Matterhorn Anxiety

Just after I met BG he went and climbed Mont Blanc. I was oblivious to what was involved. I was ignorant about the dangers, the technicalities, the effects of altitude and the demands that come with climbing enormous mountains.

They say ignorance is bliss.

It is.
When he returned from Mont Blanc with all the tales and stories of how difficult and long the ascent was, and showed photos from the trip with all the perspective of how small people are on the side of the enormous mountains are, I still had no real idea of the scale of what he had done.

That was, until I tried it.

Nothing prepared me for pulling into Chamonix and seeing how BIG the Mont Blanc Massif is. I have never seen mountains that big and I am fully aware there are much higher mountain ranges in the world (I can’t comprehend this). Mont Buet was big and tiring and the scale of the the surrounding peaks was intimidating. Mont Blanc du Tacul was exhausting but also very rewarding. And it was Mont Blanc du Tacul that provided the perspective for how long and draining the ascent route was that BG took up to the sumit of Mont Blanc. The idea of getting up to the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul then having to get over Mont Maudit before even beginning the final ascent up Mont Blanc is overwhelming.

Not is it overwhelming but I now completely understand what it takes to get up those mountains.

Ignorance is bliss.

As mentioned a million times before, six of us went out to the Alps last year. Two of us did not go to climb the Matterhorn, the other four, including BG did. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Switzerland I now fully understood the dangers that come with mountaineering. If you add this to my new found fears of crevasses, seracs, and avalanche risks along with the fact I have a ridiculously overactive imagination, having a mountaineering boyfriend is a recipe for an anxiety disaster. And then there was the added reality that BG’s climbing partner for the Matterhorn had turned out to be a bit too much of a risk taker during climbs. Pass me the Valium now.

Switzerland was just riddled with anxiety. From the moment we left France the reality of the Matterhorn was setting in. I guarantee if BG had been climbing with somebody else I would not have worried so much. I didn’t have one ounce of trust in his climbing partner.

Waving our partners off at the cable car to Schwarzsee was not something I’d like to repeat. I just felt full of dread.

There are facts about climbing the Matterhorn via the Hornli Ridge which didn’t fill me with confidence. The first is the popularity of the mountain which in turn created the pecking order of who can leave first. Zermatt Guides are first, followed by other mountain guides and independent climbers are at the back of the queue. Too many people to overtake if they are in slower parties.

The second issue is the cable cars back down from Schwarzsee into Zermatt. If you miss the last one (they finish too early in the day) then you have to walk the three hours back to town unless you’ve planned another night in the  (expensive) Hornli Hut.

That’s a lot of pressure.

After actually managing to sleep while BG was on the Matterhorn, I woke up to the first HOT and sunny day in Switzerland. Myself and my fellow novice planned to meet the climbers at Schwarzsee with a load of food and clean clothes. I felt fine and relatively calm and was looking forward to seeing them back down safely.

Then that all changed. We had just got into Zermatt and my fellow novice’s phone starting ringing. It was his wife who was part of the climbing group on the Matterhorn. After what seemed like the longest and most broken up phone call ever, she said they were already on their way down and not to come and meet them at Schwarzsee.

Dread. And utter dread.

The first question that came into my head was why are they already on their way back down? And why don’t they want us to meet them? The laws of the Matterhorn say this is impossible. It takes 9-12 hours to get up and down from the Hornli Hut. There is no way that they were first out as the hut was full and they went as independent climbers. Unless they are machines then this is impossible. So that was that, in my head something bad had happened and all reason had gone out of my head.

If you have ever seen Amelie then you can see what my imagination is like. If not, see clip below.

So in my mind there were two options.

1. They had made the safe decision and turned back before the summit due to time running out.

2. BG had an accident. Somebody had an accident. Somebody was dead. BG wasn’t coming back. His risk-taking climbing partner had taken too many risks.

We sat in the Gorner Gorge and for two hours I my mind ran away with me. When my fellow novice disappeared to use the toilet I imagined he had gone to ring his wife on the Matterhorn to find out what had happened and he was going to come back with horrendous news. I sat and kept looking in the skies towards the Matterhorn looking for rescue helicopters. The Matterhorn is a NO FALL ZONE. I hated every minute.

Then at almost 3pm BG sent me a message to say he was back at the Hornli Hut. I. HAVE. NEVER. BEEN. SO. RELIEVED.

After realising everybody was safe, they then had to leg it down to Schwarzsee for the last cable car to Zermatt. They just made it. And as logic would dictate, the conditions for the climb had been perfect, they just ran out of time due to reasons against them and turned back at the shoulder. This was the safest thing to do. And even though they didn’t summit I still carried BG’s f***ing heavy rucksack back through Zermatt and on the walk from Tacsh to Randa.

And Matterhorn Anxiety is probably set to return during BG’s future adventures. I just need to learn how to control it.

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