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THE MATTERHORN - The Most Dangerous Mountain

by Steffen Kjaer
Published April 2011 by Alpine Avenue Books

Reviewed by Karin Magog

THE MATTERHORN - The Most Dangerous Mountain by Steffen Kjaer Published April 2011 by Alpine Avenue Books

Since the dramatic first ascent in 1865, the drama and the myths have created a unique interest in this mountain, which has probably caused the deaths of more mountaineers than any other. Each year, thousands of climbers attempt to reach the summit, but only one in five succeeds. And every season, the mountain claims the lives of ten to twenty climbers. Steffen Kjaer describes his and his climbing partner Brian Jorgensen’s attempt to make it to the summit of the Matterhorn. After careful preparations and perfect acclimatization, they take off to face the challenge of their lives. On the descent, however, something goes wrong. All of a sudden, they find themselves caught in one of Matterhorn’s countless and lethal rockslides... "I have to admit that mountaineering isn't something that usually grabs my attention, and although I can see some of the appeal of the Matterhorn (it's a beautiful looking mountain), the mental effort required to safely climb mountains is not for me. Hence I started reading this book with a dispassionate interest and thinking it would be a bit of a chore. However, after the first chapter I was already grabbed by the story and drawn along by the enthusiasm of the author. The book is very easy to read and the story well told without too many technical terms (although there's a very good glossary at the back if you need it). We follow their journey from their arrival at Zermatt, through their period of acclimatisation on smaller neighbouring peaks to their final preparations for the big day. The account of the final ascent and descent was riveting and I was reluctant to put the book down. It didn't take long to read at all. Throughout the book are various short articles, which were generally interesting and added to the overall production. These included the story of the first ascent, two interviews with local guides, extracts from the North Wall Bar visitor's book (which I found particularly interesting), as well as a piece on acclimatisation and a letter from President Roosevelt amongst others. Quite an unusual mix of all things 'Matterhorn'. I think this book would certainly appeal to both mountaineers and non-mountaineers alike and I would highly recommend it. However, one things for sure, after reading all about the loose rock, difficult route finding and hauling up fixed ropes I won't be in the queue in the near future!" Karin Magog


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