The Matterhorn – Kilian Jornet

Image taken by Kilian Jornet, Friday Aug 2nd w/ Emelie Forsberg at the summit of the Matterhorn copyright: Kilian Jornet

Image taken by Kilian Jornet, Friday Aug 2nd w/ Emelie Forsberg at the summit of the Matterhorn copyright: Kilian Jornet

“It is a technical mountain. Bruno Brunod has a record of 3:14. It is a technical route that is not difficult BUT if I fall, I will die! I need to know the route very well, I need to spend time on the mountain, and I need to learn every step.” Kilian Jornet, July 2013.

Monte Cervino (Italian) or Mont Cervin (French) or Just the Matterhorn is a mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy. At 4,478 meters (14,690 ft) high, it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. It consists of four steep faces, striking above the glaciers that surround it. Overlooking the town of Zermatt it is an iconic mountain and possibly ‘the’ most photographed mountain in the world. It is a mountain that dreams are made of. Kilian Jornet is no different, “I have been dreaming about this record since I was 15”.

Ironically, the Matterhorn was one of the last great Alpine peaks to be climbed and the first ascent by Edward Whymper in 1865 brought an end to the ‘Golden age of alpinism (The period between Alfred Wills ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Whymper’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, this period saw many peaks in the Alps have first ascents)

Since 1865 to 1995 it has been described as one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps, over five hundred lives have been lost in this 130yr period. I guess the first ascent in 1865 showed us the danger potential when four climbers fell to their deaths on the descent.

The Matterhorn has two distinct summit, both situated on a 100-metre-long rocky ridge: the Swiss summit with a height of 4,477.5 meters (14,690 ft) on the east and the Italian summit with a height of 4,476.4 meters (14,686 ft) on the west. Their names originated from the first ascents, not for geographic reasons, as both are located on the border. Each summer a large number of mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit.

Small patches of snow and ice cling to the faces of the Matterhorn, but the faces are steep and regular avalanches occur. Snow hurtles down the four sides and accumulates on the glaciers at the base of each face.

Four main ridges separate the four faces of the Matterhorn and therefore it offers four distinct routes.  The least difficult technical climb and by far the most popular is the Hörnli Ridge, which lies between the east, and north faces and it faces the town of Zermatt. The Zmutt Ridge (west), between the north and west faces is, according to Collomb, “the classic route up the mountain, it’s the longest ridge and also the most disjointed.”

The Lion Ridge, lying between the south and west face is the Italian normal route.  It is the shortest route on the mountain and has fixed ropes in place but many think it to be a far superior climb, particularly when compared to Hörnli Ridge. Furggen Ridge is the final offering, it is the hardest offering and in good conditions is not too difficult, however, it has a reputation.

J.J and J.P Maquignaz made the first ascent of the Italian ridge as it is climbed today in 1867 but Kilian Jornet has his eyes on Bruno Brunod’s record set in 1995 when he did Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn summit and back in an astonishing time of 3:14:44. In addition, Bruno also has the record for climbing the Matterhorn, again from Breuil-Cervinia in a time of 2:10.

Back in 1995, Skyrunning president, Marino Giacometti and Executive Director, Lauri Van Houten were not only present but also helped finance Bruno’s attempt. Lauri still says how the thought of it, “brings shivers down my back”.  Lauri and Marino both acknowledge the danger and undertaking that Kilian has given him self. “I remember standing in the square in Cervinia and about 3 hours ten had elapsed. There was a real buzz and noise and then somebody shouted, he’s coming! We all ignored it; we thought it couldn’t be possible… but minutes later Bruno appeared. It was a magical moment, one I will never forget”, says Lauri.

Bruno is very much considered the father of Skyrunning. His exploits, to this day seem to go beyond human limit. Without doubt, Kilian Jornet is in the same mold and in real terms, Bruno has lead the way for what Kilian now wants to achieve with his Summits project.

Bruno attempted Everest (the final summit for Kilian) he however gave up when at a height of 8.200 mt (26,900 feet) due to very hard weather conditions.

Bruno’s passion and time is now focused on his construction company, however, just recently he joined Kilian on the Matterhorn as he prepared for his Matterhorn attempt, I wonder, will we see a comeback!

Bruno’s records:

  • Matterhorn uphill and downhill from Cervinia in 3:14
  • Monte Rosa uphill and downhill from Gressoney in 4:45
  • Aconcagua uphill and downhill in 5:57
  • Kilimanjaro uphill on the Marangu Rout in 5:38
  • Monte Elbert uphill in 1:54
  • Three times winner of the Becca di Nona skyrace (2002 – 2003 – 2004)

August 21st 2013 at 1500 hours from the church in Cervinia, Kilian Jornet will depart on what I, and many others consider to be his ultimate challenge. The history books will show if his attempt was successful, ultimately though we want Kilian home safe. It’s about being on the edge and deciding what ‘your’ summit is, at this current moment, Kilian’s summit is Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn summit and back in less than 3:14:44.

God speed Kilian!

7 thoughts on “The Matterhorn – Kilian Jornet

  1. Do you know if they ( Bruno and Killian ) just go to the first summit they come to, ie the Italian Summit, or do they traverse the 100m ridge to the Swiss Summit since that is the higher ?

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