing and the adaptability has really impressed. A wonderful week with great people. Here’s to more adventures.
Matterhorn Summit Strategy & Booking The Mountain Huts
Summer 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the infamous first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 by Edward Whymper and his summit companions, of which 4 died in a fall on the descent. After the mountain had first been climbed, more people came to visit, wonder at the iconic mountain view and, for a few, plan their own summit attempts. The Swiss Alpine Club thus provided the Hornli Lodge with 17 beds which served as Base Camp for visiting climbers or sightseers / walkers. Over the years this has had many rebuilds and in the summer of 2015, the latest version was completed.
The modern hut promises various significant upgrades regarding environmental standards and quality of stay. This should not be too difficult to achieve as the old hut was pretty grim! As part of the programme the Swiss Alpine Club Monte Rosa section has handed over the running of the new “Hörnlihütte” to the community of Zermatt who will now manage the hut.
These upgrades & shift in management have, unsurprisingly, resulted in a significant rise in hut fees! The hut was expensive before and now is well up there vying for the dubious accolade of being ‘most expensive high mountain hut in the Alps’!
As per the normal strategy – our courses make the approach to the hut on day 4 of the classic 6 day course and day 1 of the 3 day summit period. This means an early breakfast can be taken on day 5 followed by the summit attempt. Most teams climb the mountain on this day and return to the hut early afternoon for a drink & rest before the walk back down to Schwarzee and the lifts to Zermatt.
Folk wanting to take the ascent at a steadier pace, if the weather allows, sometimes opt to spend the night at the lower Hotel Schwarzee. This indeed takes some time pressure off the descent to reach the lift to Zermatt before it closes. A second night at the Hornli Hut itself achieves a similar aim with a shorter day and both of these do offer the possibility of a 2nd summit attempt on the final day (although this would be a long, tough & fast day from Schwarzee).
These 3 different options can thus be summarised as per below with the days referring to the 3 day summit period. They can all of course be disrupted at the time due to the prevailing weather & conditions on the mountain – but we choose a Plan A to run with in advance.
- Recommended – Climb to Hörnlihütte on day 1, summit climb & descent toSchwarzsee on day 2. Day 3 return to Chamonix or spare poor weather day or additional climb.
- Climb to Hörnlihütte on day 1, summit & descent to Zermatt then Chamonix on day 2. Spare poor weather summit day or additional climb in Chamonix on day 3.
- Climb to Hörnlihütte on day 1, summit & descent back to Hörnlihütte on day 2. Descend to Zermatt then Chamonix on day 3 or spare poor weather summit day. This latter option is sometimes arranged but rarely used as we find most folk fast enough to make the summit in good time are back at the hut around lunch time and thus generally don’t want to spend a 2nd night at the hut. If you think you will be slower than this, you may not be fast enough, or, if you know you have good stamina but less speed, a 2nd night at Hornlihutte may be a good option.
Bookings can be made on the Hornli Hut Reservations Page. Each booking carries a 50CHF non refundable deposit (e.g. no refund for poor weather or any other reason) and a bed in a shared dormitory is 150CHF including dinner and breakfast.
Bookings can also be made for Hotel Schwarzee on their website. This is more of a hotel than a hut so reservations for the rooms should be honoured even in the event of poor weather etc whereas they are somewhat more flexible regarding their dortoir rooms.
Matterhorn Climber Experience & Fitness Pre-Requirements
An ascent of the Matterhorn by any route will be a long and tough day and you should be prepared for up to 11 hours of sustained mountaineering. High levels of fitness and stamina are required as well as head for heights and decent movement skills on scrambling and easy climbing ground. Basic but sound cramponing skills are also required. Folk preparing for this ascent should aim to spend lots of time in advance scrambling and easy rock climbing with a rucksack and mountain boots. We would be delighted to offer some guidance on suitable training peaks and routes and indeed have a suggested progression for UK based & alpine Matterhorn preparation courses.
Lots of training is required but the good news is that this involves a great journey with plenty of mountain days scrambling and climbing….
For UK based climbers we offer a series of Alpine training weekends based in either the Scottish Highlands or Snowdonia. These culminate in June with a quality Matterhorn training weekend where you can develop your scrambling and easy rock climbing skills and cover lots of terrain similar to the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn. This is an ideal way to hone your skills at the start of the summer when you are planning to make a summit attempt later in the season.
Alpine Matterhorn Preparation Courses
Here are some other relevant alpine courses. Also check out our UK Matterhorn Preparation Weekends.
Chamonix Mountaineer – A Chamonix based Matterhorn training week designed for folk who have climbed eg Mont Blanc or the Gran Paradiso and want to develop more technical skills on rock and mixed ground.
Climb The Weissmies – 3 Day course in the Eastern Swiss Valais climbing 2 excellent 4000m peaks which offer a steady technical progression with some easy rocky scrambling at high altitude.
Matterhorn Climb Reports
Check out Paul Antrobus’s entertaining Matterhorn blog of our ascent of the mountain in August 2015. Paul describes his experiences on the ascent and there are links to his fundraising page where he has raised over $220,000 for Cancer Research UK as part of a series of mountain climbing, skiing and running endurance challenges over a year.
Marc Adam, Matterhorn Ascent August 2016
The whole week with Tomaz was really great; he was good company, fun and enthusiastic, and with a clear love of the mountains. He was also able to get the most out of me with his patient determination and calm encouragement. Although I brought some challenging weather (again), necessitating a short acclimatising programme, the Matterhorn ascent was brilliant throughout, and the subsequent climbs in the aguille rouges and via ferrata made for a varied alpine adventure. Time to put my thinking cap on to dream up the next challenge! Thanks again.
2018 Course Dates & Prices
Our Matterhorn courses run between early July and mid September and usually include 6 climbing / guided days.
The maximum Guide to guest ratio is 1:2 for the training days 1-3 and 1:1 for the summit days 3-6.
Get in touch to discuss your own preferred dates and we can tailor make a programme with a rest day between the training & summit periods if preferred.
2018 Course Fee
£2250 per person based on 2 clients sharing a guide for days 1-3 and 1:1 guiding for days 3-6
£2945 based on an individual booking with 1:1 guiding for days 1-6
What’s included in the Price?
Our courses are priced on a ‘guiding only’ basis which means you pay the exact cost price for all other expenses like hotels, mountain huts and lift passes. These expenses amount to about 600 euros which includes 6 nights half board accommodation in a hotel & mountain huts & lift passes. You could reduce this figure if you wanted to stay in a gite or camp and increase it if you want to stay in a more luxury hotel.
- 6 full days mountain guiding with an IFMGA Mountain Guide
- Course planning. A tailor made itinerary and booking of mountain huts
- Car transport during the course
What’s not included?
- Valley accommodation. This course is based in Chamonix and a variety of accommodation options are available. Please see our Chamonix Accommodation Notes with overnight rates starting at C. 20 euros per night for guest house style accommodation through to 5* Hotel options.
- Mountain huts & lift passes, for you and the guides. Allow about 50 euros per night half board accommodation. The guides expenses are split between the group members and are discounted in huts, hotels and on lifts and trains. The best way to deal with these expenses is to make a communal group ‘kitty’ which you contribute to and all expenses are paid out of.
- Parking in Tasch and the train to Zermatt for both the clients and guides.
- Your personal mountaineering equipment – see our alpine mountaineering kit list and options for mountain equipment hire.
- Flights and transfer from the airport to Chamonix.
- Lunches, extra drinks, snacks etc during the course
Latest Matterhorn Conditions
Please check the comments boxes below for any recent reports from the Matterhorn. If you have been on the Mountain yourself recently please send us a conditions report so we can add it here….
6 July 2018, Wet & Grey Today In Zermatt But Decent Conditions In General On The Matterhorn.
After a very snowy start to the season, the last 2 to nearly 3 weeks of warm and sunny weather has stripped the Hornli Ridge back to mainly normal summer rocky conditions up to the Shoulder, and teams have been climbing the route this week, although it was not busy! It’s a wet and grey morning in Zermatt today but the forecast is for pretty good weather from this afternoon through to Monday. So it will be interesting to see how much fresh snow has fallen and thus how quickly it clears. There are plenty of teams circling to try an ascent on Sunday!
3 October 2017, Early Autumn Matterhorn Training – Based In Zermatt…
After a snowy September the Matterhorn is well plastered in snow and now well past normal summer conditions. That is not to say people are not trying to climb it! We made the ascent up to even Hornli Hut in snowy conditions, with crampons for the steeper section of zig-zagging path below the hut. The lower Hornli Ridge was well snowy but a team could be seen at around 3700 with a track leading up the mountain and various teams, mainly Russian, established in the Hornli Hut winter room. The hut was in good tidy condition with beds and blankets and a ladder providing access to its elevated winter position! We made a good traverse of the Breithorn before spending another stormy day walking back to Zermatt after an enjoyable early autumn night at Schwarzsee.
8 September 2017, 8 Out Of 12 To The Summit On Possibly The Last Day Of Season
Well done to team ‘QlueanAir’ who have been training for the last year, including doing 3 of our UK Matterhorn Training Courses and a Chamonix Matterhorn training programme as well. It paid off this week as they climbed the Dent du Geant as part of the training and then 4 out of our 6 guests climbed the Hornli today. The other 2 also did well in climbing both Pollux and the Breithorn half traverse.
Conditions are quite snowy at the moment with crampons on well below the Solvay Hut, however there were plenty of teams on the mountain and a good packed down track had formed which was stiff and frozen on the way up and stayed relatively firm for the descent. It looks like big storms arriving tomorrow with fairly cool temperatures which could plaster the mountain in snow and effectively bring an end to the classic summer season.
24 August 2017, 4 More To The Summit Today
Ben & Sarah and Albi and Helen all summited today. Sarah and Ben climbed from the Schwarzee Hotel adding another steady approach march to the already tough summit day, good job they are both fit as butchers dogs! Decent conditions prevail albeit with more snow now on the section of the Hornli Ridge above the Solvay Hut (at 4000m) thus somewhat harder going than the classic high summer conditions of ‘crampons at the shoulder’.
4 August 2017, Good Summit Conditions On The Hornli Ridge
After some snowy weather high on the mountain in July, the upper snow field conditions have improved and the lower ridge remains in pleasant rocky condition. Good swift ascent by Matt & Mike yesterday before descending for a relaxing night at Schwarzee Hotel to soak up the ambiance of the mountain, having just climbed it!
28 June 2017, Unusually Dry Start To The Season On The Hornli Ridge, Matterhon
A combination of a lean winter with low snowfall volume and now a warm late spring and hot start to summer have giving very dry early season conditions on the Hornli Ridge ascent. Whilst dry is normally a good thing, the upper snow field has been left in poor condition with the stripped back snowfield revealing extensive loose rock. Not a good place to be especially when busy. Hopefully some summer snow storms will glue this upper section of the mountain back together whilst the lower rocky section will remain dry!
29th August 2016, Good Dry Conditions On The Hornli Ridge
The continued warm and sunny late summer weather has developed good high summer conditions on the Matterhorn and many teams are climbing via the Hornli Hut and Ridge. The ridge is pretty dry until the shoulder and crampons were required above that for some sections of hard ice above there, on the fixed ropes and upper snow / ice field. Warm sunny weather looks set to continue for a while yet with the odd afternoon thunderstorm.