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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Matterhorn - icon of the Alps

There's no doubt that a lot of people will associate the Alps, and mountaineering in general, with this glorious rock pyramid called Matterhorn. Every climber's dream is to summit it at least once in a lifetime, to identify himself with this iconic mountain.
Working as snow and ice guide in Switzerland in Summer 2003 at KISC, in Berner Oberland, gave me the opportunity for an attempt on Hörnli Ridge in August, roping up with guide Steinthor Nielsson (IS).

The best time to climb Matterhorn is from mid June to beginning of September, when the weather is more forgiving, but many times it was snowing even on this interval, making the ascent more difficult, along the frequent rockfalls and the fact that the route is overcrowded.

As the mountain is a true maze, a very smart idea would be a short scouting ascent a day before the climb to inspect the beginning of the route and the way it leads to the Solvay Hut (4003 m), a shelter to be used in emergency, owned by the Swiss Alpine Club.

Steinthor Nielsson (IS) by Solvay Hut

We've reached the summit in 4 and a half hours, but it tooked 7 hours to descent to Hörnli Hutte, due to many teams still on the way up, waiting for them to climb on steep sections.

Guides Ciprian Moruzan (RO) and Steinthor Nielsson (IS) on Matterhorn Summit

Ciprian Moruzan (RO) on Matterhorn Summit

Climbing on Matterhorn is not very difficult, but good visibility would be a huge plus to your ascent. Small cam devices and various slings would be very helpful, along with a serious hydratation kit, cos you'll be spending at least 10 hours on the mountain. On our attempt we had only the basic gear: helmet and lamp, harness, a couple of binners, two fat locking binners so you can clip the thick ropes along the ridge, an icescrew, classic axe and lightweight crampons. Leather gloves can be a smart ideea to have too. We had a single 50 m rope, but twin ropes would make the difference on descent when rapelling.

Timing is essential if you want to descent to Zermatt in time to catch one of the last trains in the evening (cos we've missed the last one so we spent the night in the station); if not, you can relax with a beer on the Hornli Hut terrace enjoying the fantastic view.

There are several routes to ascent on Matterhorn, but I can say that most people will choose Hörnli Ridge, following Edward Whimper's route on his way up to the summit, few days before the italians, on the 14th of July 1865.
There's a lot of info on internet about climbing Matterhorn following various routes, and, on top of that, you can ask for advice on Matterhorn Summit Log.
You'll find below few pages from "The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes", by Richard Goedeke, describing the classic routes to the summit.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympics in mourning

It seems that the Canadian Olympics are crossing difficult times those days, especially after the horrific crush of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili yesterday, training at Whistler, B.C.

"Kumaritashvili was coming around the final 270-degree turn, where speeds approach 140 kilometres an hour, when he flipped off his sled and flew into a metal pole."(

Trainings were cancelled after the accident, but still there's a situation that raised a lot of questions: how come that the track is still considered SAFE after a man died and several people were involved in accidents since this course was opened.

Not only at the Olympics, but in FIS world cup as well we've been whistnessing accidents that shocked the world, and there's no wonder cos it seems that people in charge with the safety of those courses slowly forget what they're suppose to do there. Every race become a potential location for a new incident, especially when we deal with downhill or giant slalom, but not resuming to that. Organisers and route setters should understand the limitations of human body to react in time to evoid an accident when dealing with huge speed, but sometimes financial reasons push to much for the show, leaving the safety behind.

It suppose to be a warning issue for every event organiser to increase the security on site and for the competitors as well, to create a fair environment for a sportive competition.

Unfortunately, the 21 years old Nodar Kumaritashvili payed with wis life, rising once again questions and issues about organising of major events in terms of safety.

Here's the Associated Press's report to the event:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ice Climbing World Cup - Busteni, Romania - RESULTS

As the event is over - and hopefully you've been watching it on mountainpro blog during the past weekend - you can check out the results of IWC Busteni 2010:

Women's Lead
1. Shin Woon Seon, Republic of Korea
2. Gallyamova Anna, Russia
3. Rainer Angelika, Italy

Men's Lead
1. Park Hee Yong, Republic of Korea
2. Bendler Markus, Austria
3. Lyulyukin Ivan, Russia

Women's Speed
1. Shubina Nadezda, Russia
2. Gallyamova Nadezhda, Russia
3. Shabalina Viktoria, Russia

Men's Speed
1. Pavel Gulyaev, Russia
2. Maxim Vlasov, Russia
3. Pavel Batushev, Russia

Full results archive can be downloaded HERE(.zip file)

The Ice Climbing champions of the 2010 season have been crowned:

Men's Lead: Markus Bendler, Austria

Women's Lead: Anna Gallyamova, Russia

Men's Speed: Pavel Gulyaev, Russia

Women's Speed: Nadezda Shubina, Russia

"The last weekend of the 2010 World Cup, held in Busteni, Romania, saw strong performances from Korean climbers Shin Woon Seon and Hee Yong Park, who won the final Lead competitions in the women's and men's events respectively. Shubina and Gulyaev came first in Speed, proving they are well deserving of the 2010 crown in this category." (UIAA website)