Every climber dreams of climbing the Matterhorn at least once in their life. Let’s face it, we’re talking about one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic peaks. Turning that dream into a reality, on the other hand, is no mean feat involving a long and arduous ascent. There’s a reason it takes top spot as the world’s ultimate climb.
Last month Jacob Beckett, CTO at E2, took up the challenge and set off on a 5-day trip to the Swiss Alps. So how did it go? Did his dream come true? We spoke to Jacob to find out.
What inspired you to climb the Matterhorn?
I’ve always liked skiing and being in the mountains, so I’ve always planned to challenge myself and get into climbing. The Matterhorn seemed to be the ideal peak – it was the perfect Toblerone. I often read lots of books around climbing and it’s always the Matterhorn being mentioned, so that’s the one I’ve been thinking about over the last few years. It’s also right on our doorstep.
Do you climb regularly? Is it a hobby?
Yes. Being in London the whole time, climbing gives me the excuse to get into the great outdoors a bit more. Instead of walking or hiking, it offers more of a challenge which I really enjoy. If I can’t get out to real rock climbs there are gyms that have synthetic climbing walls which I love to use. When the trip was planned I found the time to get back into it more and start my training. After concentrating so much on work and everyday life, climbing gives me focus and the opportunity switch off.
Why the Matterhorn over Everest or Machu Picchu?
I’ve always thought it was the most beautiful peak and the perfect triangle – and I seem to see it everywhere. If you go to Zermatt it’s in all the iconography. When a child thinks of the mountains, it’s usually the Matterhorn they’re imagining even if they don’t know it. To me, it’s the classic mountain. As for Everest, I’ve definitely thought about it and intend to climb there in the next few years.
How did you prepare?
The best prep is getting outside and running up and down mountains and fells, especially in the Lake District and Cotswolds. Obviously, that’s a bit tricky in London, so I would usually train in gyms as overall fitness is key rather than how well you climb – especially in this instance. The Matterhorn is less technical and more about physical and mental exertion.
What kind of training did you undergo?
I focused on legs and aerobic exercises as well as breathing techniques, as you need to ensure your lungs work well to say the least! E2 was a huge help as it was the only app which allowed me to book 2-hour gym sessions to ensure I made the most of my training. I would usually do as much cardio using incline treadmills with weights and for my legs I would use the step machine. I really liked the flexibility the app gives you to switch up your workouts: one day I could just do cardio and the next head somewhere with a pool and sauna.
Did you eat a special diet?
Not really, it’s just a matter of eating sensibly. A lot of training videos advised learning to operate on less food than normal. Eating a lot of the right nutrition gives you the extra energy to climb further, but then that energy burns out and you just go off the edge of a cliff. Metaphorically speaking of course. So I would work out in the morning before breakfast to get my body ready and used to what to expect.
Describe a typical day on the Matterhorn – if there is such a thing!
Every day varied wildly. We did three major climbs throughout the trip starting with the high-altitude ones. On the first day we climbed Aiguille du Midi where we did lots of axe training. That was followed by Dent de Giant, which is a big vertical climb and more physically demanding because it’s so technical. We then had a rest day involving lots of rock climbing lower down in the valley. On our final day, we woke at 3am to make the final push and reached the summit at 8:30am, not getting back down to the refuge until around midday.
What was your favourite part of the climb?
The rest day and a 6-hour lunch! No, ultimately it was always going to be achieving my goal and reaching the summit. There was a lot of emotion there. You have this big vertical face that then levels out to an ice field that leads to the summit. You walk up with your crampons, but it gets easier towards the very top. By that point, after so much hard work, all the emotions come at once and it’s actually very overwhelming. But the views from the top were absolutely spectacular and a fitting reward for making it all the way.
What was the hardest challenge?
There were moments when it was really scary. At one point, I fell off a wall with just a single rope between me and a 1000 foot drop. You have to have complete trust in the equipment and your fellow climbers as even the smallest mistakes can be highly dangerous.
Did you make the climb alone or with friends?
I climbed with a friend. It’s quite good doing as a pair because you can train together and motivate each other. I was slightly fitter and he was more technical, so it was a good balance and we could each bring the other up. Also it’s much easier to put your trust in one other person than a big group. E2 came in really handy again: when one of us booked a gym session we could instantly invite the other to the same place and time to make sure we both kept it up.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about climbing an iconic peak?
Do it! It’s really worth it and so, so satisfying – but be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. You have to be pragmatic in your choices: the slightest wrong decision can have major consequences. My advice would be to set an objective and stick to it. If you don’t reach a certain point at a certain time, for example, then you aren’t going to make it and you have stop. Yes, it’s incredibly frustrating. But those split-second decisions can make the difference between reaching the top and never coming down again, so you need to stick to your plans.
So what’s next?
We’ve been examining a few, but it looks like Nun Kun might be a likely candidate as it’s a big step up in terms of height at over 7,000m. It will give us a lot of valuable experience as we can climb two of the peaks in one go. It will also make a perfect introduction to the Himalayas. After that, we can start thinking about some of the famous 8,000m mountains.
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