The Matterhorn is crumbling in front of our eyes — is it worth shutting down?

Article bay
13 min readMay 31, 2022

The magnificent pyramid of the Matterhorn — the most famous but not the highest mountain in the Alps — attracts tourists from all over the world. Meanwhile, scientists warn that the lofty peak is crumbling precipitously, like other Alpine four-thousanders.

Matterhorn — [Photo: Sam Ferrara samferrara, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons]

With the intention of seeing (and of course photographing) the Matterhorn, 2 million people come to the village of Zermatt below it every year. It is the most popular tourist destination in Switzerland. On the street here you can meet visitors from all over the world. Among them are several thousand people who have come here for one reason only: to climb this great lonely mountain with its axe-sharp ridges and pointed summit at 4478 m above sea level. The Matterhorn rises on the Swiss-Italian border, and its name simply means “peak above the meadows”. (matte is German for “meadow” and horn for “peak”). The Italians and French call it their own, or Deer Mountain (Monte Cervino in Italian and Mont Cervin in French). The extraordinary pyramid has also earned many epithets, such as “queen of the Alps,” “mountain of the mountains,” but the people of Zermatt simply call it “Hore,” meaning “peak.” Although there are more than 30 four-thousanders in the area, including several higher than the Matterhorn, everyone knows that the Hore is only one.

Zermatt — [Photo: Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

The Matterhorn was long considered an unclimbable mountain. It was finally accomplished in 1865, 80 years after Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the entire Alps, was climbed. However, this first ascent of the Matterhorn turned out to be tragic. Of the seven people, only three returned — four fell into the abyss. Any mountaineer attempting to climb the Matterhorn knows he is taking a big risk. The number of those who have paid with their lives for an attempt to climb it is approaching 600, and every year between a few and a dozen people die on it. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of climbers — the Matterhorn acts as a powerful magnet for climbers. They cannot imagine that someone could forbid them to climb it. Meanwhile such ideas appear.

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