The Matterhorn is likely the most iconic mountain in Europe, quite possibly, the world. It rises dramatically above Zermatt, a chic Swiss mountain town. And while the peak is incredibly scenic and undoubtedly imposing, you don’t actually need to be a hard-core climber to stand on the summit. Of course the Matterhorn should never be taken lightly—but it’s within reach of many adventurous outdoors people.
Success on the Matterhorn means moving safely and efficiently in exposed 4th class terrain. There are some steeper steps here and there, but the majority of the climb is more about keeping pace and having good navigation and good rope skills. The climbing involves everything from exposed hiking, easy 5th class climbing, steep snow, exposed ridges and even some ice here and there. Dealing with the crowds on the mountain is an art unto itself, which is quite foreign to many climbers coming from less crowded North American peaks—and your guide will be key in navigating that part. Lastly, as with any big mountain objective, keeping to a time schedule is imperative. Weather can come in later in the day and snow will become soft and more dangerous in the afternoon, so it’s important to get an early start and get down at a reasonable hour.
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To stack the odds of success in your favor, your clothing system needs to be dialed. That means not stopping every 1 5minutes to adjust your attire. Most of my ascents include no more than three or four breaks during the entire climb. These are typically at transition points, or waiting on other climbers. Having a good layering system is key for being able to move for long periods of time without overheating or getting chilled. Below are my favorite products from OR that come with me on every ascent.
Voodoo Pants: These are softshell pants that breathe well and work well in a wide range of temperatures.
Ferrosi Convertible Pants: On warm-weather ascents, I use these zip-off pants. With these, I hike to the hut in shorts and add the legs for the ascent. For me, they’re not as warm as the Voodoo Pants, so I often add a base layer with this system.
Helium Pants: Throw these in your pack because they weigh nothing and you’ll be happy if the wind picks up or you get caught in rain. They act as extra insulation, as well.
*On most days I skip a base layer, but on really cold days a light pair of running tights like OR's Pentane Tights will do the trick.
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Echo LS Tee: This shirt is comfy, light, and wicks moisture and dries quickly—a perfect base layer.
Radiant Hybrid Hoody: This hoody is very breathable and adds a good amount of insulation when you’re on the move.
Whirlwind Hoody: When the wind picks up, this does the trick. It's still plenty breathable, but just enough to cut the chill. Another good option is the Ferrosi Jacket.
Transcendent Down Hoody: This almost always goes on near the summit or at the summit. If you get stuck waiting for any reason, this is a must to have in your pack!
Helium II Jacket: Like the pants, if you get caught out in bad weather, you will definitely want it. It doubles as a shell for added insulation or if it is windy.
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Direct Route Gloves are a must for the mountain. You’ll be climbing up lots of fixed ropes and these grip well, protect your hands and provide enough insulation when you’re moving. Throw in a pair of Luminary Sensor Gloves, remove the liner and layer the shell directly over the Direct Route Gloves for when temps drop high up on the mountain.
A beanie of your choice is a must, but make sure it fits well under your helmet.
An Echo Ubertube works great as a light hat or a facemask if the wind is strong.
A good sun hat for the approach to the hut is clutch—I prefer the Sun Runner.