How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive — Part I

Behind me is Mount Starr King

My adored Yosemite Climbing Guide, Nate Kerr, was always suggesting adventurous climbs for me. He had early on realized that my rock climbing ambition did not apply to climbing more technically-difficult routes but rather to getting to out-of-the-way, wild places, where hardly anyone ever comes. Thus, he carried me on a glorious day to Mount Starr King, frightened me out of my wits on three or four pitches on the rarely-climbed Arrowhead Spire, and told me stories about Bear Creek Spire, Mount Russell, and the Matterhorn.

The dreaded Arrowhead Spire

Of all his stories, I fell in love with the Matterhorn. I studied the map, tracing my finger over Matterhorn Canyon, the Sawtooth Range, the excitingly-named Incredible Hulk, and a scattering of lakes and creeks which drew from my imagination the unstoppable desire of going there. After checking with the Mountaineering School in Yosemite, however, Nate came back with bad news. The Matterhorn was located in Toiyabe National Forest, outside the boundaries of Yosemite, and he couldn’t take me there.

The Matterhorn remained a dream, a place I wanted to visit. I read and reread the description of the route in Chris McNamara’s High Sierra Climbing. It seemed perfect, and I am quoting from the book: “It is not the best climbing in the Sierra, but appeals because it is not too difficult, and ascends a striking arete on a big and aesthetic peak. It’s one of the easier climbs that gives a complete alpine experience: a glacier, a striking summit, incredible views.” Trip reports on the web and their photos only strengthened in me the desire one day to climb this fabulous peak.

The Matterhorn serenely waiting for unsuspecting climbers

Fortunately for me, Nate is not the only rock climbing guide I know. A few years ago, crying at the bottom of Mount Rainier instead of the summit (as I did the year after), I told Cliff Agocs, representative of Bay Area Wilderness Training, that I will not be climbing Mount Rainier with the Climbing for Kids group. I felt I was not ready to handle the climb at that time. Though I did not climb the mountain that year, my involvement with BAWT remained stable, and my friendship with Cliff slowly grew.

Some time later Cliff left BAWT and began to guide climbers on Mount Hood, another mountain I had wanted to climb ever since I first saw it. We reconnected and began to talk about where we want to go, and when I mentioned my dream of climbing the Matterhorn, Cliff enthusiastically announced that he had also always wanted to climb it and can take me there. Dates and plans were swiftly put in place. The stage was set for the most unbelievable adventure of my life, and I didn’t even know it yet.

To be continued…..

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109