Anniversary of the First Ascent

Anniversary of the First Ascent

Dispatch by Robert Brodey
Opening Photo by Jimmy Martinello 

On the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn (4478m), there has been much celebrating in the streets of Zermatt. There has also been a more somber commemoration of the four climbers who died on the descent of that famous climb back in 1865.

This morning Andrew and I took the opportunity to go to the climbers’ cemetery tucked behind the central church in town. There were some renowned climbers buried there, but also a woman named Maria Markl, who died climbing the Matterhorn in the 1950s, at the age of 30. I couldn’t help but think of her story in the context of her times.

Switzerland Climber Tombstone

Maria Markl's tombstone
Photo by Robert Brodey

As I read tombstones like that of a young man named Charles“Dearly loved younger son…whose promising young life was lost whilst descending…”it brought home the price paid by some for following their youthful dreams. The sense of loss seemed etched in those tombstones, and I unexpectedly found myself crying.

Matterhorn Museum Switzerland

Climber's cemetary
Photo by Robert Brodey

There has been so much drama on the Matterhorn over the 150 years since its first ascent, with countless lives lost. Despite the dangers and the long list of hardships one faces on the Matterhorn, climbers continued to scale its walls and ridges, including the iconic north face in 1931 and a solo ascent by Walter Bonatti of the same face in the dead of winter, 1965. And just this year, Daniel Arnold broke the speed record up the 1200 metre north face, sprinting up it in one hour and 46 minutes. A staggering feat.

To wrap up our day, the Outpost View team paid a visit to the Matterhorn Museum to get a fuller context of life in the region before and after the first ascent. What quickly became apparent is that this quiet village at the end of the valley was profoundly transformed by those events in 1865, turning it into a destination for climbers, skiers, and tourists alike. The museum had some recreations of old buildings, geological information, as well as a section dedicated to the controversy surrounding the four deaths that came on the heels of one of alpine’s first great ascents.  

Matterhorn Museum Switzerland
Matterhorn Museum Switzerland

Inside the Matterhorn Museum
Above Two Photos by Delano Lavigne


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