Matterhorn Museum

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September 18th 2015
Published: September 22nd 2015
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Matterhorn Musuem in the Center of Zermatt


So I fell very far behind on my blog. I apologize for my delay. Between traveling, Wi-Fi issues, and sheer laziness...I failed to update the blog daily.

Good news is, I am at the Leonardo di Vinci Airport in Rome nearly 9 hours early. So now I have nothing but time to organize photos and update the blog. Along my drive from Zermatt to Rome I made audio notes of topics I planned on talking about.

I realized I did not just want to do a day by day play by play (like the rhyming?). I decided to break it down into more. Specific observations, or places. I thought it would make my notes about my trip more dynamic. I need to backlog my adventures in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well...I have some work to do.

Okay but we are here for the Matterhorn Museum. The Matterhorn Museum, I went to on 18 September, right after I took the train back down from Gornergrat. It was a very small museum, underground, in the middle of the town center. The lobby is above ground, and is basically a lovely glass dome. I bet when it is snowy in Zermatt, with all the Christmas lights lit up, that is the perfect place to be. Anyways it was 10 Francs to enter. Reasonable compared to the rest of the town! Going down the spiral staircase, you are immediately transported into a 19th century mountain vilalge. There is a big pine tree (fake) in the center, and mountain cottages strewn about. You hear the sound of goats and sheep, and other wildlife. What an experience! There are 2 platforms to the museum. The upper platform was basically a walkway, highlighting their featured exhibit, "The Search for the Truth." Brightly lit photos and videos line the walkway, and you learned about the controversial first ascent of the Matterhorn, in 1865 (this year was the 150th anniversary).

Want to know the story? Well I am going to tell it. By tell it, I am not going to reinvent the wheel. I shall allow Wikipedia to tell it:

The first ascent of the Matterhorn was made by Edward Whymper, Lord Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow, Michel Croz, and two Zermatt guides, Peter Taugwalder father and son, on 14 July 1865. Douglas, Hudson, Hadow and Croz were killed on the descent when Hadow slipped and pulled the other three with him down the north face. Whymper and the Taugwalder guides, who survived, were later accused of having cut the rope below to ensure that they were not dragged down with the others, but the subsequent inquiry found no proof of this and they were acquitted.

The ascent followed a long series of attempts by Edward Whymper and Jean-Antoine Carrol to reach the summit. The first successful expedition was followed shortly after by an Italian expedition that ascended the Italian ridge on the other side of the mountain. The Matterhorn was the last great Alpine peak to be climbed and its first ascent marked the end of the golden age of alpinism.

see the rest of the story here:

Back in the day, the wealthy and adventurous made it a personal mission to conquer nature...many affiliating it with national pride. Edward Whymper was a hero in Britain. The story was chilling, especially since I had just see how tall the Matterhorn is. The musuem showed the equipment of mountaineers from the 19th century, onward to the present day. To see what they used to climb tens of thousands of feet is amazing. The mountain people of the Alps are amazing. I could not even imagine watching the rope get cut away, or tear before my very eyes, knowing I am about to plummet thousands of feet down a mountain.

Only 3 of the 4 bodies were recovered. Many personal effects were recovered from the climbers, to include one half of the rope that tore and ended the lives of Douglas, Hudson, Hadow, and Croz. What I found fascinating, is that the mountain villages were all very Catholic (they had a reconstructed altar inside the museum, highlighting the strong Catholic fate of the mountain people). There was a recovery mission in the days that followed the incident on the Matterhorn, to recover the bodies and personal effects of those lost. The priest of Zermatt at the time had given warning though to the recovery teams to not miss Sunday mass, lest they be excommunicated. Wow! I mean I am a pretty devout Catholic, but to be kicked out of the church for being stuck on a mountain on a rescue mission....

The Infamous RopeThe Infamous RopeThe Infamous Rope

This was the rope that tore (or was cut) during the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865...leading to the controversial death of 4 mountaineers. Gives me chills!
you went to the very bottom, you could go inside the cottages. They had pictures and artifacts from the early mountain people, highlighting their difficult lives surviving up in the Swiss Alps. The barns stood on stilts to keep mice out. The women were walk for kilometers with big bales of hay on their backs for their grazing sheep, cows, and goats. Those animals gave them their primary source of cheese, meat, and caring for them was crucial. Their homes were modest cottages made of wood, not much different than how mountain people lived in the US. Families were big, so they could work the farms. The valleys in which these villages were settled were fortunate enough to have a steppe climate, so modest agriculture could be done.

They had wildlife stuffed and mounted around, and the research lab archived at what elevation you saw what wildlife. They also had a section dedicated to the climbers. The first people to ascend the Matterhorn on that fateful day, as well as other pioneers of mountaineering. Now that the mountain is conquered, it is a matter of getting up there faster than anyone climb other faces. I gravitated towards the story of Yvette Vaucher, the first woman to climb the Matterhorn's north face in 1965. She is a Swiss mountainer and parachutist (how badass right?). As of 2012, she continues to still hike the Swiss Alps, despite having hip and knee replacements (in 2012 she was 83). I watched a video of some modern-day people climbing the Matterhorn with ice picks, metal clasps, and rope keeping them from plummeting to the Earth. I got vertigo just watching it on a screen!!!!!!!!!!

I watched another video of the rescue pilots, who every day, put their lives on the line flying through the Alps to recover lost and trapped climbers and hikers. What was amazing to me was how mountain guides and rescuers would just hang from the helicopter by a rope as they flew through the Alps, waiting to attach themselves to those to be rescued. Must be an amazing view, but terrifying! I think I saw one of those rescuers that morning as I was taking the train up to Gornergrat. I remember seeing the helicopter, with something hanging off of it as it ascended the skyline. I guess someone needed rescuing!!!!!

There was a mock early 20th century hotel room as well...highlighting the time that Zermatt started becoming a tourist destination for the European wealthy. By the 80s it was a full blown ski resort.

They also had a room dedicated just to the first to ascend the Matterhorn. It was full of their pictures and personal items from climbing. In there, right in the center, was the infamous rope that was torn (or cut, we will never know). It was such a skinny rope...I cannot believe that they tied themselves to each other with such a small rope in hopes to not fall off the mountain! It gave me chills to see it.

All in all, the museum is not that big. I cleared it in about an hour. But it was packed with information, stories, and pride in the history of the area. Before the museum, I had not known much about the Swiss Alps, or the people who lived there (does the Swiss Miss lady on the pudding box count?). I developed a fine appreciation for these pioneers, who lived in such a way I cannot even fathom. The men were brave, the women hard, and the families huge and
Yvette VaucherYvette VaucherYvette Vaucher

Swiss mountaineer and parachutist who was the first woman to climb the Matterhorn's north face in 1965!

If you ever find yourself up 6500 feet in the Swiss Alps, I recommend stopping by the museum. It was a fun, economical way to spend the afternoon in the cold resort town of Zermatt.




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