Matterhorn/Cervino: 1871, 1911, 1931

Matterhorn/Cervino: majestic mountain
Matterhorn/Cervino: majestic mountain and focus of Alpine mountaineering

It’s a year of anniversaries for the Matterhorn/Cervino. The first one commemorates an event that took place 140 years ago and featured Lucy Walker from England, who became the first woman to climb the majestic mountain. Walker began her Alpinist career in 1858 when she was advised by her doctor to take up walking as a cure for rheumatism. Accompanied by her father Frank, her brother Horace and the Swiss guide Melchior Anderegg, she started to explore the Alps.

In 1871, when Walker learned that Meta Brevoort, an American mountaineer, was planning an Alpine expedition, she quickly assembled a team and on 22 August, while wearing a white print dress, she became the first woman to summit the Matterhorn/Cervino. In the same year, she completed her fourth ascent of the Eiger, while living on a diet of sponge cake, champagne and Asti Spumante.

The 1911 anniversary commemorates the fact that the last of the Matterhorn/Cervino ridges to be ascended was the Furggen. On 9 September 1911, M. Piacenza, J. J. Carrel and J. Gaspard climbed it. Their achievement 100 years ago serves as a reminder that the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn/Cervino was made in 1865 by an expedition led by Edward Whymper and ended tragically when four of its members fell to their deaths on the descent. The risks the mountain poses are such that the north face was not climbed until 1931. Brothers Franz and Toni Schmid were the first to summit 80 years ago. Because they had kept their plans secret, their ascent on 1 August 1931 was a complete surprise. The two brothers had travelled by bicycle from Munich and after their successful climb they cycled home again.

The Matterhorn/Cervino straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy. The summit is 4,478 metres (14,692 feet) high, making it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. The mountain overlooks the town of Zermatt in the canton of Valais to north-east and Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the south.

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