Summit Squared: Notes from the Field

7 October 2012
Photo: S. Pearson.

Assistant Editor's Note: The following guest post is by Stephanie Pearson, Summit journalist and a Contributing Editor at Outside Magazine. Stephanie attended Pre-Summit Adventure #7, 'From the Matterhorn to the hidden valleys of the Valais – Zermatt, Sierre Anniviers', arranged by Valais Tourism.

The sun is high, the snow is bright, and we’re in a mad dash with a crush of teenaged ski racers to catch an 8 a.m. ride on the Matterhorn Express. Rock skis tangle like swords as their owners, kitted out in stretchy Lycra, run toward the red car, hell-bent on getting up the mountain first. We squeeze in like a bag of smashed Skittles before the doors close behind us and the excitement builds as the gondola slowly floats up past the Matterhorn.

The Matterhorn! To our right, white clouds swirl around Europe’s most famous peak, its iconic lines and sheer face at once elegant and deadly. It’s a thrill to see, but I’m thrilled I’m not anywhere near enough a mountaineer to have to prove myself and climb it. Instead, I focus on the peak to the left, the 13,661-foot Breithorn. With a hook-nosed summit and a white-on-granite color scheme, its shape resembles an eagle. From this vantage point the angle of the slope is intimidating. But our morning’s objective is to summit it by noon.

Photo: S. Pearson.

We exit the gondola at roughly 12,000 feet and I rope in next to a Scottish explorer, a Swiss mountain guide, a Nepali Sherpa, a few fellow Americans, and our host from Zermatt. We’re like a United Nations of fun—our mission is to have a good time and get down alive.

At around noon, after a change into crampons and a thigh-burning climb, we achieve both objectives. As we celebrate at the summit and look toward the jagged peaks of Switzerland, Italy, and France, I’m thinking in metaphors. Here we are, on this Pre-Summit Summit Adventure, a bunch of strangers from around the globe bound together to achieve a common goal, whether it’s climbing a peak or taking adventure travel to a higher level. If everyone can glean even a little from the Swiss this week, the industry will be going in the best possible direction.