The Matterhorn with its 4478 meters is one of the highest mountain peaks in the Alps and certainly one of the most famous as well. The mountain top, which also appears on the Toblerone chocolate, is climbed from Italy or Switzerland by about 3000 people a year. With this, the pyramid-shaped mountain is one of the most conquered peaks in the world.
This adventure however is not just fun, it takes serious preparation to attack the Swiss peak, as the Matterhorn already falls into the "four thousand" category.
We have gathered for you everything you should know if you are planning to conquer the peaks of the Matterhorn.
The mountains were formed at the confluence of the African and the Eurasian plate. The Matterhorn marks the border of the two plates, as well it is the border between Italy and Switzerland. The southern side of the mountain belongs to Italy, while if you want to approach it from one of the other 3 equators, you can do so from Switzerland.
|Matterhorn informations||Everything you need to know|
|Country||Switzerland and Italy|
|Base camps||Zermatt (Switzerland), Breuil-Cervinia (Italy)|
|Height||4 478 m|
|Mountain group||The Alps|
|Number of climbers per year||+3000|
|Average duration of climbing||10 - 12 days|
|Season||All year round|
|Best season to climb||Summer (from June to September)|
|Number of routes||5 routes|
|Easiest route||Hornli route|
|Is it obligatory to go with a tour guide?||No|
|Do you have to be an experienced climber?||Yes|
|Is permission needed?||No|
What is Matterhorn famous for?
Some people can be familiar with Matterhorn because it can be seen on the Toblerone chocolate cover, but the mountain top did not get its reputation from there.
Possibly not even from its height, as it is the 5th highest peak in the Alps – although this certainly plays a part in it. Its reputation is attributed to its shape – a perfect pyramid.
- Pyramid shape
- The 5th highest peak in the Alps
- Toblerone chocolate
Matterhorn - Base Camps
- Italy: Breuil-Cervinia
- Switzerland: Zermatt (1608 m)
In Switzerland, the town of Zermatt, and in Italy, the town of Breuil-Cervinia is the home to a base camp at the foot of the mountain. Many try to climb from both directions, but the Swiss side is somewhat more popular, as climbers are believed to be able to enjoy a more beautiful view from that direction.
The British Edward Whymper was the first to reach the top with his team, in 1865. They tried to conquer the Matterhorn from Italy for a long time, but all their expeditions failed, so they eventually tried the impossible from the city of Zermatt as well.
Here, they were successful, thus preceded many, many Swiss and Italian climbers. Since then, many from the town of Breuil-Cervinia have climbed to the top, and in fact, there is no side of the mountain from which a climber would not have been able to reach it successfully.
Point of interest: looking from both countries, the top of the mountain resembles a horn, which is why the German word horn is used in its name.
It is important to know that you cannot drive up to Zermatt! The town of Tasch can be reached as a junction of road 9, from where you can take a railway.
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGBahn)
Approaching the so-called "car-free Zermatt", is not possible by car, but you can still comfortably reach the alpine city by train.
- Ticket price (one way, second class): approximately 10 CHF
- Online ticket purchase: available
- Schedule: departs every 20 minutes
- Duration: approximately 15 min / 5 km
The train trip is so beautiful and iconic that many people include it in their journey even if they do not climb the Matterhorn or go on a hike. The beauty of the route is that the train passes through one of the deepest valleys in Switzerland. Along the way, you can see mountains such as Taschhorn, Dom, or Weisshorn.
- Starting point: Tasch (Täsch)
- Terminal: Bahnhofplatz Zermatt
If you wish to climb the Matterhorn from Zermatt, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGBahn) in Tasch provides almost 2100 covered parking spaces.
Matterhorn climbing season
When can you climb Matterhorn?
The mountain can be climbed all year round, both in winter and summer. Of course, as always, the easiest and safest period is between June and August, after the spring snowmelt.
Who, when, and how can you climb Matterhorn?
Without previous climbing experience, it is by no means worth embarking on the conquest of the Matterhorn, as it is not one of the easiest mountains to climb.
Besides routine, proper fitness is at least as important. It is also recommended to train beforehand by running or climbing smaller peaks. In addition to carrying your equipment all along, the atmosphere also works against you. The higher you get, the less oxygen is in the air.
In this medium, it is gradually becoming more and more stressful to do things, as it would be at a sea-level altitude. Proper acclimatization also helps a lot, it is worth spending up to 4-5 days in the base camp before you start climbing, which can take another 2-3 days depending on the route.
It is better to count on 10-12 days for traveling and climbing, as bad weather can delay when you can climb the mountain even by days.
Of course, less time may be enough for this program, many only spend 1-2 days with acclimatization, it depends primarily on individual capabilities and experiences.
Do you need a permit for the Matterhorn?
You do not need a permit, the climbing is for free and it is unrestricted all year.
In the best season, in summer, it is -10C (14 ° F) on the mountain. Snowstorms and storms are often to be expected. As the mountain is not protected by neighboring (similarly high) mountains, it is particularly exposed to wind movements (70 km per hour).
The weather in Matterhorn is very moody, so there is a high chance of re-planning or postponing the climbs. Therefore, be sure to plan your climb in such a way that the peak attack from the huts can be delayed for days.
Descending is only possible in clear weather, so you also need to plan your return well.
Is it dangerous to climb the Matterhorn?
However, Matterhorn is not the most difficult mountain of the four thousand, accidents do happen every year due to unpreparedness.
We would also note that the Hornli route (which is the easiest route to the top) may seem easy, but it is still not recommended for novice climbers. Since no one will check if you have enough experience, if you have not climbed a mountain of four thousand before, I suggest hiring a professional guide.
Tour guide : Hiker ratio
Each peak has the recommended tour guide: hiker ratio. All professional guides guarantee a 1: 1 ratio, which means that every hiker gets his/her own tour guide.
For example, this ratio is 1: 2 when climbing the Slovenian Triglav (2864 m), where 1 tour guide accompanies 2 hikers at the same time.
In organized tours, the 1: 2 ratio is the usual practice during the preparation and acclimatization period spent in the base camp. In this case, the preparation is provided by the tour guide for 2 people at the same time.
Local experts might be more expensive, but they might have more knowledge about the mountain, which is a big advantage.
Matterhorn equipment list
Whether Zermatt or Breuil-Cervinia is your starting point, you can get most of the equipment locally from a rental company. We also supplemented the list we created with the recommendations from High Mountain Guides.
What do I need for Climbing Matterhorn?
- classic crampons
- ice ax
- climbing harness
- 2 screw carabiners
- rope (40m)
Of course, the essential rope can't be left out of the pack either, you can overcome any obstacles you face with a 40-meter long one.
General things like climbing boots, warm and waterproof clothing, raincoats, hats, gloves, and a good pair of warm socks shouldn’t be forgotten either.
Among the less obvious accessories, it is important to have a bottle of some kind of liquid storage device, sunglasses, sunscreen, headlamp, battery, and a charger. And all this should be held together by a waterproof and durable backpack. A good backpack is one of the climber’s best friends.
Huts on Matterhorn
Whether you are preparing to climb the mountain from the Italian or the Swiss side, you can stay in the huts on the mountain before the peak attack. The huts offer beds, blankets, breakfast & dinner, and a gas cooker.
The two best equipped and most popular huts are the Hornli and Carrel huts.
- The Hornli hut can accommodate 120 climbers and costs around € 150 a night with breakfast and dinner.
- The Carrel hut can accommodate 45 people (we could not find prices).
In the huts you can only pay by cash, reservations are required in advance (recommended at least 3-6 months in advance).
Matterhorn climbing and routes
Where is it worth climbing?
You can attack the top of the Matterhorn through a total of 5 lines. We will show you the routes with different technical difficulties one by one. Like the first route, Hornli is the most popular, we will examine it more in detail.
- Hornli spine
- Lion spine
- Zmutt spine
- Furggen spine
- Schmidt spine
#1 Hörnli spine - Hornli spine
The easiest route
The Matterhorn’s most popular route leads through the Hornli ridge on its northwestern side. About 1200 meters below the peak, you can find the Hornli hut, which is open all year round.
- Zermatt -> Schwarzsee: 975 m
- Schwarzsee -> Hornli hut: 677 m
- Hornli hut -> Matterhorn peak: 1218 m
The base camp is located at an altitude of 1608 meters in Zermatt. From here you either hike to the Schwarzsee or take the lift.
In either case, you will arrive at the Schwarzsee. The difference is that you go up on your own, or with a lift. Those who choose the lift will climb up to the 3,266-meter-high Hornli hut on the first day and then spend the night there. This section can be completed in 2.5 hours under ideal weather conditions. The remaining distance stays for the second day.
Many people decide to start climbing in Zermatt already. For them on the first day Schwarzsee is usually the terminal point, which can be reached in 3 hours in good weather. On the second day, a climb of about 6 hours follows to the top. The downhill road leads the same way and descending takes about 5 hours.
The road on the Hörnli ridge is bound for almost the entire section, which makes climbing much easier.
#2 Lion spine
The second easiest route (Italy)
A lift runs to Plan Maison station (2548m), from where you can start your climb to Carell hut.
- Breuil-Cervinia - Plan Maison: 542 m
- Plan Maison - Carrel hut: 1281 m
- Carrel hut - Matterhorn peak: 649 m
The Italian Breuil-Cervinia is the starting point for the Lion Ridge route. From here, the road to the summit is slightly more difficult than through the Hornli ridge, even though the base camp is at 2006 meters high. It is a common strategy for climbers to climb to the Carrel hut (Rifugio Carrel) at the altitude of 3829 meters on the first day and then rest here. Some arrive on foot, some uses the lift that takes climbers until Plan Maison.
On the second day, 650 meters remain for the peak attack. The difficulty of the section is well characterized by the fact that the average climbing time is 5 hours. You can go down the same way you went up.
The less reckless can use various means of transport to ascend to the Plan Maison camp, which is 2548 meters high.
#3 Zmutt spine (Zmuttgrat)
Alternative route from Zermatt
Climbing the Zmutt ridge is actually an alternative, more difficult route compared to the Hornli ridge. The starting point is the Hornli hut at 3260 meters, but you can also climb from the Schonbiel hut at 2694 meters.
Although the second means 600 meters and 3 hours more climbing on the day of the peak attack, it still counts as the safer route. The 7-hour climb from the Hornli hut carries many dangers, and experienced climbers have also returned from here.
The climbing time of 7 to 10 hours is an extreme strain, so exceptional strength is also required to complete the Zmutt spine successfully. There are only a few successful climbers at the Zmutt ridge each year. A big problem is that the terrain is often not in good condition, so you also have to be lucky to have it right.
#4 Furggen spine
Harder route from Italy
A lift runs to Plan Maison station (2548m), from where you can start your climb to Carell hut.
- Breuil-Cervinia - Plan Maison: 542 m
- Plan Maison - Matterhorn peak: 1930 m (7 hours)
The Furggen ridge is even less popular amongst climbers than the Zmutt ridge. Like the Lion Ridge, Breuil-Cervinia is the starting point for this, although you can climb here from Zermatt as well. The road to Camp Maison is the same as it is to Lion ridge, but here you have to choose between the two routes.
If you voted for Furggen, you have to reach the 3345-meter high Bivacco Bossi hut on the first day, followed by a very exhaustive 7-hour climb the next day.
#5 Schmidt route
Hardest route, Zermatt
The Schmidt route also starts from Zermatt, and like the Hornli and Zmutt ridges, the Schwarzsee is the first stop, second is the Hornli hut at 3266 meters. This is where the real fun starts - compared to the previous two routes, you have to go steeply to the north side.
From here, the peak is another 1200 meters, which you will need an exceptional physical condition to attack. Technically, its difficulty is somewhere halfway between Hornli and Zmutt, but it requires tremendous physical and mental preparation.
The full climb takes 3 days, and the tactics used for this are very similar to the Hornli ridge.
The Schmidt route is only suitable for climbing in exceptionally favorable weather conditions, and in addition to the snow situation, atmospheric movements can easily make this hike impossible.
How much does it cost to climb Matterhorn?
2-3-day guided top attack tours to the Matterhorn cost around 1300 euros. If you combine a peak attack with a preparation camp, thus choose a longer program, the price is roughly double.
- Accommodation with breakfast and dinner (€ 15-140 / person / night)
- Lifts (€ 50 / person)
- Equipment rental (variable)
- Permission: none
Matterhorn Mobile App
If you are seriously considering climbing, you should definitely download the mobile app, which is available on both iOS and Android. This makes it easier for you to find out about the weather and you get easier access to webcams as well.
The app was not only made for climbers, but for everyone visiting the village of Zermatt. News, events, programs, and even the train schedule got included in the app.
In the winter, ski lovers get complete information via their mobile.
Whichever route and side you choose to climb the Matterhorn, it is essential that you have previous climbing experience. It is important that you get the right clothing and equipment, and it is just as essential that you are physically and mentally fit to climb.
Once you have it all, you just have to wait in the base camp or in the huts for the weather to be right and you can already set off on the road to the top of the Matterhorn.
Before embarking on a 2-3 day climb, spend at least 3 days in a base camp so that your body can get used to the less oxygen-intensive environment. If you are on a mountain of 4000 for the first time, we recommend climbing the Hornli ridge.