Frequently Asked Questions about climbing the Matterhorn (FAQ)
We are three persons, what kind of rope technique and rope lengths do think would work best on Matterhorn?
We were two teams of two, and I would recommend trying to get one more person on the trip, because a team of two moves much faster than a team of three, and two teams are safer than one. Also you can swap teams depending on how people are feeling.. i guess that is true for a team of three.
But you can of course do it with three, and move fast if you do not waste time doing belays and so on. Maybe it can even be an advantage on some sections, where the middle person belays the third person up a hard section while the front man looks for the way on. I don't know haven't tried it, but there were some teams of three there and they did fine although seemed to move slower than the rest of us.
As far as I remember we had one team with a 50m single rope and one team with a 50m double rope (ie one half rope that you double up). The half rope is nice 'cause it is lighter, and you can still abseil 25m on it, but it can get tangled more easily. I personally like it. Lots of people on the mountain, especially the local guides climbed with much shorter ropes, perhaps 25-30m?. You can do the whole climb in alpine style, the problem is the descent, if you are confident on "alpine rock" no problem, but one of you will have to "stick your neck out" a bit, if you have short ropes and cannot abseil. If you are three, I would go for a 50m rope though.
How much of the climb did you use pitch technique and how much short-roping (running rope). I'm mostly thinking about the steel chain sections, how did you climb it? How to put the protections, with via-ferratta slings?
We climbed the whole thing "short-roping", perhaps one or two pitches thrown in. It is the only way to keep a reasonable speed. So you climb perhaps with 5-10 meter rope between you (depending on how hard it is), and then in short hard sections, you can quite quickly use italian hitch belays on a single biner. One of our teams swapped leads when the front person ran out of gear, the other team had just one leader.
Protection on the steel chain sections was just a quickdraw in the chains or bolts, perhaps a sling. Some of the steel sections we pitched, others we short-roped.
Read your gear list, did you have enough protections (or too much), slings etc. Is one set of nuts, 3 camming devices, 5 express slings and 3 long slings enough? We all use cordelette systems for belays.
We had the right amount, I think. I wouldn't bring camming devices, just a set of nuts. Yes 5 express slings are good, I personally like more long slings 3 short, 3 long. and then of course biners. Italian hithch is the only way to go. Belay devices take too long.
How was the descent, the route finding and what did you rap-off from?
The descent was harder than we expected, we actually took a bit longer getting down than getting up! Other teams were much faster. The difference was that we abseiled a lot, feeling that it was safer in some sections. Other teams just climbed down, especially the guides who in hard sections belayed their clients down and then soloed down after them. We didn't have the confidence at the time. I think with perhaps one exception we rapped of bolts/chains.
The route finding is relatively obvious, except for a section just above the Carrel hut (at about 3900m). If you have time (and energy!) the night before it could pay off to find your way up to the 4000m mark with no packs so you can move quickly in the morning. We had a bit route finding issues on the way down on the top section just before gaining the saddle (Pic Tyndall), but we figured it out.
How crowdy was the route, we'll climb in september, how crowdy do you think it will be then?
The hut was more or less full, the climb seemed a little crowded in places but generally the teams spread out nicely and it felt good. One place was Whypers chimney on the first day, there was a bit of a jam, but nothing serious. The second day the problem was in the first section where route finding was a bit tricky and everyone was all over the place.
When do you recomend to start the climb?
The guidebook say around 06.00 am. We have never been good at "alpine starts", and as usual we were the last team on the climb on the second day! Yes 6am is good. If you start too early, it is cold, there may still be ice on the chains and rock-- there is no point unless you absolutely want to be ahead of everyone.
What section was hardest - or most scary?
How was the Abruzzi hut, can you buy food there?
Getting back from the Ymeltrob bar, trying to find our hotel... very hard. :-) Technically the hardest is probably up around where the ladder is on the top section, you are also a bit tired at this point. My brother will probably say it was the section before Pic Tyndall where it was fairly loose, hard to protect, and so a bit runout. But he is a bit of a whimp, so...
Technically if you are an HVS climber and above, you will have no problems. At VS you will find a few sections "interesting", but they will go. But of course, it is not about technical difficulty, it is a mountain climb, and it is about keeping your head cool, taking calculated risks, and first of all moving efficiently (quickly and safely).
Yes they make dinner and breakfast and have a number of things you can buy like chokolade etc. The hut was very nice, nice beds, nice eating/living area, lots of space.
Is there any resturant in the Abruzzi hut?
Well, they just have one meal for everyone (no menu).
What's the price for a nights stay in the Abruzzi hut?
Sorry don't remember.
Do you have to book in a bed in advance in the Abruzzi hut?
Yes, that is a good idea. You just have them call at the mountain guide office in Cervina, and that's it. Perhaps it wont be a problem in september where there are much fewer people I suspect.
How was the approach to the Carrel hut? Read that there's risk for rock-fall. Is it best to do the walk in to the Carrel hut early before the sun?
We left in the morning, but not too early, and I would not recommend leaving before the sun... you have plenty of time to get up there during the day, only problem is that the hut fills up so it is nice to be there early to get a good bed. But leaving in the early mroning is fine. We had no problems with rock fall, perhaps they have that earlier in the season, but I would assume that it is even less a problem in september, depending on the weather.
How crowdy is the Carrel hut? Is it best to be there early to get a bed?
It was pretty crowded, and yes it is good to be early. On the way down we stayed in the hut again (because we were so slow descending), and we got some REALLY crap beds in the top, very hot.
Will you need a sleeping matress in the Carrel hut? Can you book a bed in advance in the Carrel hut?
You dont need sleeping mats, also there are blankets. all you really need is a sheet bag, if you want to go light. I don't remember if you need to book, I don't think so, but ask at the guide office before you head up there.
We're thinking of climbing Breithorn and Pollux or Castor for acclimatisation. Did you take the cable from Cervina to the Kleine Matterhorn hut? Have some questions about that hut too.
We took the cable from Cervina not all the way to Kleine Matterhorn, but some other place which I don't remember the name of. It is the main cable up to the ski places. So you walk on the ski slopes for a while up to the kleine matterhorn, and then continue.
How often is the cable lift leaving from Cervina to Kleine Matterhorn?
I think every 5 minutes because it was still skiing season!
How was the Kleine Matterhorn hut, can you buy food there?
Is there any resturant in the Kleine Matterhorn hut?
What's the price for a nights stay in the Kleine Matterhorn hut?
Do you have to book in a bed in advance in the Kleine Matterhorn hut?
We didn't stay there, we stayed in the "hut" where the cable ends, don't remember the name of it.
I saw that you climbed both Pollux and Castor, which of those mountains do you recomend most?
Castor is a snow climb (or walk), Pollux is more mixed with rock climbing and some chains thrown in. As preparation for matterhorn, I would definitely recommend Pollux because it is much more the matterhorn climbing style (although there is more mixed/snow/ice on Pollux). It is good for getting a feel for moving together, and so on.
We had some problems getting down, but you can read about that in the trip report ;-)
Can you recomend a cheap and good place to stay in Cervina?
We stayed at the mountain guide place (a hotel on top of the mountain guide office). A fine place, I think it was midrange, you can probably find something cheaper, but not something more conveniently located when you need to ask about the mountain weather forecast in the guide office.!!
Can you use a mobile phone on Matterhorn?
Yes. We used ours in the Carrell hut no problem.