New speed link-up on the Matterhorn in winter

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 14/04/2014
The Matterhorn seen from the west. Lindsay Griffin

The current trend towards, and increased media coverage of, speed ascents has seen Italian guide, Hervé Barmasse, complete an impressive one-day, solo, winter link-up on the Matterhorn.

Barmasse linked all four ridges of this iconic Swiss-Italian peak on a day of excellent weather towards the end of the winter season.

The first, known, continuous link-up of this type took place in September 1966

René Arnold and Joseph Graven started from the 3,300m Bossi Bivouac hut a little above the Breuiljoch, followed the standard line up the Furggen Ridge (1,150m, D-/D), descended the Hornli Ridge (1,220m, AD), crossed the Matterhorn Glacier to the Zmutt Ridge, climbed it (ca 1,200m, D), and descended the Italian (Lion) Ridge (ca 1,400m, AD/AD+), carrying on down to the village of Breuil in the Valtournenche, which they reached after a total of 19½ hours.

In September 1985 Hervé's father, Marco, decided to repeat this, solo, but elected to start with the more difficult Furggen Direct, first climbed in 1941 by Carrel, Chiara and Perino.

This gives 150m of sustained rock climbing from IV-V+ in the section above the shoulder.

In 1953 Roberto Bignami and Walter Bonatti made the first winter ascent but in the top part took a more difficult and direct line at V+ and A2.

Marco Barmasse started at Bossi Bivouac hut, made most likely the first solo ascent of the Furggen Direct, and continued to repeat the Arnold-Graven link-up, reaching the Abruzzi Hut (2,802m), below the Italian Ridge, in a total of 15 hours.

He carried a rope, and reportedly climbed in plastic boots.

In August 1992 Italian Hans Kammerlander and the Swiss guide Diego Wellig upped the ante by ascending all four ridges in a continuous, one-day push.

The pair started up the Zmutt Ridge at midnight, descended the Hornli Ridge, climbed up the Furggen and then descended the Italian Ridge (but only as far as the Carrel Hut at 3,829m), climbed back up the Italian ridge and once again descended the Hornli, then climbed back up the Hormli, and then down again.

Completing this impressive feat of endurance, they arrived at the Hornli Hut after and elapsed time of 23 hours and 26 minutes.

Hervé Barmasse is the fourth generation of a dynasty of guides living below the Italian side of the Matterhorn.
He decided to repeat his father's 1985 enchainment, only this time in the cold and snowy conditions prevalent this March.

He took only a minimal amount of gear, which meant he had to keep moving realatively fast.

Although he knows the mountain like the back of his hand, Barmasse found conditions quite snowy, and some sections proved surprisingly time-consuming

He left the Bossi Bivouac at 5:45am and his time of 17 hours took him to the Carrel Hut on the Italian Ridge, where his father was waiting in support.

They later descended to Breuil/Cervina.

Barmasse's ascent of the Furggen Direct is perhaps the first winter solo, and both father and son have added greatly to the history of the Matterhorn with new routes and winter ascents.



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