The case for climbing mountains

A look back on wanting to climb the Matterhorn and the why hard things are good.

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Zermatt is a Swiss town located in the Valais canton.

Close to it is the Matterhorn, a 4,478m tall pyramid shaped mountain separating Switzerland and Italy. You might recognize its shape from the Toblerone chocolates one sees in airports and many other Swiss products.

It is considered a classic Alpine peaks among climbers due to its aesthetic shape, technical climb and dramatic history. Some love it, others dislike it due to it being a touristic mountain (as in: equiped and crowded — on average, around 3000 people attempt to climb it every year).

Why Do It?

These are some facts that I didn't know about in 2022 when I stayed in that town during a summer break.

After returning back to Portugal in September, a question slowly creeped in the back of my mind as the rest of that year: could I climb it?

This wasn't a hypothetical question.

My father had come to work at Zermatt on that year and I knew that it wasn't unlikely he'd go back next summer. Knowing that, the question shaped and split itself: "Do you want to attempt climbing the Matterhorn? Do you think you have what it takes?"

And more importantly: "Do you want to find out the answer to those questions?"

The Challenge

The Matterhorn isn't the hardest mountain to climb and although people perish on it every year, it's not the deadliest in the world.

It is nonetheless a physical and mental challenge worthy of respect.

The day can go between 8-12 hours round-trip of basically non-stop climbing with only a few breaks.

It requires an excellent fitness level, the ability to advance on rock, snow and ice, and being comfortable on high altitudes with exposed terrain. It's not a hike.

Technically speaking it is graded AD ("Assez Dificile", meaning "Fairly Hard") in the Swiss Alpine Club Scale. Oor about 5.4 in the Yosemite Decimal System. Essentially grade 3-4 scrambling terrain with a vertical height gain of 1300m (aprox. 4265ft).

I mean who knows.. talk about non-standard units!



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