/ Crazy Matterhorn idea

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Tim Chappell - on 16 Aug 2012
What would happen if you just--you know--went and CLIMBED it?

No acclimatisation, no faffing, no preparing... just go and do it. (I'm assuming we're talking about someone who's fit and competent already.) Fly out, get to the Hoernli or wherever the night before, go up it, get down, have a beer, go home.

I imagine the answer to my q is not "You would die horribly." I imagine the answer is more like "Unless you're immune to altitude, it would hurt, but you could do it if you were strong enough."

Yes, no, maybe?

Only a hill - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
I'm pretty sure this used to be standard practice before the benefits of acclimatization were fully understood. I guess climbers of old put it down to lassitude if they felt unwell... =)
Yanchik - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Former acquaintances of mine - I think one posts on here still, from time to time - more or less went and did that.

On the one hand, they were pretty solid crag climbers, planning their first trip to the Alps and getting in way over their heads with some of the classic mistakes.

On the other hand, they got higher - quite a lot higher - than the Solvay hut, having walked up from the valley rather than using the cable car, and only a bit of weather and poor luck seemed to spoil things.

I agree - it would hurt most people, and being fitter would probably just allow most people to get into deeper trouble more quickly - but I'm sure it gets done. And then of course, you don't hear about it - "Yeah, climbed the Matterhorn. No, no problem."

Y
Maria Dixon - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I know someone who did it like this a few weeks ago. It's obviously doable, and whether you'd be successful would probably depend on how well you cope with altitude.
henwardian - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: It could work. Didn't Dan McManus and Tony Stone essentially do that on the Matterhorn N face? Not sure, got sketchy details about that second hand... And I suppose it is 500m lower, though a lot harder and still an altitude which would cause most sealevel dwellers some discomfort.

I think I would end up feeling sick as a dog if I tried, dunno if I would be successful. I don't think being very strong or fit would be useful as the climbing isn't hard and altitude sickness isn't mititgated against by fitness.
Bottom line; I think most people would become sick enough that they would choose to turn back, I think only a few would have the determination/stupidity to continue in a very poor state or the luck to have bodies that deal very well with altitude.

But that is all conjecture really. Only one way to find out!
jackcarr on 16 Aug 2012 - 5ac42406.bb.sky.com
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I know someone who did just that, so it's definitely doable. Flew out on the Friday morning, jollied around and got to the Hornli Friday evening. Climbed it Saturday, got the flight back Sunday.

Obviously depends on a bit of luck with conditions.
jon on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

People do this sort of thing all the time. Some cope really well whilst others don't - it just depends on your body. For example, I did Mont Blanc once with a guy from Sydney. He'd sat in a plane for two days, Sydney > Geneva. The following day we did the Cosmiques Arête. The next the Midi/Plan. The next, Mont Blanc. He was fine. I had a terrible headache. You'll be fine, Tim. Do it.
Gordon Stainforth - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Altitude is a strange thing. It can take people in different ways. Some people can be very severely affected if they have had no acclimatisation (I seem to be fairly fortunate). But it could be a v foolish idea, because at best you're likely to be v out of breath, and so not enjoy it nearly as much as you would have. At worst you could be v sick indeed (actually, there's worse than than, of course:)(
ScraggyGoat on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I used to fly out to the Alps and regularly do a 4000m peak on Day 2 or Day 3, Day one being travelling from the UK. The highest we did at the start of a trip was the Dom at 4545m, we bivvied a good distance above the hut the night before(miserable hut warden). Only felt lousy for the last 200m. Quickly recovered once heading down.

The trick would be not to get delayed by other parties either going up, or while you were coming down, by roue finding, or by weather. Easier said than done on the Matterhorn...........hence i never considered attempting like this.

Obviously if you were either physiologically affected worse by altitude, or got delayed, maintaining the concentration to make sensible decisions, and to avoid a simple slip (particularly in descent) while developing increasing altitude sickness would be very hard, and you might rue your imprudence!
rurp - on 16 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: mates drove from london to chamonix friday night got first telepherique to midi on sat morning did mont blanc. One of them went weird on the top and untied , got abusive and tried to wander off to italy via some big cliffs! Took a bit of battering to get him to come down.
altitude is weird. its the one unknown. i would try get out friday, saturday get the cable car to kleine matterhorn and go up the breithorn, nice walk 4000m+ if no one goes nuts do matterhorn the next day if you are fit, strong good etc. just takes the main uncertainty out. Obviously its still a bit mad!
Good luck. Acetazolamide is optional
Tim Chappell - on 16 Aug 2012
Sounds like I should take a REALLY BIG BREATH and just climb as fast as I can :-)
Erstwhile on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Presumably thinking in the back of your mind, "If I get really sick I won't actually die because I can dial up the helicopter with my mobile phone".
Alpine rescue puts others at risk on your behalf, apart from being an incredible waste of the World's dwindling resources.
The issue is of responsibility not physical ability. Anybody who knowingly goes above 4000 m with NO acclimatization is being irresponsible.
Monk - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to jon:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> People do this sort of thing all the time. Some cope really well whilst others don't - it just depends on your body. For example, I did Mont Blanc once with a guy from Sydney. He'd sat in a plane for two days,

That might not be as crazy as it sounds - although plane cabins are pressurised, they do not have sea-level pressure. It's more like 2500-3000 metres, I think. So he would have been getting acclimatised sitting on the plane!

In answer to the OP - I wouldn't be able to do that. I feel altitude really badly and need to acclimatise. I feel weird if I go up to 2700 m from sea level. 3500m straight off and I am struggling to move. I reckon 4000m+ would leave me gibbering in the corner.

estivoautumnal - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

It was my first alpine peak and I didn't die horribly. Altitude wasn't too big a problem as it took all day to climb the Italian ridge and we bivvied on the summit. At that point I had climbed less than 10 rock routes and 1 winter route.
So you may not die.
Milesy - on 17 Aug 2012
I would like to see how well I do on a 4000m peak.

I have been to 3600m in a single day from sea level. Had a bit of a headache and it was a push for the very end but I was reasonably ok and felt better once up and spent an hour at the top and then raced back down again.
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Erstwhile:
> Anybody who knowingly goes above 4000 m with NO acclimatization is being irresponsible.



Ah, yes, I was wondering when the censorious brigade would arrive.

JimboWizbo - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: You'll probably be struggling by 3500, move slowly and it could be doable. But you have to tell yourself beforehand that you'll turn back as soon as you see any signs of sickness
Milesy - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Keep your Staffies below 4000m please.
rif on 17 Aug 2012
Vaguely in reply to Tim Chappell: I don't know if this is accepted by physiologists, but it always seemed to me that there's some degree of long-term accumulation of acclimatisation. What I mean is that if your previous highest altitude is x, then you go to some higher altitude y, in future you find x easier than it was.

For ex, after having climbed Mont Blanc a few times I never had altitude problems on lower Alpine peaks; after going to 6000 m in the KK I found Mt Blanc easier than before; and a decade later, having done no alpine climbing for several years, I did Mt Rainer (almost as high as Matterhorn) with no preparation or acclimatisation and didn't experience any altitude problem.

Has anyone had similar or contradictory experience? or know what medical science says about this?
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to JimboWizbo:

As others have pointed out, altitude takes us different ways. I know from my own experience that I get breathless over about 3700m when I'm not acclimatised. It doesn't seem to affect me any other way: no nausea, headaches, dizziness, or desire to lie down and die. It's also very noticeable that whatever altitude I've been at, I'm fine as soon as I stop exerting, e.g. by heading down.

I never said I was actually doing this! I'm just thinking about it...
dek - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
> [...]
> Ah, yes, I was wondering when the censorious brigade would arrive.
Fit Punters do it all time, Esp those with limited holiday time, there's only one way to find out, go for it if you want it that badly!

Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to dek:

Yes, the limited-time thing is certainly part of my thinking.

What gives me most pause is that I know that altitude affects me *from 3700 up*. That means I'd have to climb 800m while altitude-affected, a bit more than the ascent of Tryfan from the A5. That's doable, but quite a lot.

I'd be keener for the no-prep approach if altitude only affected me from 4000m up. Or indeed from 4479...
Milesy - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> That means I'd have to climb 800m while altitude-affected, a bit more than the ascent of Tryfan from the A5. That's doable, but quite a lot.
>

Do a munro while obscenely hungover or even still drunk? :)
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Milesy:

Now that's a training regime I can relate to.
cariva - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Come you too to the NAMF (Non Acclimatisation Mountain Festival)!

Ye will have free nausea and vomiting, all sorts of AMS, and much more!

Free Concerts with the bands: The LightHeaded’s, Thin Dizzy, and The Breathless Gang.

Dj Diamox in the pickups!

You can’t miss it!!! 80)
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to cariva:

Grazie no :-)

Come ho detto, conosco gia' i miei sintomi d' altitudine. Non mi prende cosi'.
dek - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Drive up to Clova, horse over to the Dubh Loch with a big sac, up central gully...back to the pub, repeat until you feel fit enough for a Swiss holiday, altitude lassitude, is a state of mind! :-)
MHutch - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Felt a bit headachey walking from an Austrian cable car station at 1800m to 2200m the other day. Perhaps I'll leave the Matterhorn for a bit.
ScraggyGoat on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Erstwhile:
No acclimitisation, and above 4000m- irresponsible. Bit of a sweeping statment isn't it. People are physiologically affected differently, so your height cut-off is an arbitary figure plucked out of thin-air (boom-boom!). Unfit Joe Public flies into La Plaz and is less than 300m from your limit!


There is no reason why you can't be sensible and get above 4000m. If you pick a snow plod where you can turn round, with no technical difficulty and no reascent on the descent route. In the event of trouble you can loose height very quickly, prefectly responsible.......

While 4000m punters like me wouldn't attempt this I knew some folks who had attempted the 6 classic North Faces in long w/e's, with I think success on at least three of them. Didn't Paul Ramdsen write an Easy Alps article where he'd done the Peutray Integrale, and revealled the all important 'paper-clip trick'...........for coping with fatigue!!
Dave Cumberland - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> What would happen if you just--you know--went and CLIMBED it?
> Yes, no, maybe?

That's exactly what my mate did a few years back. I climb with him every weekend, he's a gentle giant and very modest.

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Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to ScraggyGoat:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
> No acclimitisation, and above 4000m- irresponsible. Bit of a sweeping statment isn't it.


But he can see inside my head and knows what I'm thinking "at the back of my mind", so obviously that gives him the right to lecture me :-)
The Ivanator - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to rif:
> Vaguely in reply to Tim Chappell: I don't know if this is accepted by physiologists, but it always seemed to me that there's some degree of long-term accumulation of acclimatisation. What I mean is that if your previous highest altitude is x, then you go to some higher altitude y, in future you find x easier than it was.

Didn't Ed Hillary have the opposite problem? Unable to visit the schools in Sherpa villages he funded in later life despite having been to Everest summit.
JTatts - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

For me it can also vary from trip to trip in a very strange way.

In early March I was in Morocco and without any planning decided to go and have a look at Toubkal (4100m). Went straight up to the hut and walked up the morning after and felt absolutely fine.

A month later I was in the Ecrins and tried to do the same ski-mountaineering up the Dent du Geant (4000m). Lets just say that wasn't such a pleasant experience and we bailed without getting close to the top.

Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to JTatts:

Some so-called altitude effects are actually psychological. There was a palpable sense on my first 4000m peak in the Alps that I was breaking through a barrier in my own head more than anything else. (The peak was Alphubel. If it had been in Scotland, I'd have danced up it. As it was I made very heavy weather of it. And I was already acclimatised.)
JTatts - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to JTatts)
>
> Some so-called altitude effects are actually psychological.

Ok, I didn't say psychological, it definitely felt physiological!

If anything, we only went with the idea of trying the Dent du Geant straight away because I was so confident after Toubkal. The fact that we were ski-mountaineering novices clearly didn't help too much though.

Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to JTatts:

First time I went ski-mountaineering, after about 3 hours I just wanted to someone to shoot me to put me out of my misery. Nothing to do with altitude (I was at less than 2000m in British Columbia). It was just that I was completely exhausted and my boots were killing me.
Mark Collins - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Yanchik:
Hi former aquaintance, just putting a few facts straight.

> On the one hand, they were pretty solid crag climbers, planning their first trip to the Alps and getting in way over their heads with some of the classic mistakes.

None of us were in our first alpine season. I for one had previously completed the Nadalgrat at AD (a grade higher than the Matterhorn), among previous ascents of which at least 2 were of peaks over 4000m.


> On the other hand, they got higher - quite a lot higher - than the Solvay hut, having walked up from the valley rather than using the cable car, and only a bit of weather and poor luck seemed to spoil things.

We took the cable car.


I think the main causes of the problems we had, were of member(s) of the team not taking personal responsibility. I include myself in that and should have been better acclimatised. Having said that I had waved a hand at acclimatisation by ascending to the Hornli hut and then descending all the way to the valley before my attempt.
Dave Williams - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:


I've done it. :¬)

It was my shortest ever Alpine season. Following an excellent forecast for an August Bank Holiday, we travelled by Eurostar to Brussels and then the overnight sleeper train to Visp. We left Ashford on a Friday afternoon, breakfasted whilst trundling along the shores of Lake Geneva and arrived in Zermatt on the Saturday, summitted the Matterhorn on the Sunday and then back at work in Wales the following Tuesday morning (feeling totally wasted).

Boll*cks to acclimatisation and boll*cks to flying as well. Going by train is just sooo classy.

Just do it!

Dave
mr mills - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Was thinking of going out for a weekend hit myself but, the cost was to much, and given the uncertain weather on the Matterhorn not woth it but, if the cost was not an issue yes I`d be on the plane this weekend !
Did the Contamine route on the Aiguille du Midi first day and was ok, led all the pitches, think it gets E3, never had an altitude issue myself though :)

good luck, go for it !

mills.
rurp - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: If you are planning the normal ridge the question might be why bother, rather than will I die from the altitude!

It is a shite tottering pile of choss covered in grumpy swiss guides and countless hordes of numpties.

Some nutty austrian stood on my rope with his crampons, unclipped my belay then whilst trying to overtake us fell off and I managed to clip his rope into an iron post as he had no runners between him and his mate. when the guides run down the fixed ropes towards you with crampons it gets a bit spicy. hopefully you are good enough to do a different route up it!

Everyone is getting a bit het up about altitude above 4000m. My parents were nutcases and took me up the bishorn when i was 7. i just thought it was a laugh. if you have been high before and you don't go psycho then you are fine for the height.
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to rurp:


Well, the Hoernli is a scramble, but the other ways up need a rope really, don't they? Otherwise I'd be right with you, and say come at it from the Italian side.

The project I'm talking about is a *solo*. To repeat, I've never said yet that it's a project I would actually take on. It depends on what people tell me, and what I make of what they tell me.
rurp - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: cool, so we know you are good with altitude and doing it solo. Zip up the Hornli in autumn/winter when its stuck together with ice and less numpties to trip you up slow you down and otherwise try to kill you!
The only thing against it as an idea are the unpredictables and if you are good enough and fine with height then the unpredictables are rock fall and other punters. autumn /winter minimises these
Tobias at Home - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to rurp)

> The project I'm talking about is a *solo*. To repeat, I've never said yet that it's a project I would actually take on. It depends on what people tell me, and what I make of what they tell me.

regardless of the acclimatisation, are you sure you want to be soloing a pile of choss whilst numerous numpties are trying to kick rocks onto your head?
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tobias at Home:

Am I sure? No, I'm not sure. That's why I started this thread: to explore the idea.

If I was sure, I'd be up there now, assuming the weather's OK...
Tim Chappell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Hmm, looks a bit windy today.

http://www.zermatt.ch/en/page.cfm/webcam_matterhorn
Pyreneenemec - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I soloed the Matterhorn using the Hornli route in July, 1998.

I did the Breithorn first, to kind of acclimatise.

I had no trouble with the crowds, as conditions weren't optimal for the
guides and if I remember correctly,I was one of the three who summited that day.

What might be of interest would be to find out who the group of English guys were, who climbed it directly after arrival from the UK the previous day.They did the approach and continued to the Solvay hut where they spent the night. Our paths didn't cross, so I have no more details.
It was some sort of "24 hour challenge"
jon on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Monk:
> (In reply to jon)
> [...]
>
> That might not be as crazy as it sounds - although plane cabins are pressurised, they do not have sea-level pressure. It's more like 2500-3000 metres, I think. So he would have been getting acclimatised sitting on the plane!

Yes, pressurised to 9000ft. But that aside, it was the fact that he lives in Sydney at sea level, only training was walking in the Blue Mountains that really impressed me. He then came over here on a really long flight, basically awake, uncomfortable and immobile for 35 hours into another time zone - a flight that knocked me out for about a week - and then straight up to the Midi and then Mont Blanc, with no rest or lower level acclimatisation. As I said before, people do ignore acclimatisation and get away with it. Not that many, though...
Simon Caldwell - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Do a forum search for Cragrat Rich :-)
Henry Iddon - on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Dunno but my Dad drove to Zermatt from Blackpool for a weekends skiing in the early '60's in his Healey 'frog eye' Sprite !!! The flew the channel in a transporter plane to save time !
Erstwhile on 17 Aug 2012
In reply to ScraggyGoat:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
> No acclimitisation, and above 4000m- irresponsible. Bit of a sweeping statment isn't it. People are physiologically affected differently, so your height cut-off is an arbitary figure plucked out of thin-air (boom-boom!). Unfit Joe Public flies into La Plaz and is less than 300m from your limit!
>
This is pathetic - no further comment.
Tim Chappell - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Erstwhile:

no further comment.


From you this is welcome, I think :-)

wilkesley - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Not read all the replies to this thread, but I did it in the early 90's. From Zermatt we walked under the E? face and round to the start of the Italian Ridge. Once I got above 4000m I was really struggling and very slow. Bivvied just below the Solvay hut on the descent.

However, several years before that I went from the valley to Mt Blanc via the Gouter route in 2 and bit days with no problems. I had to walk from the valley because the railway hadn't opened. Stopped by the Tete Rousse, climbed up to Gouter in early morning. Rested there for the day and continued to summit, starting at 2:00am, and back down. Felt fine all the way.

My personal experience is that you can never be certain how the altitude is going to affect you if you aren't acclimatized. Sometimes you are OK and sometimes you aren't:)
almost sane - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Ditto what wilkesley said: you can never be certain how the altitude is going to affect you. Sometimes you are OK and sometimes you aren't:)

I would also add this to the process of acclimatisation: sometimes it happens easily and quickly, sometimes you will have problems.

As for the comments about landing in La Paz - the airport is actually above La Paz on the altiplano, so you land at 4,100m. I remember walking off the plane, grabbing my bags, and thinking that all this altitude stuff was a lot of nonsense, it was all in people's mind, and I didn't see what the fuss was about. After a couple of minutes I thought it would be a good idea to sit down for a bit. Then getting something to drink became a high priority. Oh, and was that a headache starting?
subalpine - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: in my yoof i turned up at the hornli hut on a beautiful afternoon as a diversion from an interail trip and was tempted to go for it. an hour up the ridge and having seen nobody, i bottled it. would be different these days... would prob have followed up a guided party at any time of the day?
Erstwhile on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Erstwhile)
>
> no further comment.
>
>
> From you this is welcome, I think :-)

This is not your way forward.

Bye bye.
Talius Brute - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I've crossed the Zatrwa La pass (4610m) within 48 hours of leaving sea level with no prior acclimatisation, wasn't a problem at all really considering how bad I expected to feel.
LakesWinter on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: It would probably be a more enjoyable experience if you did a couple of lower peaks first, say the Pointe de Zinal and Obergabelhorn, but, depending on how you acclimatise you might manage it.
Tim Chappell - on 18 Aug 2012
In reply to Erstwhile:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
> [...]
>
> This is not your way forward.
>
> Bye bye.

I'll be the judge of that.

Bye bye.
adnix - on 20 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Should be doable. We just did the traverse of the Meije like this.
- Friday evening -> fly in sleep on a mountain pass at 2000m
- Saturday -> Find gas canisters -> take the cable car up and and sleep at 3200m
- Sunday -> climb the approach and the west ridge -> sleep at 3500m
- Monday -> climb the traverse -> sleep at 2500m
- Tuesday -> back at car

Would have gone up already on Saturday if the weather had been better. They promised thunder for the evening and bivying on a rigde in a thunderstorm is no fun.

Some friends of mine did the Eiger NF and the Grandes Jorasses NF like this last winter. They booked the plane tickets once they saw the high pressure kicking in.
jon on 20 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> did the Eiger NF and the Grandes Jorasses NF like this last winter. They booked the plane tickets once they saw the high pressure kicking in.

I think this has just trumped your idea, Tim. No excuses now!

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Man on a mission - on 20 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I did it with 3 other guys over a weekend a couple of years ago, felt horrible from the solvay hut but it was brilliant, going again in October to do it again.
MG - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

"Unless you're immune to altitude, it would hurt, but you could do it if you were strong enough."


Probably about right. I have twice gone up to 4000m as a first peak of the season. On both occasions I felt horrible but got there. I wouldn't do this again though as it spoils the experience. If you are more altitude immune I suppose 4400m would be possible but I would recommend another day or so to enjoy it.
Clevelandclimber - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to MG:
There is no magic cut off for altitude problems, pulmonary oedema has been reported at less than 2000m and by definition AMS needs a period of time at a new altitude to kick in. What is fairly certain is that anyone from lowland altitudes working hard at 4000m+ will feel very short of breath, potentially light headed and may have impaired judgement. Whether you can crack on through this is a mixture of fitness, climbing experience and how good the auto pilot is particularly in descent.

I have done the matterhorn via the Italian ridge and summitted 36 hours after getting the ferry and flown into La Paz at 4100m and not died. I wouldn't say I'm great at altitude (having had AMS several times) but have a lot of years experience.

There is only one way to find out - try it with a respectful approach and bail out plan - solo may not be best!
Tim Chappell - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Clevelandclimber:


Thanks, I've had a lot of helpful replies to my exploratory queries, of which yours is the most recent.

Is the following statement right, in your opinion?

"If you don't solo the Matterhorn, you aren't a lot safer in rope terms, because in order to do it fast you have to climb and descend a lot of it unroped anyway. But having someone else to compare judgements with, and keeping an eye on each other, can help."
Gordon Stainforth - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

There are a huge number of metal stanchions in situ, I believe, used by the guides, that the rope can be flicked over (or into - I think they're a kind of corkscrew shaped clip). So I think the answer is probably, no, it's more dangerous soloing.
Tim Chappell - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Hmm. Or you can try and work out some sort of back-roping arrangement.
Gordon Stainforth - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

You've lost me completely.
MG - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: If you climb it roped you will be roped all the way between the Hornli the summit and back to the Hornli. 90% of the time your will have a short rope tight between you. On the harder steps you will thread the rope through the corkscrew things Gordon mentions and have a bit more rope out. You might abseil once or twice going down.
MG - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to MG: That might help you decide if it is safer that way. Or it might not.
Solaris - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I think I'd have four things in mind:
1) It is possible to go to 4000m slowly on a snow-plod and not get AMS symptoms.
2) The Matterhorn demands more exertion than a snow-plod (eg the Weissmies) and is likely to be more uncomfortable.
3) Speed is important for safety in the Alps.
4) The boundary between symptoms of AMS and symptoms of cerebral oedema is pretty blurred.

(Being a philosopher, I am sure you will be able to formalise that lot and make the inferences 8>{)
MG - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Solaris:

> (Being a philosopher, I am sure you will be able to formalise that lot and make the inferences 8>{)

Bluuurgh, vomit???
adnix - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>
> There are a huge number of metal stanchions in situ, I believe, used by the guides, that the rope can be flicked over (or into - I think they're a kind of corkscrew shaped clip). So I think the answer is probably, no, it's more dangerous soloing.

It's a good question if it's safer soloing or roped up. If you go solo you can ditch quite a bit of gear and you go lighter and faster. Personally I like more climbing with good friends, though.

Also, you should remember that if you do to your planning correctly you can actually have a quite nice acclimatization plan in a fairly short time window. The key is sleeping the first night at some high mountain pass on the way there.

If you go to Matterhorn with a plane, you can fly into Milan on Friday night and sleep at the Simplon pass at 2005m. It's only two hours from Malpensa. On Saturday you drive to Täsch and hike up to Hönrli at 3260m. It's only two nights but it's progressive with altitude. The Hörnli route should take 8-12 hours for the round trip which is really not that long. If you feel too slow on the first day trying, you can turn around after two hours and go back at the hut and sleep one more night.

I think really few people sleep higher than the Hörnli hut prior to their climb. if the weather is crap on your first planned summit day you can always have further acclimatization taking lofty bivy kit on a cable car and riding the first lift down in the morning. So my conclusion is that a four day trip is enough if the weather is nice. Actually, a four day trip has one extra day for bad weather or a headache. I think you should go for it!
Clevelandclimber - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
I seem to remember a couple of icy pitches near the top which we abseiled in descent (on the Hornli). In my view a short rope adds security if you know what you are doing and gives you the ability to ab. Pitching the whole thing is a nonsense (but we did see some people doing so.......) and would take a very long time!

Although it's a good tick it may not be the best place to cut your teeth with moving together or short roping due to the traffic and loose stuff as mentioned. Being honest to yourself about your experience is the key.

All the best
Solaris - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to MG:

Is that a reaction to me, to Tim, or to both of us?

A
Goucho on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Of course you could do it, we did in 75' - our first alpine route!

If it gets leery, you can always just turn back.

If you've got a good level of fitness and reasonable climbing competence, it's really just down to how well you cope with the altitude!

JJL - on 21 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I guess what you're really asking is when altitude becomes a major barrier for the majority of people - clearly for an individual it varies a lot.

I may get flamed for saying it, but I do think being generally fit helps to raise the level at which altitude really bites. If you are fit, you would probably manage ok. That's different to enjoyment by the way.

For me, from home (200m asl) I feel altitude - as in I am aware of a detrimental impact - from around 3500m (same day from home). I did 4300m in 2 days from home and was uncomfortable (headache, deep lethargy), but I acclimatise quite fast - 6500m in a week.

So my new equation is:

Comfort ceiling = 3500m + 500m x days

In reality it tails off. I have never felt properly "comfortable" much above 6000m although I can operate quite happily at that level.

To return to your OP. No, don't do it. You might get the tick but you'll love it so much more if you spend a few more days.

erph - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
Would you do it if the matterhorn was in a part of the world where helicopter rescue is not an option?
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to erph:

What's that got to do with it? A plan that involves needing to get rescued is not a plan. I don't factor the rescue services into any of my plans. Do you?
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

There are two main issues here, as I see it.

1. The physiological question of whether altitude sickness will present a problem. If it does, it would either a) take away any real pleasure from the ascent, which would surely be a great pity, or b) result in disappointing, frustrating, even humiliating failure (plus a huge waste of money)

2. The sheer self-indulgence of it. I don't think anyone else has raised this. I thought we were all meant to be a bit sensitive about our 'carbon footprint' these days? The idea of just jetting over for a big tick and then jetting back again seems a rather gross kind of consumerism to me. It shows very little respect for either the mountain, or the environment in which it is situated. Zermatt is one of the dream mountain valleys of the whole world - albeit rather besmirched now by commercial development - a place to be savoured. The other Alpine giants there (the Weisshorn, Dent Blanche, Taschorn etc) are almost without equal (as is the mountain walking hereabouts), and would be even better known if not overshadowed by the incomparable Matterhorn. Beyond which, the whole history and culture of the place demands more respect, IMHO.

In short, re. both points 1 and 2, 'do nothing in haste', and re. point 1. 'courage and strength are nought without prudence'.

Or to put it another way: the big question Why? hangs over the whole enterprise. It looks awfully like mountaineering reduced to nothing more than an egotistical stunt.
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

On 2, you missed something I said earlier, or meant to say, which was that I'd only do this if I was in Milan or Geneva or similar on work anyway, as I am sometimes. I can't afford to jet out and back for one route.

On egotistical stunts: I don't really get your point. If I happen to go up the Matterhorn by the tourist route, who's supposed to be impressed? I don't see that it raises any questions about egotistical stunts that aren't raised by anything else that a punter like me does.

And after all, we punters are the least egotistical of mountaineers. Unlike the cutting-edge climbers we do our thing, and no one's impressed, ever, because what we do just isn't very impressive...
fruteborce - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to erph)
>
> What's that got to do with it? A plan that involves needing to get rescued is not a plan. I don't factor the rescue services into any of my plans. Do you?

He's asking an interesting question I think. So, would you?
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to fruteborce:


Like I say, a plan that involves needing to get rescued is not a plan.

Maybe if we're in utterly remote places we all tend to ease off a little. But I think it would be irresponsible to do anything anywhere that involved saying to yourself "Relax, if you screw up the big bird can always get you out". If I caught myself thinking that, I'd give myself a slap. Wouldn't you?
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> On 2, you missed something I said earlier, or meant to say, which was that I'd only do this if I was in Milan or Geneva or similar on work anyway, as I am sometimes. I can't afford to jet out and back for one route.

I certainly did miss that point, in which case I apologise.
>
> On egotistical stunts: I don't really get your point. If I happen to go up the Matterhorn by the tourist route, who's supposed to be impressed? I don't see that it raises any questions about egotistical stunts that aren't raised by anything else that a punter like me does.

Well, it is going against the standard advice; which implies that 'I'm so good that such questions wouldn't arise in my case'. Irrespective of the fact that the Hornli is the Voie Normale, it has a rather unsavoury whiff about it to me that just won't go away. But then I confess that this is a problem I've always had with any kind of 'racing' or charity runs in the mountains (which are often very damaging to the mountains and result in totally unnecessary injury and use of emergency services - shocking example recently in the Lake District). Again, for the same reasons, I personally can't stand the idea of the 'Dovedale Dash' - the amount of damage that used to cause was totally shocking. The hills reduced to nothing more than a sporting arena. OK, I'm probably in a small minority on this, but I've felt like this all my life about such things (it's exactly what I was saying 22 years ago in 'Eyes to the Hills')

>
> And after all, we punters are the least egotistical of mountaineers. Unlike the cutting-edge climbers we do our thing, and no one's impressed, ever, because what we do just isn't very impressive...

But your argument is still on the axis of what is impressive-unimpressive in human terms, rather than on the beauty of the hills and mountains themselves.
riddle - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Only a hill:

Was Lassitude first discovered during the ascent of Rum Doodle?
fruteborce - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Yes, yes I would.
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

In reply to Gordon Stainforth:


a) So you think there's something unsavoury about *anyone* soloing the Hoernli ridge? I don't get that at all, I'm afraid. Do you sense this unsavouriness in the various people who've said on this thread that they've soloed the Hoernli? I'm just puzzled, frankly. You go on to make some remarks about damage to the route; fair enough; but that applies to any well-worn route. Do you think it's unsavoury to do anything that lots of other people do??

b) I've no idea why you think my "argument is still on the axis of what is impressive-unimpressive in human terms, rather than on the beauty of the hills and mountains themselves". Like I said in my last post, I'm not good enough at climbing/ Alpinism to be doing it to impress other people! I do it for fun, and actually, yes, I do do it to experience the beauty of the mountains.

I'm afraid I'm really not seeing what your problem is, Gordon.
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>
>
> a) So you think there's something unsavoury about *anyone* soloing the Hoernli ridge? I don't get that at all, I'm afraid.

Absolutely not. Where did you get that idea from? In fact the first ascensionists effectively soloed most of it. I was talking solely about the rather strange rush, carrying with it a unnecessary risk of altitude problems. That at best would probably diminish enjoyment of the climb. I think of Johnny Dawes referring to aspects of climbing that he doesn't like, which reduce it simply to 'hard physical tasks'.

>Do you sense this unsavouriness in the various people who've said on this thread that they've soloed the Hoernli? I'm just puzzled, frankly. You go on to make some remarks about damage to the route; fair enough; but that applies to any well-worn route. Do you think it's unsavoury to do anything that lots of other people do??

No, I didn't refer to damage to the Hornli. I was talking about another problem that can result from treating the hills/mountains with disrespect (charity races in the British hills). My unease is all about a disrespect for what matters most about the mountains.
>
> b) I've no idea why you think my "argument is still on the axis of what is impressive-unimpressive in human terms

Simply because that was what you were talking about.
>
> I'm afraid I'm really not seeing what your problem is, Gordon.

Perhaps others will.

MG - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I do it for fun, and actually, yes, I do do it to experience the beauty of the mountains.

If you are doing it purely for fun, I would suggest not doing the Hornli ridge. There are nearby options for soloing that are more enjoyable lines, less crowded (and hence safer for a soloist), and also a bit lower so the altitude problems are less severe.
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:


Ah. So if I did this, it wouldn't be "respectful". And presumably when other people did it, that wasn't respectful either.

With respect, Gordon-- sheesh.
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:

PS. If you really respected the Matterhorn and the Pennine Alps/Zermatt Valley - I'm assuming you've never been there before - there is no way that you would just dash in, climb the Matterhorn, and dash back, without spending quite a while in Zermatt und Umbegung (name of wonderful map I've treasured all my life from 1966-67), visiting the Zermatt Museum, taking trips up to the Gornergrat, etc etc.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
>
> Ah. So if I did this, it wouldn't be "respectful". And presumably when other people did it, that wasn't respectful either.
>
> With respect, Gordon-- sheesh.

Yes, I will shut up now, because I've said my piece, and have nothing to add.

MG - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> PS. If you really respected the Matterhorn and the Pennine Alps/Zermatt Valley - I'm assuming you've never been there before - there is no way that you would just dash in, climb the Matterhorn, and dash back, without spending quite a while in Zermatt und Umbegung

Some people have to work and so on you know? Given a weekend or nothing, is a weekend allowable for visiting Zermatt?

Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to MG:

Well, that is a problem. If one was working at quite high altitude, it wouldn't be a problem. Traditionally, most Alpinists (pre modern-affluence), particularly from the UK, would visit the Alps only as a summer holiday. I.e make an Alpine 'season' of it (but grand as it sounded, typically only 3 weeks max).
MG - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Yes I am aware of that. My question was in response to your claim that spending only a weekend in Zermatt was somehow disrespectful. It seems to me that if you only have a limited amount of time and choose to use it to travel to Zermatt and to spend it there than in the myriad of other possible locations that shows appreciation more than wandering by in a three week holiday would. I don't see how "respect" can come in to it either way to be honest.
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to MG:

No, I respect that these arguments are all very hazy at the edges, and many of these concerns of course apply to tourism in general - but I hope that most/all climbers do think about such things. I referred above to my old, long-out-of-print 'Eyes to the Hills' and realise it must be a bit irritating to some people for me to be referring to something that they haven't got access to. So here's the text of that book (minus all the pix). The relevant chapter is chapter 6 (p.32 to the end). Warning: I put the same arguments even more strongly then (in 1991) than I would now. :)

http://www.gordonstainforth.co.uk/eyehill/EHtext.pdf
jacobjlloyd - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: Dont know too much about it, but I like your ideas. I would love to do just that myself! Climbing isn't always about sure things, or sensible progression. Sometimes its good to just go for it. High risk, high reward. Live it up. I would love to hear about it! The trouble with these crazy ideas (just the sort of thing that made british mountaineering strong in the early days) is finding the right partner. If you've got that, and you really think you have the grunt and the resilience, go for it.
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to jacobjlloyd:

Of course, ironies abound here, because I think that the truly adventurous spirit you describe is virtually essential, at least when you are young (and have not family responsibilities etc.). An essential 'rite of passage' ... and I feel sorry for those who have never experienced such things. Your comment 'Climbing isn't always about sure things, or sensible progression' could almost be a tagline for *my latest book* (resisting shameless plug). I may use it in talks I give ... if you'll permit me :)
jacobjlloyd - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: Haha, all words have been used before : )
Need to get hold of a copy of FIVA actually. Heard good things. Desperate to read these just such a book now, while my broken body sorts itself out! The only trouble with 'going for it' is sometimes it hurts. But then, dare i say it, it is still worth it. Life is fragile, but the beautiful life stands up to that fragility, isn't cowed by it.
Gordon Stainforth - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to jacobjlloyd:

Well, it's a tricky one, because my brother and I definitely went too far, and were extremely lucky to get back alive. When I say, 'extreme luck' I'm not exaggerating - we were saved by a complete freak. If one were to replay that exact scenario a thousand times I doubt if that freak would repeat itself.
Tim Chappell - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Tim Chappell)
>
> PS. If you really respected the Matterhorn and the Pennine Alps/Zermatt Valley - I'm assuming you've never been there before -



Oh Gordon, Gordon, Gordon... take a look at my page on this very forum. OF COURSE I've been to Zermatt. Thrice....


there is no way that you would just dash in, climb the Matterhorn, and dash back, without spending quite a while in Zermatt und Umbegung (name of wonderful map I've treasured all my life from 1966-67), visiting the Zermatt Museum, taking trips up to the Gornergrat, etc etc.

Check, check, check (except the Museum, and the Murderhorn...)

<Sigh>

:-)
erph - on 25 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to erph)
>
> What's that got to do with it? A plan that involves needing to get rescued is not a plan. I don't factor the rescue services into any of my plans. Do you?

When i mentioned heli rescue, i wasn't talking about involving it in the plan. Nobody in his right mind would do that. I was talking about risk assesment and the consequences you are prepared to take.
Anyway, if you go for it, enjoy it!
adnix - on 26 Aug 2012
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>
> 2. The sheer self-indulgence of it. I don't think anyone else has raised this. I thought we were all meant to be a bit sensitive about our 'carbon footprint' these days? The idea of just jetting over for a big tick and then jetting back again seems a rather gross kind of consumerism to me. It shows very little respect for either the mountain, or the environment in which it is situated.

There are some other perspectives on this, too.

a) Some of us are sort of forced to quite far from the Alps. After you have kids the game changes quite a bit. You don't have too much time available and you'll have to think about the bigger picture: kids, spouse, granparents, work and so on. In this kind of life situation a season in the Alps might not be an option but a long weekend can be done quite easily.

b) The carbon footprint is rather big, about that I'll agree. On the other hand, for the CO2 emissions of one trip to Patagonia (15000km one way) or Himalayas (6000km) you can do quite many shorter trips to the Alps (<2000km). Also, if you have family, one person flying to the Alps is is much less CO2 emissions than four person family flying back home to visit the relatives.

c) I'll disagree about your last point about lack of respect. Sure, you don't spend as much time in Zermatt and you probably won't visit any museums. But in order to be able to pull it off you'll need to do quite a bit research back home. Figuring out the local logistics is not easy.
Gene00 - on 27 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I would advise a little acclimatisation.

I climbed the Matterhorn (Hornli) at the end of July after 3 days (including the Matterhorn day) acclimatising. I did the Dent du Geant prior to the Matterhorn.
In retrospect I think I would have enjoyed it more had I given myself an extra day at altitude.
Gene00 - on 27 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to rurp)
>
>
> Well, the Hoernli is a scramble, but the other ways up need a rope really, don't they? Otherwise I'd be right with you, and say come at it from the Italian side.

Ha ha ha

And you plan on doing it solo.
Don't forget to buy insurance, on the other hand, just stay at home.

rossn - on 29 Aug 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell: I think it's a yes, but I think the problem would be having a minor slip whilst being giddy and it turning into something more serious as a result, particularly when you're tired and descending. I dont think it would be particularly enjoyable though, cant see there being many good photographs of the ascent or happy faces on the summit. But as an exercise in endurance or test of personal toughness it's pretty impressive.

RN
In reply to Tim Chappell: I tried it...drove from Chester to Zermatt in one go, got out the car and set off up the mountain...didn't get very far! Not an aclimatisation issue...just lack of sleep, experience and fitness (massive lack of fitness!)
came down, drove home...all in all it was a 2 and a half day round trip to the alps!

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