This is all you need to know about the Matterhorn

Red Bull TV’s new series follows a Matterhorn search and rescue team. We’ve got the vital details.
The Matterhorn's serene beauty hides great danger © Original Media
By Steve Root

The new Red Bull TV series The Horn follows the exploits of Air Zermatt, the world's top helicopter search and rescue team responsible for the 2,000 square kilomet area encompassing Switzerland’s famed and ferocious Matterhorn.

But there are group of medical professionals and alpinists who risk it all to save the lives of others all year round at the Matterhorn.

There are some amazing facts and figures behind the work these dedicated heroes perform, but to fully appreciate the magnitude of what they do, it’s helpful to have some perspective on where they do it:

The Matterhorn 101

Lights on, Zermatt © Andrew Geraci

Height: 4,560m

Shape: The Matterhorn has a famously recognisable pyramid shape, with four distinct faces that line up with the four compass directions. Though primarily associated with Switzerland's alps, it's also accessible from neighbouring Italy.

Formation: In a sense, it could be said that Africa, or at least a piece of it, is accessible from the Matterhorn. Thought to be 50-60 million years old, the peak was formed when tectonic shifting forced land masses into each other, pushing the ground upward. The hard rock on top of the mountain originally came from the African continental plate.

Weather plays a huge role in Matterhorn rescues © Andrew Geraci

Weather: With its isolated geographical position and enormous height, the Horn forms its own weather, exposing rescuers to rapid changes in conditions. Heavy fog, gusty winds and icing of helicopter rotors are some of the biggest dangers.

Name: The name Matterhorn comes from the German words for 'meadow' and 'peak,' of which there are plenty here.

First ascent: The Horn was first summited on July 14, 1865, by a seven-person team led by Brit Edward Whymper, who is officially credited as the first on top.

Patient awaits pick up by Air Zermatt heli © Original Media

Matterhorn climbers today: Roughly 2,000 annually

Time to the top: In early ascents, it took two days to climb the north face. Today, weather permitting, it takes eight to 10 hours.

Crevasses: Because the Matterhorn is home to numerous glaciers, it's laced with countless deep crevasses, many of which are hidden by snow that can give way without warning, swallowing up climbers and skiers in the process.

Superstitions: Long ago, it was believed that spirits threw boulders down the mountain. Today, knowing the science behind avalanches and falling rocks doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

More cool facts:
• Approximately 1,000 alpine marmots live in the Zermatt area.
• A cat named Matt reportedly scaled the peak in 1950 after setting out from his home at Zermatt’s Belvedere Hotel behind a group of mountaineers. He is said to have been waiting at the summit when they arrived.

Air Zermatt

Air Zermatt helis do thousands of flights annually © Original Media

Rescue missions per year: 1,600–1,700

Area of operations: 2,000 square kilometres

Number of helicopters: 9

One of Air Zermatt's helicopters gets serviced © Andrew Geraci

Pilots: 6 full-time and 5 freelance; 5 certified flight instructors

Paramedics: 7

Flight assistants: 16

Engineers/technicians: 15

Doctors and paramedics tend to a victim

Administrative/call centre/office staff: 15

Doctors: 32 (all volunteers, on a rotating schedule)

Winch/fixed rope rescues per year: 500-plus

Ropes and winches are key to Air Zermatt missions © Andrew Geraci

Average length of time per rescue: 1 hour from the call to clean-up in the hangar

Most rescues in a single day: 24

Night rescues per year: 100 to 140 (roughly every third night)

Air Zermatt helis fly day and night. © Andrew Geraci

Intrigued? Check out this trailer for The Horn:

© Original Media
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