Mammut 24h Hike

Like a real freak, already one week after 91-kilometer race in the canton of Grisons, I moved out on the trails around Zermatt. I shall march with a group of several dozen people for 24 hours across the peaks and valleys surrounding the most famous mountain in the world.

It is better however to terminate in the beautiful madness than in the gray, boring banality and stagnation /Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz/

It is better however to terminate in the beautiful madness than in the gray, boring banality and stagnation
/Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz/

Mammut 24 Hike is an event organized jointly by Mammut and Ochsner Sports. Be part of it is not easy, because the number of applicants exceeds the number of places. I applied a few times and finally in the year 2015 I managed to get a place. This year was a special one…

Memorable year! Happy is he who beheld thee in our land!
The folk still call thee the year of harvest,
but the soldiers the year of war; old men still love
to tell tales of thee and poets still dream of thee.
/Adam Mickiewicz, Pan Tadeusz, translated by George Rapall Noyes/

In 2015, Zermatt has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first ascent on the Matterhorn, which was made by Edward Whymper and his companions. You can learn more about this event important for the mountain tourism in the article The Call of the Matterhorn.

Participants met at the square close to the train station in Zermatt (1608 m above sea level). We received there waterproof jackets Mammut Zermatt Jacket Men, chocolate (Toblerone of course), sunscreen and water. Backpack Mammut Lithium Matterhorn and the lamp Mammut T-Trail were delivered a few days earlier by post to the home address. We were divided into two groups and after the official start of the event we moved up the town towards the cable car. In front of us, partially in the clouds, the majestic Matterhorn was rising up

A view to the Matterhorn from the promenade

A view to the Matterhorn from the promenade

Together with us in the march attended Viktor Röthlin (Swiss runner, European champion in the marathon in 2010) and Didier Défago (alpine skier, gold medalist of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver).
Mammut on the run with Viktor Röthlin

Mammut on the run with Viktor Röthlin

The beginning was peaceful. We took Furi cable car up to Schwarzsee (tickets were provided by the organizers). The Lake Schwarzsee (2552 m) lies in a small hollow at the foot of the Matterhorn, and its surface is often very dark, even black, and hence its name. In it’s dark water nicely reflect white walls of a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows (“Maria zum Schnee”). According to the legend, the chapel was built by two inhabitants of Zermatt, who lost their way in the fog. They promised that if survived, they will build a chapel. They survived and kept their word.

Our way (Hörnliweg) was leading us up over the banks of the lake in the direction of the mountain, which could not fail to notice. We walked the route, which 150 years ago was traversed by Edward Whymper and his six companions.

Hörnliweg

Hörnliweg

We arrived to the Hörnlihutte shelter (3260 m) late in the afternoon when the sun was hiding behind the ridge of the Matterhorn. The organizers have offered different kind of drinks and sipping slowly who likes what, we were watching the reddening peaks of Monte Rosa Massif. The day was drawing to an end…

Monte Rosa massif at sunset

Monte Rosa massif at sunset

The first shelter was built here in 1880 from the initiative of the Swiss Alpine Club. Next to it, in 1911, the town of Zermatt built a mountain hotel (Belvedere). Since then, the two shelters were operating separately, which sometimes resulted in quarrels, as well as generated double cost. Only from 1987 the joint care was taken by the team from the Belvedere. And in 2015, after more than 100 years of operation and on the occasion of the famous jubilee, they modernized both buildings and combined them into one.

The common welfare is the scale,
Unity greater than two.
/Adam Mickiewicz, Song of the Philarets/

Transformations have been thought that the new Hörnlihutte meets modern requirements for environmental protection, safety, hygiene and functionality. Renovation has greatly contributed to reducing the impact of the building on the environment, in particular through the implementation of ecological water management, ecological waste management and improved energy balance. Roof surfaces are equipped with photovoltaic modules to produce electricity, while on the terrace are solar collectors for hot water production.

Hornlihutte shelter (lower left corner) on the background of the Matterhorn

Hornlihutte shelter (lower left corner) on the background of the Matterhorn

When the darkness has come, above us on the Hörnli ridge (Hörnligrat), the lamps have been turned on to indicate the route of the first ascent to the summit in 1865.

Hörnligrat by night

Hörnligrat by night

After dinner, Viktor Rothling talked about his races, trainings and nutrition, and wished all of us a good night…

…and I slept very well despite the height but… short. It was meant to be, so before dawn I went to the dining room for a nutritious breakfast, I suplemented reserves in water bottles and exactly at 6 am we set out for 24-hour hike.

The tour was extremely interesting. From the shelter we initially marched down our route from previous day and after some time headed toward the Zmutt Valley which in the middle of the nineteenth century was still filled by the glacier. To this day, forehead of the glacier retreated by as much as 2 km.

In the Stafelalp restaurant (2200 m) we ate second breakfast, completed inventories (supply on the entire route was excellent). Nourished and full of enthusiasm we moved up the valley, and after a few hundred meters we started climbing on it’s north wall.

Second breakfast time

Second breakfast time

I will not describe exactly the further route because, as you know, I still do not have a watch with GPS and besides of that, I remember the rest of the tour as a slideshow of postcards… kaleidoscope of images and emotions…, the fatigue mixed with endorphins.

The weather was sensational. Peaks, glaciers, forests and trails in and around Zermatt presented in all its scenic splendor and beauty. Among other things, we won Mettelhorn peak 3406 m. We climbed on it throught quite large expanses covered with snow and on the top a fabulous view was waiting for us.

We visited Hotel du Trift (2337) twice, which on that day was a nutritional point not only for the participants of Mammut 24 Hike, but also for the runners of Matterhorn Ultraks race.

In the evening we had dinner in the restaurant Edelweiss (1961 m) and set off for the night part of the expedition, lighting the way with Mammut T-Trail headlamp.

At the end of the hike I was falling asleep standing up and a couple of times staggered a bit but thanks to poles not landed on the ground. It did not happen to me last week in Davos. Maybe because for a short part of the night I slept comfortably at the point of accommodation.

The finish on the Gornergrat (3089 m) just before 6 am with the sounds of “We are the Champions” was the perfect crowning of 24-hour effort.

A view to the Gornergrat from Edelweiss restaurant

A view to the Gornergrat from Edelweiss restaurant

Then else we had a breakfast which put me on my feet and supplemented lost calories, official farewell, jubilee T-shirt Mammut (150 Years T-shirt) and a train ticket to Zermatt. In such a a nice way ended 24 hour hiking with Mammut.

Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who
travelled far and wide after he had sacked the
famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose
manners and customs he was acquainted;
moreover he suffered much by sea while
trying to save his own life and bring his
men safely home.
/Homer, Odyssey/

The end of the odyssey

The end of the odyssey

 

 

Matterhorncalling

The Call of Matterhorn

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even Death may die.
/H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu/

Long time ago in Poland when my parents were buying me from time to time Toblerone chocolate in Pewex using dollar vouchers (as real dollars were illegal in Poland during communism time), I did not know that the logo and the box of this delicious Swiss chocolate are inspired by the shape of a lonely mountain in the Valais Alps (Pennine). What counted then, were the unique taste and the unavailability of chocolate pleasure, which unwittingly alluded also to one of the latest conquered alpine peaks. For Polish citizens to buy this chocolate (and other products commonly available in the West) was at that times similar effort as the climb to Deer Mountain. Matterhorn (in German) or Monte Cervino (in Italian), because it is about that mountain, rises to a height of 4478 meters above sea level on the border of Italy and Switzerland, what gives twelfth position among the alpine summits.

 No. Peak’s name Height above sea level (meters) Massif
1 Mont Blanc 4810 Mont Blanc
2 Mont Blanc de Courmayeur 4748 Mont Blanc
3 Dufurspitze 4634 Monte Rosa
4 Nordend 4609 Monte Rosa
5 Zumsteinspitze 4563 Monte Rosa
6 Signalkuppe 4554 Monte Rosa
7 Dom 4545
8 Liskamm, eastern peak 4527
9 Weisshorn 4506
10 Täschhorn 4491
11 Liskamm, western peak 4479
12 Matterhorn 4478

In this area there is the largest concentration of peaks with the height above 4000 meters, that in the Alps are 82, however the Matterhorn in a contrast to most of them, stands alone, fully exposing its perfect pyramid shape.

View of the Matterhorn from the trail above Zermatt

View of the Matterhorn from the trail above Zermatt

It is the sixth highest independent alpine peak, which is not part of a larger mountain range. E.g. Dufurspitze (4634 m) – the highest peak in Switzerland, lies in the massif of Monte Rosa, where are located close to each other 10 four-thousand peaks, which in this crowd do not look quite as impressive as Monte Cervino. The summit was conquered by the British mountaineers and their Swiss guides in 1855. The member of the winning group of climbers was Charles Hudson, who 10 years later will be one of the tragic heroes of the first ascent of the Matterhorn.

Matterhorn seen from Grächen

Matterhorn seen from Grächen

Majestic and causing respect the shapes of the Matterhorn and fragile rock forming the peak make climbing on it extremely difficult. Probably because of that it was conquered as the last of the Alpine giants. Years 1854-1865 are the time of the The Golden Age of Mountaineering, when exploration of the Alps has become enormously accelerated and these mountains have become an arena of struggle between climbing elite.

Mountains have always been fascinated by the human spirit, so much so that the Bible considers them as the privileged place of encounter with God.
/John Paul II/

In 1865, they made 65 first ascents in the Alps, 7 in the Mont Blanc massif. Winning the Matterhorn July 14 of that year and the tragic events during the descent from the summit became a symbolic end of the Golden Age.

The tip of the Matterhorn sticking out from behind the Dent Blanche (view from Grimentz)

The tip of the Matterhorn sticking out from behind the Dent Blanche (view from Grimentz)

The struggle for the conquest of the Matterhorn was fought mainly, sometimes together, between Londoner Edward Whymper and Italian Jean-Antoine Carrel. In 1865 Whymper came to Zermatt to attack the Matterhorn for the eighth time. Also in that year Carrel should accompanied him. Meanwhile, the newly formed Italian Mountaineering Association, has set itself the goal to conquer the Matterhorn by the Italians. In 1865, Quintino Sella, a professor at the University of Turin, the Minister of Finance and professor Felice Giordano, a geologist studying the structure of the Alps, organized an Italian expedition to Monte Cervino to overtake Whymper almost at any cost. The management of the expedition had been proposed to Carrel, and he accepted because he wanted to win Matterhorn to strengthen his position of the best mountains expert in the region, and that with whom he gets it was for him indifferent. So, he chose his rich and well-connected fellow countrymen and not ambitious but not very wealthy Englishman. In addition, the aim of Italians was to get the summit from the south (from Valtournenche valley) and not from the side of Zermatt, as planned by Whymper.

Drawing of the Matterhorn made by Edward Whymper

Drawing of the Matterhorn made by Edward Whymper

When Whymper arrived for the appointment with the Italian, he lied to him, apologizing that they have to postpone their joint expedition for a few days. Whymper dismissed his guides and was calmly waiting for Carrel. The next day, however, he learned that Italian already went to his team and launches an attack on the Matterhorn. Outraged by the fraud he did not give up. He went down quickly to Zermatt, where he managed to form a team with which he hit the road by the razor-sharp Hörnli ridge towards the top.

Matterhorn and Hörnli ridge seen from the Gornergrat

Matterhorn and Hörnli ridge seen from the Gornergrat

The group was consisted of:

  • Edward Whymper (25 years) – one of the greatest British mountaineers who came to the Alps for the first time in 1860 to perform sketches commissioned by the Longman publishing house,
  • Michel Croz (35 years) – outstanding alpine guide from Chamonix,
  • Lord Francis Douglas (18 years) – son of the Marquis Queensberry,
  • ks. Charles Hudson (37 years) – a very experienced mountaineer,
  • Douglas Hadow (19 years) – little is known about him except that it was his first season of climbing,
  • Peter Taugwalder father (45 years) – outstanding Swiss alpine guide,
  • Peter Taugwalder son (22 years) – also guide.

Fierce fighting broke out, which was fought not only about who will win the top, but from which side. Behind Giordano’s nationalistic grounds were hidden just the money. The side from which the top will be reached will attract more tourists, who will be hosted and guided by the local highlanders. On the slopes of the Matterhorn it lasted the fight for the future of the tourism industry in the sunny Valtournenche and in Zermatt, hidden in the deep valley.

Matterhorn seen from Zermatt

Matterhorn seen from Zermatt

We who go mountain-scrambling have constantly set before us the superiority of fixed purpose or perseverance to brute force. We know that each height, each step, must be gained by patient, laborious toil, and that wishing cannot take the place of working.
/Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps In the years 1860-69/

Whymper won as involuntary ally of the Swiss. On July 14, 1865 he and his team first reached the summit and made Zermatt, one of the most visited places in the world.

We remained on the summit for one hour—
One crowded hour of glorious life.
It passed away too quickly, and we began to prepare for the descent.
/Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps In the years 1860-69/

The victory was, however, dearly paid because during descent four people died falling into the abyss. Only Whymper and Taugwalders returned from the top. The accident was caused by the least experienced climber, Douglas Hadow, who fell during the descent and hit on the leading Michel Croze, and when both of them began to slide into the abyss, pulled behind them connected by rope Charles Hudson and Francis Douglas. The other three climbers survived, as weaker rope linking Douglas to Peter Taugwalder father fractured. As often happens in such cases, there were suspicions that the rope was cut. The formal investigation has not found any evidence to support this thesis. The broken line is now exhibited in the museum in Zermatt.

Rope broken while descending from the Matterhorn (drawing by Edward Whymper)

Rope broken while descending from the Matterhorn (drawing by Edward Whymper)

Three days later, on July 17, 1865 after traveling the Italian ridge, Antoine Carrel’s team he stood on the top.

Seven failed attempts to enter the top of Deer Mountain, memorable climbing of July 1865, and other alpine expeditions, Whymper described with details in the book “Scrambles Amongst the Alps In the years 1860-1869 “, to which he also made illustrations.

Edward Whymper was climbing yet in South America and Canada making several first ascents. During the expedition to Ecuador he gathered substantial material to the study of altitude sickness and the influence of reduced pressure on the human body. He explored Greenland, as one of the first, using the sleds, which contributed to a significant acceleration in the researches of the Arctic.

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.
/Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps In the years 1860-69/

He died in 1911 in Chamonix, shortly after returning from another Alpine expedition and was buried in this city on the English cemetery.

The first women’s entrance took place in July 1871, when Whymper’s countrywoman, Lucy Walker stood on the top of Matterhorn – climbing in a long flannel skirt, which was appropriate for a Victorian lady. First Polish ascent was made in 1894 by Marian Smoluchowski – pioneer of statical physics, climber and mountaineer. Albert Einstein used results of his researches in formulating a theory which explains the chaotic movements of the particles. One of the equations of diffusion theory is known as the Smoluchowski equation.

In 2015, Zermatt is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn. Numerous events are held in the town throughout the year. I encourage you to glance at the website of the resort and choose something for yourself from the rich offer. Among the organizers and sponsors could not miss the Mammut company, which is “absolutely alpine” and which on the occasion of this historic alpine events prepared, inter alia, limited edition of products. Watchword of the celebrations is #Matterhorncalling.

Also this year, Mammut together with Ochsner company organizes 24-hour mountain hike. This time, however, you guessed, it will be connected with the jubilee of the Matterhorn. I chose exactly this way to celebrate the first ascent of the Matterhorn, and I became the happy member of the Mammut 24h Hike team, which in August will move on to the mountain trails around Zermatt and Matterhorn.

Should also be noted that both Chamonix and Valtournenche did not want to perform worse and also decided to celebrate the “good old days”, when The Golden Age of Mountaineering reached its climax.

Into the mountains! into the mountains, nice brother!
Over there, the freedom is waiting for you.
To the chalets of the shepherds,
Where water rushing from the source,
Where the heart with the heart copes
And the man believes in the freedom!
Here the world breathes stronger,
Here a sincere man smiles,
When the mountains laugh in the spring.
/Wincent Pol, The Song of Our Land/

Mammut SIGG Thermo Mug

Attentive readers of my blog probably noticed in the article Mammut Lithium Z20 multiple pictures made with the camera Zorka Five (quote from the cult Polish film “The Cruise” which can be understand only by someone who grown up in Poland controlled by communist party and Soviet Union). On the photos there was a black thermos with a gold logo of Mammut. Thermos eagerly accepted invitation of the backpack who was the main character of that post. Now is the time for a brief description of the black bottle (black color supposedly shapes up).

This thermos is the effect of cooperation between old and respected Swiss company SIGG with an even older and more respected Swiss company Mammut and in the background of this cooperation rises to a height of 4478 m above sea level the majestic summit of the Matterhorn, which was first conquered 150 years ago (14 July 1865). This important historic event will be remembered and celebrated in 2015 by various persons and institutions. Mammut company is one of the organizers and sponsors of a whole range of events related to the anniversary of conquering the Matterhorn and the host of celebrations is the Swiss town of Zermatt.

Mammut prepared a wide range of products on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the first ascent to the summit. Limited collection called Mammut Matterhorn consists of jackets, trousers, hats, sweatshirts, backpacks, bags, shoes and vacuum flasks. The dominant color of the series is gold, so you already know dear readers, why Mammut logo on the thermos is gold and not red as usual.

I feel however that you should get to know more details of the first ascent to the Matterhorn, find out why Zermatt is associated with this event and what Mammut has to do with all of that. I am writing about Mammut already for some time, and have not written yet how, when and by whom the company was founded. These topics are so extensive therefore I will elaborate them in the next article but in the meantime I will finish thermos description…

Thermos, which came from the SIGG factory belongs to series HOT & COLD offering 4 volumes in two different types: mug 0.3 and 0.5 liter and bottle 0.75 and 1 liter. I have the pleasure to be the owner of a half-liter version.

Mug is made of 18/8 stainless steel, which means containing 18% chromium and 8% nickel and other alloying additions. It is one of the most popular grades of stainless steel widely used in almost all industries, especially in the food industry.

There is non-slip silicone pad at the bottom of the thermos and at the top the cap with a handle that allows attaching the mug to a backpack. When unscrew a cap, cup opening is finished with an extra nut serving as a convenient mouthpiece for drinking. The manufacturer warns that drinking a hot drink, you can get burned because the hot drink can be… hot! As you can see, it had its influence the crazy American legal system, through which you can win a lot of money in court for injury or loss of life as a result of idiotic behavior about which European would not even have thought, and which was not listed on the long list of product’s warnings.

One of the most famous unusual compensation in the world won American Stella Liebeck in 1994. The court awarded her 2.9 million dollars in damages from McDonald’s, because she burned herself with a coffee bought in one of its bars. Sitting in a car she stuck her cup between her knees and tried to open it to add cream and sugar, but poured the entire contents on her feet and… other parts of the body. The final amount paid as a result of a settlement is not known. Since the award of damages, McDonald’s puts on cups of coffee phrase: Caution, content is hot.

An interesting idea is the strainer, where can be brew original leaf tea, whether black or green or another and then easily remove the grounds. The taste and quality of the beverage are then far better than in the case of express tea bags, which consists of a tea dust instead of whole or crushed leaves of Camellia sinensis.

I have felt already for some time that the companies Mammut and SIGG fit together and I was instinctively linking them together in my sport adventures. I see that Mammut marketing specialists came up with the same idea. Cheers!

 

With Matterhorn in the background

From the bottom to the top, from the top down…

In 2013 I used the equipment for ski-touring for the first time. Another activity, which like running I started in Switzerland. There is something in this country that a man wants to move. It is a pity that I came so late to the “land of wine and cheese” and so late I picked up all these athletic challenges, but:

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
/Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven/

Which way...?

Which way…?

As I wrote earlier – the most important is to begin. I rented boots, skis and seals skins (obviously artificial, since these nice animals are protected) during the winter in Grimentz in 2013. I stuck the skins on the bottoms of skis and headed up the hill.

Weisshorn Hotel on the other side of Val d'Anniviers (I was running there during Sierre - Zinal race)

Weisshorn Hotel on the other side of Val d’Anniviers (I was running there during Sierre – Zinal race)

It was not long and I realized that I have to move the skis sliding forward, and not raise the legs as a normal walking. Amazing feeling when approaching uphill skis do not slide down back but are locked due to the seals skins (obviously artificial, since these nice animals are protected). In addition, on the very steep approaches it is possible to support the heel using the stand in the binding and then the foot is set flat not down like the skis are.

It was my first time, so I stumbled and rolled up, but the skis and bindings worked flawlessly. For those few days I was getting up early in the morning, even in the dark and climbed to the top, to ski in peace and quiet down when the ski lifts have not yet started. Once I was able to participate in a trip with the ski club, which began at 6 am and ended with tasty breakfast in the restaurant at the top, where only after several hours “normal” skiers appeared.

No one at upper station

No one at upper station

Intoxicated by the beauty of this sport I bought a set of ski-tour equipment to climb already using my own staff during the next winter. I bought it in Poland in the sports shop “BACKFLIP snowboards.” The store is located away from the city center, but it has the latest and branded products in a huge selection. The service is friendly and professional. Before I chose skis and boots I listened half-hour lecture what is important when choosing equipment for ski-touring.

In the end I decided to K2 skis and skins (obviously artificial, since these nice animals are protected), Marker bindings and Black Diamond boots.

This year, I started the trip in Grächen about 6 am. Skis were attached to winter backpack Mammut Nirvana Pro 35. I had ski-touring shoes on my feets and the front lamp on my head to illuminate the darkness. About 30 minutes I walked up the asphalt road until I came to the village Gasenried. Then I stepped into the snowy woods and I could wear my new skis with seals skins (obviously artificial, since these nice animals are protected).

The route begins

The route begins

It was fantastic. Silence, fresh snow, croissant moon over the mountains.

Moon over Grächen

Moon over Grächen

Dawn was approaching.

Dawn

Dawn

Unfortunately I did not get far. As is usually the case with the novice hiker, I just stumbled and slide a bit from the slopes. When I got up, binding was not attached anymore to the skis, only loosely dangled apart. I put then skis on the backpack again and went down per pedes, which was not easy in this fresh, soft and deep snow with the ski boots.

From the bottom to the top, from the top down
From the darkness into the sun, from the silence to the scream
/Maanam, One-two, one-two/

I can include this event as tiring, but interesting adventure. What I am interested now is a matter of the complaint of a broken binding. I contacted by e-mail with Konrad Pajka, the owner of the store “BACKFLIP snowboards”, describing the situation and enclosing photos of the broken binding.

Broken ski binding Marker

Broken ski binding Marker

He agreed with me that the fracture should not occur in the hardware of that class, but the decision about the possible repair/replacement does not depend on him but on a quality expert in Marker enterprise. So he sent my email with photos to the distributor of Marker in Poland.

Broken ski binding Marker (bottom view)

Broken ski binding Marker (bottom view)

Now I have to wait. I will let you know how things will end…