Training With a Guide to Climb Matterhorn North Face

Marina ParraJune 20, 2019

Climbing a mountain is all about putting your technical abilities, physical stamina, strength, and resourcefulness to the test. 

For mountain adventurers, goals are the fuel that keeps them moving. The more ambitious the goals, the more intense the training path required to finally accomplish them.

Pawel is a 46-year-old man from Poland, who has been living in the USA for the past 20 years. With a background in technical ice climbing and some mountaineering experience in the Cascades mountain range, he has set a challenging goal for next year: climbing the iconic north face of Matterhorn.

With this objective in mind, he contacted IFMGA-certified guide Enrico Bonino through Explore-Share and embarked on a 10-day training program specially designed to improve his skills and prepare him to attempt this big climb.


Training to climb Matterhorn north face
Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

Climbing the great north faces of the Alps is one of the major undertakings in the mountaineering world. The imposing north walls of Matterhorn, Eiger, and Grandes Jorasses constitute the so-called ‘trilogy’, a mythical and very extreme mountain challenge that only a few are prepared to attempt.

For Enrico, however, climbing the most difficult routes in the Alps is part of his DNA: “Climbing difficult mountain faces is fascinating. It’s not just a straight forward slope, you need to plan every single part of the climb and you need to be technically prepared for it. It’s a long story before the climb itself”, he explains.

As for Pawel, his story climbing Matterhorn north face began last May.

“We went training in the Mont Blanc range as it is very accessible and offers a huge amount of different climbs, from ice gullies to couloirs to rock climbs and classical/technical mixed terrain. Perfect for our goal”, explains Enrico.

Training to climb Matterhorn north face
Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

During the 10 days of training, they tackled many short climbs, “all of them representing a section of Matterhorn north face, which could be divided into three sections: snowfield, the ramp (gully) and the waterfalls, and the last lower angle classical mixed terrain”.

Enrico believes the training is essential not only to assess the technical climbing skills of his client but also to find out if they can work together as a team:

“I believe Pawel is technically ready for the challenge. During these 10 days, we got to know each other and made a good team, which is mandatory for such a climb. It’s actually one of the first things I tell to the people aspiring to climb big faces with me: if we don’t get along well together, if we don’t make a good team then you can be the best climber in the world, but we won’t climb big faces together”.

Next year, before attempting the main goal, there will be another climb. “I need to assess how Pawel reacts on a very big climbing day. I am very confident he can do it!”, Enrico says.

What Does It Take to Climb the North Face of Matterhorn?


Training to climb Matterhorn north face
Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

Located right on the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn (4,478 m) is the 5th highest mountain in the Alps and is often regarded as one of the most beautiful peaks in the world. Its 1,200 m high north wall overlooks the mountain town of Zermatt and dazzles experienced climbers seeking technically complex alpine climbs.

What makes Matterhorn north face so challenging? Enrico explains there are 3 main reasons:

  • Length. The climb is 1200 m.
  • Exposure. It’s the steepest side of the mountain, with sheer vertical drops that are not for the faint of heart.
  • Type of rock. It is not solid granite and takes extra attention, not allowing to easily protect the climb.
So what does a climber needs in order to attempt this climb? These are the basic requirements according to our expert guide:

“In order to climb Matterhorn north face, one must have very good overall experience on either classical and technical terrain, very good self-knowledge on long days effort (we are talking about 15 to 20 hours to climb up and down in optimal conditions), a calm, calculator and humble character (don’t panic at the first obstacle!), and a good dose of patience!”


Training to climb Matterhorn north face
Photo courtesy of Enrico Bonino.

Do you want to put your skills to the test and see if you are prepared for a big climb in the Alps? Contact Enrico, share your previous experience & goals with him and start planning a training program to climb one of the north faces of the Alps.

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