The Matterhorn on the Italian-Swiss border

The Matterhorn

The famous Matterhorn is located in the Alps on the very border between Italy and Switzerland, which runs clearly on top of the mountain.

The shape of the mountain resembles a regular tetrahedral pyramid. And its facets are oriented to the sides of the world. The slopes of the mountain are incredibly steep. The maximum steepness of the slopes reaches 37 degrees. Therefore, they almost no snow, because all of it constantly comes down with avalanches.

The height of the Matterhorn is 4,477.5 meters. This is not the highest mountain on the planet, but definitely one of the most difficult to reach in the world. That is why this peak was one of the last in the Alps, which managed to conquer man.

History of the conquest of the Matterhorn

It is known that up to 1865 recorded more than a dozen attempts to conquer the peak Matterhorn, but he remained impregnable.


The first successful ascent is dated July 14, 1865. A group of seven climbers under the leadership of Edward Wimper managed to climb the highest point of the Matterhorn along the ridge of Hernli on the Swiss side. It must be said that the ascent was quite successful, but the descent was unsuccessful. Because of a broken rope on the descent four people died.

Just 3 days later that year two more climbers managed to conquer the Matterhorn on the ridge of Lyon from Italy. After that the ascents began to take place quite regularly.

On the Matterhorn

How the height of the Matterhorn was measured

The Matterhorn Peak rises to 1,042 meters above the surrounding landscape. But the absolute height above sea level has been measured several times, and each time with different results.

For the first time in 1792, using a navigational measuring device sextant and a 50-foot chain, carried out measurements. The data of the calculations turned out to be 4,501 meters above the sea.

In 1868, using a barometer, calculated the height of 4,505 meters.

In the early 20’s of last century the height of the Matterhorn was calculated to an accuracy of 50 cm. The result is 4,477.5 meters.

Even at this scientists have not calmed down, and in 1999, using GPS-technology, measured the height of the peak with an accuracy of up to 1 cm. Its height was 4,477 meters and 54 cm.

The Matterhorn

Matterhorn today

Now the peak is a famous hiking and climbing site in the Alps. Every year thousands of climbers try to conquer the Matterhorn. The first popular route up is the way of the first ascent (from the Swiss side), and the second respectively way of the second ascent (from the Italian side). It is possible to conquer the Matterhorn and the other ridges, but these paths are much more difficult and hardly in demand.

Every year several people die climbing the peak. According to some estimates, more than 500 climbers have already died on the Matterhorn since 1865, making it one of the deadliest mountains in the world.

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Mountaineers on the Matterhorn

Interesting Facts


  1. The conquest of the Matterhorn is considered the end of the so-called “golden age of mountaineering”. This was the name given to the period between 1854 and 1856.
  2. The Matterhorn lies on the watershed boundary between the Ron River basin in the north and the Po River in the south. The Rhône, in turn, is famous for meeting another river with a completely different color in the Geneva area and creating an amazing natural phenomenon – the Merger of the multicolored Rhône and Arves
  3. At the top of the Matterhorn, at the junction of the north and south slopes, you can see two peaks. The difference in height between them is just over 1 meter. The first peak is 4,477.5 meters high and is called the “Swiss Peak”. The second peak is 4,476.4 meters high. It is called the Italian peak. And these names are not connected with belonging to a certain country. These names were derived from the countries from which the first two climbs took place. Switzerland and Italy agreed that both peaks are on the border between the countries
  4. The image of the Matterhorn became the emblem of the Toblerone chocolate brand in the 1920s

Mount Matterhorn in Switzerland – the deadly peak of the Alps

The Matterhorn is one of the most recognizable peaks in the world. If you have never been lucky enough to visit the border of Switzerland and Italy, you can still easily recognize the characteristic shape of the mountain in the shape of a tetrahedral pyramid. Every year the Matterhorn attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists who come just to look at him and about 3 thousand climbers who want to conquer the top. But the Matterhorn in Switzerland is not only beautiful but also dangerous. It regularly kills people, so before the trip should be carefully prepared and assess their strength. In any case, no traveler will remain disappointed.


Photo: Matterhorn.


The southern face of the Matterhorn on Italian territory

South face of the Matterhorn

Let’s start with the information – where is the Matterhorn mountain. The landmark is located in the Peninsular Alps and runs between the two states of Switzerland and Italy. The slope on the south is in Italian territory, the other three sides belong to Switzerland.

The Italian name of the mountain – Monte Cervino – comes from the French Mons Servinus and means “forest mountain”, and from the German name “Matterhorn” translates as “meadow” (Matte) and “peak” (Horn)

Interesting fact! The peak is at a distance from the other peaks of the Alps, this makes it possible to see the mountain and feel its magnetism.

The height of the Matterhorn is almost 4.48 km (4,478 m, to be exact). Behind the outward attractiveness are steep slopes and rockiness. That is why for a long time the landmark in Switzerland was not conquered by climbers.

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The mountain profile clearly shows two peaks a hundred meters apart. The state border runs directly between the peaks, respectively, one is called Italian and the other is called Swiss.

Useful to know! The height of the Italian peak is only 1 meter lower than the Swiss.

The mountain in the Alps is remarkable for its strict geometric proportions. Outwardly it resembles a pyramid of irregular shape, the sides of which are located in the direction of the world.

Matterhorn covered by snow

In the cold season the mountain is completely covered by glaciers and snow. However, in summer the sun melts the snow, a small amount remains only on the eastern and northeastern side.

Important to know! The mountain in the Alps is characterized by steep slopes, for this reason there are frequent rockfalls and avalanches.

Practical information

Zermatt village


Tourists stay in one of the villages:

  • In Switzerland, the town of Zermatt;
  • On the territory of Italy – the settlement of Brei Cervinia.

Separates the villages Theodoul Pass. Ski slopes are laid at an altitude of 4 km, but the real extremists and professionals prefer to climb higher in the Alps.

Matterhorn in the Alps

Photo: Matterhorn is a mountain in the Alps.

Historical facts

Theodul Pass

At the foot of the Matterhorn in the Alps first people settled during the Roman Empire. In the first century BC, the Theodulus Pass was used for trade between north and south Europe.

Interesting to know! Ancient tribes did not dare to settle on the slopes because they believed it was the place where the devil lived. Most likely, the belief arose because of the intimidating appearance of the mountain and frequent avalanches.

In the 19th century in England there was a movement of like-minded people who wanted to conquer the most dangerous slopes. Groups of climbers went to all the slopes of the Alps, but even Mont Blanc conquered people faster than the Matterhorn. Those wishing to reach the peak gathered at the foot many times, but did not dare to climb.

Climbing the Matterhorn

Given the peculiarities of the geographical location of the mountain – in Switzerland and Italy – there are two ways to make the trip – from the territory of each state.

Climbing the Matterhorn

Because of its unusual shape – almost an equilateral pyramid – the mountain has attracted climbers for centuries and has a rich history with unusual and tragic facts. Hiking the slopes requires:

  • rope skills;
  • the ability to move on the rocky terrain;
  • the ability to organize insurance;
  • the rules of safety.

Before climbing it is necessary to take a training course, and on the way to use the help of a guide.

It is important to know that on the Swiss side the route is as easy as possible; there are ropes and safety equipment in the most dangerous places, and huts for rest; if bad weather happens during the ascent, you can wait it out in an emergency shelter.


The height of the mountain in the Alps is about 4.48 km, so the question of preparing for the conquest of the Matterhorn in Switzerland should be worked out in advance and make sure that you have enough strength and stamina for this difficult challenge. You should also pay attention to acclimatization in the mountains. In good weather on the narrow sections of the routes of ascent can meet dozens of tourists, so the guides recommend the utmost care and attention.

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What to be Wary of

The main danger of the Matterhorn in Switzerland is the unpredictable weather. The clouds here are low and envelop the peaks, forming a stable thick fog. Sometimes at a distance of one meter you can’t see anything. The weather can change within a quarter of an hour. In addition to the fog, mountaineers are also exposed to storms and snowfalls. Given the speed at which the weather changes, finding shelter from bad weather is very difficult.

Matterhorn in the clouds Rockfalls in the Alps

The greatest danger in the Alps is rockfalls. In some cases, they are provoked by tourists, and sometimes the rocks fall under the weight of the glaciers. Experts call this fact surprising – despite numerous avalanches and rock falls, the mountain has not changed its appearance over the centuries.

What you will need for the ascent
  1. Large backpack of 40 to 60 liters.
  2. The rug is at least 12 mm thick.
  3. Sleeping bag, in which it will be comfortable to spend the night at a temperature of +10 degrees.
  4. Special clothes and footwear: down jacket, fleece jacket, storm jacket, storm or trekking pants, thermal underwear, mountaineering boots. If you plan to climb in summer, it is advisable to take a change of underwear, a spare T-shirt and shorts. You’ll also need a hat, buff, socks, and gloves.
  5. Goggles or mask with UV protection (at least 3 factors).
  6. Trekking poles will help protect your knees from injury.
  7. Flashlight.
  8. Sunscreen (factor 50 at least), hygienic lipstick.
  9. Utensils – plate, spoon, mug, knife.
  10. Hygiene items – toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, towel, comb, other necessary things.
  11. First-aid kit: drugs selected individually, but be sure to take a bactericidal plaster.
  12. Mountaineering equipment – crampons, ice-axe, helmet, safety harness, carabiners.
  13. Thermos with hot tea.
  14. Identity papers.

If you want you can take a camera or camcorder.

History of ascents

The Alps have always attracted travelers, to date all the slopes conquered by man, but the Matterhorn Mountain in Switzerland was the last in the list. Beginning climbers have long had a superstitious fear of the mountain in the Alps.

Eduard Wimper

  • The first attempts to reach the mountain peak in Switzerland were made in 1857, but they were all unsuccessful.
  • In 1861 Edward Wimper, an artist from England, tried to reach the peak. He tried to conquer the southern slope of the mountain, accompanied by Swiss guide Jean-Antoine Carrel and his uncle. Their journey proved fruitless.
  • A year later, Wimper tried again to climb across the ridge in Italy. He climbed nearly four kilometers, but seriously injured his leg. That same summer, Tindal and Bennen climbed most of the mountain in Switzerland, stopping at the main shoulder, which today is known as Tindal Peak. Deep gorges along the way, however, stopped the climbers.
  • In 1863 Wimper tried again to summit the Matterhorn in the Alps, but a storm that overtook forced a return.
Scaliger Castle in Sirmione. Italy
First successful ascent

First ascent of the Matterhorn in 1965

A significant event is recorded in 1865, when Wimper devised and implemented a new plan to climb the southern slope of the mountain. An attempt to reach the peak on June 21 was unsuccessful – the way was blocked by a strong rockfall. Another ascent attempt on 14 July failed but was overshadowed by the death of the climbers.

Climbing in Switzerland were Edward Wimper, the Scotsman Lord Francis Duchlas, Charles Hudson, Robert Douglas Headow, Father Peter Togvalders, his son and Michel Crozat.

The group began the ascent up the slope of Hurnley; in his notes, Wimper noted that the route was easier than the route on the Italian slope. However, the mountain became steeper and more dangerous as it progressed to the summit. Edward Wimper and Michel Croz were the first to reach the goal. Tragically, as the group was descending, Headow, Croz, Hudson, and Douglas fell and crashed. Only three of the climbers could be buried, as Douglas’ body was not found on the glacier. The bodies of the other three men are buried in Zermatt.

Image by Jean-Antoine Carrel

Jean-Antoine Carrel

Who else managed the ascent:

  • July 1865 – Jean-Antoine Carrel;
  • 1871 – Lucy Walker;
  • August 1931 – Franz Schmid and Tony Schmid.
Climbing to the summit today

Today there are routes of varying difficulty levels to the Matterhorn in the Alps, but they are all designed for trained climbers familiar with climbing techniques. Climbing is possible at any time of year, but it will not be an easy walk.

Hearnley Hut

In the warm season it is best to climb along the Hurley Ridge, the route has a difficulty rating of AD. Safety ropes are in place throughout the ascent. From Zermatt to Schwarzsee Lake. From here you have to walk to the Hörnli Hut, here the climbers spend the night. The next day you should start at least at 3:30 a.m. only then you will be able to get down before dusk.

Good to know! In case of emergency on the way you will find “the Solvay Hut”.

  • Lion Ridge – difficulty AD;
  • Zmutt Ridge – difficulty D;
  • The northern part of the mountain – in the Alps this part is considered the most difficult and has difficulty TD+.
Wilhelmstein is a square island in Germany. Photo description

Statistics: 70% of climbers make ascents on the Hurnley route, 25% on the Lyon Ridge. The other routes account for no more than 5% of all climbs.

Tragic Incidents

Despite the fact that there are safety ladders along the entire route, climbers die every year on the Matterhorn. The main causes:

  • unpreparedness of hikers;
  • the choice of a difficult route;
  • large influx of those wishing to climb the peak;
  • natural disasters – the descent of glaciers and rockfalls.

Statistics! In the period from 1981 to 2012 on the slopes of the Matterhorn 223 climbers were killed, 203 of them – broke and crashed. In total, the mountain has taken the lives of over 500 people. This peak is officially recognized as the most deadly among the peaks in the Alps.

On a note! On what to expect when vacationing in winter at the ski resort Zermatt – calculate on this page.

Interesting Facts
  1. The famous peak Matterhorn is located in the Swiss Alps and it is characterized by a continental climate. Temperatures change as you move up the slopes, with average temperatures of -1 degree in winter and +18 degrees in summer.
  2. Matterhorn mountain, a symbol of Switzerland, is the prototype of the famous Swiss chocolate, it is produced in the form of two pyramids.
  3. Hermann Perrin, owner of a hotel in Zermatt and guide for climbers, gave his word during his lifetime that he would climb the peak 150 times. Perrin died at the age of 68 and unfortunately did not manage to climb the mountain only 8 times. Zermatt , there are no cars, you can get from the station to the city by horse-drawn carriage or by electric car. How to get to the resort from Zurich and Geneva described on this page.
  4. Bray-Cervinia is one of the favorite resorts of Italian youth.
  5. Attractions in Zermatt – mountaineering museum, climbing cemetery, cogged railroad. On the Klein Matterhorn mountain there is a unique glacial cave with a beautiful ice hall.

Now you know where the peak Matterhorn is, how to organize a trip and climb to the cherished goal. The trip is sure to be one of the most memorable and emotionally intense experiences of your life.

Watch this video for details on how to climb the Matterhorn and for useful hints and tips from the mountaineer.

Author: Julia Matyukhina.

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