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Zermatt celebrates the Matterhorn's 150th Anniversary

The first ascent of the Matterhorn took place on the 14th July 1865 – just over 150 years ago. 2015 marked great celebrations in Zermatt to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper and his team of climbers.

Mountaineers Pose at the Matterhorn Summit

Many climbers had tried and failed to reach the peak of 4,478 meters but Edward Whymper and his fellow climbers succeeded where others had failed. These included Lord Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow and Michel Croz. In addition there were two local guides – Peter Taugwalder and his son; also named Peter.

Edward Whymer, together with six other roped members of the team, reached the top across the Hoernli Ridge, the most popular route to the summit. At the time, there was much celebration and also much grief as on the descent Douglas Hadow slipped bringing Charles Hudson and Michel Croz with him.

They were all killed.

Both Whypmer and the two Taughwalder guides survived and were later accused of having cut the rope to ensure their own survival but no substantial evidence was found and they were thankfully acquitted.

The Jewel of the Swiss Alps

Despite this tragic accident, The Matterhorn is the most iconic mountain in the world and is the crown jewel of the Swiss Alps and therefore it’s anniversary very much deserved to be marked. July 14th 2015 was the actual day of the 150th anniversary. Many events, such as open-air theatre, costume walking tours and sunset dinners in the high mountains, took place in Zermatt throughout the months of July and August.

The Matterhorn Illuminated by solar lights all the way to it's summit

The highlight however was definitely the night illumination of the Matterhorn, with numerous solar powered lamps lighting the climbing route all the way to the summit. 50 lamps were lit one by one until the route that the first climbers took was completely illuminated. This event occurred every night until the end of September 2015. A red lamp stood out to mark the place where the four climbers fell to their death. I feel truly honoured to have been able to witness this and remember those brave people who risked their lives to be the first to reach the summit.

Hoernli Hut Base Camp Re-opens

The other big even that occurred to mark the celebrations of the first accent of the Matterhorn was the reopening of the Hörnli Hut. The Hörnli Hut is basically the base camp for all climbers of the Matterhorn. It has been hosting climbers for over 130 years.

Hikers set off from the Hoernli Base Camp in Period costume

The rebuilding and extensions of the Hörnli Hut were a feat of incredible engineering. Architects kept all the traditional aspects of the building with many of the structural elements being re-used for the new building. It is one of the most eco friendly buildings in Zermatt and connects to a new incredibly modern and beautiful glass structure. I would recommend any keen hikers staying with us in one of our luxury Zermatt chalets to hike up to see it for a day trip. They have a really good restaurant where you can have lunch before making the long decent back to Zermatt.

A Dangerous Business

Since the first accent, many more people have lost their lives attempting and failing to climb the Matterhorn and other surrounding mountains many of which are over 4000 meters in height. Mountains such as the Täschorn, Weisshorn, Obergabelhorn and the Monte Rosa. The town of Zermatt has a most wonderful memorial to these brave climbers which was also well emphasised during the 150th anniversary celebrations.

Mountaineers' Cemetery

The Mountaineers Cemetery is very well worth a visit especially if you are lucky enough to be staying in Zermatt in summer. It is a really tranquil and beautiful area and you will get a real feel for some of Zermatt’s history. Many of the tombs have beautiful flowers and candles left by various friends and relatives. There are wonderful inscriptions that reveal details of men and woman from all over the world that have died in the surrounding mountains.

Headstones in the grass at the mountaineers cemetary in Zermatt

The one gravestone that is an exception is on the grave of Peter and Peter Taugwalder the father and son who climbed with Edward Whymper on the first accent. They died naturally and have been well commemorated.

The Time Capsule

Another lovely event that took place during the year was that the children of the town expressed their wishes as to how they would like the town of Zermatt to look in 50 years time. These wishes are locked into a time capsule and have been lowered into the ground by the Gemeindehaus (community house) which is located directly beside the main church square in Zermatt.

Maybe I will be lucky enough to be still alive when it is reopened!!

Published: Jul 14, 2015
Updated: Nov 22, 2016

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