It is Summer 1865 and how many unclimbed Alpine peaks will have been conquered by the time the cool damp air of Autumn returns?
Mountaineers, many of them British, are planning their routes and engaging their favourite local guides to assist. So I, whose scribblings usually cover London society events and gossip, have packed my notebooks and pens with my climbing ropes and nailed boots.
I will follow those intrepid climbers, witness their achievements and post back my reports. Many of the summits of Europe have been conquered over the last fifty years, those left must rank as among the most challenging. Grandes Jorasses, Aiguille Verte, Matterhorn – who will be the first to set foot on your proud peaks?
The weekly overview
Day by Day
Saturday June 10th
This morning, Edward Whymper left his Lambeth home, in London close to the River Thames. He is going to the Alps he has grown to love and the mountaineering that challenges and inspires him.
Sunday June 11th
Early this morning a letter arrived at Whymper’s house in London. Adams Reilly, knowing that Whymper’s plans for the summer include another go at the Matterhorn, thought it best to warn his friend of other climbers with the same ambition.
Monday June 12th
In spite of arriving in Lauterbrunnen late last night, Whymper was up early today to spend happy hours scouting the terrain with his guide, Christian Almer.
Tuesday June 13th
The Reverend William Hawker is a climbing colleague of Whymper’s who lives in Interlaken.
Wednesday June 14th
Whymper and Almer left Lauterbrunnen this morning and crossed the icy ridge of the 3,202m Petersgrat. This route has become established among mountaineers to reach the village of Turtmann in the Rhône valley.
Thursday June 15th
Today, Whymper and his three guides, Croz, Almer and Biner, travelled on foot from Turtmann to Zinal, a small village at 1,675m circled by 5 peaks of over 4,000m.
Friday June 16th
Just after 2am, Whymper, Croz, Almer and Biner left Zinal to work their way round to the south side of the Grand Cornier. Here they found a route almost entirely on snow right to the summit, which they reached at 12.30.
Saturday June 17th
The best laid plans often change, as Whymper’s did today.
Sunday June 18th
This morning, Whymper and his guides left the deserted hamlet of Abricolla unusually late. Biner, from the devout village of Zermatt, feels he is commanded to hear Mass on a Sunday morning before going anywhere.
Monday June 19th
Whymper and his guides spent a third night in the deserted hamlet of Abricolla, then morning sunshine lit the way over the Col d’Hérens towards Zermatt.
Tuesday June 20th
Whymper is now determined that the Matterhorn become the focus of his party’s endeavour.
Wednesday June 21st
At 05.45, as a hint of morning light glanced of the Matterhorn’s cliffs, Whymper with his guides set off to try to conquer the mountain from Breuil.
Thursday June 22nd
Edward Whymper has given up on the Matterhorn – at least for the next few weeks. Michel Croz’s suggestion that the Mont Blanc chain offers challenges they should embrace refers chiefly to the unclimbed peak of the Aiguille Verte.
Friday June 23rd
Whymper and his guides, Michel Croz, Christian Almer and Franz Biner are in Courmayeur.
Saturday June 24th
The “day” began in the dark at 1.30am, as Whymper, Croz, Almer and Biner left the hotel in Courmayeur. Three hours later they had passed the difficult section on the lower part of the ascent where the glacier slides down the Grandes Jorasses.
Sunday June 25th
At last, a day of rest in Courmayeur for Whymper and his guides. Late arising from comfortable beds, time to attend the rites of Sunday – there is a church service for the English contingent at the hotel.
Monday June 26th
Whymper’s extremely early start was to achieve a new crossing over the watershed between Courmayeur and Chamonix.
Tuesday June 27th
Today has been a day of rest for Whymper, who made it to Chamonix at ten o’clock last night, even if rest does involve what he deems to be a stroll up to Montenvers on the Mer de Glace to share a few beers with the owner M. Couttet.
Wednesday June 28th
At 15.00, Whymper set out from Chamonix with Almer, Biner and a porter to carry camping equipment and provisions.
Thursday June 29th
While it was still dark, Whymper and his guides left the tent perched at the foot of the massive Aiguille Verte. The way up the couloir was tough.
Friday June 30th
The day after Whymper’s achievement of the First Ascent of the Aiguille Verte, the weather in Chamonix is gloomy and so is the pervading mood.
Saturday July 1st
Fine weather has not yet returned and it has been a quiet day for all the climbers. Thomas Kennedy and Edward Whymper took a stroll together above Chamonix, and it is assumed that the Aiguille Verte was the subject of discussion.
Sunday July 2nd
Charles Hudson arrived in Chamonix today but without John Birkbeck whom illness has forced to return to England. Birkbeck has passed on the engagement with Michel Croz to Hudson.
Monday July 3rd
An hour later than intended, at 4am, Whymper, with his guides Almer and Biner, left the Montanvert above Chamonix.
Tuesday July 4th
Joseph McCormick’s journey turned into a veritable marathon. After his overnight march from Martigny, he reached Argentière this morning only to find a note from Hudson to let him know that the party had decided to organise themselves at Chamonix and set out for their attempt on the Aiguille Verte from there.
Wednesday July 5th
This morning, a Second Ascent of the Aiguille Verte was accomplished! It was a slightly unusual party to reach the summit. English climbers Kennedy, Hudson and Hodgkinson, with guides Michel Croz from Chamonix and Peter Perren from Zermatt, were accompanied all the way by Kennedy’s dog.
Thursday July 6th
In the early hours, a group of Italian mountain guides left Breuil for an attempt on their Monte Cervino, the as yet unclaimed Matterhorn. Led by Jean-Antoine Carrel, a stone-mason from Val Tournenche well known for inspiring feats of mountaineering, the group has no clients.
Friday July 7th
Whymper arrived in Breuil this afternoon, but Almer and Biner are still adamant that the Matterhorn should not be tried again. So he sought out Carrel, found that the Italian has some days available and hired him.
Saturday July 8th
Charles Hudson’s plans for the summer are disintegrating as his companions fall off the planned path.
Sunday July 9th
Whymper’s and Carrel’s paths crossed today as Whymper was walking the 28 kilometres down to Chatillon to procure medicines for an ailing Arthur Girdlestone.
Monday July 10th
As Whymper returned to the hotel at Breuil this morning he was spotted by Signor Giordano, who is in fact the “family of distinction” that Carrel had invented. Carrel is going to make a way for Giordano to reach the summit of the Matterhorn, for Italy!
Tuesday July 11th
A milky sunshine filtered through the clouds this morning, whispering a change in the weather. Carrel sensed the shift and, in the night, gathered together fellow guides and porters to start moving equipment, upwards.
Wednesday July 12th
Whymper, Lord Francis and Arthur Girdlestone made the crossing this morning over a damp and murky Théodule Pass. First stop was at the Schwarzsee to stow equipment – tent, provisions and lots of rope – by the Chapel on the shore of the lake.
Thursday July 13th
Before dawn this morning, eight men strode through the streets of Zermatt. Edward Whymper, Charles Hudson, Lord Francis Douglas and Douglas Hadow are the tourists hoping to reach the summit of the Matterhorn, with guides Michel Croz and Peter Taugwalder. Taugwalder’s sons, Peter and Joseph, go along as porters.
Friday July 14th
The day when victory turned into disaster.
Saturday July 15th
Soon after 10am this morning, Herr Seiler of the Monte Rosa hotel was informing the authorities of yesterday’s tragedy. He had followed Whymper as the stricken young climber went straight to his room on his return from the mountain and learnt first hand what had happened.
Sunday July 16th
It was still dark of night when the 2nd search party, organised by Whymper and McCormick but without the blessing of the authorities, set out. Zermatters were forbidden from going anywhere until after early Mass had been heard so Whymper and McCormick put together a party of other English climbers and guides from Saas, Sankt Niklaus and Chamonix.
Monday July 17th
Speculation about the circumstances around the tragedy on the Matterhorn is flying beyond the confines of the remote village. Whymper is under pressure to make public a clear report of what happened.
Tuesday July 18th
A detailed report of the accident was published in the Journal de Genève today, but it mixes up Douglas Haddo (sic) and Francis Douglas, and claims that Lord Francis made the fatal slip.
Wednesday July 19th
Der Bund, one of the leading Swiss daily newspapers, carried a report this morning about the fatalities on the Matterhorn. It attributed the slip to ‘the Englishman immediately behind the leading guide’, clearly Hadow although without knowledge of the name.
Thursday July 20th
Today is the 21st birthday of John Sholto, Marquess of Queensberry. His younger brother, Lord Francis, would be home in Scotland for the celebration had he not decided to participate in the Matterhorn ascent.
Friday July 21st
The funerals were quiet affairs. First a Catholic service for Croz and, an hour later, an Anglican version for Hudson, Hadow and Knyvet Wilson. The process at the Enquiry, which began at 2pm, was, it seems, similarly subdued…
Saturday July 22nd
The Court summoned Alexander Lochmatter, who also accompanied the search party organised by Whymper and McCormick, and questioned him on the discovery of the bodies and absence of the remains of Lord Francis Douglas.
Sunday July 23rd
This morning the Court recalled Peter Taugwalder Senior. They had some more questions for him…
Monday July 24th
The Marquess of Queensberry, Lord Francis Douglas’ brother, and Henry Hadow, Douglas Hadow’s uncle, arrived in Zermatt today. Edward Whymper has reached Interlaken on his homeward journey.
Tuesday July 25th
From Interlaken, Whymper sent today a letter to von Fellenberg, the secretary of the Swiss Alpine Club. It is to be translated into German and French and then forwarded to the editors of Der Bund and the Journal de Genève.
Wednesday July 26th
It is summer, von Fellenberg is away in the mountains. It will be some time before Whymper’s letter receives attention from the Swiss newspapers.
The committee of enquiry for the district of Visp made up of the examining magistrate Josef-Anton Clemenz and recorder C. Clemenz, both living in Visp, have reached the following decision that there are no grounds for prosecution with the enquiry officially conducted into the accident that occurred on the ascent of the Matterhorn.
Hour by Hour
Saturday June 10th08.00
The mountaineering season of 1865 is open! How many unclimbed peaks will be conquered? Chamonix’s Aiguille Verte? Zermatt’s Matterhorn?
Sea breezes over the channel as the White Cliffs fade. Edward Whymper is leaving England for an ambitious summer of climbing
Usual questions from French customs about climbing paraphernalia. They believe that if you have ladders and ropes you must be a burglar
First stop, Paris. Whymper passes the evening alone. Many climbers’ eyes are turning to the Matterhorn this year, but he has a head start
Sunday June 11th9.00
A letter at Whymper’s house. His friend Adams-Reilly warning that Hudson, Kennedy & Birkbeck also plan a Matterhorn assault. It lies unread
Whymper arrives Lauterbrunnen. After months planning ascents he’s excited to get started & he has a great team of guides ready to go
Monday June 12th6.00
Whymper meets guide Christian Almer from Grindelwald. They set out to scout the route the party will take the next day.
Evening resting in Lauterbrunnen with maps and sketches. Whymper is keen to see how far his technical skill at route planning has developed
Tuesday June 13th9.00
Whymper and Rev Hawker join their teams for an inspection day, checking out new passes from Lauterbrunnen.
Whymper & Almer abort their attempt on a new pass to the Concordiaplatz & Eggishorn. You have to know when to turn back
Wednesday June 14th9.00
The journey begins for real. Whymper has planned to the utmost detail the routes to be taken & their technical demands
Whymper and Almer cross the Petersgrat. Cold beer on the descent from a village Curé is very welcome.
Turtmann. Meet with Michel Croz & Franz Biner. The invincible team! Whymper planned the routes, the guides are in charge of executing them
Thursday June 15th9.00
Tomorrow Whymper wants to attempt a 1st ascent of the 3,962m Grand Cornier, so today they walk across Forcletta to Zinal
Even from seven miles distance, the forbidding north face of unclimbed Grand Cornier looks inaccessible. A different route must be found
Arrive Zinal – hotel guest book has an entry by Moore celebrating conquest of Grand Cornier – with Franz Biner as a guide!
Whymper has established that Moore failed to reach the summit last year, so he does have a chance at a first ascent
Friday June 16th12.30
Whymper with Almer, Croz and Biner have made 1st ascent of Grand Cornier. It was snow slope all the way from the glacier.
Whymper’s plan to overnight at Abricolla is scuppered. The hamlet is abandoned, the inn a burnt out shell
Croz and Biner have opted for the 6 mile tramp to Evolène, in search of food & drink & comfort, commanded by Whymper to return by 4am
Whymper shares his delicacies of food and wine with Almer to ward off the cold night on the wooden planks of the half burnt chalet.
Saturday June 17th05.00
Croz and Biner arrive back to Abricolla. The four set off immediately to cross the Col d’Herens. Destination – Zermatt.
Whymper proposes changing course to attempt Dent Blanche. Would not be 1st, Kennedy was that, but 2nd up a difficult mountain is motivation
On the challenging face of Dent Blanche wind & cold are atrocious. Wine is finished. Croz declares, Ma foi, we will spend the night & perish
Thomas Kennedy, his wife and their dog arrive in Zermatt. He is determined that this is the year he will finally conquer the Matterhorn
Whymper, Croz, Almer & Biner are 2nd to reach the summit of the 4,357m Dent Blanche. Beards frozen, fingers raw, they start the descent
Whymper and his men have no choice but to return for another night at the dilapidated Abricolla chalet
Sunday June 18th07.00
Whymper wants an early start if they’re to make it to Zermatt. But Biner had to go to Evolène for Mass. Promises to return with food & drink
Biner reaches Abricolla 2 hours late with wine but no food. They set off again to cross the Col d’Herens. Destination – Zermatt!
Snowing hard on the Col d’Herens. Whymper’s team seem to be going round and round in circles rather than making progress towards Zermatt
Still circling in fog on the Col d’Herens. Can’t continue. Darkness is falling, they must speed down to sleep again at Abricolla, supperless
Monday June 19th7.00
Whymper with Croz, Almer & Biner leave Abricolla for the 3rd time to cross the Col d’Herens. Destination – Zermatt!
Whymper arrives Zermatt. Bad tempers soothed by an excellent welcome from Seiler at Monte Rosa Hotel, Whymper’s 2nd home
Whymper & Kennedy swap stories about the Dent Blanche climb. It transpires that Whymper’s was not a 2nd ascent, merely a 3rd
In the sociable dining room at the Monte Rosa Whymper hooks up with young Richard Glover to cross the Théodule tomorrow
Tuesday June 20th06.00
Whymper leaves Zermatt for a shot at the Matterhorn from Breuil. But he must act fast as Croz is engaged in Chamonix on the 27th
Diversion up Théodulhorn to spot a new route up that might persuade Almer & Biner from their reluctance to climb the Matterhorn
Glover has slipped in a crevasse! Lucky for him that Whymper insisted they rope up on the glacier, in spite of Croz’ objections
Favre, innkeeper at Giomein, is ordered to get together supplies for an assault on the Matterhorn.
Whymper has hired Luc Meynet as porter for the Matterhorn attack, ignoring the Swiss guides’ objections to the hunchback’s personal hygiene
Wednesday June 21st05.45
Whymper with Croz, Almer, Biner & little Luc set off from Breuil to climb the Matterhorn from Italy
Whymper & team are struggling with the route. A steep couloir hurled rocks at them & finally beat even Whymper’s determination to continue
Plans changed & they tried to reach the Hörnli by Whymper’s route from 1863. But the glacier has shrunk, the way was impossible
Biner & Almer are becoming discouraged. Almer to Whymper ‘Why don’t you try to go up a mountain which can be ascended?’
Whymper is back in Breuil. When snow began to fall, he gave up on this, his 8th attempt to reach the summit of the Matterhorn
Thursday June 22nd06.30
Whymper’s team has left Val Tournanche to travel towards the Mont Blanc region & the lure of the unclimbed Aiguille Verte
Whymper is at Bertolini’s hotel, Courmayeur. He with Biner & Croz took a carriage to Aosta while Almer decided to run part of the way
Friday June 23rd09.00
Today Whymper is taking the team on a reconnaissance. He wants to take a look at that great wall of mountain, the Grandes Jorasses
Whymper & guides are back in Courmayeur having spotted what they sought – a new & maybe quicker route to Chamonix
Saturday June 24th13.00
Whymper reached 4,184m, almost the highest point on the summit ridge but then clouds closed in and a return to Courmayeur agreed
Whymper’s team back in Bertolini’s excellent hotel, having survived an involuntary glissade that almost swept them away in an avalanche
Sunday June 25th10.00
Whymper rises late in Courmayeur. Attends Church service in the hotel with a congregation of parsons, their wives and their daughters
Kennedy, his wife and his dog leave Zermatt to travel towards Chamonix & the Aiguille Verte. Overnight at Monte Rosa, St Niklaus
Lord Francis Douglas, travelling towards Zermatt with guide Peter Inabit, overnights at Monte Rosa, St Niklaus
It’s time for Whymper to get some sleep to start in a couple of hours to climb to the Col Dolent AND get down the other side to Argentière
Monday June 26th08.00
Hudson & Birkbeck leave London. They carry the ladder and wire rope Hudson has in mind to overcome the tricky bits on the Matterhorn
Whymper & team are on the Col Dolent, facing an icy couloir, steeper than 50°, that disappears at least 300m down to the glacier below
The way down the Mont Dolent couloir is a tortuous descent on the north side, cutting steps all way in bare ice & ingenious rope work
After 7 hours, Whymper, Croz, Almer & Biner have made it to the Argentière glacier! Superlative skills in mountaineering & teamwork!
Whymper at the bar in Chamonix hotel. Orders a St Peray. Orders Champagne. Orders beer. Sleeps in his chair
Tuesday June 27th08.00
Charles Hudson’s plans for the summer change. In Geneva, Birkbeck has fallen ill & must go back to England but Hudson continues to the Alps
From today, Michel Croz is engaged to work for John Birkbeck, so he takes his leave of Whymper to wait for his new client
After yesterday’s spectacular traverse of the Col Dolent, Whymper is taking is easy and mainly drinking beer at the Montanvert
Lord Francis arrives at the Mont Cervin, Zermatt. Having succesfully summited the Wetterhorn & the Mönchsjoch his eye is on the Obergabelhorn
Wednesday June 28th08.00
In Zermatt, Lord Francis engages Old Peter Taugwalder who he’s heard of as a solid guide with much experience on Monte Rosa
Whymper, Almer, Biner & porter carrying camping gear leave Chamonix, cross a dripping Mer de Glace ready for the Aiguille Verte tomorrow
Thursday June 29th10.00
An extraordinary achievement! Edward Whymper & his guides Almer & Biner are the 1st to summit the 4,122m Aiguille Verte!
The stormy descent of the Aiguille Verte was slow, but reaching the tent, Whymper finds the porter has eaten all the supplies
3 victorious mountaineers & one exhausted, perspiring porter – his punishment for gluttony was to carry everything back - arrive Argentière
Rapturous reception for Whymper in the Chamonix hotel – heaps of friends, Glover, Kennedy and his dog – Congratulations! Champagne!
In the streets of Chamonix, gendarmes break up a scuffle between local guides & two outsiders, Almer from Grindelwald & Biner from Zermatt
Friday June 30th12.00
Dreary weather in the Alps & aching heads from last night’s celebration of Whymper’s 1st ascent of the Aiguille Verte. Nobody is climbing
Saturday 1st July11.00
Kennedy is planning to get his party together & be 2nd up Aiguille Verte. He takes a stroll with Whymper to learn about its challenges
In Chamonix, Whymper, Almer & Biner are busy planning a new route that will be the quickest back over to Courmayeur
Sunday 2nd July10.00
Charles Hudson arrives in Chamonix. He is travelling with 2 newcomers to the mountains, pupil A.J. Campbell & former pupil Douglas Hadow
Hudson, who has ambitious plans, now has Michel Croz as his chief guide. When Birkbeck had to go home, he passed on Croz’ services to Hudson
Monday 3rd July09.35
Whymper’s party has reached the top of a new pass over the Mont Blanc massif, that Whymper names the Col de Talèfre
The crack team of Whymper with Almer & Biner have made it to Courmayeur, at only 10 hours from Chamonix this must be a record!
Tuesday 4th July08.30
Hudson, Kennedy (& his dog) & young Hodgkinson are setting off to try for a 2nd ascent of the Aiguille Verte, after Whymper’s 1st 5 days ago
Edward Whymper is in Aosta. After a spectacular 1st ascent of the Aiguille Verte his confidence is high & the Matterhorn maybe within reach
Wednesday 5th July10.00
Hudson, Hodgkinson, Kennedy & his dog, with guides Michel Croz & Zermatter Peter Perren, have achieved the 2nd ascent of the Aiguille Verte
Lord Francis leaves Zermatt with Old Peter Taugwalder, heading for Zinal from where they will have a shot at being 1st up the Obergabelhorn
Thursday 6th July05.30
Val Tournanche. Local guides, Carrels Jean-Antoine & Cesar, Gorret & Maquignaz, are striding out on a misty dawn towards the Matterhorn
Whymper and his team have made yet another 1st ascent, the Ruinette, at 3,785m the highest summit between the Grand Combin and the Dent Blanche
Lord Francis & guides, crossing the Triftjoch, spy men on the summit of the Obergabelhorn. The 1st ascent will not be theirs
The weather on the Matterhorn is abysmal. Jean Antoine Carrel and team are turned back from the Col de Lion
Christian Almer almost lost his life down a crevasse. The snow gave way & Whymper followed. Luckily they were roped up & Biner held fast
Hudson, McCormick, the Kennedys, Hadow & Campbell with Croz & Perren overnight at the inn below Galerie des Bossons. Mont Blanc tomorrow!
Friday 7th July09.00
Hudson’s party have reached the summit of Mont Blanc, the pace was impressive, Hadow the novice has shown great strength
Whymper is bound for Breuil, his heart set on the Matterhorn. “Anything but the Matterhorn, dear Sir, anything!” Almer pleads.
Lord Francis Douglas with guides Peter Taugwalder & Joseph Viannin reached the summit of the Obergabelhorn from Zinal
Kennedy has been obliged by the needs of his business to return to England. His plans to summit the Matterhorn will have to wait
In Val Tournanche Carrel has agreed that he will attempt the Matterhorn with Whymper, who then discharged Almer & Biner
It’s miraculous that Lord Francis & Taugwalder are alive. A cornice broke on the Gabelhorn. Saved by the rope that attached them to Viannin!
In Chamonix, Hudson bids farewell to McCormick with arrangements to meet in Visp on the 11th thence to Zermatt & the Matterhorn!
Saturday 8th July08.30
Dark clouds hang heavily over Breuil. Whymper is busy with preparations for a Matterhorn attempt that might at last succeed – with Carrel!
In Breuil a caravan of mules & porters bearing climbing equipment arrives with Felice Giordano, a founding member of the Italian Alpine Club
Under grey skies in Zermatt, Lord Francis is looking to fill the days before he must return home for his brother’s 21st birthday
Carrel meets Giordano. This is an engagement prior to that made with Whymper, for an all-Italian attempt on the Matterhorn
Sunday 9th July09.00
To extricate himself from the engagement to go for the Matterhorn with Whymper Carrel invents a story about a family of distinction
Lord Francis plans a couple of days at Riffelhaus. The weather is not encouraging, he has to leave the alps soon & he’s almost out of cash
Whymper accepted Carrel’s story. They are in the inn at Val Tournenche, sharing wine and laughter at past exploits together in the mountains
Monday 10th July09.00
Lord Francis hopes to cross to Breuil, then tomorrow collect his packed bags from the Mont Cervin & head home. Weather keeps him at Riffel
Hudson leaves Chamonix with Hadow & Campbell, Croz & Perren, & porters carrying a trunk, precipice ladder & wire rope. Matterhorn prepared!
Whymper spends a quiet evening in Breuil, thankful at least that the abominable weather prevents anyone attempting that mountain for now
Carrel sniffs the air, he senses a change in the weather & starts moving equipment up the mountain as a few stars prick through the clouds
Tuesday 11th July06.00
A gap in the clouds! Lord Francis wants to get in a quick reconnaissance over the Théodule & employs Peter Taugwalder’s son Joseph as porter
As a recaltricant sun tries to shine over Breuil, Whymper spots Carrel & his team up the mountain, starting their Matterhorn attack
Whymper is searching Breuil for guides or porters for the crossing to Zermatt, but they are all either with Carrel or hunting marmottes!
At Visp, Hudson finds no McCormick, who is delayed by bad weather, so he decides to continue to St Niklaus
Lord Francis has arrived in Breuil. He is delighted to meet Whymper, whose exploits he has heard tell of & can learn from
Whymper is finding Lord Francis an exceedingly amiable & talented young man. Sunny afternoon conversation has turned to the Matterhorn
Carrel & the Italians are spending an atrocious night in the tent on the rocky ledge he & Whymper had found in 1862
Whymper & Lord Francis have teamed up! Tomorrow they cross to Zermatt, engage Lord Francis’ guide Peter Taugwalder & attack the Matterhorn
Wednesday 12th July09.00
Whymper with Lord Francis are leaving Breuil, cold & wet, heavily laden with tent, blankets & a lot of rope
Hudson arrives in Zermatt. Poor weather means he will wait until McCormick joins for real climbing. Takes a look up Hörnli with young Hadow
Whymper has stowed equipment at the Schwarzsee & organised his ropes behind the Chapel of Mary of the Snow. Ready for tomorrow!
The dining room at the Monte Rosa. Everyone is talking about the Matterhorn! Whymper & Lord Francis 1st & then Hudson & Hadow turned up
The 2 teams have joined forces, will share guides Michel Croz and Peter Taugwalder & attempt the Matterhorn from Switzerland! Tomorrow!
On a storm swathed Matterhorn, Carrel & friends are confined to their tent
Thursday 13th July05.30
Zermatt is lit by clean golden sun as 8 men leave town – Whymper, Lord Francis, Hudson, Hadow, Croz, Peter Taugwalder & sons Peter & Joseph
The pace is leisurely, they are at Schwarzsee to breakfast & retrieve Whymper’s supplies. Hudson & Whymper are deciding together on plans
Carrel & the Italians are struggling out of their tent on the Breuil side – it has been semi buried by yesterday’s snow fall
The way up the Hörnli is mainly easy going, a few places where an axe is necessary, they round some ledges to the Eastern face
The tent is pitched on a sunny ledge. Croz & Taugwalder’s older son Peter are sent to make an assessment of the unknown passage above
Croz & Young Peter return. The way above is easy, easy! We could have reached the summit today & got back. Tomorrow bodes well!!
The Carrels have returned to their tent. They managed hardly any distance above it, they can’t cut steps through the deep, new snow
The setting sun fills the sky with a pink glow that betokens a fine morning. Men’s voices lifted in song echo around the darkening mountains
Friday 14th July08.00
The summit bound party on the Matterhorn started before daybreak & it included Young Peter, overjoyed to go along as a guide
The pace on the Matterhorn is slow & cautious but the rocks make a giant staircase & not are yet so challenging as to require roping up
They meet a tough, steeper section, fewer handholds, glazed with ice, Croz takes the lead & they rope together
The steep section cleared, they manoeuver horizontally, ascend, take a stride round a tricky corner. There is now only snow to the summit
Whymper & Croz release themselves from the rope to race to the summit & become the 1st men to reach the top of the Matterhorn!!!
All 7 have reached the top, the sun is smiling, the tent pole is planted & Croz removes his precious blue smock to be their triumphal flag
They have reached the tricky bit of the descent so rope together. Croz, then Hadow, Hudson, Lord Francis, Old Peter, Whymper, Young Peter
In Zermatt, young Friedrich Taugwalder, watching the mountain intently, calls – an avalanche, look, an avalanche on the Matterhorn!
Only three men now cling to the rock. Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow & Michel Croz fell to certain death, then the rope broke
Whymper & Taugwalders father & son, sick with shock, have reached the safety of the snow. Relations in the aftermath of trauma are strained
Carrel & his friends retreat to their tent for yet another night, knowing they were beaten to the top of the Matterhorn
Darkness. There is no choice for Whymper & the Taugwalders but to wait on a rocky ledge until tomorrow’s dawn lights a way down
Saturday 15th July06.30
3 men are coming down off the Matterhorn but not together as brothers in the face of tragedy. Mutual understanding has died with the victims
Zermatt. Alexander Seiler at the Monte Rosa hotel is the 1st to know of the tragedy. Then the door to Whymper’s room closed
It is official – 4 men fell to their deaths on the descent of the Matterhorn. Herr Welschen, President of the Commune, has taken charge
A search party has been called. 20 men receive 6 francs each & a share in 13 bottles of wine, to scale the heights & look for bodies
The searchers have returned. The glacier was too dangerous but from the slopes of Hohlicht they spied 3 bodies
Through the darkened streets of Zermatt rumours of foul play start to flutter like leaves blown by the wind & quickly escalate
Sunday 16th July08.00
A 2nd search party went this morning before daylight to reach the glacier before the sun makes it too dangerous, organised by Whymper
Carrel has set out from Breuil to make another attempt on the Matterhorn but without the intention to take his rich patrons to the top
The search party has returned. They saw a scene of devastation & carnage, 3 maimed bodies but no sign of Lord Francis except for his boot
Old Peter Taugwalder is denying the rumours that have set Zermatt alight, that there was no accident, the rope did not break, it was cut!
Monday 17th July09.00
Herr Clemenz from Visp, President of the Council & owner of the Mont Cervin Hotel, has been appointed to lead the Official Enquiry
The authorities have impounded the personal possessions taken from the corpses & instructed Whymper to stay in Zermatt pending the Enquiry
Whymper has passed pieces of broken rope to Herr Clemenz. They show that the connection between Lord Francis & Old Peter was the thinnest
J-A Carrel & J-B Bich make the 1st successful ascent of the Monte Cervino from Italy. Celebrations in Val Tournanche
The rumours about Old Peter Taugwalder & the rope cutting have come to Whymper’s ears. He insists that would have been impossible
Tuesday 18th July09.00
The weather has changed, the wind blows, the sky is grey. No Enquiry has yet been called, allowing supposition to take the place of fact
A list of questions has been delivered to Whymper’s room, those the Enquiry intends to ask him, although a date for when is not yet set
A teacher from Rugby school has visited Whymper to help translate the questions from German to English & the answers into French
Whymper is pleased to be asked to formulate questions for Old Peter Taugwalder. He frames them so Old Peter can explain his choice of rope
Wednesday 19th July09.00
Old Peter Taugwalder has his questions. His cousin Judge Alois Julen is around so it looks like he’s getting some help to answer them
Another English climber’s death – the body of William Knyvet Wilson, a Master at Rugby, has been found at the foot of the Riffelhorn
The question of why Old Peter tied to Lord Francis by the thinnest rope has entered the almost slanderous debate about the incident
A party of 21 men camp in chalets along the path to the glacier, sent to recover the bodies of those who perished on the Matterhorn
Thursday 20th July10.00
The bodies of Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow & Michel Croz have been carried back to town. They will be buried in Zermatt tomorrow
Young Peter Taugwalder is given leave to depart Zermatt as he has an engagement with a client in Chamonix
Whymper has paid the Curé so that he will bury Croz & has settled Lord Francis’ outstanding bill at the Mont Cervin
Friday 21st July10.00
The funerals, 1st of Michel Croz, then of Hudson, Hadow & Knyvet Wilson, have been held at the Church of Zermatt
The Official Enquiry into the tragedy on the descent of the Matterhorn starts in the Mont Cervin, with the aim to find if anyone was to blame
Whymper gave his evidence. He explained how Hadow slipped, knocking off Croz, dragging down Hudson & Lord Douglas. Then the rope broke
Old Peter Taugwalder gave his evidence, all the questions but one being from Whymper’s list. He said he believed the rope was strong enough
Franz Andenmatten from Almagell, who led the party organised by Whymper that found the bodies, was called to give evidence
Whymper has paid Old Peter the sum he believes is due to both Taugwalders for the Matterhorn ascent, including a Bonnemain
Saturday 22nd July09.00
Alexander Lochmatter from St Niklaus, who accompanied the party that found the bodies, was called to give evidence
The Court has organised inventories of the belongings of the deceased, things are drawing to a close
Edward Whymper has been given leave to depart Zermatt, with a promise from Clemenz that he will receive a copy of the proceedings
Sunday 23rd July09.00
Old Peter Taugwalder is recalled. He is asked about the composition of the parties, who supplied the rope & the details that led to the slip
Monday 24th July09.00
The Verdict – the accident was the result of Hadow’s slip. Guilt attaches to no one. There are no grounds for prosecution