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Matterhorn via Liongrat

Day 1

The alarm was set to 6 a.m. . The early alarm made us feel as we did not get enough sleep, as usual. The night was cold as expected. Mato took the longest to get out of his premium sleeping bag, as usual. Even Majo had a couple of hours of good night sleep despite the cold night and his sleeping bag from Lidl which was not very useful in the camp in Gran Paradiso. Hopefully he learned his lesson about minimum quality equipment needed for alpine expeditions.

Meanwhile the chef of the trip Jano with his loyal apprentice Miso prepared our traditional breakfast – oatmeal with milk, banana and chocolate. This nutritious bomb will surely give us enough energy for the climb to Carell hut. 7:45 we get into a car and head out in the direction of Matterhorn.

Our route to Matterhorn

Our route to Matterhorn

After 15 minutes drive we arrived on the parking lot Breuil Cervinia. Matterhorn showed itself basking in the early day sunlight right in front of us. We took couple of pictures, heaved up our backpacks and headed to the visitor centre. We got there around 8:30 and after a couple minutes of waiting, our pre ordered off road taxi pulled over. We almost started to think that we were going to have to walk the first stretch. We quickly loaded the beackpacks on the roof. The trunk of the car was customised and more seats were added so almost ten people could fit in.

After a while the road disappeared and was replaced with gravel winding steeply uphill. This drive surely saved us a lot of time and energy. 2O euro/person well spent. After driving cca 40 minutes we came to Abruzzi hut. From here we continued on foot. All the way to the summit. We put on the harnesses right away, took a group photo and full of expectations started the climb.

Route from Abruzzi hut

Route from Abruzzi hut

The first hour or so we walked on a busy path until we reached the first snow field. This on we cross without crampons. The snow is soft and easy to walk on. We walked past a couple of memorial crosses reminding us about the dangers of attempting the symbolic alpine summit.

Snow and rocks on the way to Carrel hut

Snow and rocks on the way to Carrel hut

After the snow field we came to the first climbing section. At this point Iki decided that he did not feel ok with going all the way up. After a short deliberation a final decision was made. A difficult decision, no doubt. No sense in pushing anyone to a climb like this. The mountain will wait (although the glacier and snow might not 🙂 ). There will be time to attempt the summit. The decision to turn back when you do not feel like it is never a wrong one.

Iki, a good friend as he is, gives us his water, swap Majo’s heavy jumper for his own lightweight mountaineering one and gives his expedition food to Mato (for which Mato got some friendly hate from the rest of us because he and Jano were the only ones who did not buy this food). We gave Iki the walkie-talkie so we would stay in touch. After a while we started the first climbing section. At the end of this was a sling, so there was no problem and we managed the first warm-up climb without any trouble (also Majo).

The next section was just walking with small snow fields here and there, with picturesque alpine views of the glacier Monte Rosa and Dofourspitze. Shortly before the saddle Col de Leone we had to use the rope. After about two hours of climbing we reached the saddle. Here we rested a little and had a snack.

Traverse to Col du Lion

Traverse to Col du Lion

Traverse to Col du Lion

Traverse to Col du Lion (picture taken from saddle)

When looking up at the ridge of Matterhorn we spotted our destination for the day – Carell hut. From here it was basically just climbing. Quite easy from the beginning, but more difficult the higher we got. We also used some of the old hempen ropes.

Route from Col du Lion to Carrel hut

Route from Col du Lion to Carrel hut

Route to Carrel hut

Route to Carrel hut

Eventually we reached the 15 m long vertical section secured with rope that must be climbed up the rope. Not mentioning we did it with the backpacks. Most climbers that go with a guide let the guide go and climb the section first and then pull them up. Some tie their backpacks to a rope climb up and then pull the backpacks up. On the other hand are we – hardcore climbers that climb this section with backpacks on; so then we can hate on the others 🙂 .

Fixed rope to Carrel hut, difficult part in the upper section

Fixed rope to Carrel hut, difficult part in the upper section

And so we did. Miso went first without a protection rope, only using the fixed rope already in place. On his way up he tries to help some german whose backpacks got stuck when they were trying to pull them up on the rope. He helped them this time but their bags got stuck again and that time not even Miso with his long arms could not help them and the german had to repell for their bags.

When Miso got up he made a belay station for the rest of us. Peto went last. A guide started to pull his client up before Peto. But even this way the 60 year old Englishman was struggling. Peto decided to help him by pushing him up with his shoulders. Common effort of the guide pulling and Peto pushing and the englishman doing his best fortunately resulted with the englishman getting up. But it seemed clear that the englishman would not get past Carrel.

Rope under the hut, other people's bags being pulled up

Rope under the hut, people’s bags being pulled up

Fixed rope under Carrel hut

Fixed rope under Carrel hut

After this difficult part there was one more short climb and we got to Carell. First sign was a characteristic stink comming from a nearby latrine. After 6 hours we finally entered the chalet Carell, although a tad worried because we did not have a reservation. Fortunately the keeper was very nice and we all got a bed. A little luck in mountains is always useful. When we settled, we went to sit on a terrace to eat our well deserved food. From the terrace was a beautiful view on Dent d´Hérens, Dent Blanche or Weisshorn all 4K and higher mountains. After that we called it an early night. Our alarm was set on 3 a.m . after all.

Last meters before the hut

Last meters before the hut

Carrel hut

Jean-Antoine Carrel hut

Carrel hut, behind is first fixed rope

Carrel hut, behind is first fixed rope

Short note on the water situation – the chalet is quite high and there is not a steady supply of water and to get to a glacier you have to repell and boil the ice/snow. We carried 5l of water all the way up and it was a good decision . In the chalet was a huge pot with water but it was only half full and not exactly clean.

Chata JEAN-ANTOINE CARREL

Hut Jean-Antoine Carrel inside

Carrel hut

Carrel hut, in the back is huge pot for melting water

View from Carrel hut

View from Carrel hut

Day 2

The whole population of the hut started to rouse/stir around 3 a.m. so it turned out there was not even a need to set our own alarm. Evverybody was just hastily having „breakfast“ to get the needed nutrients for the day to come. Except one guy, not giving a damn, who started to boil water for just one egg. Guides were giving last instructions to the clients and the clients were trying to hide their jitters and excitement while putting on their harnesses. No wonder, they were a little uneasy, honestly, it would be strange if it would be otherwise. To be humble and conduct with respect, means to be safe in the mountains, especially with this particular mountain. To have good equipment and a little bit of skill is all and well, but quite useless when nature decides to show you who is the master and who but a mere visitor.

My own thoughts were not exactly straightforward either, but our mountain tested breakfast cheered me up. Bread with an honest home made plum jam from Jano’s grandma can work miracles on difficult summit days. After breakfast it was finally time to „nut up and/or shut up“. We put on the harnesses, clip on the equipment, slings, tied to rope team and headed out.

3:40 a.m. our goal is clear, to summit Matterhorn by the way of Liongrat ridge. Even kids in preschool subconsciously draw its sillhouette when they are told to draw a mountain. Maybe because of all the Toblerone candy their parents buy them 🙂 . This way is supposed to be slightly less difficult, so to speak compared to its Swiss counterpart. It is so, mainly due to many fixed belay points that are on this side of he mountain. These also help you to navigate on the ascend. The first rope is right behind the hut. However, it turned out that after our rushed breakfast I forgot to pack slings, so i hurried back to get them and now we actually were ready to start. Mato and Peto in the front , Me, Jano and Majo right after them. We got a proper warm up right from the start as the first rope was in an overhang.

Fixed rope behind Carrel hut

Fixed rope behind Carrel hut

The path was supposed to be easy to navigate thanks to all the ropes and other fixed points but we were not going to underestimate anything. After all, we were the only group attempting summit without the guide. Headlamps of the groups that went before us showed us the right way in the dark early stages and so we were able to manage the ropey parts in a fairly good time. Acording to our research the ropes were to be followed by rock slabs with iron circles. I would not really call it slabs but we found the circles and were able to continue. After a while we got to, a sort of, a ferrata. The cable was wet and slippery but nonetheless a good sign that we were going the right way. All we had to do was grab it like Majo some pillow and go (for you to understand, if it is at least one pillow in the room, Majo immediately grabs it and tries to squeeze every feather into microscopic particle)

Liongrat

Climbing Liongrat with headlamps

After the ferrata came the last test of our theoretical knowledge of the mountain, based on a list of „compulsory reading“ composed by Jano. The more responsible members of our little academia tutored the less responsible the night before about the crucial/difficult parts, that are quite many. We needed to find the Gran Corda. It is actually a chain that was pretty difficult to find at the early morning hour in the shadow of the mountain. We stopped to have a quick snack near a memorial plate and let a German group pass us. We made sure our German colleagues were on the right way and enjoyed our energy bars.

Memorial table, the chain is up left

Memorial table, the chain is up left

As the first rays of sun stared to warm our faces Jano spotted the Corda right above us and to the left from the memorial plate. The Germans went the opposite way 🙂 so we quickly redirected them as we were still in shouting distance. And shortly followed after them.

Fixed chain Grande Corda on Lion ridge

Fixed chain Grande Corda on Lion ridge

From here the navigation is easy. We need only follow the ridge line along the fixed points. Mato ignored some of them proceeding with technique LR „Least resistance“ (They have already tested this technique in Paklenica, but back then they found some bigger resistance…) but eventually always managed to get to the proper path. The sun was up and we could clearly see which way to go. Our spirit was encouraged when we caught a glimpse of the summit cross, although it was clear, that we still had couple hours to go.

Ridge after the Gran Corda

Ridge after the Gran Corda

sunrise

Alpine sunrise

We proceeded along the ridge to Pic Tyndall 4 241, which is destined to stay in the shadow of its legendary neighbour. The views are breathtaking. Alpine glaciers scarred with steep rocky peaks all around. How many are we going to summit? How many are we even going to challenge? Back to reality. From the top, we need to repell into a small saddle below the main summit. From here we can clearly see the line all the way to the top.

Route to the Pic Tyndall, main summit of Matterhorn in the back

Route to the Pic Tyndall, main summit of Matterhorn in the back

Matterhorn from Tyndall

Matterhorn from Tyndall, you can see the cross on top of Italian summit along with rope ladder (Scala Giordano) almost on the top of route

Matterhorn final part

Matterhorn final part

In front of us there was a guide with a client making pretty slow progress which was a welcome change. After all/to be honest at this point at 4300 altitude we did not really have energy to walk any faster. We got to the most difficult section on the way up – rope ladder with wooden steps. You may think that a rope ladder cannot possibly be diffulct to climb, but let me tell you that at 4400 altitude it is not like going to an attic to get some old tools.

Fixed ropes and ladder to Matterhorn

Fixed ropes and ladder to Matterhorn

Fixed ropes and ladder to Matterhorn

Fixed ropes and ladder to Matterhorn

Here we were forced to split. When Mato and Peto were safely past the rope ladder, other groups that already had summited started to descend. This little tourist jam cost us about half an hour. The delay of our sub-group caused the guys ahead a small panic attack and one nervous call over the brand-new walkie-talkies that we had purchased right before this trip. We confirmed that we managed the rope ladder without any problems and were on the way. We reunited at the summit.

Ladder from above

Ladder from above

After 6,5 hours we finally reached the summit of Matterhorn – Mont Cervino to be correct – the mountain of 4476 altitude with its characteristic metal cross. The Swiss summit is 2 meters higher and covered in snow. We took couple of obligatory pictures with the cross and our flag like true patriots (only not on Krivan – our national symbol).

Matterhorn summit

Matterhorn, both summits

Matterhorn summit

Matterhorn summit

After that we wanted to walk over to the Swiss summit. For that we had to put on crampons and finally take the ice axes from our bags. From „our“ side of the mountain and under favourable conditions (we were quite fortunate up until now) this is the only place where you need winter gear. Again, we took a short „picture break“. The views were still beautiful…for a while. Five minutes later the top was swallowed by milk-white clouds.

Swiss summit of Matterhorn

Swiss summit of Matterhorn

We started descending. We decided to repell as much as possible. Mato and Peto went first and reported which way to go. Our descend was slower compared to other groups but we thought it safer. However, it did not take long for the clouds from the top to catch up to us and we found ourselves in a storm cloud.

Rappelling down from Matterhorn

Rappelling down from Matterhorn

Descent via same route

Descent via same route

After a while we started to hear a strange buzzing sound. Then we realized it was the sound of our ice axes getting charged with electricity from the clouds around. As if this was not enough, it began to hail. Not a situation you want to be in while descending along the ridge of Matterhorn, that is known for numerous fatalities. We had no other chance than to brace through it all and keep repelling. At least we were belayed most of the time by a rope or on belay station, which was nice. The ropes did not fail us even in these conditions, and we got out of the clouds after about two hours.

Rappelling down Lion ridge in clouds

Rappelling down Lion ridge in clouds

Back on ferrata

Back on “ferata part”, wet like in the morning thanks to the storm

The worst was over and we even espied the hut and terrace with guides discussing todays hike and watching the wall in front for slowpokes like us. We had still an hour to go, and go we did. Majo probably prompted by the onlookers threw the rope from a belat station only to get slapped in the face with it as it got tangeled up. Just that moment a cloud was passing between us and the hut so only we got to laugh at this comedy act.

Carrel hut from above

Carrel hut from above, just few more meters…

We were at the last point of replling, about 40 meters above the hut when the little comedy act was repeated, only this time I was the performer and the audience comprised of everyone on the terrace including Mato and Peto. I was about to throw down the nicely coiled rope, looked away for 0,00000001 s which was clearly enough for it to get tangeled and when I threw it down it fell only about 4 meters 🙂 . Karma is a bitch and the others got a good laugh, this time at me. And of course the rope got stuck getting it back down. I was clearly on fire…

Last meters before the hut

Last meters before the hut, nothing can happen now…

tangled rope

… and this happens

Finally safe at the hut. The way down took us 8,5 h; all in all the whole day was 15 h of walking, climbing and repelling. Almost everyone who tried to summit today returned to the hut succesfuly = safely. Except two groups that we saw going up during our descend. We saw a rescue helicopter flying towards the top (which btw was not a rare sight, at least during our stay in the area) thus we assumed that at least one of the groups used this „shortcut“. We enjoyed a proper food , had a beer (it was only 3 euro including the mountain surcharge). The last thing to do was to inform our families that we safely made it there and back again (from the hut to the top and back) and get to bed. The next day we still had to walk down to the valley.

Drying clothes

Drying clothes, breakfast for the next day in the background

Tunas and beer

Tunas with beers after successful descent

Day 3

Falling asleep after a well deserved beer was very easy, although our rest was not meant to last. And our dreams were interrupted by „chalet keeper’s“ yelling. He was trying to communicate with the team, that did not make it to the cottage. In fact, he had been observing/monitoring the mountain with suspicion that someone might still be there, before we went to bed.

A while later his suspicions were confirmed, although none of us were able to see anything. Well, the keeper’s eagle eyes are something you cannot buy. He even told us not to lock the door in case some belated teams would return after sunset. Now it is about midnight, the wind is howling, temperature is below zero, it is snowing and these guys are still out on the mountain.

The keeper ran into Miso, who was just answering the night call from the nature, and asked him if he could borrow our termose, because he was getting ready to go save them and wanted to bring some hot tea to those poor climbers on the mountain. Only setback was that Miso has never seen the termose in his life and gently woke all of u sup to find out whose it is. In the end it did not belong to any of us , but when Peto saw Miso wearing his gore-tex pants it was enough for him to assume Miso was recruiting a rescue party and immediately started to dress up. Fortunately we did not have to go rescuing anyone, eventually.

Moreover as Mato noted we would only slow down the rescue and maybe even turned to rescuees ourselves. The next day our alarm went off at 6:15. we finnished what was left from Jano’s grandma jam with toast bread. If a toast bread is an ideal combination for jam is anyone’s guess, but we enjoyed it as any other time before. At this point it is as good as all inclusive standard for us. Maybe except for Majo, who dropped a spoon full of jam on the table – allegedly by mistake.

view from hut

Panoramatic view from the hut

We left the cottage at 7 a.m. It was not easy to say goodbye to the beautiful panoramatic views from the cottage terrace. The night snow propped us to put the crampons right outside the cottage, dangerously close to the latrine which saw us off with a pungent odor. We set off with sentiment. Miso started to descend with commitment and made quick progress without any problems to the first repel point. The rest of the team was more cautious and joined in the rope team right outside the cottage. This caused us to split, but we met not long after on the belay station

We decided to descend as one team, thus we combined the ropes to get 60 meters lenght of repelling. Miso went first and Peter stayed on belay station as last because these two had a supernatural connection that allowed them to communicate and oversee over the safety of the descend. This connection called Motorola walkie-talkie. On one of the belay station we had a debate with a team of English guys from Liverpool. They wanted to repell with us as they saw we had a long rope, but when they found out that there were five of us and we were not in any hurry they decided to repel on their own shorter rope.

second belay station

Second belay station

At 8:40 we were crouching on a slab from which we repelled down into the saddle. As we were all secured by rope and catching a breath, the chalet keeper emerged out of nowhere and swimmingly passed by us, waving and amiably wishing us a good day (his only equipment/hardware being the crampons). We quickly asked about the last night’s rescue, fortunately everything ended well for the „poor night climbers“ 🙂 .

The second repel section was followed by a somewhat easier terrain although there were a couple of onerous segments where we had to employ our mix climbing skills. Granting this was not the easiest part of the descent, but at least we got an excuse to make a little break and enjoy a snack once we were past it (in the saddle Colle del Leone). From this point, we were able to pick up the pace a bit as there were no fixed points. The terrain was snowy from the last night but fortunately stable.

As selfproclaimed experts we confidently ruled out possibility of an avallanche and continued ?safely? through the snow. Miso went first and the fixed points in this part were plenty, so we were protected at all times. Following the snowy sections everybody walked at his own pace which resulted in grotesque bickering between the fast leader and the fourth in line member of the group who, not once, found himself on his butt as a result of regular pulling of the rope.

snow section

One of several snow parts

While walking down we occasionaly called Iki, who was surely restless to see us. For the past three days he was colonising our 6-person tent, and his daily routine comprised of sleeping, eating, drinking. By the time we came down he was known by all the neighbouring campers. Partly also because during one of his many naps he psychotically skedaddled/exited the tent screaming. Later he described a big spider as a cause of this „peak of his athletic effort“ during the three days of pure hedonism in camp. Out of respect for our traumatised comrade, we agreed to pu up a mosquito net for the days to come.

As soon as we could see the Abruzzi hut, we concluded that we had two hours to go – tops. We tried to call a taxi for the estimated time. Unfortunately / Fortunately the first available car could pick us us up in 3 hours so we got a 1 bonus hour. Miso, Jano, Majo were first to Abruzzi chalet. Mato and Peto were somewhere behind. Maybe it was because they were tired and just walked very slowly. Maybe it was because Peto’s sleeping bag decided to go on a trek on its own, …. down the hill, …not exactly in the direction of the Abruzzi chalet. After this little delay the two needed to calm their nerves and while they were at it they also calmed their feet in a pond/ mountain lake near the chalet. Unfortunately / Fortunately the trio called them on the walkie-talkie that the taxi could take them down sooner, thus Mato and Peto’s feet stayed dry and sore as everybody elese‘s.

The group met in front of the chalet and victoriously shook hands, excited that we actually survived the summit of Matterhorn as well as the descend. However in this case the descend was not really over yet. The drive in the Land Rover Defender to the camp might very well be fatal. So even if we at times felt that we would never see the camp , our driver obviously knew every inch of the road and thus we experienced a bonus adventure in the form of an andrenaline drive in a jeep taxi.

We stepped out of the car a tad dizzy to see Iki welcomming us and two fellow mountaineers from Moravia flooding us with question about the climb . However all we cared about at this joyous moment was to take off our boots and feel the warm grass on our bare feet.

Sweet Matterhorn

Sweet Matterhorn

After we took a couple of calm deep breaths, a nearby ice-cream parlor caught our eyes. Eventhough the size of one portion was dependent purely on the barista’s mood we had no problem enjoying it. However we did not stop with just one ice-cream. Some of us thought combination with a beer would be a good idea (Peter and Majo), some chose more conservative (and very much characteristic) combination and bought Toblerone (Miso), some decided a jar of huge olives desrved to be finished (Mato), some mindful individual remembered his family and friends back home and bought a bunch of gifts and souvenirs (Jano), and lastly our designated driver who, in the last couple of days had just about the right amount of beer, chocolate and everything, was slowly sipping coca-cola (Iki). Following our little burgeoise – trip we returned to camp, unpacked, dried what needed drying and ate some more delicious camp food – couscous. Little later we met one of the guys from Liverpool (from earlier during our endless repelling) and gave some advice to Polish colleagues who were getting ready for their summit attempt.

Couscous with tuna in camp

Couscous with tuna in camp

The atmosphere in our camp was sublime = just right to go get a beer. So we did. Once i a pub we all* raised the glasses and …. drank. *(well all except Mato who for whatever reason ordered some fruity-yoghurt thing)

Well deserved beer

Well deserved beer

The shadows were slowly getting longer and our group of six „tunas“ were joyously babbling with a beer in hand and no specific plans for next days* feeling accomplished with fresh memories of succesfuly summiting Gran Paradiso and Matterhorn.

Thanks to these two giants for allowing us to reach their summits.

CAUTION

Neither Travelingtunas.com nor its members bear any responsibility for the information that has been published on travelingtunas.com. Each user is responsible for his or her own actions and must be familiar with the regime in his / her own interest before carrying out any sports-recreational activity in nature, which applies to the intended activity on the planned route or part thereof.

Photogallery

DIFFICULTY
Mountaineering
5/5
Length
3 days
Elevation
1676 m.
1676 m.
Altitude
Max. 4478 m.n.m.
Min. 2802 m.n.m.

Significant points

Refuge Duca degli Abruzzi 1028 m 6 h Refuge Jean-Antoine Carrel
Refuge Jean-Antoine Carrel 648 m 6,5 h Matterhorn
Matterhorn 648 m 8,5 h Refuge Jean-Antoine Carrel
Refuge Jean-Antoine Carrel 1028 m 5 h Refuge Duca degli Abruzzi

Prices

Taxi to/from Abruzzi : 20 € / per person / 1 way
Carrel hut: 30 € / per person / per night
camp Glair: 7 € / per person / per night
camp Glair - tent: 7 € / per night
camp Glair - car: 3 € / per night
highway toll (from Tarvisio): 70 € / 1 way
Last update: 2. August 2019
Keywords: 4478, Breuil, Carrel, Carrel hut, Cervinia, Italy, Lion ridge, Liongrat, Matterhorn, Matterhorn 4478, Matterhorn from italy, Monte Cervino
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Hi, I’m Mato.
In my free time I enjoy street workout, sports climbing, hiking and last but not least, mountaineering.

I love nature, animals and active holidays.

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Thomas Tracy 5. August 2019
Love this post!
Bruno Adams 14. August 2019
Thank you Travelingtunas. Very detailed and awesome pictures.
Peter Majlath 21. August 2019
Awesome guys, well done!