Supported by

150 Years
  First Ascent

Matterhorn 2015

July 14th 1865

7 men on top of the Matterhorn
3 made it home

Read the full story
Disentangle fact from fiction


Peter Taugwalder Vater


By the time of the Matterhorn ascent, Peter Taugwalder was a well-known Zermatt guide with a wealth of experience on the Monte Rosa, which he had climbed around 84 times. He had not travelled far out of his native valley, but was one of the few Zermatt guides of the time who seem to have entertained the thought of venturing far up the Matterhorn, where, according to local myth, evil spirits dwelt. He accompanied Thomas Kennedy and another Zermatt guide, Peter Perren, on a winter attempt in 1862, but then, according to Kennedy, lost his nerve on the Dent Blanche that summer. In 1865 he seems to have discussed with Lord Francis the possibility of ascending the Hörnli Ridge. This was probably forward planning for another engagement next season with an enthusiastic and wealthy client.

Life became very difficult for Peter Taugwalder after the accident in 1865. But it seems he was struggling with tragedy even prior to that fateful day. It is not recorded in the Parish Records, but there is oral history that his wife, Anna Maria zum Taugwald, died in 1864, pregnant with what would have been their fifth child. Almost losing his own life twice in 1865, on the Matterhorn on July 14th and on the Obergabelhorn a couple of weeks earlier, must have added to his trauma. When his second son, Joseph, died in the Schwarzsee in 1867, a tough life must have become unbearable. For reasons that aren’t clear, he emigrated to America in 1874, a daunting expedition for someone who spoke little more than Walliser dialect. After four years he was back in Zermatt. He helped the building of the hotel at Schwarzsee, but doesn’t seem to have climbed again before his death at the age of sixty eight.