It’s hard to believe he’s survived the hitherto unheard-of day. Taking a heavy breath, 77-year-old Louis-Jean Brethorne staggers down the summit (4,164 m). “I’m older than Methuselah,” jokes the American from Boston.
It’s late afternoon and the good man is already melting the ground under his cramp. The American is alone on the mountain, having neither informed himself of the condition of the valley nor a rope secures him from the cracks: “I’ve been doing this for years,” he dismisses.
protective layer of snow gone
“Write it down,” urged the alpinist: “something is going on here. Everything is melting, the road is flooded. This is not normal.”
Zermatt VS. At eight o’clock the local people were already moaning from the scorching sun. In addition, Theodul Glacier dies in the morning sun. The protective layer of ice is long gone, hundreds of streams and streams are shining. That bitter punch line, looks beautiful.
Even further in the Kleine Matterhorn, on the highest ski slope in Europe (3899 m), where national ski squads from around the world train in the summer and talk about the earliest, because the best, the training time, the earlier. Shoulder your slats and do it again after ten o’clock on the way home. Where there was snow, there is now Pflotsch. By no means all slopes of the glacier are open.
nothing is normal
As a consolation, the view up to the eternal snow of Brethorne. The mountain is considered as the gateway medicine for mountaineers. The tour is completed in three to four hours and you belong to the exclusive circle of high alpine summits. Under normal circumstances. Nothing is out of the ordinary here.
It starts with colour. The Brethorn Plateau has a strangely muddy yellow cast. The dust of the Sahara, blown up twice in 2022, is the equivalent of a black T-shirt in the pool.
Where everything melts, even bridges of ice break, new cracks open, you sink waist-deep into the Pflotsch, which alpinists appreciate as much as about the diarrhea at Hornlihütte shortly before climbing the Matterhorn. Huh.
reasonable people return at half past ten
Wise men come back from Brethorne at half past ten. Gruyeres FR’s Johanna (29) and Pascal (35) think it’s scary how low the water flows. Colleagues still drive him up the mountain in a good mood. “this is madness!” The couple shakes their heads.
A few meters further in height, at the threshold of four thousand, Anelor Fürer has just fulfilled a dream. Like many retirees, this mountain magically attracted him. She would still like to enjoy the pleasures of the summit, but her local mountain guide urged her to hurry. He knows that altitude and heat bother seniors. There are very bad situations and there are many bad ones too. Breethorn, this Bubi mountain, is currently blooming in a devil’s ride.
In one passage, the cracks have extended up to seven metres. Below, the glacier runs like a torrent. The ice bridge that leads over the steep gorge has shrunk to half a meter narrow. The crowd of alpinists retreat.
Air Zermatt Helicopter is Coming
An Air Zermatt helicopter rattles. A rescue worker is absconding. An absurd report quickly circled: a mountain guide twisted his leg and had to be pulled out. Four of his customers return without him. You can imagine what it is like when a mountain guide gets lost on a mountain.
At noon, the first boulders loosen and fall on the glacier with thunder.
It must be said that global warming is rapidly changing the Alps. Even a mountain of mountains, the Matterhorn crumbles. On the Italian side, the risks are much greater for mountain guides from the middle of the week. They no longer flatten.
Rockfall caused by heat
That’s how it works everywhere. Grindelwald Mountain Guide has been without Jungfrau Bei since Wednesday. His life was in danger as stones fell on his normal path due to the heat and climbers. And the road to the east has long been destroyed by rock falls.
Zermatt mountain guides are also increasingly canceling tours. No one climbs the twin peaks of Pollux and Castor anymore: “It’s hard when you have a loss like this. But it also shows that there’s common sense,” says Anjan Truffer, chief of rescue at Air Zermatt. They have again had an “excessive season” since 2003.
At that time hundreds of cubic meters of rock mass had come loose on the Matterhorn. Miraculously, no one got hurt. Air Zermatt helicopters rescued 70 climbers. “Horu” has been temporarily blocked. The message went around the world.
dry winter with little rainfall
Now the situation threatens to repeat itself: an extremely dry winter, little rainfall, very high temperatures. Rescue chief Anjan Truffer: “Even if the local mountain guides don’t go now, there are still some crazy people out there.”
One of those guys is just leaning into the danger zone, completely exhausted, but makes a good face for a bad game and wonders how to get the curve here.
The touring skier – tanned in a bright green suit – tried driving, walking, but nothing worked. Then something happens to him. He sits down and slides his trouser seat down, like the little ones on the Pingu drag lift, only four thousand.
“It was fine last week,” said the Italian apologetic with an Alberto Tomba grin. Little did he know that in a week the situation could completely change.
Here it is all under personal responsibility. Because in Switzerland no one closes the mountain as a precaution.
Although it could have been smarter…