Climbing the Matterhorn via the Lion’s Ridge

Fiona and I climbed the Matterhorn this early October, just hours before the first winter storm moved in. All lifts in Cervinia were closed, which meant an 1’800 meter climb, just to the Carrel Hut! It was the next day that had me thinking: 8 hours round trip to the summit from the hut, then 1’800 meters back to the car. Ouch!

We left the hut at a leisurely 7:30AM, just as the sun was rising. We immediately reached the first fixed ropes, The Awakening Ropes. I was fully awake after getting over the final vertical section. (Hmmm, not quite like the Hornli ridge…) Though it was quite cold, the weather was perfect as we climbed. The winds from the west were picking up as the impending storm approached. The route stays on the south face, clear of the ridge for the first few hundred meters, which meant we were out of the wind, but once up on the ridge I was happy to have my down jacket on under my gore-tex shell.

We then progressed across the south face, zigzagging towards, then away from the ridge, never too far from it. A metal cable appeared, which added security as we continued right and up on the south face. After some guess work, we reached the Tyndall rope that takes you to the ridge at approximately 4070m. We then climbed on the windy ridge to the top of  Tyndall peak (4241m). The climbing was easy and fun, but challenging with the wind. Though there was ice in places, the whole route was doable without crampons or ice axes. From Tyndall peak,  the hike is horizontal going NE, then some down climbing and the not to be missed, “enjambée”. The guide book says to step across or jump. Reading that, I’d gotten quite psyched to jump it, until I had a look at it. Forget that! Stepping across worked quite well thank you…

Once across the Col Félicité, the climbing is straight forward until the steep Jordan Ladder. Climbing this wooden rope ladder was a lot easier than it looked from below. After the Piravano fixed ropes, we were quickly on the Italian summit. And from there, a short down climb then up to the one meter higher Swiss summit.

Equipment: There’s lots of fixed pro, so bring 3-6 quickdraws and a few large locking carabiners. I used a 37 meter single rope. Crampons and axe may be necessary, plus all the other obvious mountain gear and clothing. The hut is unguarded, so bring food. There are a couple of good gas stoves and (dirty) pots and pans and dishes, but no water. We filled up with water at 3300 meters, below the small glacier, west of the path to the hut. One can find snow to melt near the hut, but may be difficult to mine (ice).

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About Hans Solmssen

I am a professional mountain guide living in Verbier, Switzerland. I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii after my father moved to Hawaii to teach at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He created a horse program at this high school, located in the middle of the largest, privately owned cattle ranch in the US. Horses were a major part of my life, even playing polo for a few years. I moved to northern Vermont to go to school, and discovered skiing. Little did I know, this would become my life's passion: guiding friends and clients over the mountains around the world on skis and foot. I moved to Verbier, Switzerland in 1982, and entered the Swiss guide's program in '88. I received my UIAGM "pin" 3 years later in 1991. I have two kids, Anya and Kevin.

5 thoughts on “Climbing the Matterhorn via the Lion’s Ridge

  1. hans Post author

    Thanks for the note Dave. Biner’s account of the route as a descent was a small help. “Guide du Valais” Swiss Alpine Club series in French. But I think I mostly used info off the web from other climber’s accounts. A good source of info is http://www.camptocamp.org Hope that helps…

  2. Dave M

    Hey guys,
    You mentioned a guide book in your account…just wondering what book you used? We’re planning an ascent next summer and I’m trying to learn as much about the route as possible!

  3. Pingback: Hiking the summer Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt | Alpine Guide Verbier

  4. Melissa Rothfield

    Looks like a great time was had.
    What great shots!
    My knee has come good so I’m going to Hakuba (Japan) with my 3 daughters in January.
    Hope you get a great season.
    Love
    Melissa xx

  5. Jim Sweitzer

    Nice trip report, and what a weather day; the light looked very magical. Exciting to see new snow above the village,

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