150 Years
  First Ascent

Matterhorn 2015

The First Ascent of the Matterhorn from Zermatt on July 14th 1865 was not exactly carefully planned. It was a chain of chance events that led to those seven climbers reaching the summit, then four perishing on the mountain and leaving Edward Whymper and Peter Taugwalder the subjects of intense speculation ever since.

Matterhorn 2015 takes the opportunity of its 150th Jubilee to re-live that epic event in mountaineering history. Follow Whymper on the journey across the Alps that culminated in the First Ascent of the Matterhorn and, along the way, work out what really led to the deaths of Michel Croz, Lord Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson and Douglas Hadow.

Read and experience the entire story via a Videobook, especially designed for tablets. A free App is available for download and enables you access to the history of the Matterhorn’s first ascent in any place and at any time.

Week by Week: A weekly Newsletter reports on the adventures of Summer 1865 ... as told by a contemporary of Edward Whymper. You can follow events “online” or pick up a printed version in Zermatt.

Day by day – Each afternoon an update on our website will be your gateway to the alpine exploits of that day 150 years ago.

As the action unwinds, we will keep you ud-todate either via our Live-Ticker or Twitter.

Become a Facebook friend of Edward Whymper, and hear what he has to say about the path towards the summit.

Exchange thoughts about the climb on our “Matterhorn 2015” Facebook community of adventure and nature lovers. Here you will also learn interesting fun-facts about Edward Whymper as well as his fellows, and reawaken your enthusiasm for wild adventures!

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Biography

 
 

John Birkbeck

(1842-1892)

 
 

John Birkbeck’s father, also John, showed his son the way to becoming a mountaineer. John Senior was in the party that made the first ascent of the Dufourspitze, the highest point on the Monte Rosa massif, in 1855. In the party was Charles Hudson, who visited the Birkbeck’s home town of Settle, in North Yorkshire, to give a lecture.

In 1861, when 19 years old, John Junior was taken to the Alps by Hudson and climbed the Col de Miage. He almost fell to an early death on this excursion, when he took off the rope and wandered away as the party sat on summit. But he was not frightened off the mountains. He went up the Weisshorn in 1863 with Franz Biner and Young Peter Taugwalder, and Mont Blanc with Adams Reilly and Michel Croz in 1864. Then, he engaged Croz for 1865, starting on June 27th.

The Birkbeck family were Victorian financiers and educationalists. Young John made a name for himself exploring Victoria Cave above his home town, but could have gone on to accomplish a far more famous exploit. He set off from England in 1865 intending to have a go at the Matterhorn with Hudson, but was obliged by illness to return home even before reaching the Alps. Then, in 1866, he made his own attempt on the Hörnli ridge. Unable to find any Zermatt guides to accompany him, he engaged seven guides from Sankt Niklaus. It is not clear why they turned back but in 1874, Birkbeck finally achieved his ambition. He ascended the Matterhorn from Breuil, descended to the Hörnli, and returned to Breuil, all in 19 hours.

John Birkbeck died in Menton when he was 50 years old, leaving a widow, Rachel, and four children.

  • John Birkbeck
The Birkbeck here is John Senior, father of the John Birkbeck who might have climbed the Matterhorn in 1865. He was in the party to make the first ascent of the Dufourspitze, the highest summit on Monte Rosa. So was Charles Hudson, who did ascend the Matterhorn in 1865.