Amazing Ridge Climb

Yesterday ended up being completely rained off – the whole upper mountains were closed and we spent the day in the village, visiting the Matterhorn museum, drinking coffee and walking on some pretty paths up the sides of the valley. Consequence being that the Eiger is now officially off.

With the weather being what it was, the Matterhorn was covered in snow and made impossible to climb for a couple of days, so we’ve pushed our attempt on it back to tomorrow and the day after. Tomorrow we’re heading up to the Hornli Hut, and the following day, starting at 4am, we’ll be off on our summit bid.

With not moving up to the hut today, we spent the day on the ridge that was meant to be the climb on the second day of this trip. It was amazing. The route is called the Brighthorn traverse, and took us up a beautiful snowy plain up to a knife edge ridge with three rocky steps in it. It was probably the most technical mixed climbing we’ve ever done, and was incredibly exposed. Again, this had many elements of very real rock climbing, but in boots and crampons, and with the sides of the mountain absolutely falling away on each side of you. Such, such fun.

The scenery was stunning and for the most part the weather was perfect. Blue skies and very little wind along the ridge (thankfully), although at the beginning of the day we were buffeted quite a lot with hail stones and snow picked up by the wind.

With the change of plans, after the Matterhorn we’re planning on trying to climb another classic peak around here called the Weisshorn. So we’ll see what happens with that in due course. Today was tiring, with going up to over 4,000m, catching the sun a little, and the physical challenges of the climb. I didn’t get rid of the slight altitude headache I got until dinner this evening, but hopefully the acclimatization process will pay off for tomorrow and the day after.


Change of Plans

Being in the mountains, you always have to relinquish some control. All over world, whichever mountains you’re in, you have to realise that you’re not the boss; the mountain and the weather take those positions. The Matterhorn and the Eiger are notorious for their non-complient-with-carefully-made-plans weather patterns, and so just one day into our trip and plans have already changed.

We were hoping to get some ridge work at altitude done today, but the whole upper sections of the mountains were closed due to high winds, and so instead we went on a really exciting gully climb for the late morning/early afternoon. Down here in the valley it was still nice and warm, and we were climbing (using the term very loosely) in a really beautiful gully with the glacier water from the Matterhorn rushing down the middle of it. It was one of those climbs where there were sections where you were constantly repeating “Oh my God, oh my God” to yourself because you couldn’t quite believe what you were doing. For example, climbing along the side of the sheer walls of the gully, quite high up, with a fast river below you, standing on single metal nails drilled into the rock face and with nothing else beneath your feet. It was exhilarating and wonderful fun. It also included rope swings over the river, and some abseiling and such like. Basically, just a fun day. Nothing particularly challenging or hard work, just fun.

Because of the change in plans and the weather predictions, we’ve pushed our Matterhorn attempt back by one day, and are going to try and get up to the ridge that was meant to be today, tomorrow. Although that could be unlikely looking at the weather forecast for the morning… Hopefully all will work out, and we do have a weather day built into the holiday for exactly this reason.

I’m really enjoying climbing in the Alps in general – it makes a huge difference coming back at the end of the day to a nice village, a hotel room, hot shower and internet access! Could definitely get used to this.


Back In The Mountains

After an admittedly long hiatus, my dad and I are back in the mountains doing what we love. I’ve decided to write a blog again, and I hope maybe someone might be interested, but if not – it’s been a great way for me to record our trips and memories for the future. And has been a really good basis for parts of the book I am in fact in the process of writing! It might be a long time coming, but I will finish it. Someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

It’s been over a year since our last climb and to say much has changed in the meantime would be an understatement. For my dad, this climb comes after his supposed “resignation” from mountaineering and after an impressive double operation on his knee and leg to fix up his many knee injuries – an operation that he’s still in the process of recovering from. For myself, this comes after the completion of my first year of university and after recovering from PTSD following our last epic adventure. Our Everest expedition opened our eyes to the harsh realities of mountaineering and the ruthless twisting of the media, but how much the entire experience affects you is something that only time brings out; every part of your life is touched in some way, and, as a young adult, my character has been moulded over the Seven Summits in a way very different to how it could otherwise have turned out. The sense of accomplishment is a long time coming, and the immediate response, at least for myself, was to dive straight into dedicating my time to helping others – because reality shock is a huge drive to try and work to righten wrongs in the world. However, over time, you begin to realise the wider affects of the climbs, achievements and circumstances, and to feel the urge to get back into the mountains.

Digression over, now onto the present. At this moment in time, we’re in the picturesque village of Zermatt, Switzerland, in a beautiful, lush valley overlooked by the Matterhorn. We’re on a 9 day long climbing trip in the Swiss Alps and are aiming for both the Matterhorn and the Eiger, plus a couple of day trips from this valley. So, today we spent the day climbing a small peak (well, kind of peak, more of a very big rock) called the Reiffelhorn. It was stunning. And so much fun.

It was basically a day of refreshing our technical skills and getting used to the feel of these boots, and we spent most of it rock climbing. And by that I mean properly rock climbing near vertical rock faces, in solid Alpine boots. Interesting to say the least, but brilliant too. It was the most perfect day, we had clear blue skies, near 30C temperatures, the most stunning backdrop and a challenging, exciting climb. And I’m pleased to say that my dad’s knee help up fine too. I didn’t even get sunburnt. Definite success.

We’re not in a team or with a group this time, but are with two guides called Seth and Dillan, who, so far at least, seem awesome and evidently pretty good at what they do. That’s pretty much it for now, but really looking forward to some brilliant looking ridge work up high tomorrow. Ttfn.