Matterhorn, Zmutt Ridge


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2-3 days

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1 climber per guide

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Alps Advice

Matterhorn North Face

The Zmuttgrat on the Matterhorn is an alpinist's route. It is a difficult climb on a famous peak, and its first ascent in 1879, though not as famous as Whymper's on the Hörnli, was also ahead of its time. It was first climbed by Alfred Mummery, with his guides, Alexander Burgener, Augustin Gentinetta and Johann Petrus, only 14 years after the peak's first ascent.

Today, it remains a challenging climb, and is repeated only a few times each year. It is one of the great ridge climbs of the Alps. One of the chief obstacles to a successful ascent is finding it in good condition. The ridge faces northwest and receives little sun. As a result, new snow is slow to melt, and snow-covered rock increases the difficulty dramatically.

In 1997, in an effort to make the climb a bit more user-friendly, a bivouac hut was built near the foot foot the ridge. Called the Lonza hut, named in honor of the Swiss pharmaceutical company that funded the venture, it promised to make the ascent a bit more popular. However, the mountain had other ideas, and only a couple years after it was built it was swept away in an avalanche. So, for the time being at least, climbers still have a considerable approach, either from the Hörnli hut or from across the valley in the Schönbiel hut. Either way, simply reaching the ridge is a big undertaking.

The start of the ridge proper is reasonable enough, but soon the small towers of the mid-section, the Zmutt Teeth, are reached. Here we turn on one side or the other, somethimes on poor rock, to reach the ridge beyond them. Somewhat more difficult but better climbing follows to near the Zmutt Nose, the large overhang just left of the ridge. Here the route traverses right onto the West Face and gains a large sloping terrace know as Carrel's Gallery. From here we climb up again, then left to regain the ridge proper. Descent is usually via the Hörnli ridge.


Matterhorn summit


This is in many ways the most difficult route described in the Alps section of our web site. Technically, it is not extreme, and if the rock is clear of snow the difficulties are perhaps only to about 5.6 to 5.7. But the climb is very long, taking as much as 10 hours for the ascent alone, and it is continuous in nature. There is some poor rock turing the Zmutt Teeth, and the entire climb is very difficult to descend.


This is a climb for very skilled and experienced alpinists only. You should be able to comfortably follow 5.8 rock in mountain boots and be skilled in rock climbing in crampons. A high level of fitness is needed to keep to time. Because of the high altitude climbers should spend some time on other high peaks, becoming well acclimated prior to the ascent.


Matterhorn from the northwest
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Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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