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Friday, May 24, 2013

Matterhorn


In the summer of 1860, the twenty-year old Edward Whymper came to Zermatt. Hired by a London publisher to make sketches of mountain scenes, he was not one of those British mounteneering aristocrats trying to reach the last unconquered summits. Actually he had never been to the Alps before. Maybe the arrogance of his noble countrymen spurred his ambition to do what they tried in vain - climb the majestic Matterhorn. In the years 1861-1865, he made several attempts by the south-west ridge together with an Italian guide from the Valtournanche, Jean-Antoine Carrel. Patriotically believing that a native Italian and not an Englishman should be the first to set foot on the summit, Carrel eventually betrayed Whymper. He had already started the ascent with an Italian rope, when Whymper hurried back to Zermatt, gathered some Englishmen and hired three Swiss guides to try the opposite face of the Matterhorn. His attempt by what is now the usual route was crowned with success (14th of July 1865); but on the descent four of the party slipped and were killed, and only the breaking of the rope saved Whymper and the two remaining guides from the same fate. This is maybe the most dramatic mountain story, still waiting to be told in an appropriate form. I think it would make a great movie, and I always dreamed of writing the perfect screenplay for it. Unfortunately mountain movies went out of fashion many years ago.

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