I am writing this post as Tony is scrubbing the apartment clean because we have decided to end our Alpine trip a week early due to the upcoming poor weather. Now watching Tony do all the cleaning isn't the only reason we are finishing the trip on a high. My highlight of the trip was climbing the Matterhorn (4478m), my highest peak to date, via its North Face, the Schmidt Route (TD+). An iconic mountain which has called out to me ever since I had set eyes on it and it was great to climb it.
|Murdoch and Tony set for 5 hours of walking|
Our success on this mountain was due to a failure on the Grande Jorasses where Tony, Murdoch and I walked for 5 hours from the Montenvers train station to our bivi site. After 40 minutes of digging to make a suitable site we scoped out the base of our objective, the Demaison/Gousseault (ED2) and then settled down for a cold, unsettled sleep. Unfortunately everything didn't go to plan and after 3 pitches we decided to call it a day as time had disappeared before our tired and heavy eyes. We didn't want to be pushed for time to say the least.
|Team shot at 8.30 at the Hornli Hut (Photo:Tony's camera)|
So another failure on the Grande Jorasses for me. It seems when I fail on this mountain, I have success elsewhere. Last time I failed here on the Croz Spur I ended up climbing the Eiger North Face
. This time success on the the Matterhorn.
|Murdoch (right) and I somewhere on the route (Photo: Tony)|
On arriving in Zermatt we took the ski lifts up and made the 3 hour walk to the Hornli Hut from Trockener Steg station. On arrival to the Hornli Hut we realised that we would not have the face or the summit to ourselves, it was the weekend after all. Infact there were about 12 other teams, that's over 24 climbers! Not a pleasant number to be involved with. So we decided to just get going after a rest and some food. We left in darkness just before 20.30. Conditions were perfect, not a breath of wind and not another climber out of bed. We initially soloed until we got too the first tricky bit. From there Tony led the first section, I led the middle section and Murdoch took us to the Zmutt Ridge.
|Murdoch climbing to my belay before he takes over to the Zmutt Ridge|
We each only belayed once, when we ran out of gear, just moving together on our single rope, placing gear now and again. After 7 hours of climbing we found ourselves at the top in darkness with only the surrounding glow from the street lights 2km away.
|Happy on the summit (my camera, 8th attempt)|
It was perfect, we didn't get clogged up in other peoples ropes, we didn't get hit by ice and we had all the time in the world. We did want sunrise on the summit but unfortunately we were 3 hours early so we decided to make our way down. A friend had said 'don't underestimate the descent'. He was right. It was long, very long, Especially after climbing the 1100m route after no sleep and in the dark.
|Murdoch and Tony happy to be at the Solvay Hut|
|Murdoch not quite keeping his eyelides open in the Solvay hut|
We ate and drank and then off we went. The descent was a bit off a blur for all of us, lack of sleep made for a slow and careful descent to the Solvay Hut at 4003m. We arrived at the hut at sunrise and squeezed inside and made a well needed brew.
|Tony and I just about staying awake|
Forcing our eyelids open, we knew we couldn't wait around, so after burning our lips and tongues on the boiling tea, we looked as lively as we could and continued down to the Hornli Hut where we had stashed our sleeping kit and some water. With a spring in our stride, or maybe a fatigue limp, we made our way down to the lift and onto Zermatt for a milkshake and back to our apartment for pizza and beers. Over all its been a great trip, a usual Alpine trip for me, some failures, some successes, some good weather and some bad, good partners, good food and needing a rest when I get home. Bring on winter (not in the next couple of days though)!
|Murdoch and I descending the Hornli Ridge (Photo: Tony)|
|Packing up after a successful ascent (not our tents) (Photo: Tony)|