Exploring Zermatt's Rich Mountaineering Heritage

Exploring Zermatt's Rich Mountaineering Heritage

For many people, climbing mountains is an activity that exists only in metaphor and brings to mind times of struggle and hard work. However, for those who feel the pull of the great outdoors and the need to feast their eyes on the wonders found there, mountain climbing is the ultimate rewarding alpine experience.


Not only is it beneficial for health and physical ability, but the views to be found when mountaineering can provide the climber with a sense of achievement seldom found elsewhere.


Zermatt, found nestled in the Swiss Alps, is a dream location for alpinists and mountaineering fans, granting them access to some of the highest peaks to be found in Europe. In this blog we’ll look at the ins and outs of Zermatt mountaineering, including famous mountain expeditions of the past and the ways in which modern adventurers enjoy this dramatic landscape.

The allure of Zermatt: A dream destination for climbers and skiers alike

While many flock to Zermatt purely to ski or board the snowy slopes found here year-round, Zermatt is a hub for a wide variety of outdoor activities and winter sports - including climbing.


The infrastructure of Zermatt lends itself to climbing - mountaineers can utilise the various cable cars and chairlifts that connect the landscape, making trails more accessible for climbers of any level. For those who need extra help, Zermatt’s long mountaineering history means that there are a wealth of guides and instructors to be found in town.


Thanks to the network of lifts and cars, many guided tours can be completed in the space of the day, so long as climbers are able to commit to an early start. However, some tours include staying overnight on the mountain in specially-designed huts and hides, secure in the knowledge that you’re in the safe hands of a highly-experienced guide.


There are 38 mountain peaks in and around Zermatt that reach over 4,000 metres in height, known locally as the four-thousanders. As well as the iconic Matterhorn, they include the Weisshorn, the Dom, and the Monte Rosa. Some are easier to climb than others, with some routes having the potential for bouldering or ice climbing, providing a more physically demanding way of tackling the mountain’s face. However, there are also many routes that are walkable in a good pair of hiking boots, and don’t require extensive specialist equipment. Zermatt mountaineering can truly cater to everyone.

Milestones in Zermatt's mountaineering history

Any talk of Zermatt’s mountaineering history would be incomplete without mentioning The Alpine Club. Founded in 1857, this British club was formed with the aim of promoting mountaineering and exploring the Alps.


It was a member of The Alpine Club, Edward Whymper, who was the first man to successfully reach the summit of the Matterhorn on the 14th of July 1865. Having previously attempted the climb several times,   However, while a party of seven reached the summit of the Matterhorn, only three members survived the descent. Edward Whymper, and guides Peter Taugwalder Sr. and Peter Taugwalder Jr. were not caught in the fall that took the lives of Charles Hudson, Lord Francis Douglas, Douglas Robert Hadow, and Michael Croz. The broken rope from the accident remains at the Matterhorn Museum to this day.


This tragic incident received international coverage and a large amount of outcry, with Queen Victoria even considering banning all British subjects from mountain climbing, though this didn’t come to pass. Lucy Walker then became the first woman to reach the top of the Matterhorn in 1871. As The Alpine Club was made up of exclusively male members, Lucy Walker founded and was a president of the Ladies Alpine Club. Her father and brother were her frequent climbing companions, as was the famous Alpine Ibex hunter Melchior Anderegg, from the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, who developed many life-saving rope techniques in his climbing career. Walker also shunned conventional dress codes of the time by shedding her hoop skirts on starting her ascent and making the climb in trousers.

Zermatt today: modern adventures and alpine living

The mountaineering pioneers of Zermatt’s history paved the way for exploring the beautiful region and making its peaks attainable for modern climbers. The alpine lifestyle demands a level of respect and admiration for nature that is so evident in climbing - an activity that has the potential to be as dangerous as it is rewarding if not approached with care.


Enjoying the outdoors is not only important for physical health, but mental health too. In Zermatt alone you can enjoy any of the following activities, depending on the time of year:



More than just a love for the outdoors and outdoor activities, alpine living focuses on community and environmental stewardship. Many people who live in alpine areas also tend to be keen environmentalists who understand the importance of reducing their impact on their natural surroundings. The town of Zermatt itself has been car-free since 1931, instead supporting public transport and other eco-friendly ways of getting around. This is just one of the reasons for Zermatt’s unique and charming historical atmosphere.

Your dream alpine home in Zermatt with Steiger&Cie Real Estate

Experts in alpine realty, Steiger&Cie Sotheby's International Realty are known for our in-depth knowledge of the local market and the excellent service with which we take care of our clients. We have properties in Verbier, Crans-Montana and Zermatt, and our array of services includes bespoke concierge services, property management and boutique brokering. If you’re dreaming of a classic Swiss Alps chalet in Zermatt, we can help you find a home away from home where you can enjoy the alpine lifestyle every day.

Zermatt, an unforgettable alpine experience

Interested in learning more? Enquire with our team today!

I let you double check because as far as I know they climbed the mountain from the Swiss side while there was a group of Italians who were trying to reach the top from the other side

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