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
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: 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.
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.
Rescue missions per year: 1,600–1,700
Area of operations: 2,000 square kilometres
Number of helicopters: 9
Pilots: 6 full-time and 5 freelance; 5 certified flight instructors
Flight assistants: 16
Administrative/call centre/office staff: 15
Doctors: 32 (all volunteers, on a rotating schedule)
Winch/fixed rope rescues per year: 500-plus
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)
Intrigued? Check out this trailer for The Horn: