I've just finished an excellent Matterhorn week with Mark and Allister, capped off by successful ascents by the whole team. We kicked off over at the Torino hut, on the south side of the Mont Blanc massif. As ever, the Entreves traverse packed in a lot of action and exposure, and gave a great warm-up before we settled into the Torino for the night to kick-start the acclimatisation process.
The next morning, we enjoyed a spectacular pink sunrise on the Freshfield Arete of the Tour Ronde. The Freshfield has a fantastic knife-edge of granite (which proves a little easier than it looks), before continuing along more scrambling terrain and a final snow slope to the summit. This offers one of the great panoramas of the massif.
In good conditions, much of the Hornli Ridge is climbed without crampons, so for our third and final warm-up day, we elected to go for the Perrons traverse, a superb mid-mountain rock ridge on the Swiss border above Lac d'Emosson. This involves sustained climbing and scrambling, up and down, as well as several abseils, and proved ideal preparation for the trip into Switzerland for the final part of the week.
The weather and conditions were looking good as we headed up to the Hornli hut. It was nice and quiet, with perhaps only around 40 people in overnight. This gave a relaxed atmosphere on the mountain the next day, and the line of headtorches leading up the ridge soon spread out. Some overnight cloud had left a fine sheen of verglas on the rocks above the Solvay bivouac, which required care, and we donned crampons a little earlier than planned. The fixed ropes were relatively quiet, and after a solid push from Allister up the steep upper slopes, we arrived on the airy summit after just over four hours of effort.
The hard part on the Matterhorn can often be maintaining focus for the long descent, which always goes on for longer than you want it to! But the verglassed rock was thawing out in the sun, and good progress was made, before finally arriving back at the safety of the hut.