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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

Day 1

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.

Day 2

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.

Day 3

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.

Day 4

Tuesday June 13th

The Reverend William Hawker is a climbing colleague of Whymper’s who lives in Interlaken.

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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.

Day 8

Saturday June 17th

The best laid plans often change, as Whymper’s did today.

Day 9

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.

Day 10

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.

Day 11

Tuesday June 20th

Whymper is now determined that the Matterhorn become the focus of his party’s endeavour.

Day 12

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.

Day 13

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.

Day 14

Friday June 23rd

Whymper and his guides, Michel Croz, Christian Almer and Franz Biner are in Courmayeur.

Day 15

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.

Day 16

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.

Day 17

Monday June 26th

Whymper’s extremely early start was to achieve a new crossing over the watershed between Courmayeur and Chamonix.

Day 18

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.

Day 19

Wednesday June 28th

At 15.00, Whymper set out from Chamonix with Almer, Biner and a porter to carry camping equipment and provisions.

Day 20

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.

Day 21

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.

Day 22

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.

Day 23

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.

Day 24

Monday July 3rd

An hour later than intended, at 4am, Whymper, with his guides Almer and Biner, left the Montanvert above Chamonix.

Day 25

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.

Day 26

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.

Day 27

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.

Day 28

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.

Day 29

Saturday July 8th

Charles Hudson’s plans for the summer are disintegrating as his companions fall off the planned path.

Day 30

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.

Day 31

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!

Day 32

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.

Day 33

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.

Day 34

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.

Day 35

Friday July 14th

The day when victory turned into disaster.

Day 36

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.

Day 37

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.

Day 38

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.

Day 39

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.

Day 40

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.

Day 41

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.

Day 42

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…

Day 43

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.

Day 44

Sunday July 23rd

This morning the Court recalled Peter Taugwalder Senior. They had some more questions for him…

Day 45

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.

Day 46

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.

Day 47

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.

Day 48


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.