The Matterhorn was studied by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure in the late eighteenth century, who was followed by other renowned naturalists and artists, such as John Ruskin, in the nineteenth century. It remained unclimbed after most of the other great Alpine peaks had been attained and became the subject of an international competition for the summit. The first ascent of the Matterhorn was finally made in 1865 from Zermatt, by a party led by Edward Whymper, but ended disastrously when four of its members fell to their deaths on the descent. That climb and disaster, later portrayed in several films, marked the end of the golden age of alpinism. The north face was not climbed until 1931 and is amongst the three biggest north faces of the Alps, known as "The Trilogy". The west face, which is the highest of the Matterhorn's four faces, was completely climbed only in 1962. It is estimated that over 500 alpinists have died on the Matterhorn since the first climb in 1865, making it one of the deadliest peaks in the world. The Matterhorn is mainly composed of gneisses (originally fragments of the African Plate before the Alpine orogeny) from the Dent Blanche nappe, lying over ophiolites and sedimentary rocks of the Penninic nappes. The mountain's current shape is the result of cirque erosion due to multiple glaciers diverging from the peak, such as the Matterhorn Glacier at the base of the north face, forming a horn Since the end of the 19th century, when railways were built in the area, the mountain has attracted increasing numbers of visitors and climbers. Each year, numerous mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn from the Hörnli Hut via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit. Many trekkers also undertake the 10-day-long circuit around the mountain. The Matterhorn has been part of the Swiss Federal Inventory of Natural Monuments since 1983.
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