Lets face it, every climber who’s ever seen it, has had a secret wish to climb the Matterhorn one day! A long and difficult climb by any route, the mountain requires good levels of fitness, alpine experience and favourable conditions for success. Following an acclimatisation program in the Mont Blanc Massif, we move across to Zermatt to target the best weather window for a successful summit bid.
This is a dedicated guiding week focused on climbing the Matterhorn. It is a long and committing ascent and dry, snow-free conditions are required on the route to safely reach the summit. The acclimatisation and training program at the start of the week is guided at 2:1, with the Matterhorn guided at 1:1.
This is an advanced level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines).
You need good quality previous AD alpine climbing experience, including some longer routes and must be agile enough on rock to move quickly and safely over exposed scrambling terrain as well as climb V Diff rock pitches quickly in big boots with a rucksack on. Your guide will undertake a series of training climbs at the start of the week to confirm your current fitness and ability levels before embarking on the ascent. Climbing the Matterhorn also requires good levels of fitness and stamina, as the summit day involves 8-12 hours technical climbing at high altitude, so we advise you to prepare well in advance with regular exercise and training. If you want to practice some technical skills, a Lakes District or North Wales classic rock climbing weekend in the run up to the trip would be ideal.
This is a split ratio week, with 3 training days guided at 1:2, then 3 days at 1:1 ratio to climb the Matterhorn, with IFMGA guides.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 4 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals
- 3 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal
- Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary (including travel to Tasch)
Excluded from price (see factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Cable cars and trains
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point and Chamonix valley base is Chalet Tissieres in Les Bossons, just 5 mins by car/bus from Chamonix centre. The chalet stands in its own 2000m2 alpine garden with stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the entire Chamonix valley. It offers simple but comfortable shared rooms, a large lounge/dining area, honesty bar, and a huge balcony for al fresco dining on warm summer evenings: a great place to relax after a big day in the mountains. The chalet serves a buffet breakfast and varied 3-course evening meal, with special diets catered for upon request. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment for the week, before we go on to a detailed discussion of everyones ambitions for the week, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our planning.
We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the valley.
Training and acclimatisation
Our acclimatisation program involves sleeping at a high mountain hut, whilst spending three days climbing at altitude. Doing this prior to the ascent of the Matterhorn really helps on summit day.
Our training program focuses on doing as much scrambly climbing in big boots on alpine terrain as possible, including some harder rock climbing pitches. This is exactly the type of terrain you need to move quickly and efficiently on in order to climb the Matterhorn.
On Sunday we will climb a long Alpine ridge climb eg the traverse of the Aiguilles Crochues, or traverse of Les Perrons, both excellent PD/AD ridge traverses involving pleasant pitches of climbing, some down climbing and abseiling over complex ridge terrain. These routes are accessed from a cablecar or a drive into nearby Switzerland, for a day climb and then back to Chamonix for the night.
In the morning we drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Italy, then take the cable car up from Courmayeur in order to make a traverse of the Aiguille Marbrees, before spending the night at the Torino Hut.
This is an excellent peak involving a glacier approach to a col, between the Dent du Geant/Marbress, then some pleasant scrambling with short more technical pitches to reach the summit. This provides excellent views over the nearby Dent du Geant, Tour Ronde and across to Mont Blanc du Tacul and its satellite peaks. From the summit, a long involved scramble around many gendarmes (pinnacles on the ridge crest) eventually lead to an abseil descent back onto the glacier.
Overnight at the Torino Hut.
A traverse of the classic Aiguille D’Entreves.
This is an exciting final warm up climb before the Matterhorn, with the day starting as scrambling, followed by some tricky and exposed rock climbing pitches to reach the summit. The descent is also varied; involving lowers, down climbing and more good alpine ridge terrain to reach the glacier.
NB If you have already climbed a number of the routes mentioned above, then various alternative acclimatisation programs are possible to prepare for the Matterhorn. Good alternative climbs include the Aiguille du Peigne, Tacul North Face, Lagginhorn South Ridge etc.
Tue PM – Return to Chamonix
Travel across to Zermatt
In the morning we drive over to Zermatt, taking a train the last few Km up to town (Zermatt is a car free resort) then take the cable car up to Schwarzsee and walk 2 hrs up to the Hornli Hut for the night.
NB Climbing Conditions on the Matterhorn – you need be aware when booking that good, dry conditions on the route are essential for making a safe ascent. If the Matterhorn is snowed up and out of condition, then a high quality alternative on another peak will always be offered.
Ascent of the Matterhorn
Leaving the Hornli Hut at just after 4am, we begin our climb. The route is extremely long, with continuous scrambling and trickier rock pitches either side of the emergency Solvay Hut, which marks the half way point of the climb.
Above the Solvay, the route continues up to The Shoulder at 4000m, where a section of fixed ropes are used to overcome the steep step in the ridge above. It’s common to put crampons on along this section, in order to climb the snowier terrain and the final Summit Icefield which leads to the Madonna and the summit 40 metres beyond.
It’s not over yet though, as it’s a long and very careful descent back down to the Hornli Hut, which often takes an hour or so longer than climbing up.
Reserve Day – we either return to Chamonix after a succesful ascent, or use Friday for a final attempt at the Matterhorn.
If we climb the Matterhorn on Friday, then it’s possible to take the cable car down to Zermatt afterwards and drive back to Chamonix in the evening.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
We base ourselves for the week in the famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Chamonix is one of the most famous Alpine centres in the world, with an unparalleled range of quality climbing across all grades and styles, and much of it with convenient cablecar access. The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley – transfers will drop off at the destination of your choice, but must be booked in advance.
Flight and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3, and Tech Level 3 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 40-50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Wicking thermal top – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Softshell Jacket – mid weight, wind resistant, light insulating layer (or a mid weight fleece jacket)
- Spare warm layer – lightweight synthetic/down jacket or other warm layer
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock climbing shoes – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for climbing and mountaineering activities as outlined in the course itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.