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  17. July 2006

 

 

A paraglider on the summit of the ...

Matterhorn 4478 m / 14'700 ft.

 

" ...I took a gift for my friend Simon who wants to take off from this mountain. This is a piece of rock from the summit. You now have to bring it back up there.

We'll go together, I've seen it's possible to deploy our wings... (to be continued) "

 

I wrote these few lines last year for ending the story of my solo ascent of my 15th 4000m peak. From this day, the project was born. We prepared this one during the cold winter days, watching the pictures and some aerial views of the Matterhorn, before finding the absolute motivation for an ascent with a wing in our rucksacks, and mainly for another unique flight experience from an improbable place.

The summer finally comes, Simon analyses as usual the weather data coming everyday on his laptop from the Noaa satellite. The pilots who successfully took off there can be counted on one hand, we know it and only a perfect day could allow us to realize this again.

Around the 12th of July, the weather forecasts give us some good news for the following weekend.



Ascent to the Hörnlihütte - 3260 m - Sat. 15. July 2006

Unlike my last ascent where I was alone, we are 5 friends this weekend. Alexandra and Nadège are coming with us to the refuge. Nico is of course coming with us and we all take the train from Täsch to Zermatt. After walking through this nice village, we can finally see the unbeliveable pyramid seeming to break through the sky.

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From Schwarzee to 2500 m, the footpath is beautiful and end at the refuge. We take our time to admire the beautiful landscapes aroud us during the 2 hours walk. At the 4000 m frontier, one must know to see high and far to enjoy the moment and find the part of dream in each of us.

We reach the refuge half an hour before the dinner. We just have time to have a drink facing the Mt Rose. Alexandra and Nadège are enjoying the alpine calm while the summit's candidates are discovering the first climbing ways into the Matterhorn.

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Ascent via the Hörnli ridge - Sun. 17. July 2006

It's 3:30 AM and the classic chaotic noise following the awakening is annoying me a bit more than usual. This morning, Alexandra is on my side and will stay here. While I leave a discreet kiss on his cheek she softly says "be careful...". I always find the force to extract me from my sleep on these particular mornings, and realize once again my passion for the mountains.

I meet my partners some minutes after, in the heart of the mountain, as the dark night reveals us zillions of stars. The only sound we can hear comes from the seracs and the rocks falling from the mountain, making a very special atmosphere. On the Matterhorn, there is always a special cautiousness taken by the alpinists, trying to calm down the elements for a more serene ascent, maybe also as a tribute for the departed ones which tragically conquered this mountain for the very first time.

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As we arrive at the Solvay refuge, the firsts lights are illuminating the summit. This emergency shelter is symbolically letting us know that we just reached the 4000m frontier.  

A bit later, we reach an altitude of 4200m, which is the point of numerous abandons. The difficulties to cross paths with other alpinists on the same fixed rope, the delay on the schedule or the exhaustion incitate many climbers to stop the ascent and go down quickly. For Simon and Nicolas, the motivation even grows and we reach the 4478 m of the summit in an immense delight.

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Reaching the summit, ...  the "takeoff" !

 

Just like on the Mt Blanc or any other mythical summit, the final step is a very magical and unforgettable instant. Pierre Pagani (founder of a famous Paragliding magazine) is one of the few pilots which took off from this tiny place. We meet one of his friends on the summit, a mountain guide which happily tells us

" Hey guys, this time the weather is perfect for a flight, but the takeoff ....
well, it's up to you to take the right decision.. enjoy the place! "

A few minutes after that, Simon seems to be motivated to try taking off while Nico is taking pictures from this fabulous point of view. As we are helping to deploy his wing, he goes down a bit to be ready, his iceaxe still in hand ! My mind in cruising through excitement and angst. I finally recover clear ideas and choose to walk down this mountain. Decision taken, I do not regret anything.

as usual on this mountain, the summit is the victim of the desire of many tourist wanting to fly around by helicopter, tasting a bit of this unique universe. But this day the presence of a wing on the summit encourage the helicopter pilots and we are assisting a real fashion show of the flying machine of Air-Zermatt, taking every few minutes new tourists and coming around the summit again.

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Usually a North 15 - 20 km/h wind would be perfect for considering a takeoff from up there, but the lines are entangling between the sharp rocks protruding through the small snow layer, and the chopper noise let conceive the important induced turbulences. After some attempt to inflate his wing, our pilot takes his lines in his hand and finally decides to walk down with us.

While flying down is always the icing on the cake, enjoying the stunning sight from the summit is the main enjoyment of every ascent, and walking down let dream about all the following flight that will bring new stories...

The few ones who successfully took off from this place probably did it with more snow, providing a cleaner surface. Nevertheless, let not forget the old timers, and their unique exploits which will continue to make us dream for long times...

 

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Walking down to earth ...

 

After all these emotions, we leave the summital ridge with some lag on our schedule. The cautiousness should be our main priority during these few hours of effort, in spite of our exhaustion. There's a long way to the Hörnlihütte, but we're happy to have reached the summit, and still enjoying the images that we bring back from up there.. Ending this story in a classical way is not unpleasant.

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During this time, Alexandra and Nadège are enjoying the softness of the climate, reaching Zermatt in a beautiful alpine nature. Between all these peaks and the civilisation, there's en entire universe precious to our eyes, far from the cars, pollution and noise - the genuine nature..

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Be careful - Even with a good altitude acclimatization, taking off from that kind of environment require a very big experience, a lot of skills and overall an indestructible self-control. The jugement faculties are easily altered at these altitudes due to the lack of oxygen, knowing onself extensively is the key to avoid wrong decisions. The angles on the pictures are misleading, I can assure the slope is really steep (try rotating a picture to make the horizon line horizontal)...   -Fab'

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Texte © Skyandsummit.com  :  Fabrice BRUN

Photos © Skyandsummit.com : Alexandra HOTE - Nico HELMBACHER - S. PERRIARD - Fabrice BRUN

 

 

 

 

 

Merci aux partenaires du projet "Au delà des 4000" :