6-day Matterhorn Program


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1 climber per guide

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Matterhorn Conditions

7-day Monte Rosa & Matterhorn program

8-day Mont Blanc & Matterhorn Program

Climbing on the Weissmies

The Matterhorn is a fantastic peak, unique in the Alps and perhaps in the world.We have designed this program both to give you needed time acclimating but also to offer some practice with efficient movement on exposed rock.

The program is long enough to allow climbers to become very acclimated, especially so given the number of nights spent high in alpine huts, a critical aspect of acclimatization. The terrain on which we are climbing for the first several days is perfectly suited to learning the movement and rope management skills needed for the Matterhorn. Last, the climbs themselves during the initial 4 days of the program are simply great.

We start in the Saas valley, just east of Zermatt. Here we will climb 2 or 3 peaks, emphasizing the type of climbing to be found on the Hörnli ridge of the Matterhorn, covering lots of ground on steep but generally easy rock. These climbs are based out of the Almageller hut, known to climbers and guides as one of the best in the area. We finish these three days of climbing with a traverse of the Weissmies, a 4000er, rock on the south side and large glacier on the north, our route of descent.

For this program we prefer to climb at a 1 to 1 ratio, that is, one climber per guide. While this is essential for safety reasons on the Matterhorn, it also allows us to move quickly on the Dri Horlini and Portjengrat–very helpful for completing these climbs.

The Matterhorn needs to be in good, relatively dry (snow free) climbing condition to be a reasonable objective. Please see our Matterhorn Conditions page for a much more detailed discussion of this.


This is a challenging program for experienced climbers. The climbs of the Dri Horlini and Portjengrat involve technical belayed climbing which must be done in mountain boots. The Weissmies is easier, but still a long route.

The Matterhorn is more difficult still, and is primarily a rock climb, with some steep snow. The challenge on this peak is to keep to good time while climbing carefully and smoothly. In technical terms the difficulties are not extreme, being only about 5.6 (French 4c). But this route is very exposed and entail thousands of feet of steep rock that must be climbed quickly and surely, over 4000 feet of steep climbing from hut to summit, which must be descended as well. Climbers must be able to keep to a pace which allows an ascent in 4 to 5 hours. The descent takes about the same amount of time.


Participants for this 6-day program must have previous rock and ice climbing experience and be in very good condition. You should be able to climb 5.7 rock (French 5a) on a top rope quickly and with little difficulty. You should have extensive experience scrambling on steep rock, such as climbing in the Sierra, Cascades or Tetons. You need to be comfortable cramponing on steep 50 degree frozen snow or soft ice, both in ascent and descent.

Climbing on the Dri Horlini
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6-Day Matterhorn Program

Day 0

Evening meeting at hotel in the Zermatt to go over equipment and logistics.

Day 1

We start by traveling to Saas Grund, either by car or train/bus. From there we hike up to the Almageller Hut (2894m, 9492 feet), which is about a 4 or 5 hour walk. If we are feeling energetic and the weather is good, we can make a quick ascent of the West Ridge of the nearby Dri Horlini. This is good practice for moving efficiently over exposed terrain.

Day 2

Traverse of the Portjengrat (3653 m, 11,982 feet). This long climb involves all media; rock, snow and ice, and prepares us well for what we will encounter on the Matterhorn. We return to the Almageller Hut for the night.

Day 3

Traverse the Weissmies (4017m 13176 feet), ascending the rocky South Ridge and descending the highly glaciated normal route on the northwest side. We will then ride the Hohsaas lift to the valley and continue to Zermatt, again by either car or train/bus.

Day 4

On day 5 we have a number of options. Often climbed is the Half Traverse of the Breithorn, or rock routes on the Riffelhorn. For a more complete rest day we can choose a canyoning descent of the Gorner Gorge. Perhaps this does not sound like much of a rest, but it is really fun!

Day 5

On Day 5 we begin by riding the lift up to Schwarzsee, an alpine lake below the Matterhorn. From there we have an easy hike to the Hörnli Hut, at the foot of the Hörnli ridge. It takes about 2 hours to get to the hut and we can arrive in time for a late lunch and a bit of rest before the big day tomorrow.

Day 6

For the ascent of the Matterhorn the normal wake-up time is usually about 4 am. We dress quickly, wolf down a bit of food and start our climb only minutes from the hut. The first hour or so is in the dark, but watching the dawn over the Monte Rosa peaks is always a treat. Normally we take about 4 to 5 hours to reach the summit and the same amount of time to get back down to the hut. We descend to Zermatt for a beer (or two) a good meal and well-deserved rest.

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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