Matterhorn Ascent

Climb the Hornli ridge on the Matterhorn with an experienced IFMGA British Mountain Guide

Rob on the fixed ropes
Rob on the fixed ropes


The Matterhorn is one of the worlds most recognisable mountains, standing tall and alone above the town of Zermatt in Switzerland. It’s an intimidating peak, with steep faces and ridge lines with no easy route to the summit. Combined with the Matterhorn’s climbing history it has to be the most famous mountain in the alps, if not the world, barring Everest maybe! There aren’t many mountaineers that haven’t dreamt of climbing the Matterhorn, and it is a great mountaineering challenge, with a choice of routes and tactics to suit different levels of experience and ability.

We generally climb the Matterhorn via the Hornli ridge, the route that was climbed on the first ascent of the mountain by Edward Whymper and his team. Along the route we pass many famous features, such a the mosely slabs and the emergency Solvay hut. We are quite often on the edge of the North Face and can look across and down that steep climb too. The Matterhorn is both technical and high, and so we spend three days preparing you for the altitude and the climb itself.

How hard is the Matterhorn?

The Hornli ridge is graded AD on the alpine scale, and features a few pitches of rock climbing, but the main feature of the climb is the sheer amount of scrambling type terrain, which you must also climb back down after the summit. Quite often it takes as long to climb back down to the Hornli hut as it does to climb up. To put it into UK grades, there is a lot of grade I – III scrambling, plus short sections of diff. But don’t focus on these numbers, it’s the length, altitude and commitment that makes the Matterhorn difficult to climb. Higher up there are sections of snow and ice, but these are generally straightforward.

How good do I need to be to climb the Matterhorn?

The ascent of the Hornli ridge is around 1200m of height gain from the hut. It typically takes around 4-5 hours in ascent, and roughly the same time to descend. Although no individual pitch requires more than moderate rock climbing skill, you must be very good on your feet, scrambling on exposed terrain for the duration of the entire climb. Steady and quick foot work is a greater priority than high level rock climbing ability. A strong level of fitness is essential for safety as well as success. During the three days of acclimatisation and training, we will assess your ability and fitness before embarking on the climb of the Matterhorn. We will not take anyone to the mountain if we think your preparation or ability might endanger you or your guide.

Lowering Rob on the snow slopes of the shoulder
Lowering Rob on the snow slopes of the shoulder

What kind of preparation is required before the Matterhorn?

We highly recommend you have done at least a weeks alpine mountaineering before booking a Matterhorn climb. This will give you both the skills and experience to increase your chance of success on the Matterhorn, as well as your enjoyment! The ascent of the Matterhorn should be part of your alpine career, rather than the beginning of it. Previous alpine routes featuring some scrambling will stand you in good stead. The Weismeiss traverse, Cosmiques arête, crouches traverse etc. Preparation in the UK is also a very good idea and many of the classic scrambles in the Lake District and north Wales are perfect practice days. They will increase your fitness as well!

Being out in the hills for eight to ten hours gives you a good idea of your fitness, equipment and skill levels. We also run one and two day alpine preparation days in the south-west where we run through various technical lessons as well as plenty of practice on real rock. Contact us and we can look at your previous climbs and suggest a progression before the Matterhorn.

Why climb the Matterhorn with us?

We are a group of experienced IFMGA mountain guides who are fully insured and certified by national guide associations. The vast majority of our guides are members of the British Mountains Guide association and all are English speaking. We know the Matterhorn well and have guided many clients to the summit, as well as turning a few around when appropriate.

Here’s a blog from a 2016 trip with Rob and Arthur.

Sample Matterhorn programme

Our Matterhorn programme is tried and tested and is designed to give you good acclimatisation and training. It’s also flexible, and we build in two days where we can swap the programme around to take advantage of better weather and conditions.

  • Day 1 – meet in Chamonix early morning for a gear check and introductions. We then drive through to Italy and use the Helbronner lift to access the 3370m Torino refuge. We then climb a short route such as the traverse if the Marbraees or the Entreves. Night in the Torino refuge.
  • Day 2 – An alpine start allows a longer route to be climbed, replicating parts of the Matterhorn ascent. Examples include the Tour Ronde, Dent du Geant. Second night in the Torino refuge.
  • Day 3 – This is a flexible day for weather and gives opportunities to practice techniques, and also rest before heading to Zermatt. Quite often we descend the lift in the morning and rock climb in the Chamonix valley. Night in Chamonix
  • Day 4 – We now travel to Zermatt and use the lift system before walking into the Hornli hut, which is around a two hour walk. Sometimes we have a quick Reece of the lower mountain, but mainly this is about getting into position for the big day ahead.
  • Day 5 – Ascent of the Matterhorn! 8 – 10 hours round trip, stopping for a bite to eat in the hut before descending to Zermatt and travel to Chamonix.
  • Day 6 – Its possible to swap our summit day to the last day to take advantage of better weather, but otherwise we head out climbing in Chamonix, as well as some deserved tea and cake.

So that’s two nights in the Torino refuge for acclimatisation, then back to Chamonix for a night before travelling to Zermatt for the Matterhorn ascent. Again, for private guiding we are very flexible so if you have a particular area in mind for training and acclimatisation then contact us with your ideas.

Cloud inversion from the Hornli ridge
Cloud inversion from the Hornli ridge

What’s the best time of year to climb the Hornli ridge on the Matterhorn?

The ridge needs to be clear of snow and ice, which generally occurs from mid July to mid September. Of course, every season is different. August is probably the safest bet but is also the busiest. We run open trips where the first three days are guided on a 1:2 ratio. The last three days on the Matterhorn are always 1:1 Private guiding weeks are also available, and do give the most flexibility, with all six days on a 1:1 ratio.

Check out the Matterhorn webcams

Mountain huts and refuges

These come in a variety of styles but are all comfortable and warm. Think of them as mountain hostels rather than a garden shed! We book the huts on a half board basis so breakfast and dinner are included in the price. You can also buy lunch and snacks, as well as drinks during the day and evening. Being a member of a club such as the BMC, Alpine club or Austrian alpine club will usually get you a small discount on the hut. Guides receive a good discount, normally staying for free and paying for the breakfast and dinner, the cost of which is split amongst the group.

For the Tornio refuge you should budget around 55€ half board, plus guides cost.

The newly refurbished Hornli hut is fantastic, but expensive. You should budget 150€ half board, plus 140€ for the guide.

Matterhorn Hornli ridge trip prices – 2017

A private six day trip on a 1:1 guiding ratio – £2750 Contact us with your preferred dates.

A six day trip for two people, 1:2 for three days then 1:1 for the Matterhorn – £2095 per person

Open six day trips for 2017 – sharing the cost of a guide for the first three days, then 1:1 for the Matterhorn.

  • 20th – 25th August 2017

Our price includes Guiding fees, travel to Italy and Switzerland from Chamonix, hut reservations, guiding equipment such as ropes and emergency kit and guides accommodation in the Chamonix valley. During the trip you will need to cover ongoing expenses for both you and your guide. You only pay for what you use, splitting the guides expenses between the group for the first three days.

Expenses will include: Hut costs, Lift expenses, rescue insurance, personal climbing equipment or hire, accommodation in the Chamonix valley and meals/mountain food. You should budget approximately 800 euro for the six day trip.

Just before the fixed ropes on the Matterhorn. Windy conditions.
Just before the fixed ropes on the Matterhorn. Windy conditions.

What next?

You can have a read of our Guided Matterhorn ascent FAQ’s page for some answers to common questions.

Contact us here to discuss a Matterhorn trip with us.