“The Matterhorn should be closed” was seen on several media channels after an article appeared in the Sonntagszeitung newspaper on 4 August 2019. The headline referred to the demand made by some mountain guides, who nevertheless wish to remain anonymous. The rejection of the demand has been confirmed by the Zermatt municipality, Zermatt Tourismus and the outdoor services provider Zermatters, which organises all Zermatt mountain guides. “Any decision to close the Matterhorn rests solely with the Zermatt municipality, so we don’t understand the media hype based purely on the statements of some individuals,” said President Romy Biner-Hauser.
“Closing the mountain would be ridiculous,” says Zermatters mountain guide Benedikt Perren. “Mountain climbing is a risky sport, and anyone who works professionally in the mountains is well aware of this. Obviously we are dedicated to gauging risks and minimising them.” This is why Zermatt mountain guides don’t offer tours if hazardous conditions could arise. If this happens, they also issue recommendations.
Fundamentally, all mountain climbers are responsible for staying informed about local conditions and assessing the situation. When Zermatters mountain guides decide to climb the Matterhorn, this decision is based on years of experience and expertise on the mountain.
Safety cannot be guaranteed
“Closing the mountain would undermine the principle of personal responsibility. The mountain would then be “open” or “closed”, even though a status of “open” could not guarantee people’s safety on the mountain,” says Benedikt Perren. This is why the Zermatt municipality, Zermatt Tourismus and Zermatters are firmly against any closure for purely preventive reasons and appeal to all mountain climbers to never climb without a guide and always adhere to the recommendations issued by Zermatters.
The Matterhorn was closed back in 2003, but this was not preventive; it was due to a major rock fall of large, loose rock which had covered the Hörnli route and needed to be cleared away. This work was carried out by the local guides. Using that route to climb the mountain would have been too dangerous.
Photograph: © Kurt Müller