The Matterhorn. One of the three great north faces of the Alps, and assuredly one of the world’s most iconic and most recognised peaks – it’s jagged edges tracing to a sharp point in the sky. While laymen may only know it from Toblerone chocolate bars, the peak has an illustrious history – particularly the stunning north face. Now, Swiss mountaineer Dani Arnold has set a blazingly fast new record on the route, climbing the mountain in only 1 hour 46 minutes – see the video below.
See Dani’s incredibly fast climb
First summited in 1865 by Brit Edward Whymper in an expedition fraught with tragedy, it took until 1931 for the brothers Franz and Toni Schmid made it up the north face, a challenging mixed climb of rock and ice.
It's considered to be one of the riskiest climbs in the Alps – the Matterhorn is one of the deadliest peaks in Europe, with over 500 alpinists believed to have died on the mountain.
Moving over rock and ice
Over the years, the peak has been the site of some incredible climbs. Here's a look at some of the most noteworthy leading up to Dani's record.
1931, Franz and Toni Schmid, two days
While the peak was first attained in 1865, gaining the summit via the north face took until 1931, and was achieved by two brothers from Munich. Although the climb took them two days, it should be noted that they rode their bikes from Munich, hundreds of kilometres away, to get there – and upon completing the climb, rode their bikes back again.
1969, Jean Troillet, four hours, 10 minutes
The Swiss-Canadian mountaineer (who would later be the first person to snowboard off Everest) set the bar high with his speed ascent just over four hours. He was only 21-years-old at the time.
2009, Ueli Steck, one hour, 56 minutes
Troillet's record was whittled away until 2009, when Ueli Steck put up a seemingly unsurmountable time: 1 hour and 56 minutes, solo, up the north face, via the a slight variation from the Schmid route.
This summer, in the year of the 150th anniversary, Dani Arnold broke that record by 10 full minutes. What did it take? Sure-footedness, confidence, training – and of course, a lot of time in the mountains. “To complete a challenge like this, you really need to be in the mountains every day,” says Dani.
Dani Arnold on top of the Matterhorn...
The most surprising thing about Arnold’s record is that he wasn’t sure he would make it – in fact, he almost turned back. “I didn’t have a good feeling at the start,” he says. “But then I got into a rhythm.” And what a rhythm it was. He kept that pace despite portions of the climb that had less snow than he would have liked – forcing him onto the rock, increasing his exposure.
The feeling of victory is exhaustion...
But equipped with just his ice axes and crampons to give him purchase on the terrain, Arnold moved quickly and confidently, eventually making his way to the summit, where the visibly exhausted climber took a moment to reflect on the achievement – after he caught his breath.
Sitting at 4,478m above sea level, the mountaineer could proclaim: "Doing this in the year of the Matterhorn anniversary... I'm really happy."