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East and north face of the Matterhorn, at the light / shadow border the Hörnligrat

East and north face of the Matterhorn, at the light / shadow border the Hörnligrat

height 4478  m above sea level M.
location Border Canton Valais ( Switzerland ) / Region Aosta Valley ( Italy )
Mountains Valais Alps
Dominance 13.7 km →  Liskamm -West summit
Notch height 1031 m ↓  Col Durand
Coordinates , ( CH ) 45 ° 58 '35 "  N , 7 ° 39' 31"  O ( 617049  /  91670 ) coordinates: 45 ° 58 '35 "  N , 7 ° 39' 31"  O ; CH1903:  617049  /  91670
Matterhorn (Valais Alps)
First ascent July 14, 1865 by the 7-person rope team Edward Whymper , Michel Croz , Charles Hudson , Francis Douglas , D. Robert Hadow, Peter Taugwalder (father), Peter Taugwalder (son)
Normal way Hörnligrat (northeast ridge) from Hörnlihütte III + (ZS)

The Matterhorn ( Italian Monte Cervino or Cervino , French Mont Cervin or Le Cervin , Walliser German Hore or Horu ) is 4478  m above sea level. M. one of the highest mountains in the Alps . Because of its distinctive shape and its history of ascent, the Matterhorn is one of the most famous mountains in the world. For Switzerland it is a landmark and one of the most photographed tourist attractions.

The mountain stands in the Valais Alps between Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia . The east, north and west walls are on Swiss territory , the south wall on Italian territory.

The Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt provides interesting information about the Matterhorn .

History of the name

In general, the mountain peaks got their names late in the mountains, but the pass crossings and Alps below mostly earlier. In 1545 Johannes Schalbetter named today's Theodul Pass as "Mons Siluius" (German translated Salasserberg) or German Augsttalberg. With Augsttal the valley of Aosta (Latin Augusta Praetoria Salassorum) is meant, the Aosta valley .

"Siluius" was then very likely misinterpreted in terms of folk etymology via the supposedly Latin "silvius" and "silvanus" to French and Italian "Cervin / Cervin (i)". In 1581 the Matterhorn was first mentioned as Mont Cervin , as did Mons Silvanus and Mons Silvius later . In 1682 Anton Lambien called today's Matterhorn Matter Dioldin h [orn] (Matterhornspitze) to demarcate it from the pass of the same name, which was still called “ Matterjoch ” until the middle of the 19th century (for example on the Dufour map ).

In the local population, the mountain is also called ds Hore (= the Horn, Zermatt dialect) or ds Horu (= the Horn, Upper Valais dialect).


The Matterhorn is a karling , and its characteristic shape was created by erosion and glacier grinding in the ice ages . The Matterhorn is part of the Dent Blanche Nappe of the Lower Eastern Alps , i.e. a piece of debris of an Eastern Alpine overburden pushed far to the west onto the Pennine nappes of the Western Alps . The lower rock layer of the Matterhorn, which extends up to the height of the Hörnlihütte , is Penninic, i.e. western Alpine. The comparatively small horn itself sits on this base and belongs to the Dent-Blanche ceiling, namely the lower part up to the "shoulder" of the Arolla series made of orthogneiss and metagabbros and the uppermost part of the Valpelline series made of highly metamorphic paragneiss the Dent Blanche ceiling. To put it simply, the Matterhorn consists of two different, sloping rock packages. Today's Matterhorn glacier only emerged again in the pessimum of the migration period after the optimum of the Roman period .

The characteristic "Matterhorn cloud" that forms on the leeward side of the summit.
The "Matterhorn Cloud"

A special feature is the characteristic "Matterhorn cloud". It is an outstanding example of a type of cloud that meteorologists refer to as a banner cloud : like a mighty flag, the cloud forms on the leeward side of the summit as an almost constant companion of the mountain. The most plausible explanation for its origin is the following: The Matterhorn towers over the surrounding mountains like a tower, so that leeward vortices form on it, which lead the moist air from the valley upwards, where condensation and cloud formation occur. Once the peak level has been reached, the cloud is captured by a horizontal branch of the leeward vortex, which leads to the typical flag shape ( leeward vortex hypothesis ).

First ascent

Accident on the Matterhorn July 14, 1865, legal basis and decision of the Visp District Court

Since 1857, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to climb the Matterhorn, mostly from the Italian side. The Englishman Edward Whymper once fell about 60 meters.

In 1862 John Tyndall climbed the southwest shoulder for the first time with the guides Johann Josef Benet , Anton Walter, Jean-Jacques and Jean-Antoine Carrel , today's Pic Tyndall. The continuation of the ascent along the Lion Ridge seemed impossible to them. Whymper still saw the Lion Ridge as not feasible. He therefore tried to persuade his friend Jean-Antoine Carrel to climb from the Zermatt side. He insisted on going up from Italy.

In July 1865 Whymper learned by chance from an innkeeper in Breuil-Cervinia that Carrel - without notifying Whymper - had gone back to the Lion Ridge. Whymper felt misled and hurried to Zermatt to put together a group there for an immediate attempt over the Hörnligrat. On July 14, 1865, the 7-person Whympers rope team made the first ascent . The group climbed onto their shoulders over the Hörnligrat, and further up, in the area of ​​today's fixed ropes, they dodged into the north face.

Edward Whymper was the first to reach the summit because he cut himself off the rope before the summit and ran ahead. He was followed by the mountain guide Michel Croz (from Chamonix ), Reverend Charles Hudson , Lord Francis Douglas , D. Robert Hadow (all from England) and the Zermatt mountain guides Peter Taugwalder father and Peter Taugwalder son. Carrel and his group spotted them far below on Pic Tyndall. During the descent of the first climbers, the front four of the rope team (Croz, Hadow, Hudson and Douglas) fell fatally above the so-called "shoulder" over the north face. On Saturday, July 15, 1865, on Sunday, July 16, 1865, and in the days that followed, Josef Marie Lochmatter and the rescue teams set out to provide first aid to the victims of the first ascent. A rescue team was able to recover three of the dead on July 19 on the Matterhorn glacier. Lord Francis Douglas' body was never found.

On July 17th, Carrel, together with Jean-Baptiste Bich and Amé Gorret, also managed the ascent over the Lion Ridge to the summit by traversing from the northern end of the Italian shoulder through the uppermost west face to the Zmutt Ridge (so-called Galleria Carrel) and climbing over this completed.

The anniversaries of the first ascent of the Matterhorn are celebrated in the present. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary on July 14, 1965, Swiss television showed an international live broadcast of a Matterhorn ascent with the participation of mountain reporters from the BBC and RAI. On June 30, 1965, Swiss television showed the specially produced documentary Bitter Victory: The Matterhorn Story (director: Gaudenz Meili ). On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, a countdown clock was set up on the Bahnhofplatz in Zermatt on July 14, 2015, and in December 2014 a meeting point for the anniversary year, the so-called “Matterhorn Plaza”, was set up in the center of the city.


Flight around the Matterhorn
Glider flight on the Matterhorn with DuoDiscus from 5200 m altitude (March 16, 2014)

The most frequently used ascent route is the Hörnligrat from Zermatt via the Hörnlihütte (northeast ridge, ZS +). It represents the so-called normal route, i.e. the easiest ascent. At 4003 meters above sea level, northeast below the summit, there is a bivouac for emergencies, such as sudden weather changes and delayed weather, the Solvayhütte , which is looked after from the Hörnlihütte and has 10 emergency camps. There are other ascent routes on the southwest ridge over the church roof-like Pic Tyndall (also known as the Lion Ridge or Italian Trail , ZS +), on the northwest ridge ( Zmuttgrat , S) and on the southeast ridge ( Furggengrat , SS, little used). There is also an ascent route through the forbidding north face. B. Walter Bonatti , is elected.

Routes over the ridges

Northeast ridge «Hörnligrat» (normal route)

  • Difficulty: ZS + , with UIAA grade III + rock climbing
  • Time required: 5–6 hours
  • Starting point: Hörnlihütte (3260 m)
  • Valley location: Zermatt (1608 m)
  • First ascent: July 14, 1865 by Edward Whymper , Reverend Charles Hudson, Douglas Robert Hadow, Lord Francis Douglas, with the mountain guides Michel-Auguste Croz, Peter Taugwalder and his son
  • First winter ascent: January 31, 1911 by Charles F. Meade with Josef Lochmatter and Josef Pollinger
  • First ascent: 1898 by Wilhelm Paulcke

Northwest ridge or «Zmuttgrat»

Southeast ridge or «Furggengrat»

Southwest ridge or "Lion ridge"

In 1992, Hans Kammerlander and Diego Wellig managed to climb the Matterhorn four times over its four ridges in 23 hours and 26 minutes.

Routes through the walls

East wall

East wall

North face

North face

  • Difficulty: SS , with V. UIAA grade rock climbing
  • Time required: 12-14 hours
  • Starting point: Hörnlihütte (3260 m)
  • Valley location: Zermatt (1608 m)
  • First ascent: July 31 / April 1 August 1931 by Franz and Toni Schmid
  • First ascent: July 22, 1959 by Diether Marchart in 5 hours
  • First ascent in winter: 3rd / 4th February 1962 by Hilti von Allmen and Paul Etter
  • Winter single ascent: February 1965 by Walter Bonatti , on a new and more difficult route, with 3 bivouacs
  • First ascent by a woman: July 14, 1965 by the Swiss woman Yvette Vaucher
  • fastest solo ascent by Dani Arnold in 1h 46min on April 22, 2015
West wall

West wall

South wall

South wall


Ascents and deaths

2500 to 3000 mountaineers try to conquer the summit every season, over 100 mountaineers on peak days. 70% of alpinists choose the easiest and most famous route over the Hörnligrat. Around 80 rescue missions must be carried out by helicopter per season.

Since the first ascent, not a year has passed without a fatal accident on the Matterhorn. Eight to ten people die in accidents every year. Over 500 people have died on the Matterhorn since the first ascent more than 150 years ago, the majority of them on the Swiss side. No other mountain in Switzerland has so many mountaineers dying. Between 1981 and 2011, 223 alpinists were killed on the Swiss side, 207 of them from falls, 5 from falling rocks, 3 each from frostbite, falling into a rope or as a result of a search. 21 fallen alpinists have not yet been recovered and are still missing.

A dead skier found on the mountain in 2005 was identified in 2018 as the Frenchman Joseph Leonce Le Masne (* 1919), who was missing in 1954.


It took the Italian Bruno Brunod 2 hours and 12 minutes to climb in 1995. The Spaniard Kilian Jornet broke this record in 2013 and climbed the mountain from Italy in 1 hour and 53 minutes. Including the descent, Jornet achieved a time of 2 hours and 52 minutes.

On April 22, 2015, the Swiss Dani Arnold undercut this record by a full 7 minutes. He managed the fastest solo ascent of the Matterhorn north face in 1 hour 46 minutes.

The Zermatt mountain guide Richard Andenmatten has climbed the Matterhorn over 850 times.

The Zermatt mountain guide Ulrich Inderbinen climbed the Matterhorn 371 times, most recently at the age of 89.



  • As a great admirer of the high mountains, the Geneva painter Albert Gos became, to a certain extent, the “court painter” of the Matterhorn.
  • The prominent pyramid-shaped summit head served the Tobler chocolate company as a model for their « Toblerone ».
  • The Valais writer Pierre Imhasly created a literary monument to the Matterhorn in his long poem Maithuna / Matterhorn .
  • In 1959, a 1: 100 scale replica of the Matterhorn was opened at Disneyland Resort in California.
  • A 5.98 meter replica of the Matterhorn has stood in the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg's Speicherstadt since 2007 .
  • In 1911, the German chemist Otto Hahn , who later discovered nuclear fission and won a Nobel Prize, climbed the Matterhorn and celebrated the successful industrial production of radium 228 (Mesothorium I), which he had discovered in Berlin in 1907, at the summit.
  • A Matterhorn Railway, first planned in 1890, was to continue the Visp-Zermatt Railway (opened in 1891) from Zermatt to the center of the Valais Alps - one branch to the Gornergrat ( 3,135  m above sea level ), the other to the Matterhorn. In contrast to the Gornergratbahn , the opening of which was celebrated on August 20, 1898, the Matterhornbahn was never realized.
  • In 1950, Count Dino Lora Totino planned a cable car from Cervinia to the summit of the Matterhorn. The Alpine Museum in Zermatt then filed an objection with 90,000 signatures to the Italian government, which approved the protest and declared the Matterhorn a natural wonder worth protecting.
  • In 1988 Reinhold Messner was enraged when he was climbing the Matterhorn face when he suddenly found a kiosk run by Art Furrer with souvenirs and gossip press, and threatened to complain to the “mayor”. The action was part of the show Do you understand fun? and is considered to be one of the best episodes of all time.
  • In 2012 Miss Switzerland Linda Fäh , accompanied by her friend Lorena Oliveri, two mountain guides and a camera team, climbed the summit. The then 24-year-old did not recognize the most famous mountain in Switzerland in the Miss Switzerland election in 2009 and saw the action as reparation.
  • In 2014, billionaire Richard Branson organized the Virgin Strive Challenge charity event by bike, canoe and on foot from London to the Matterhorn. His son Sam, accompanied by two mountain guides, reached the summit with a sharp headache and completely disoriented and had to be flown down to the valley by helicopter. "Virgin" founder Branson observed the events from a helicopter.
  • In 2017, the Nuremberg branch of the Alternative for Germany party advertised better medical care in rural areas in the 2017 German federal election campaign with an Internet election poster showing the Matterhorn with the slogan: Get your country back.
  • From March 2018 to probably October 2019, a replica of the Matterhorn has been hanging upside down from the ceiling in the 100 meter high airspace of the gasometer in Oberhausen and is staged by several projectors using a 3D projection.

See also


  • Daniel Anker (Ed.): Matterhorn. Mountain of mountains. AS Verlag, Zurich 2015. ISBN 978-3-906055-30-5 .
  • Uli Auffermann : The great Matterhorn lexicon. The Matterhorn from A – Z. (With over 800 keywords). Schall-Verlag, Alland 2014, ISBN 978-3-900533-79-3 ( online ).
  • (Ed.): Focus Matterhorn. Zermatt history and stories. Rotten-Verlag, Visp 2015, ISBN 978-3-906118-13-0 .
    • (Also in the same publisher DVD: Focus Matterhorn - Im Banne des Berg ).
  • Kurt Lauber, Sabine Jürgens: Matterhorn. Mountain guides tell. Summit stories collected. Droemer, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-426-27659-4 .
  • Reinhold Messner: Crash of the sky. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-10-002424-4 .
  • Beat P. Truffer: The History of the Matterhorn. First ascents, projects and adventures. 6th, updated edition. Aroleit-Verlag, Zermatt 2007, ISBN 978-3-905097-19-1 .
  • Beat P. Truffer: Matterhorn DVD. Aroleit-Verlag, Zermatt 2015, ISBN 978-3-905097-24-5 (1:18 film, 1'001 photos, 17 e-books, 1 audiobook,
  • Edward Whymper: Matterhorn. The long way to the summit. Introduction by Silvain Jouty. AS Verlag, Zurich 2005. ISBN 3-909111-14-9 .
  • Edward Whymper: The first ascent of the Matterhorn. Matterhorn 1865. Published by Hermann Kemetmüller. Web-Site-Verlag, Ebersdorf 2006, ISBN 3-935982-69-0 .

Web links

Commons : Matterhorn  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The geological development of the Central Alps. In: Website by Andreas Ebert, 2001 (diploma thesis).
  2. Hans Häckel: Clouds and other phenomena in the sky . 2nd Edition. Ulmer Naturführer, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-8001-6935-1 , p. 176-177 .
  3. Terra X Tatort Matterhorn ( Memento of the original from May 18, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , March 13, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Press release by SRF DRS on the 100th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn
  5. Zermatt celebrates Matterhorn anniversary. . In: Exclusive travel. January 14, 2015, accessed January 14, 2015.
  6. Yvette Vaucher - 50 years ago she stood on the Matterhorn. In: . July 14, 2015.
  7. ^ Dani Arnold: New speed record on the Matterhorn. In: April 30, 2014.
  8. ^ A b Stefan Bachmann, Marina Brähm: Death on the Matterhorn. (PDF; 2.31 MB) In: Observer . September 2012, accessed April 3, 2015 .
  9. Matterhorn dead identified after a Facebook call, July 29, 2018, accessed July 29, 2018.
  10. Kilian Jornet climbs the Matterhorn in record time. In: NZZ . August 21st, 2013.
  11. New speed record on the Matterhorn: Dani Arnold beats Ueli Steck. In: climb. Retrieved June 8, 2016 .
  12. God's pyramid. In: Retrieved November 6, 2016 .
  13. Christine Schemmann: The second life of Otto Hahn. The Nobel Prize winner was an excellent mountaineer. In: The mountaineer . 46th vol., No. 8, 1979. pp. 472-473.
  14. ^ Johannes Schweikle: Tragedies on the Matterhorn. ( Memento of the original from July 23, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Merian . June 16, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. Best of Understand Fun: Kiosk on the Matterhorn. In: YouTube (video).
  16. Kurt Felix even made the victims laugh. In: The world . May 19, 2012, accessed April 3, 2015 .
  17. The Matterhorn as a TV star: Documentaries show the past and present. ( Memento of the original from April 3, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Zermatt website. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  18. The "Miss Switzerland" candidates do not know the Matterhorn. In: SRF . August 20, 2012, accessed April 3, 2015 .
  19. Richard Branson's son Sam nearly had an accident on the Matterhorn. In: Freiburger Nachrichten . September 5, 2014, accessed April 3, 2015 .
  20. "Get your country back" - AfD advertises with a foreign mountain. In: The world . August 16, 2017. Retrieved August 16, 2017 .
  21. The mountain is calling - Gasometer Oberhausen. Retrieved June 18, 2019 .