Search Blog

Blog archive

~ Saturday 7th September 2013

A few weeks ago we were passing time trying to name famous Belgians. Is Eddy Merckx Belgian? Does Tintin count? Anyway, Thursday provided aclear winner - Ernst Solvay, of course! Who? Solvay was definitely Belgian, a sickly child who suffered from pleurisy (because he didnae wear his wellies?) He spent his childhood in the hospital or infirmary and wasn't allowed to go to university. Still, he invented the conveniently named Solvay process and became very rich, so it turned out all right in the end. In later life he took up mountaineering, became concerned with the lack of shelter high in the mountains and funded the construction of the little shed which today bears his name, which leads us neatly to the Matterhorn last week. Phew. 

The fixed rope on Pollux, perfect Matterhorn practice

We started the week with an ascent of Pollux and a nice night at the Ayas hut, then returned to Zermatt over the half Breithorn traverse in excellent weather. 

Suitably warmed-up and ready for a go we walked in to the Hornli hut on Wednesday. The hut is being rebuilt, and will be completely closed next summer, so climbing the Matterhorn next year will need some  cunning planning.

An early start and some tricky climbing in the dark is the typical start to Matterhorn days. The climb begins just 5 mins from the hut, which means about 25 minutes after waking up. 

Dawn. Phew. 

Upper Moseley slab

The Upper Moseley slab is probably the technical crux, and leads to the Solvay hut at 4000m. The second highest toilet in the Alps. 

Solvay hut

You're now at 4000m, over half the height gain but about halfway in time to the summit - you slow down above here due to altitude. It's a good time to take stock - with the descent typically taking longer than the ascent, your time to Solvay will be less than a quarter of total up-and-down time, so more than 3 hours to Solvay means you're in for at least a 13+ hour round trip. We took the prudent choice and turned back. The Matterhorn will still be there next year (even if the hut isn't!)

Back at the hut, construction and wacky heli-craning was going on flat out, right next to the busy hut terrace.