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Original at
Originally written in English by a Swede

The Matterhorn: Hörnligrat, the north-east ridge
The path up to Hörnlihütte

The Race

The Englishman Edward Whymper arrived in Valtournanche, on the Italian side of the border, on the 7th of July 1865. He persuades Jean-Antoine Carrel to climb Matterhorn with him, but the weather was bad. Three days later Carrel abandons the idea, who gets other commitments. At dawn on the 11th of July, while Whymper is still asleep, Carrel and some friends sets off for Matterhorn. Whymper is outraged. Now he can not get to Zermatt, nor porter or guide is at hand. During the day he meets Lord Francis Douglas and Joseph Taugwalder, one of Peter Taugwalder's sons, who have just arrived in Breuil. Their plans are also to climb Matterhorn.

They cross the Teodulpass into Switzerland together. The weather is still bad. In Zermatt they meet with Peter Taugwalder sr. and persuade him to join the group. On the way to Hotel Monte Rosa Whymper bumps in to the Chamonix-guide Michel Croz, whom he has hired on several occasions Previously. Croz is already engaged with two clients, the reverend Charles Hudson and young Robert Douglas Hadow, but they decide to tackle Matterhorn together.

The 1865 party At four-thirty in the morning of the 13th of July eight men set off for Matterhorn under a cloudless sky, Peter Taugwalder sr. with two of his sons, Croz, Whymper, Douglas, Hudson and Hadow. They walk up via Schwarzsee to a plateau somewhat higher than Hörnlihütte is today, where they erected their tents. During the afternoon Michel Croz and Peter Taugwalder jr. explores the lower part of the mountain. Meanwhile, the Italians, led by Carrel, has reached about 4000 meters on Lionridge, where they set up bivouac.

At dawn Whymper's group starts up the Hörnliridge, all but Joseph Taugwalder, who returns to Zermatt. They keep good pace on the east side of the ridge, later they change sides of the ridge to reach the snowclad Shoulder. They take two breaks, after the second break Croz takes over the lead from Whymper and Hudson. Here they encounter the first technically difficult passage, but one after another they reach the summit. A fruitless search for tracks convinced them that they where the first men to reach the summit.

The Disaster

Croz and Whymper discovers the Italians about 200 meters below the summit. The Italians have been to slow. After a long break on the summit, they decide in which order to descend. They leave bottle on the summit containing a piece of paper with their names on it, before Croz takes the lead downwards. He is followed by Hudson, Hadow, Douglas and at the end of the ropes are Peter Taugwalder sr., Whymper and Peter Taugwalder jr. Soon they reach the "roof", which is not easy when all the cavities and hollows are filled with snow and ice. For security reasons they only move one at a time. Croz has laid aside his ice axe, to help young Hadow down, when Hadow slips and pull Croz, Hudson and Douglas down with him into the abyss. Whymper and the two Taugwalders stand alone, in shock.

For a long time they stand there, before recovering. Terrified they continue the descent down the Matterhorn. It is soon dark, they spend the night just above 4000m. After a long night they climb down to Zermatt, where they tell the villagers the sad news. The next day, the 16th of July, Whymper brings three British mountaineers, two frenchmen and three guides up the mountain to search for the casualties. The mountain guides of Zermatt could not come, they had to attend the morning mass, or they would be banned by the priest.

They find three bodies on the Matterhorn glacier, Croz, Hudson and Hadow. The only sign of Douglas where a few belongings. Three days later 21 mountain guides carry the three bodies down to Zermatt. Lord Douglas body was never found. Hadow and Hudson where buried on the north side of the catholic cemetery, Croz was buried in the middle. 46 years later Hudson was moved to the English Church in Zermatt. Some of their belongings are still kept at the alpine museum in Zermatt.

The Interrogations

They had been tied in with three ropes when descending, the first from Croz to Douglas, the second from Douglas to Taugwalder sr. and the third from Tagwalder sr. to Taugwalder jr. The middle rope was the weakest, and after the accident rumours began to spread that Whymper or Taugwalder sr. had cut the rope. An investigation committee was set up. The interrogations continued for three days. No criminal act could be proven, the case was dropped. In spite of this the villagers were still suspicious. Peter Taugwalder sr. who was questioned twice, had his good reputation as a mountain guide destroyed. He went to America, but returned to his home village a few years later. He died in 1888, near Schwarzsee, probably as a consequence of appendicitis.

The accident caused a big wave of excitement in the press, in Switzerland and abroad. The emotions were hottest in England, where the grief soon gave way to indignation. Newspapers all over the world reported the tragedy on the Matterhorn. No other Alpine event has ever caused more headlines. Queen Victoria of England decided, after long talks with Lord Chamberlain, not to forbid mountaineering to all Englishmen. Zermatt became world-famous, probably the beginning of the development of Zermatt as a tourist resort.


The Route

The difficult part is to find your way. I strongly recommend a good guide.


Via Hörnligrat, 4 hours, or via Liongrat.


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