With all the mountain lift and trains in the Swiss Alps during peak season you'd…
When people ask me “When is the best time for the Matterhorn?” I always answer “it’s impossible to say”. Spring can be too snowy on the Hörnli ridge and you get snow storms into the start of summer. Mid-summer has frequent thunderstorms which are quite unpredictable and are extremely hazardous on the Matterhorn, so you have to get up and down super quick. In autumn, at some stage the snow storms return, and cloudy and gloomy weather can linger for days or weeks.
After such an amazing summer, with fine weather from spring through to the end of the summer, we were again lucky in the autumn. Funny thing is, in autumn no one wants to climb mountains, well that is apart from some locals and especially my wife Monika. After losing out on some of the best of summer due to an injury she was super keen to get up into the high mountains.
She has always wanted to climb the Matterhorn, but we are both busy in the middle of summer and in spring it often has had too much snow, so each autumn we have waited and watched the weather and conditions, but snowfalls have meant we did other things instead.
This autumn has been super dry, and the sunny days have kept coming and coming. So off we set to the Hörnli hut, we chose to walk from Zermatt as some of the lifts weren’t running and it’s kind of nice to climb stuff from the valley floor too.
Five hours later we arrived at the Hörnli huts’ emergency shelter. Its a weird setup with super comfortable beds but nowhere suitable to cook or any water and the ladder up to the door is too tight to get through wearing a pack. We shared it with a few Czech and Swiss climbers and there was a good atmosphere.
The next day we left the hut an hour before first light and we caught up to team Czech at the Solvay hut. Above there the small dusting of snow from a few days before as well as the wind kept things real.
We topped out on the Matterhorn to see no other people or even tracks from other parties. The Czech team had turned around at the summit snow slopes as the conditions were quite hard and icy. A fair call as the rock orientated boots we all had aren’t so easy on 40-degree ice. We never saw the Swiss climbers above the Solvay hut, so I guess they turned around too. The beautiful 360-degree views were somewhat less important for me than warming up my hands before our descent, but Monika was on top of the world, for a few minutes at least and especially being the only ones there.
That night back in the hut we were woken by the wind, it kept on blowing at around 60km/h at the hut and probably more up high, not the fine morning the forecast had promised. As the day dawned our thoughts wondered to the Italians that had left at 3am that morning and how lucky we were the day before, to have the Matterhorn to ourselves on such a clear day. Usually such privileges are reserved for the more hardcore climbers who do the north face early in the season. As we walked back to Zermatt it cleared briefly once for a few minutes to show new snow and high winds, the mountain looked bigger than the day before as it closed in again.