In a land of many mountains, it’s the Matterhorn that stands out from the crowd. Literally. Not because of its size, though as one of the 48 Swiss mountains that top 4000m it is more than a pimple, but because it sits in solitary isolation, detached from neighbouring peaks. That’s why it looks so splendid, because you can see the whole mountain from bottom to top.
The best place to see this majestic mountain is not from the nearby resort of Zermatt, though that does indeed have a great view, but from the train to Gornergrat. This cogwheel line, which opened in 1898, winds its way up from Zermatt to the dizzying heights of 3098 metres above sea level. From that lofty point the panorama is breathtaking, and not just because of the altitude: along with the Matterhorn, you can also see Switzerland’s highest mountain, Dufourspitze, and the mighty Gorner glacier.
But the Matterhorn is more than just a pretty picture. This singular, triangular wonder with a slightly crooked peak has become the iconic symbol of Switzerland, replicated on everything from chocolate bars to ice cubes. The summit, which stands at 4478 metres (that’s 14,692ft for anyone still living in 1960. Or in America), was one of the last Swiss peaks to be conquered. That feat was finally achieved on 14 July 1865 by a team of four British climbers guided by two Swiss and one French guide. Only three lived to tell the tale of their success.
View of the Matterhorn from Zermatt
On the way down, one of the party slipped and fell, dragging three others with him to their deaths. Edward Whymper and the two surviving Swiss guides made it back to Zermatt alive. The tragedy made headlines around the world, and has been the subject of much controversy ever since. But that hasn’t stopped others wanting to follow in Whymper’s footsteps, though sadly over 500 climbers have since died on the Matterhorn.
The safest way to enjoy the beauty of Switzerland’s most famous mountain is definitely from the window of the Gornergrat train or the panorama terrace at the top of the line. It’s worth every penny and every minute.
Zermatt's first open-air theatre
Zermatt, 13th July 1865: At the crack of dawn, a seven-man rope team makes its way along the Hörnligrat towards the Matterhorn. Their goal: the summit of the only 4,000-metre mountain in the Swiss Alps that had not yet been climbed. The day, and with it Edward Whymper, would go down in history. For the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn, "The Matterhorn Story" will be premièred on the Gornergrat before the unique backdrop of the Matterhorn in the summer of 2015.
To celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn, a grandstand for 700 spectators has been built on the Gornergrat above Zermatt. The première of the very first performance of "The Matterhorn Story" is on Thursday, 9th July 2015. From this date, and up to Saturday, 29th August, the open-air theatre will be performed at 7.30 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday, and at 2.00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. The play details the story of the expedition and court case that later followed. For tickets see: www.zermatt.ch/en/150/Events
Zermatt open-air theatre
Matterhorn: Portrait of a moutain. Exhibition by photographer Nenad Saljic
Photographer Nenad Saljic will be exhibiting photographs from his “Matterhorn” series of works in the CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort in collaboration with Galerie Rigassi from Bern. The collection, entitled ‘Matterhorn’, have already won several awards, including the National Geographic Award in 2010 and 2012. In 2013, he won the Sony World Photography Award in the category Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year. From 14th July - 16th August 2015 www.zermatt.ch/exhibition
Matterhorn: Portrait of a moutain © Nenad Saljic
Special exhibition at the Matterhorn Museum
What remains after 150 years? Can the circumstances of the tragedy still be reconstructed? A descendant starts his search for the truth to find out what really happened during the first ascent on the Matterhorn. For the first time in 150 years these contemporary documents will be shown, as images, together at one place. This unique collection of historic documents will be conserved as an exhibition catalogue to make it available to the broader public. Matthias Taugwalder guides daily at 16.00 until 18th July through his exhibition. www.matthias-taugwalder.com
Ceremonial opening of the Hörnlihütte at Base Camp Matterhorn
The first ascent of this mountain is considered to represent the birth of alpinism and the start of tourism development in the Alps. One of the key elements of the Matterhorn ascent’s anniversary year will be a focus on the Hörnlihütte (base camp) as the gateway to the Matterhorn. For this reason, Zermatt tourism have organised tours to and from the basecamp, to allow keen climbers, history buffs, nature lovers and expeditionists alike the chance to explore the area. From the 14th July until the 1st October five leisure experiences are offered from anywhere in Switzerland to Zermatt, including a Matterhorn Glacier Trail, alpine helicopter ride and hiking or moutainbiking tours of the area. For tickets and information www.sbb.ch/matterhorn
Hörnlihütte at Base Camp Matterhorn
For more celebrations and information about Zermatt in the summer visit: www.zermatt.ch